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Entries about birds

Ndutu: lion in a tree - Lake Eyasi

Goodbye Ndutu, hello Lake Eyasi


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Having enjoyed our picnic breakfast, we set off again for more game viewing.

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Dik Dik

We are heading back to Ndutu Lodge to use the facilities before we leave the area, but the route Malisa wants to take is impassable. “There used to be a road here” he explains.

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A Greater Spotted Thick Knee doing her best to hide from us

Malisa drops us off at the lodge while he goes off to get fuel for the car.

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Meanwhile, we spend our time walking around the grounds, looking for birds and taking it all in for the last time.

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Northern Grey Headed Sparrow

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Great White Pelicans flying in formation

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I can't believe how overgrown the gardens are at Ndutu Lodge, after all the recent rains.

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Hildebrand Starling

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I am really impressed with the individual terry towels in the 'public' toilets at Ndutu!

Malisa returns and we make our way towards the gate that takes us out of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, of which Ndutu is a small part.

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Black Faced Sandgrouse

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Lesser Flamingo

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Southern Red Bishop

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Lesser Masked Weaver

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They weave the most exquisite nests!

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Strange horizontal rainbow

Lions

Malisa hears on the radio that a lioness has been spotted in a tree near the lake – it sounds like our lady from earlier this morning. We go to check it out.

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The lioness looks most uncomfortable and keeps shifting her position.

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Under the tree is a male lion, who is periodically sniffing the air, hoping for his mate to come back down.

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Meanwhile tourists are busy taking selfies with the lions – I wonder if you can actually see the big cat in that photo, or just the outline of a tree?

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Much as we'd love to stay and see what happens with our two kitties, we have to leave in order to get to the gate. Permits are strictly timed and any overstay faces a heavy fine.

There is still quite a lot of flooding in Ndutu.

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Zebra

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Just less than an hour ago we travelled through heavy flooding, now the roads are annoyingly dusty!

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The dust covers everything in a thin layer of dirt – look at the state of my camera!

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The dirt being thrown up by passing vehicles also plays havoc with the windscreen of our Landcruiser. A crack developed earlier on the trip, and now, every time we meet a car travelling at speed, Malisa has to hold on to the glass in fear that it would shatter if a stone was to hit it.

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We join up with the main road through Serengeti, where a new gate post has been erected since we first started coming here, with tourists lining up to have their photos taken, and vendors hoping to sell them some souvenirs.

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The original gate

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The new sign

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Ndutu Lodge also has a new sign, with the new brand created since the lodge changed ownership.

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Sculpture advertising the Museum of Mankind at Oldupai - also new

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A would-be vendor heading for the tourists

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Lots of giraffes - we count twenty of them!

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We stop at Seneto Descent Road (the entrance to Ngorongoro Crater) for a picnic lunch, as are several other people. This is the most crowded I have ever seen this spot. It seems it is not just the camera that is covered in dust – my face was pretty dirty too!

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The cloth after wiping my face

Baboons

We see a small baby playing, but as soon as we stop, the parents gather him up and leave.

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There are more baboons at Lodoare Gate (the exit from Ngorongoro Conservation Area), including one that jumps on the bonnet of the car while I am in the loo. David tries to quickly grab a shot with my camera.

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Once we're through the gate, we hit the sealed road – the first time for eleven days! Not for long though, a mere five kilometres down the road, we turn off right, onto another fairly rough dirt track. This is all new and unexplored territory for us now.

We later turn off the dirt track to an even smaller and narrower lane, winding its way through small hamlets and into the wilderness. This is real off-the-beaten-path stuff, and a completely different type of vegetation – thick and verdant, more jungle-like - to anything we've seen in Tanzania before.

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Kisima Ngeda Lodge

As we pull up in the lodge car park, an army of helpers appear out of nowhere. Unless we really want to, there is no need to carry any of our own luggage. After a welcome drink while signing in at the reception, we are shown to our room.

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Our room is, in fact, a large tent on a wooden base with a thatched roof. The room is well furnished and there is an en suite western style toilet and shower at the rear of the tent.

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The local guide, who will be with us tomorrow for our excursions, arrives to give us a briefing. As he walks up onto our balcony, I get an instant feeling of recognition. He looks familiar. As he introduces himself as Alex, my mind starts ticking. I am not even sure what I am trying to think of, but suddenly it hits me. “Alex” I ask, “what is your surname?” As soon as he replies “Puwale”, I smile – we are already friends on Facebook! What a small, small world!

Alex's Facebook page

After a quick shower and change, we pop down to the bar for a drink, delighted that we can walk about freely without having to call an askari (a Maasai security guard armed with a spear) to protect us from any potential wild animals. It's the first time on this trip that we've had some time to spare before dinner, and Malisa soon joins us.

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There is one other group of tourists staying tonight, six people from from the US. I am horrified when I overhear them asking their guide if hunting is allowed, as they'd really like to be able to kill something. Malisa's face is a picture, and I really feel for their guide having to explain to such misinformed and misguided visitors. They are also querying the availability of public conveniences during their trip to see a hunter-gatherer tribe tomorrow. What do they think this is? Disneyland?

As they start to discuss US politics (they are all ardent Trump supporters – there's a surprise!), we try our best to ignore their conversation, which proves rather difficult due to the volume at which they speak. We have a good laugh with Malisa, however, joking about the overheard comments by Whatsapping each other across the table. Little things for little minds.

Dinner

Tomato soup for starters, followed by pork medallions with creamed potato and vegetables, and finished off with a passion fruit mousse.

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As always, I am impressed with the arrangements Calabash Adventures have made for us – they really are the best in their field.

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:59 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds pelicans wildlife africa safari rainbow tanzania zebra birding lions baboons flooding sparrow flamingo giraffes trump ngorongoro dust starling weaver diesel bird_watching ndutu calabash calabash_adventures seneto seneto_descent_road ngorongoro_conservation_area oldupai thick_knee lions_in_a_tree sandgrouse wildlife_photography windscreen lake_eyasi red_bishop american_tourists ndutu_lodge african_animals african_birds alex_puwale animals_of_africa birds_of_africa cracked_windscreen serengeti_gate lodoare lodoare_gare museum_of_mankind kisima_ngeda trump_supporters Comments (2)

Ndtutu XIII - drowned wildebeest, jackals, lions

What a stench!


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Today we are leaving Ndutu and heading to pastures new. A pretty sunrise sees us on our way.

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Vultures at Lake Masek

Initially we cannot fathom out why so many vultures are descending on the shores of the lake.

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There are vultures (and Marabou Stork) everywhere: on the ground, in the trees, flying in! I think all Ndutu's vultures are here in this spot!

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The sound of their huge wings flapping as the come in to land is really quite something to hear.

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Then we see it: Floating wildebeest carcasses – animals who drowned trying to cross the river.

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Not just one, but dozens of bloated, putrid decomposing bodies. The stench of the rotting flesh is heinous.

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For some light relief I turn my head towards the heavens, where the dark sky has now opened up a small window to let the sunrise through.

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I spend some time watching the large flocks of egrets making their way across other parts of the sky while I wait patiently for a bird or two to fly past the sunrise window.

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Meanwhile, the hole in the cloud is rapidly changing shape, and finally I get lucky!

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Not being able to stand the atrocious stink any longer, we move on to see what else nature has to offer us today.

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Grey Capped Social Weaver

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Vitelline Masked Weaver

Black Backed Jackals

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Temmincks Stint

Avocets

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Gull Billed Tern

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Giraffe

Lion

As we are following the contour of the lake, Malisa is busy looking around as always. I feel sure, however, that he has seen the lion whose paw is across the track we are driving on. He makes no attempt at slowing down, so I start to alert him to the big cat, without wanting to shout and scare the lion away. My warning comes out a little meek and feeble: “erm..... stop...?” Of course, for the rest of the trip, the boys tease me mercilessly about it.

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By the time Malisa swerves out of the way onto the grass alongside the track and stops, the lion is most certainly not happy.

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We move a little further away for our safety and the lions comfort. He obviously realises that lying in the road is not a good ideas, and gets up, sniffs the air and marks his territory before moving off.

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We follow him down to the lakeside, where he sees one of the many dead wildebeest floating in the lake. You can tell that he so wants it, but it is just that too far away for him too reach.

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We hang around, hoping he is going to go for a swim, but he obviously doesn't want to get his hair wet, and makes a rapid beeline for the thicket further inland instead, walking with a definite purpose.

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He wanders into the bush. We follow. There is a delicious smell of mint wafting across the savannah as we bulldoze our way through the undergrowth to follow the lion – such a pleasant change after the grim odour from the wildebeest carcasses earlier.

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So that's what he is heading for!

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She's coming down!

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She most likely sought refuge in the tree as a respite from her mate's sexual advances, and now she's ready for some more action.

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We watch as she disappears into the ever-thickening shrubs. The terrain where she is going is too dense for us to follow, we are already in a place outside our normal comfort zone.

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“How do we get out of here?” I ask Malisa. “I have no idea” he replies as he creates a new 'track' through the bush.

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We return to the area where the lion was watching the wildebeest carcass for our breakfast in the car (too dangerous to get out with the predators around), hoping he'll come back.


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He doesn't, so we continue on our way to see what else nature has to offer us.

Thank you to Calabash Adventures for this amazing safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 03:51 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds sunrise africa safari tanzania birding lion vultures avocet weaver bird_watching ndutu calabash_adventures lake_masek marabou_stork jackals african_animals wildebeest_carcasses social_weaver masked_weaver black_backed_jackals lion_in_a-tree erm_stop Comments (2)

Ndutu XI: buffalo, jackals, fox cubs, birth of a wildebeest

What an emotionally charged morning!


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Setting off as usual in the pre-dawn darkness, we are excited to spot four lions in the far distance down on the Marsh.

“Hold on tight” Malisa instructs us as he sets off towards the big cats at quite some speed.

As we get nearer, our excitement turns to amusement: they are not lions, but hartebeest. Oh. At least it proves that even the best guide can make a mistake in the dark.

Soon afterwards Malisa briefly spots a honey badger before it disappears into the long grass. The verdant vegetation has its ups and down: there is plenty of food for the animals, but makes it more difficult for carnivores to hunt as the prey can hide so much easier. It also makes it trickier for them so spot a potential mating partner (hence why we have seen several male lions in trees on this trip). From our perspective, the tall vegetation means animals are more difficult to see, and when we do, many of them are only visible from half way up. We've been told by several people that they've not had so much rain / flood here since 1995.

Sunrise

The sunrise this morning is almost as spectacular as the sunset last night.

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As a photographer, you need to be ready as soon the sun appears – from the moment the first bright sliver peeks above the horizon until the entire sun is visible, is pretty exactly two minutes. No time to waste.

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Cape Buffalo

We haven't seen many buffalo on this trip.

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Black Backed Jackals

The buffalo have a stare-down with a couple of jackals, but they decide to go their separate ways. I am sure the much-smaller jackals would be no match for the aggressive buffalo.

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Tawny Eagles

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Coqui Francolin

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Crested Lark

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Grey Breasted Francolin

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Blacksmith Plover

Southern Ground Hornbill

There are a couple of hornbills on the ground, both of which have managed to grab themselves some breakfast.

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Ooh, this guy's got not just one lizard, but two!

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And then he's off with his take-away breakfast.

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Bat Eared Fox

As we are busy watching the hornbills, I spot a couple of fox cubs out of the corner of my eye.

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Whispering sweet nothing in my ear

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There are not just two cubs, a third one appears.

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Now there are four!

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When they start playing, all you can hear in the van is “aww” and “ahh”.

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Dik Dik

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Red Necked Spurfowl

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Harlequin Quails

Malisa spotted a Harlequin Quail earlier, but I only got a very brief glimpse of it, which was rather disappointing as it is a new one on us!

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Here, however, there are several of them. Admittedly they are running along the deeply furrowed, and massively overgrown car tracks, so not only are they difficult to see, they are extremely hard to photograph as they are in and out of blazingly bright sun and deep shadows.

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Lappet Faced Vulture

Pale Tawny Eagle

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Long Tailed Mongoose

We get a brief glimpse of this rarely-seen mongoose, just as it runs away.

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Looking for the maternity ward

For the last three days we have been on the lookout for a wildebeest mama who is just about to give birth, and today is no exception. We head down to what we jokingly call the “maternity ward” - an area full of wildebeest, many heavily pregnant.

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Soon we spot a young female (we can tell she is young because of the shape of the horns, hers are not yet fully developed) who has a pair of legs sticking out from her behind.

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We follow her as she goes about her business, seemingly without a care in the world. Before long, however, she sits down, and we are disappointed to think that we are probably going to miss the birth having seen through our binoculars how she is trying to push.

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When she stands up again, the birthing process is no further on. We worry for her. Generally the calving takes no more than around fifteen minutes for wildebeest, but this young mother-to-be appears to be really struggling.

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She walks, she tries to push, she sits down, she eats some more. Other wildebeest come up to her, seemingly to offer encouragement; but despite heavy pushing, she gets no further. After more walking, more pushing and more eating, she is finally exhausted and collapses on the ground, motionless. Is she dying? Is the baby still alive inside her? Has she lost the will to live? Will she be strong enough to finally push the baby out and look after it when it is born? We are getting distressed and seriously concerned for her safety now.

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This is way better than any documentary I ever saw – I am not just watching from the comfort of the sofa in our living room; I am here, with her, her family. I am that wildebeest.

When she finally stands up, we all breathe a sigh of relief, then hold our breath again as she starts to push once more, this time in earnest; and within a few minutes we can see the head appearing. The adrenaline in our car soars - I never expected to feel such thrill and intoxication at an animal giving birth. Willing her on, we shout words of encouragement: “Push!” “Push” “You can do it” “Come on girl” "Push".

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Then it's all over. I whoop with excitement and elation: “Yay! We're grandparents” “Good job!” Then emotion overtakes me and I cry.

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As a first-time mother, the calving was anything but easy for her. 49 minutes elapsed from we first spotted her until the baby was out. Within minutes, however, the youngster is on his feet, instinctively trying to feed while the mother licks him clean.

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Never mind the wildebeest, I am completely exhausted with all the emotions of just watching. We leave them to get to know each other and to continue on their never ending journey in the quest for greener pastures. This is the Circle of Life”

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This amazing experience would not have been possible without the excellent arrangements of Calabash Adventures, and of course our trusted guide and good friend Malisa.

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Posted by Grete Howard 03:55 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds sunrise africa safari tanzania eagle birding fox buffalo vulture quail mongoose wildebeest bird_watching hornbill african_safari honey_badger ndutu calabash_adventures hartebeest bat_eared_fox jackals tawny_eagle plover dik_dik spurfowl francolin big_marsh wildebeest_baby african_birds african_animal fox_cubs long_tailed_mongoose wildebeest_calving wildebeest_birth Comments (2)

Ndutu X - lion, 1000 wildebeest, dung beetles, cheetah cubs

A perfect end to a perfect day


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We set off after lunch to see what nature has to offer us here in Ndutu, and hopefully find a wildebeest herd where we can witness a birth.

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African Hoopoe

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Juvenile Red Billed Buffalo Weaver

Lion

Under a tree we see a magnificent male lion. Initially just resting, he soon sits up surveying the tourists arriving.

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Big yawn. And other funny facial expressions.

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He licks his chops and walks straight towards us.

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Too close for comfort, or at least for photography!

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It's only when we drive away that we realise that Dickson (our driver during our first three safaris in Tanzania) and his clients are right behind us.

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Two Banded Courser

Eurasian Avocet

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"What are you looking at?"

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Blacksmith Plover

Wildebeest Migration

Continuing on our way, we drive alongside thousands of wildebeest, running in an (almost) single file.

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The line seems to go on forever, then group into a HUGE herd, surrounding us on every side, and they just keep on coming.

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More and more and more arrive, a never ending stream of wildebeest join the mêlée, until there is just a sea of horns.

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We see very few babies in amongst this crowd though. A few of the females look like they are ready – they are fat, their nipples have developed and they are struggling to walk – but none are just about to drop. Oh well, we'll keep searching.

Zebra

A few zebras have joined the wildebeest, and we see a few babies too. Our hearts stop as we spot what appears to be a dead baby zebra in the grass.

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We hold our breath when the mother appears and starts nudging her little foal. Is he alive?

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Yes, he is, and he soon runs off with his mother. Phew.

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Dung Beetles

So many wildebeest in one place means two things: 1. we are eaten alive by pesky flies, and 2. it is a dung beetle's paradise.

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Within a few minutes, large piles of dung are turned into neat little balls and rolled away.

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With my love of dung beetles, I am totally in my element here, and before I know it I have taken over a thousand photos of... basically a pile of shit - plus these fascinating insects, of course.

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It is now several hours since we last saw any other cars or human activity. This may be the height of the season in Ndutu, but it is still possible to have large areas all to yourself. Most people go back to the lodge for lunch, preferring to stay out of the sun in the midday heat. I can see why, as we are being cooked to perfection even in the shade of the car. I wouldn't want to miss an animal experience though!

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Greater Spotted Thick Knee

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Light Tawny Eagle

European White Stork

A number of storks return to roost for the night, gliding effortlessly across the savannah.

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Not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands! They just keep on coming.

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And I just keep on photographing them.

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And the wildebeest just keep on walking.

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The storks are followed by a large flock of Cattle Egrets.

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Even a small chattering of Wattled Starlings join in. (chattering is the collective noun for starlings)

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Cheetah

A mum and her two cubs are very active in the late afternoon sun, running around and playing and for the next 30 minutes or so we delight in their antics. The dozen or so photos you will see here, are whittled down from a massive 1200 images – that amounts to around one picture a second!

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I have nothing more to say about this encounter, I think the note I made in my journal at the time sums it up!

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Much as we'd love to stay and watch these adorable little animals for longer, we really have to go. We are still quite some distance away from the lodge, and have to be back by 19:00.

Sunset

As we approach Lake Ndutu, I gasp. I don't think I have ever seen such a spectacular sunset here in Tanzania before.

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I make poor Malisa stop time after time as a new vista comes into view.

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Thankfully sunsets are over rather rapidly this close to the Equator, and we can continue on our way back to the lodge as originally planned.

Until we get to the Marsh.

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The light is really poor now, too dark for photography, so I don't feel bad that we don't stop long.

We do, however, stop to help out this vehicle which is well and truly bogged down.

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Not sure I'd like to be out of the vehicle this close to two lions.

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And they're out!

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Having to rush along the basic tracks that make up Ndutu's 'road system', we dislodge an enormous amount of dust. It seems almost incongruous that a few days ago there was heavy rain and every track was a mud bath.

Ndutu Lodge

We finally make it back to the lodge by 19:30, and after a quick shower and change we are the last to dinner. Again.

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Apple, feta and walnut stack with home made dressing

Somehow I forget to take a photo of the main course, which was lamb tagine with couscous, green beans and courgettes. I do, however, snap a picture of a large moth enjoying what's left on David's plate.

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A very tasty Malva Pudding for dessert

The excellent arrangements for this safari was made by Calabash Adventures, the best safari company by far.

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:59 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds sunset wildlife africa safari tanzania zebra eagle birding cheetah lion stork egrets avocet starlings migration wildebeest courser bird_watching hoopoe wild_animals dung_beetles ndutu calabash_adventures lake_ndutu thick_knee wildebeest_migration tawny_eagle plover lapwing game_viewing blacksmith_plover annual_migration wildlife_photography big_marsh wild_birds cheetah_cubs ndutu_lodge the_great_migration african_birds cattle_egrets africa_safari aniams african-animals thickknee Comments (2)

Ndutu VIII - lions, sunrise, wildebeest, flying eagle

A glorious start to the day


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

There are dik diks in the grounds of Ndutu Lodge as we make our way from he room this morning, but it is still silly o'clock and pitch black so no point in trying to take a photo.

Lions

It is still dark when we reach the lake and encounter the lions we saw mating last night. The lack of light really pushes my camera to the limit, but I figure grainy photos is better than no photos.

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They get up and start walking, but soon disappear into the thick undergrowth, probably to mate.

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We are hoping they'll come out from the bushes, as the female needs space to be able to roll around after copulation, in order to distribute the sperm. We hang around for a while.

Moon

The moon seems to be particularly bright this morning.

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Sunrise

For a few minutes the colours are glorious, with a heavy dew hanging over the water.

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That moment does not last long, although the mist lingers for a while longer.

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More Marabou Storks

They make great foregrounds for sunrise photos.

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We even get a couple of hot air balloons thrown in for good measure.

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Bearded Woodpecker

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It doesn't look like the lions are coming back out again, so we move off to try and find the 'maternity ward' and see if the midwife is on duty (ie a place where the wildebeest are ready to drop their babies).

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Red Bishop

Augur Buzzard

From his lofty position atop a tree, he is busy doing his ablutions and morning exercises.

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Wildebeest

Such fickle animals, they run along at speed, stop and then walk back the way they came.

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While Malisa and David are busy looking our for pregnant mamas who may honour us with the spectacle of their birthing; I spend the time photographing the birds that make wildebeest their home, or at least their dining table.

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Wattled Starlings

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I love to watch them as they try to stay upright while the wildebeest is walking, often with very comical results. The birds, I mean, not Malisa and David.

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Cattle Egret

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Secretary Bird

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Long Crested Eagle

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Dark Chanting Goshawk

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Yellow Necked Spurfowl

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Singing his little heart out!

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African Hoopoe

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Pale Tawny Eagle

Dark Tawny Eagle

We hang around for ages waiting for this eagle to fly. Well worth the wait!

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African Hoopoe

We see two more hoopoe on the road – it is a bird we rarely see, let alone in any great numbers, but this morning alone they have been around in double figures.

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Augur Buzzard

It is time for us to stop for a picnic breakfast and me to finish this blog entry. Stay tuned for more.

This safari was arranged by Calabash Adventures, the best safari company by far!

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Posted by Grete Howard 03:19 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds wildlife sunrise africa safari tanzania eagle moon birding lions serengeti woodpecker storks egrets starling wildebeest bird_watching hoopoe buzzard wild_animals ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area wildebeest_migration tawny_eagle secretary_bird dik_dik wattled_starling spurfowl augur_buzzard game_viewing cattle_egret annual_migration dark_chanting_goshawk goshawk wildlife_photography red_bishop bird_photography wild_birds african_animals the_great_migration marabou_storks crested_eagle Comments (2)

Ndutu IV: zebra, stuck in mud, lion in a tree

What an adventurous afternoon!


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Picnic Lunch

We find the only tree for miles around, under which to have our picnic this lunchtime. There is something very special about eating our lunch in the wild.

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After lunch we go on our way again to see what else nature has to offer us today.

Zebra

The first wildlife we see is a few zebra.

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One month old baby

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Two month old baby suckling

This Grant's gazelle is all on its own, miles from anywhere and any other animals. Most odd.

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Bogged Down

There are not many animals in this area, so we decide to move on elsewhere. Although there is a track, it is very muddy and pot-holed, so Malisa drives off-road; heading towards a forested area we can see in the distance. While the plains look fine on the surface, the ground is sodden underneath, hidden by the long grass; so Malisa speeds up to try and avoid sinking in to the soft soil. It makes for a very bouncy ride, and poor Bertha (my 600mm lens) falls off the seat onto the floor and gets detached from the camera body. Hoping she has not suffered any damage, I put her back together again and leave her on the floor - at least then she can't fall anywhere!

The ground gets wetter and wetter, but Malisa manages to stay afloat so to speak, by turning on the four wheel drive and some skilful driving skimming across the surface. Until we hit a hole created by termites. We come to an abrupt halt, and no amount of revving the engine or turning the wheels makes any difference. We're stuck. Well and truly bogged down.

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Malisa gets out the spade and tries to dig us out, while David and I make sure we are facing opposite directions as we scan the horizon for wild animals. In areas with lots of plains game such as wildebeest, antelopes or zebra, you know you are reasonably safe from predators; whereas here there are no signs of life, human or animal for as far as the eye can see. I stare so intently at the surrounding area that every bush and tree becomes a cheetah or a lion. This is not good for my blood pressure! Five minutes later the same bush again looks like a big cat - I soon become paranoid and start seeing signs of danger with every small movement of the vegetation. David admits to his imagination playing havoc with him in the same way too.

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David on the look-out

Having worked up a sweat trying to shift the heavy wet soil and make a sold path for the wheels, Malisa gets back in the car and tries to drive off again. The wheels just spin and spin. It's no good, we are still stuck.

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Time to radio for help. All morning the radio has been going, with the occasional message about an exciting cat sighting, but mostly calls for help to get out of a sticky situation like this. Malisa grabs the microphone. Nothing. Completely dead. We can hear others, but they can't hear us. He keeps trying but it is obvious the microphone is faulty. Kaput.

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Plan C: Modern technology to the rescue, Malisa whips out his mobile phone to call for help. No signal. I try mine. Also no signal. David, who is on a different network to me, has a very weak signal, so Malisa uses it to make a call to the lodge. After initially having to explain to the confused receptionist why he is calling from a British phone, Malisa is able to let them know what has happened, explain where we are as best as he can, and ask for assistance.

Meanwhile continues to try and dig us out, using a spade and a mud board. David and I go back to scan the horizon, not just for predators, but also for any other cars that may be able to help us out of this mess.

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In the far, far distance, we spot three cars heading from right to left. They are too far away to see us, we can only just make them out using binoculars. How to attract their attention? Malisa tries using his torch, and David waves his mobile phone around with the light on. Both are way too weak to be seen, and anyway, the others will probably just think it is a reflection of the sun.

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I have a bright idea. Taking the speedlight flash gun from my camera bag, I set it on full power and use the TEST button to fire it. Again and again and again. It seems to work, as the vehicles change direction and appear to be heading towards us, coming closer and closer. What a relief! When they are within shouting distance, Malisa tells them not to come any nearer, as there is no point for them to get stuck in the mud as well. Protecting himself with a stick against any potential wild animals, he walks over to the other cars.

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All three drivers come back over with Malisa – these are the same guys who we helped rescue earlier this morning down by Lake Ndutu – and discuss a plan of action. A few more attempts at digging us out are made, then the decision is taken that David and I should go with the others, who will take us back to the lodge. Meanwhile Malisa will stay with the car and wait for help. I argue. I don't want to leave Malisa on his own, but I am talking to deaf ears. I guess he is right when he says that we would be more of a hindrance than a help to the rescuers.

We quickly grab all our stuff and walk across to the other cars. Or at least try to. On my third step I sink knee deep in the mud. I manage to get my left leg out, but in the struggle to free the other one, my shoe gets left behind. Malisa ends up having to use his spade to dig it out. Someone mentions: “all that brown stuff is not just mud, you know...” Thanks a lot for that thought!

The passengers in the other cars are very welcoming, cheering as we arrive and offering us welcome drinks (cartons of juice) and cakes when we get inside the car. Thank goodness they have some spare seats! Only when we drive away do we realise that Malisa is stuck in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by wild animals (potentially) and without any form of communication. We should have left David's phone with him, the only one that worked! I feel really bad about that, but he is too far away to hear me shout, and anyway, none of us feel like traipsing through that mud (!) to go back to where he and the car is.

Douglas, our hero rescue driver, explains that we need to go back to close to the point where we had lunch (they had lunch not far away too - we could see them when we were picnicking) before trying to find the road that will take us back to the lodge. Like Malisa did, he drives at great speed over the boggy landscape, resulting in the windscreen being splattered with mud!

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As we carefully make our way towards the area where we can safely meet up with the track again, we chat to the other passengers. They are on their last day of a five day safari, and are disappointed that they haven't seen a cheetah yet. We try to explain to them where we saw the mother and cubs yesterday.

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Being in a full car (seven passengers plus driver), also makes me realise how spoilt we are for space with just the two of us. Plus Malisa, of course. Having a private safari is the only way to go in my opinion!

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Beautiful late afternoon light over Lake Ndutu

Wildebeest

We drive through large areas dotted with hundreds – no thousands – of wildebeest, some with young babies. Like us, the passengers in this car are on the lookout for a wildebeest-mama just about to give birth. They have not been lucky enough to witness that either, and of course, this afternoon is their last chance. We all frantically scan the herds to look for large bellies.

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We also see a couple of Black Backed Jackals running away. I am sitting in the front seat next to the driver, where photography is not so easy as standing up is difficult because the roof hatch doesn't line up with the footwell, and there is no 'aisle' to stand in like there is at the back. With all my camera gear on my lap, it is hard to manoeuvre myself in any direction.

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Giraffe

Stuck. Again.

Making our way back to Ndutu and the lodges, we have to cross the same boggy area near Lake Ndutu where we helped the car out of the mud earlier this morning. Guess what? Maggie, one of the other drivers in our convoy, gets stuck in the mud.

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Douglas drives our car as close as he dares, then gets out and attaches a tow rope to Maggie's car.

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Here we go:


Easy peasy!

The plains are bathed in a glorious warm glow from the setting sun.

Zebra

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Grant's Gazelle

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Lappet Faced Vulture

Someone in the car complains that they haven't seen anything 'interesting' this afternoon. Another good reason why I am so grateful we are not travelling in a group - to me every wild animal we see is interesting in its own right, it is not just about the big cats and other 'popular' animals. He does take a bit of stick for his comments from the others in the car, to be fair.

Lions

Back by the lake, our three lions are still hanging around. I hope our whinger from earlier is happy now. We notice a vehicle from the KOPE Lion Conservation Project is here too. They have followed these particular lions making their way from Ngorongoro Crater to Ndutu. I later find out that these are the same lions we saw as tiny cubs in the crater back in May 2016 - how cool is that!?!

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Being in a convoy of three cars means that the lead car (which on this occasion is us) can't just find the best position at a sighting, he has to make sure the other two cars can get a good view too.

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We move along to give the other two cars access.

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It looks like the lions have been asleep all afternoon, and are now just waking up.

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He's on the move!

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His brother follows.

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OMG! He's climbed the tree again!

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“I might not make it, but I am going to try. Hold on tight!” says Douglas as he drives straight for the bushes. Not just into undergrowth, but shrubs the height of the car. He cuts through them as if they are just tall grasses. These cars – and their drivers – are amazing!

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The King looks magnificent as his surveys his domain. What light! What colours!

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He doesn't look all that comfortable.

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That's better!

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Definitely not comfortable!

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Unfortunately we have to leave as Douglas is dropping us off, and then taking his original passengers to another camp further away. When we arrive at Ndutu Lodge, he gives the manager the co-ordinates of Malisa's position from his GPS. We are relieved to later hear that help has gone out and have located Malisa; and they promise to let us know when Malisa and his rescuers arrive back safe and sound.

Shower

My feet and legs are filthy dirty after this afternoon's wallow in the mud, and I take my shoes and sock with me into the shower. There is mud everywhere and I feel guilty for using so much water to wash off. I am normally very conscious of my water usage when we travel, so it goes against the grain to stay in the shower for a long time.

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Dinner

The first thing we do when we get to the main building, is to ask the manager if Malisa is back. He is not. It is dark outside now and I am really concerned, but I am reassured to know that he is no longer on his own and they are working hard to rescue him.

There are not so many people in the restaurant tonight, two if the large groups from last night have moved on.

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Starter of Greek Quesadilla drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Followed by a very nice tomato soup which I did not photograph

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Peppered beef - tender and tasty. One of the many things I like about Ndutu Lodge is that they serve extra vegetables on the side. We eat a lot of veggies at home and I so miss them when travelling, as I find most restaurants merely plonk a bit of greenery on the plate for visual impact (if you're lucky).

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The dessert – described as After Dinner Chocolate Slice – is served too cold for my liking. I dislike any cold food straight out of the fridge! I even take ice cream out 10-15 minutes before serving it, or put it in the microwave at home. OK, so I'm weird, we all know that.

Small Spotted Genets

Ndutu Lodge is famous for its resident population of genets – small cat-like creatures who live in the rafters of the lodge. They are wild, but have become habituated to people (and flash guns). The kitchen staff tempt them into the lounge after dinner with leftovers, but they are free to come and go as they like. We later see them roaming the ground and climbing bushes when we go back to our room.

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I refuse to go to bed until Malisa is back, even if it means staying in the reception area half the night! We position ourselves in the bar so that we can see up the pathway leading to the car park, hoping that Malisa will come down this way before going to the drivers' quarters. Thankfully we don't have to wait too long, and when he arrives at around 21:30, we give him the biggest hug ever.

Malisa explains how his rescuers were unable to drive right up to where he was stuck, but like we did, they walked across and helped him dig out the car and place mud boards underneath the wheels. While waiting for them to turn up, Malisa also managed to fix the radio to get the microphone working again. He is such a star! We can go to bed happy and relieved now.

Thank you Calabash Adventures for arranging this safari, and Malisa for looking after us so well. We love you guys!

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:05 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds sunset wildlife adventure phone dinner mud safari tanzania zebra flash dirty birding dirt radio picnic shower lions giraffe mobile_phone gazelle stuck wildebeest douglas bird_watching maggie ndutu calabash_adventures jackals game_viewing picnic_lunch wildlife_photography malisa tree_climbing_lions ndutu_lodge lion_in_a_tree stuck_in_mud bogged_down rescued cell_phone no_phone_signal mud_board speedlight flash_gun camera_flash kope genets Comments (2)

Ndutu III: migration, dung beetles, hyena, heron with snake

In the midst of the action


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After breakfast we continue on our quest to see the wildebeest migration and maybe even a female giving birth.

The first thing we come across, is a less-than-a-day-old baby suckling his mum.

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Large herds of wildebeests attract a number of followers as they cut across the savannah, in the form of flies, which again entice birds, in this case Cattle Egrets, who ride along, hoping for a tasty snack.

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Marabou Stork

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Grant's Gazelles

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Thomson's Gazelle

The difference between Grant's and Thomson's (affectionately known as Tommies), is not just that the latter is much small (which of course isn't easy to see in a photograph), but also the shape of the horns, and the dark stripe along the side.

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Here you can see them together – Grant's in the front with the paler body and the curved horns, and Thomson's at the back: smaller with a distinctive dark stripe.

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Dung Beetles

Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest in one place naturally produces a lot of waste, with the waste again attracting dung beetles. Lots of them. Malisa knows what a fascination I have with these cool little recyclers, and stops for me to take some photos as they roll away their prized balls of shit.

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So, why do they do it?
While there are different types of dung beetles, these little critters we see here, start by converging on a fresh pile of dung and rolling it into a ball. Sometimes you see several beetles on a pile of dung, and they can transform a huge mount of manure into perfect balls in minutes.

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Usually it is the male doing most of the rolling – they can roll up to 50 times their own weight – with the female simply hitching a ride.

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Things don't always go to plan.

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When a spot with soft soil is found, they stop and bury the ball.

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After mating under ground, the female lays eggs inside the dung. Once the new brood has hatched, they eat their way out of the ball, thus the dung doubles up as housing as well as food.

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By burying and consuming dung, they improve nutrient recycling and soil structure; as well as the dispersal of seeds found in the animal waste. Additionally, by removing the manure, they decrease the number of flies that would otherwise be attracted to the wildebeest.

I just love these little animals!

Hyena

A pregnant hyena eyes up a zebra.

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While they are known to be opportunist predators, hyenas generally go after abandoned kills. In this case, our female is looking for placentas left on the ground after animals have given birth.

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The zebra nearest us is limping badly, and we momentarily get quite concerned for safety, but either the hyena doesn't notice, or she has not got the energy in her at her current state to pursue a potential prey. There is less chance of losing her baby by foraging for leftovers than chasing a large animal.

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Marabou Stork

Meanwhile, a Marabou Stork circles above. They too are carrion eaters, so probably looking for placentas too.

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And an Abdim Stork

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Kori Bustard

Judging by his flamboyant courtship display, this guy doesn't have food on his mind, he is looking to attract a female.

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Zebra with Young

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This guy seems to have a lot of passengers.

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Wattled Starlinsg

Black Headed Heron

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Far in the distance we see him stalking something on the ground, then dip down and reappear with a snake in his beak!

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For the next ten minutes we watch the battle of wits between the still-live snake and the hungry bird.

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It is a tough flight. The snake keeps trying to slither out of the heron's mouth but obviously the heron gets the better of it.

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While trying to re-arrange the snake within his beak, he drops it at one stage, but is very quick at picking it up again.

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We are fascinated by the spectacle unfolding before us - this surely has to be today's highlight!

Knob Billed Duck

As we are watching the heron, Malisa calls out to alert us to a Knob Billed Duck flying overhead. I grab my other camera (I have been using Big Bertha for the heron, but find that too heavy and cumbersome for birds in flight), but by the time I get myself sorted, it has almost passed us over.

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Wildebeests

As we continue our journey across the flat meadows near Ndutu, we find ourselves surrounded on all sides by wildebeest. There are literally thousands of them, everywhere we look, as far as we can see into the distance.

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Today's challenge is to find a wildebeest – or zebra – just about to give birth so that we can witness the beginning of a new life. It seems, however, that we are too early for the wildebeest, and too late for the zebra.

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Zebra Dust Bath

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Zebra on Heat

Someone ought to tell this female zebra on heat that mounting another female zebra is not going to satisfy her sexual urges, nor is it going to produce baby zebra.

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“Stop it! You're scaring the children!”

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The other female is obviously not in the mood for lesbian love, and kicks out before making her escape.

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Car stuck in the Mud

In the distance we see a car at an odd angle; obviously unable to get out of a bit of a hole, quite literally.

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The ground is so deceptive here: the savannah looks its normal grassy self on the surface, yet – in some place – as soon as you drive on it, it is all boggy underneath.

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There are already other people helping the female driver of the grounded vehicle. A few years ago there were no female drivers here in th Northern Circuit, but that is slowly changing as the lodges prepare accommodation to support both genders. On this trip we see two lady drivers.

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It rather concerns me seeing the vultures circle above – what do they know that we don't? The presence of a number of wildebeest, however, indicates that we are reasonably safe from predators.

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At the beginning of this trip, Malisa mentioned about making sure he had a couple of tow ropes in the car, now I am beginning to understand why, as a rope is attached to the stuck car, with another vehicle ready to pull them out. They are travelling together in a group of three cars, with the passengers being a bunch of very friendly Americans.

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The lead car goes full whack in top speed and makes it all look very easy. One of the passengers, however, makes the mistake of standing up in the vehicle as they are being pulled out, and ends up completely airborne. I am pretty sure she must have hit her head on the roof – that's gotta have hurt!

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Malisa tells us to hold on for dear life as he drives across the boggy area at full speed too, creating some serious bounce, resulting in painful jarring of my back. We stop the other side of the bog to make sure all the vehicles get across. The atmosphere here is like that of a party, with everyone treating it as an adventure. There is lots of clapping and cheering going on.

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There's an enormous amount of surface water about!

Hyenas

We see four hyenas scattered in different places, in amongst the zebra. Neither species seem that bothered by the other.

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As we move to get closer, we almost run over this fifth one in a den.

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Eland

A small herd of eland appear on the horizon. Traditionally hunted for their delicious meat, these large antelopes are usually very skittish.

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For that reason there is no point in trying to get any closer to get a better shot, so I grab Big Bertha instead (my 600mm lens). Because of how far away these critters are, there is a lot of atmospheric distortion in the air, making the images quite soft.

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Abdim Stork

Pee break

Unlike the Serengeti where there are a number of organised picnic areas with modern toilets, here at Ndutu it's au naturel. You'd think that after all these years I would have learned to face into the wind when 'marking my territory', especially on a gusty day like today. Not a chance. The only casualty is my knickers, my jeans remain unscathed, and thankfully there are no other tourist vehicles around as I take them off. The wildebeest don't seem to mind.

You - and I - will be pleased to know there are no pictures.

Thomson's Gazelle

A mother and her ten day old baby.

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We race across the savanna – not because we're in a hurry, but in order to prevent ourselves getting bogged down in the marshes - to reach a tree which will provide shade for our picnic lunch.

More to follow in the next blog entry. Thanks to Calabash Adventures for arranging this safari for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 06:42 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds wildlife mud safari tanzania zebra birding duck hyena heron egret stork starling wildebeest kori_bustard bird_watching bustard wild_animals eland ndutu dung_beetle calabash_adventures marabou_stork grant's_gazelle game_viewing thomson's_gazelle wildlife_photography wild_birds abdim_stork stuck_in_mud baby_animal wildebeest_baby heron_with_snake knob_billed_duck dust_bath zebra_on_heat car_stuck pee_break Comments (2)

Ndutu II: lion in a tree, lots of birds, migration

A cool morning at Ndutu


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We go down to the lounge area early this morning to grab a coffee and check out the internet before we set off for the day; only to find the man with the key to the reception isn't there yet, so no internet.

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Moonlight over Ndutu Lodge

Lions

Our 'breakfast' this morning (Malisa's expression for the first sighting of the day), is a male lion purposefully striding through the undergrowth quite near to the lodge.

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He is taking a great interest in a couple of men working down by the lake.

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Each lodge in the area have their own borehole at the edge of the lake, and fill their water tankers from there to take back to the lodges.

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We are joined by another couple of vehicles.

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Even more safari vehicles arrive

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The lion disappears out of sight into the bushes.

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But there's another one!

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From behind us a third lion appears, walking right by the side of the car.

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He disappears too, but we hang around for a bit watching the flamingos on Lake Ndutu.

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Suddenly someone notices that one of the lions has climbed a tree, so we set off, literally driving through the dense thicket to get nearer.

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After a while of being settled on the branch, he starts to fidget. Is he going to jump down?

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No, he is just rearranging himself.

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Meanwhile, I am distracted by a Beautiful Sunbird.

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This time our lion is definitely on the move.

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He does not look overly confident here.

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“Should I go this way?”

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“Hmm, maybe not...”

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Here we go!

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He soon disappears into the bushes, probably looking for a female on heat. We continue on our way, “to see what nature has to offer us” as Malisa would say.

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Jacobin Cuckoo

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Southern Red Bishop

Lesser Flamingos

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Marsh Sandpiper

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Kitlitz' Plover

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Lots of them flying

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Crowned Lapwing

Mud

In a low-lying marshy area, we see a car stuck in the mud. A lot of helpers are milling around, assisting in towing the vehicle out.

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Fearful of suffering the same fate, Malisa drives across at great speed. It works, we are fine.

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Southern Red Bishop

Usually very timid, this small bird surprises us by staying put on his perch as we pull up alongside him. It's not until another car drives past that he flies off.

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Greater Spotted Thick Knee

Wattled Starlings

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Marabou Stork

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This baby wildebeest didn't make it

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Secretary Bird

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Steppe Eagle

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Eurasian Roller

White Backed Vulture

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Spotted Hyena

The Great Migration

We've seen the migration on our previous visits, including being right in the middle of huge herds of animals in Togoro; plus we have been lucky enough to witness the wildebeest and zebra cross the mighty Mara River in the far north of the country; but never before have we seen it like it is here: one single line. This is how I have always imagined the migration to look like. The reason they walk behind each other in this way, is a scent emitted from the hooves of the animals at the front, which leads other to follow in exactly the same pathway.

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This tiny little baby struggles to keep up with mum; he's two hours old at the most.

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There are a few more youngsters today than there were yesterday. The whole idea of coming this time of year was to see the babies, and hopefully even a birth.

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We stop to have our breakfast in the car this morning, as there is a cold wind out. More to follow in the next blog entry.

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Thank you Calabash Adventures forarranging this safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 01:21 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds wildlife well africa mud safari tanzania eagle birding moonlight lion flamingo roller internet stork vulture starlings wifi migration wildebeest cuckoo bird_watching wild_animals sunbird ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area wildebeest_migration plover lapwing sandpiper borehole game_viewing great_migration wildlife_photography red_bishop ndutu_lodge african_animals lion_in_a_tree ndutu_lake stuck_in_mud sead_wildebeest baby_wildebeest Comments (6)

Ndutu I: chameleon, lions, migration, cheetah

Goodbye Serengeti, hello Ndutu


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

It's late afternoon as we leave Serengeti National park behind and head for pastures new, with five nights in the Ndutu region of Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

There are just as many zebras here as there were the other side of the park border. Of course the animals don't have to check in and out of the parks as we do, and there are no physical borders.

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Wattled Starling

A tree by the side of the road is alive with these colourful and impressive-looking birds.

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They get their name from the long wattles found on the throat of breeding male birds, who also display unfeathered yellow skin and a black forehead (the rest of the year they are a dull grey)

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Female

Jackson's Chameleon

Without warning, Malisa comes to a screeching halt on the apparently empty road. Except it is not so empty. Malisa's eyes never cease to amaze me – he has spotted a chameleon crossing the road!

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They are seriously bizarre in the way they walk.


Having safely crossed the road, our little friend disappears up the bank and into the undergrowth. What an exciting sighting!

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European White Stork, a seasonal migrant

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The dark line you see just before the horizon is thousands upon thousands of zebra and wildebeest making their annual migration through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Some 3-4 million animals in total are part of this spectacle.

Lions

Also watching this amazing phenomenon is a pride of seven lions, but not for the same reasons as us: they see it as a line-up of prospective lunch choices.

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Although this one seems to be watching us.

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Wildebeest

We soon find ourselves in the midst of the hoofed melee, surrounded by wildebeest on all sides.

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There are a few zebra amongst them too, but nowhere near the numbers we saw just a little bit further north in Serengeti.

At this time of the year, the plains of Ndutu are descended on by what is known as the 'Great Migration', and the animals are here to give birth to their babies before continuing on their never-ending quest for greener pastures. It is in the hope of seeing the young animals or even babies being born that we have chosen to come here now; we are therefore a little disappointed to see that there do not appear to be any little ones around, at least not in this herd.

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We finally see this one single youngster in amongst all the adults.

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He's full of life as he explores his new world.

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At just a couple of days old, he doesn't know what to make of this egret.

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“I think I'll go back to mum.”

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Mum, meanwhile, has a non-fare-paying passenger in the form of a wattled starling.

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The fare-dodger is soon evicted, however.

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Cheetah

In he distance we see a few cars gathered and go off to investigate.

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Initially we can't see what they are all looking at, but then we spot a little head in the long grass.

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There is a mum and two young cubs, somewhere in the region of 5-7 months old, and they have a kill that they are feeding on. Their dinner, however, it completely overrun with flies!

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Mum tries to move the carcass, but it proves too heavy for her.

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Having had enough to eat, they all join together and roll in the grass in an attempt to rid themselves of those pesky flies.

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It's getting late and we need to be at the lodge before dark; and as we don't know what we might see on the way to delay us, Malisa wants to get going.

Great White Egrets and Abdim Storks

We are not the only ones heading for home – a great number of egrets and storks fly low on the way to their roosting sites for the night.

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Road Block

More and more ungulates are joining the migration this point, with the road being blocked in several places by wildebeest and zebra.

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Uh uh. It looks like there may be a road block of a different kind here; I hope we can manage to get through the puddles.

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The cars in front of us have made it, so we should be OK. It probably looks worse than it actually is.

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We're through!

Great White Egrets
As we cross the narrow strip of land between Lake Masek and Lake Ndutu, we see hundreds and hundreds of egrets fly low over the water as they are coming home to roost. The light is gorgeous with the setting sun giving the whole scene a warm, yellow glow.

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It's a spectacular sight, and we stay as long as we can before having to make the journey to the lodge for the night.

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Ndutu Lodge

This is the third time we have stayed here at Ndutu Lodge, and as yet we've never arrived early enough to be able to have the time to sit around the camp fire before dinner.

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Today is no different. By the time we have a shower and change, we are the last to arrive in the restaurant. The food here has always been excellent, but as they are under new management, we are a little concerned that this may have changed. We needn't have worried, it every bit as good as it always was.

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Another good thing about Ndutu Lodge which hasn't changed, is that they serve Savanna Cider.

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Mini tomato tart

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Chicken curry with coconut and banana, mango chutney, rice and poppadum; with vegetables on the side

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Chocolate mousse

Thank you so much to Calabash Adventures for arranging this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:58 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds sunset wildlife africa cats safari tanzania big zebra birding flies cheetah lions egret stork migration starling wildebeest chameleon bird_watching african_safari ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area lake_ndutu lake_masek wildebeest_migration game_viewing great_migration wildlife_photography flying_birds wildlife_viewing cheetah_cubs abdim_stork ndutu_lodge Comments (4)

Serengeti VII: lions, elephants, giraffes, zebra

From Serengeti to Ndutu


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I slept well last night, but am awake at 4:30 this morning. As usual we set off before daybreak at around 6:00.

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With no rain overnight, the roads are slightly less muddy this morning, but there are some very deep ruts. Even when it dries up completely, it is going to take some major maintenance to get all these tracks back to 'normality'.

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Safari Ants

It is still pretty dark out, so this photograph is not going to be able to show you how the soldier ants stand to one side of the 'path' created by the workers, in order to protect them as they collect building materials and food.

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David recorded a couple of videos, however.


Sunrise

The sun is just starting to make its appearance over the horizon. We are hoping for another rainless day.

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Not only does the pond provide a great setting for the sunrise, there is quite a bit of wildlife around here too.

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Hippo

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Black Crake

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Marabou Stork

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Helmeted Guineafowl

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Common Sandpiper

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Grey Heron

Elephant

We see a lone old chap in the green grass.

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And a hot air balloon on the horizon

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White Browed Coucal

Amethyst Sunbird

An exciting lifer.

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I am so busy photographing this bird, that I totally miss a hyena walking right by the car.

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Cape Teal

The newly formed puddles in the road provide a great place for various ducks to hang out.

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Elephants

Word has it there are elephants up on the hillside. We go to check it out.

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The tracks are not in a good state, however.

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The car ahead is abandoned, with the passengers rescued and taken off in another vehicle. It must be bad around here. Malisa goes off on foot to check out the conditions before continuing.

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Not even the grassy verges look solid enough to drive on. Malisa deems the risk of getting bogged down too great, and decides to turn around.

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As it is, the puddles are so deep, the water goes over the top of the bonnet of the car!

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Secretary Bird

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Lions

We see two male lions in the far, far distance, extremely well hidden by the long grass. They are watching a herd of wildebeest even further away.

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Topi

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Serengeti Visitors Centre

We stop at the picnic area for breakfast, and as usual the place is overrun with rock hyrax.

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And a pair of Marico Sunbirds – another nice little lifer.

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Lilac Breasted Rollers

We leave the picnic site and continue this morning's game drive.

Stuck Car

We see a car leaning dangerously to one side, stuck in the mud on the track. There are lots of people helping, with many hands making light work.

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They're out!

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They're a little bit muddy, but otherwise fine; and the clients are still smiling. It's all part of the fun.

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We rush through as I have some 'urgent business' to attend to. I do not understand what Malisa shouts out at the other drivers for them to move aside as you would for an ambulance; but I gather it is in the vein of “toilet emergency”. We are heading for the small airstrip at Seronera, and the same thing happens there: the gates magically open as Malisa calls out to the security guard. The toilets at the airstrip are clean, modern and there is thankfully no queue. Phew.

After my urgent visit, we are able to continue on our quest to “see what nature has to offer us”, along more muddy tracks and through more dirty puddles.

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Giraffes

I still think giraffes are my favourite animal, and seeing them close by like this is always special.

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Fan Tailed Widowbird

A colourful widowbird flits around, but never gets close enough, nor sits still long enough, to get a decent photo of him.

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Lions

As usual, a lion sighting has attracted quite a crowd, and there is a bit of a queue to get near enough to actually see these three males. While we wait for our turn, I amuse myself by taking photos of tourists taking photos of.... themselves (despite being in a prime viewing spot for the lions).

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While big cats have always been big draws, this is currently compounded by the fact that huge parts of the Serengeti is out of bounds as a result of flooding and inaccessible roads; concentrating safari traffic in a much smaller area.

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This guy decides to leave the cool shade under a tree to go and lie in the midday sun. Is he mad?

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His brother looks very old and scruffy – look at the state of his mane and the skin in folds across his torso. He seems to have lost the will to live!

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We leave the lions – and the crowds they've drawn – behind and head south towards the park gate at Naabi Hill. We had been hoping to drive down to Ndutu via Moru Kopjes, but that whole area is inaccessible at the moment, which only leaves us this one option.

Verreaux's Eagle Owl

He is one large owl!

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Look at those pink eyelids.

Zebra

As we get nearer the gate, we see lots of tiny specs on the landscape: literally thousands of zebra! I don't think I have ever seen so many in one place over such a large area before.

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Naabi Hill behind

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Dust baths seem popular.

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The other three zebra seem to be looking on with bemusement

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There are not as many babies as I expected to see.

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We enjoy our packed lunch while watching the zebra.

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I love these sweet little finger-sized bananas

We do, unfortunately, have to leave this stripey spectacle in order to get to our lodge at Ndutu before dark.

Thank you Calabash Adventures yet again for all the arrangements.

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Posted by Grete Howard 05:30 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds wildlife elephant sunrise safari tanzania zebra birding lions hippo giraffes ants roller serengeti heron stork topi owl bird_watching game_drive sunbird teal calabash_adventures naabi_hill serengeti_visitors_centre rock_hyrax coucal secretary_bird guineafowl sandpiper naabi_gate wildlife_photography crake widowbird abandoned_car afroca toilet_emergency Comments (6)

Serengeti V: mongoose, baboons, klipspringers, gazelles

North to Lobo. Or maybe not.


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Breakfast Picnic

We are unable to get into the actual picnic site as the ground is too sodden and muddy, so we set up our table and chairs on the side of the road instead. We are the only people here, so it doesn't really matter.

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New for this year, are the posh chairs, with little foldable tables attached, complete with cup holder.

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Another great breakfast provided by Matawi Serengeti Camp

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What a great idea to have a shape cut out to include the cup handle.

We may be the only humans here, but a couple of lions have walked right through the site this morning.

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On the other side of our table are fresh hyena prints. We are definitely out in the wild here.

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Butterflies

We have seen more butterflies on this trip than any other safari in the past, with some places featuring literally hundreds of them. They are very difficult to photograph as they rarely hang around for very long, although I managed to catch this one as it landed for a few seconds.

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Tiger Butterfly

Swallows

Swallows dart around, pausing briefly to pick up crumbs left on the ground.

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Lesser Striped Swallow

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White Rumped Swift

In the distance we see a car being helped out of the mud by several other drivers.

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Martial Eagle

This huge eagle is easily recognisable by its relatively short tail. Such a powerful bird, it has been known to just fly down and pick up baby antelopes. Farmers fear it as it will attack livestock, which in turn makes it one of the most persecuted eagle in Africa. It is classed as 'vulnerable', heading towards extinction as a result.

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Here you can better see the short tail without the confusion of the branch behind

Marabou Stork

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These really are such ugly birds.

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Nile Crocodile

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Hippos

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Dwarf Mongoose

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Lilac Breasted Roller

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He's found a bug

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He briefly lands on the road

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Then takes off again

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The roads are still very muddy

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Sausage Tree

Named for the huge sausage-like fruits hanging down, which in fact are poisonous when raw. They can, however, be dried, roasted or fermented to make an alcoholic beverage.

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Eastern Chanting Goshawk

Lobo

Malisa suggests we head north towards Lobo, partly to get away from all the crowds in Seronera, and also in the hope of seeing some elephants. I have been very surprised at the lack of pachyderms on this trip.

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We need to get out of this mess

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Another flooded river crossing

Cape Buffalo

The first thing we see is a large herd of buffalo; although all we can really see is the top of their backs sticking up over the long grass.

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Olive Baboons

A large troupe of baboons walk past our car on the road.

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Little Bee Eater

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Pin Tailed Whydah

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Fan Tailed Widowbird

Orangi River crossing

Apparently this was full and overflowing yesterday. It's amazing how quickly it dries out in this heat.

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Red Billed Hornbill

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Lilac Breasted Roller

Topi

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The landscape is very different up here.

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Impala

Grant's Gazelles

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Eastern Chanting Goshawk

Turtle

Malisa spots the tiniest little turtle, his shell not much bigger than my thumbnail, trying to climb the mountainous (to him) tyre track in the road. We stop and make sure he gets out of the way before we carry on. He's heading for a small pond at the side of the road.

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As soon as we stop, we get eaten alive by the &*%@# tsetse flies!

White Headed Vulture

The rare and endangered White Headed Vulture beaming down on us.

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It seems the only animals around here are the tsetse flies. We take a joint decision to return to Central Serengeti

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Another turtle

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Topi

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Klipspringer

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Yet another Lilac Breasted Roller

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Pallid Flycatcher

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Little Bee Eater

More Klipspringers

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He's not happy with us!

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Another turtle – the water here is incredibly clear!

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We meet a ranger who tells us there elephants the other side of the kopje. We check it out, but they are so far away that I don't even bother to try and take a photograph. Instead we stop for our lunch picnic. More in the next blog entry.

Thank you Calabash Adventures for organising this safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:35 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds wildlife africa safari tanzania crocodile birding buffalo hippo baboons turtle roller serengeti butterflies stork vulture flycatcher lobo impala gazelle topi mongoose bird_watching hornbill lilac_breasted_roller swift calabash_adventures klipspringer swallow grant's_gazelle breakfast_picnic bee_eater game_viewing sausage_tree orangi_river togoro goshawk wildlife_photography whydah wildlife_viewing widowbird lion-prints hyena_prints picnic_chairs eacgle Comments (4)

Serengeti IV: hyena chase, 3 old lions, leopard, mongooses

It pays to be out early


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Sunrise

We are greeted by a somewhat unusual and intriguing sunrise this morning, with crepuscular rays appearing to radiate from the glow of the sun on the horizon. Very dramatic.

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The chase

Our 'breakfast' this morning (Malisa's expression for the first animal / bird we see of the day) is a pack of hyenas chasing a herd of impala.

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We take off in hot pursuit.

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The hyena is no match for the super-quick antelopes, and they all get to live another day.

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The hyenas wander off in search of something else for breakfast.

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The sun is just making an appearance over the horizon, colouring the sky with a promise of a beautiful day.

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Lions

In the distance we see three lions, they are brothers, aged around ten years, which is considered old as far as lions go (they generally live for 12-15 years in the wild).

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One by one they wake up, making the most of the early morning sunlight.

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Shaking the sleep away

Strolling along the road, they walk straight past our car, one after the other.


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He's looking up at David as he passes. "Is that a Sony camcorder you are using?"

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Marking his territory

Looking bedraggled and grumpy, his fur still damp from the morning dew; the second lion doesn't look to amused to be confronted by the paparazzi just after waking up.

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I'd say he's got more problems than a few eager photographers: just look at his left eye!

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He too marks his territory in the same place as his brother.

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The last one to walk past us looks a much healthier specimen.

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They leave the road and soon disappear into the long grass.

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We move on to “see what else nature has to offer us today”.

Red Necked Spurfowl

He is trying his very best to impress her, but she is having none of it!

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Leopard

He may be far, far away, but this is the fifth leopard we have seen in three days. Quite unbelievable.

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I can't even make out what it is with the naked eye, but using my 600mm with a 1.4x extender on a crop factor camera (making it an effective focal lens of 1344mm) and cropping in Photoshop, I can definitely see it's a leopard!

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The distance is making photography unsatisfactory as the atmospheric distortion creates soft images; so we don't hang around for very long.

Last night we were chatting with the Swedish couple during dinner, and they were not leaving the camp until eight this morning. It is now coming up for eight o'clock, and we've already seen a pack of hyenas chase a herd of impala, had three lions walk right by our car, and seen a leopard in the tree. I cannot understand people who come on safari and don't take advantage of the first couple of hours of daylight, which is when the animals are usually most active.

A lone Cape Buffalo

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The buffalo comes complete with passengers: Red Billed Oxpeckers.

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Banded Mongoose

A band of curious little mongooses check out the parking area near a picnic site.

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Inspecting the suspension of another safari vehicle

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Peek-a-boo!

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"I want THAT blade of grass!"

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Nearby a Dwarf Mongoose is sunning himself on a rock.

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White Rumped Helmetshrike

It's time for us to go and have our picnic box in a designated area, and for me to finish this blog entry. Stay tuned.

Thank you Calabash for another exciting morning on safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:32 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds wildlife sunrise africa safari tanzania birding buffalo lions serengeti leopard hyena impala mongoose bird_watching calabash_adventures banded_mongoose spurfowl dwarf_mongoose helmetshrike wildlife_photography matawi matawi_serengeti_camp matawi_camp oxpecker matawi_serengeti hyena_chase three_old_lions old_lions male_lions marking_his_territory Comments (6)

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