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Ndutu XII - David unwell, pond life, lion, cheetah

Just me and Malisa against the world. Well, not quite the world, but at least the wildlife of Ndutu.


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

We have our picnic breakfast in the car on the plains, completely surrounded by the enormous herd of wildebeest.

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We are thrilled when we spot 'our' baby in amongst the crowd – his mum is instantly recognisable by the manner in which her afterbirth is hanging. It's a relief to know that our grandchild survived the first critically vulnerable period of his life.

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Zebra

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This guys is missing his tail – probably a close brush with a lion or hyena!

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Tawny Eagle

Marabou Stork

He's on the lookout for wildebeest placentas for lunch!

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Pregnant Hyena

David is not feeling at all well, and asks Malisa to take him back to the lodge. He must be poorly, that's the first time I have heard him ask that in our seven safaris here. Hopefully it is nothing serious.

Once David is safely delivered at the lodge, where we take the opportunity to use the facilities, Malisa and I continue our safari “to see what nature has to offer us” as he always says.

White Backed Vulture

I'm intrigued as to how the vulture became so wet. It seems to me that he might have had an involuntary dip in the lake. He is looking quite bedraggled!

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He is certainly busy trying to dry off, waving his huge wings around in the hot, still air.

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Giraffe skeleton

Wildebeest crossing Lake Ndutu

With all the recent rains and subsequent flooding, Lake Ndutu has extended its shores considerably across the flat landscape, with shallow pools being creating where the usual path of the wildebeest was.

I think this much deeper section has taken the small group – or confusion, the collective noun of wildebeest – by surprise.

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Oh my! There is a tiny baby in the group!

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There seems to be some consternation, with the adults agitated and the baby nowhere to be seen. I hold my breath as I am terrified he may have drowned.

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He is only tiny, likely to have been born earlier this morning. After a few tense seconds, he re-appears and all is well.

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Thankfully, they soon reach shallower waters.

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We can all breathe again now.

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Speckled Weaver

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Red Bishop

Pond Life

Lots of birds – and a few animals – gather down at the lake shore.

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Greater and Lesser Flamingo

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The lesser flamingo is the more colourful of the two species

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Avocet

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I had no idea that Avocet use the same principle for fishing as spoonbills – sweeping the bottom of the shallow water from side to side to disturb any living organisms that they can then scoop up and eat.

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Greenshank

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Kittlitz Plover

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Marabou Stork

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Common Sandpiper

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Giraffe

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Giraffe and Wildebeest

In places the earth appears to be dried out, with huge cracks. It is very deceptive, however, as the ground underneath is still very soggy, and as soon as you drive out onto it, the car sinks deep into the mud.

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Ndutu Lodge have issued stark warnings to all its drivers and visitors, and will charge 300,000 Tanzanian Shillings to rescue you (ca £100 / US$130).

Oxpeckers

Feasting on a dazzle of zebras (the collective noun for a group of zebras)

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Long Crested Eagle

She off hunting for lunch.

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Lion

A lazy male lion relaxes in the shade. It's amazing how we've predominantly seen male lions on this trip, no large prides with females and cubs as we have on previous visits.

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We let sleeping lions be, and go off to see what else nature has to offer us today.

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Tawny Eagle. "You looking at me?"

Wattled Starling

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Cheetah

Malisa thinks we should return to see what the cheetah cubs are doing. We find them not far from where they were yesterday, and today they are mostly sleeping in the shade, occasionally turning over.

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After a while the other clients get bored, and one by one the cars leave until eventually it is only us and a car with two serious German photographers left. Our patience pays off when the cheetahs get up from their slumber and start to play!

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A few more cars arrive in time to see the cubs trying to climb a tree stub, somewhat precariously!

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At one stage one of the cubs walks straight towards our car, and I am sure (hoping) she is going to jump on the bonnet of the Landcruiser!

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She veers off last minutes and heads for another car, but doesn't climb on board that one either.

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After nearly three hours (and 2,500 photos) of watching this gorgeous family, we have to reluctantly leave and make our way back to the lodge in order to get there before dark.

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Also watching the cheetahs playing is a Northern Double Collared Sunbird - another lifer!

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Storks

Down by Lake Ndutu, Abdim and Marabou Storks are gathering for the night.

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Baby Wildebeest

This young guy is wandering all alone, and Malisa surmises that his mama has been killed. He won't last long on his own, unfortunately.

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White Bellied Bustard

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By the time we get back to Ndutu Lodge, David is up and about, feeling very much better after a long sleep, plenty of water and a shower.

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Dinner

Tonight's gastronomic offerings consists of

Chef's Salad

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Fennel Soup (which we decline)

Beef Lasagne

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Chocolate Brownie with home made Toffee Swirl Brownie Ice Cream

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While we are eating, there is a terrific electric storm going on in the distance. I try to capture it on my phone, but it really isn't very successful. By the time we have finished dinner, the storm has passed.


And so we go to bed on the last evening here in Ndutu. As always, our thanks go to Calabash Adventures for such terrific arrangements.

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Posted by Grete Howard 16:22 Archived in Tanzania Tagged wildlife africa safari tanzania zebra eagle cheetah lion giraffe flamingo stork vulture avocet birdwatching starling weaver wildebeest ndutu calabash calabash_adventures marabou_stork wildebeest_migration tawny_eagle best_safari_operator plover wattled_starling sandpiper pond_life great_migration wildlife_photography greenshank red_bishop oxpeckers ndutu_lodge african_animals david_unwell giraffe_skeleton Comments (2)

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

A cool morning at Ndutu


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

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)

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)

Sunset Cruise from Mandina Lodges

What an amazing amount of birds!


View Galavanting in The Gambia 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

This afternoon we are taking another boat trip, this one with two added bonuses: a bottle of wine and the sunset! Hopefully. The sunset, that is, the bottle is most definitely present!

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My plan of action this evening is to take photos of birds just as they take off. I always like a challenge and to step outside my comfort zone. I start with this Long Tailed Cormorant.

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Fishing centre

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I have a soft spot for baobab trees

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Whimbrel

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Wattled Plover

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Black Kite taking off

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Palm Nut Vulture

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Great White Egret

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Preening

I think she's going to fly...

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Here she goes!

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It looks like she is having a blast!

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We see a tree full of Pink Backed Pelicans.

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Yellow Billed Stork

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African Spoonbill

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Goliath Heron

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Black Kite

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Blue Cheeked Bee Eater

The sun is getting low now, and depending which direction I point my camera, the sky glows a warm yellow, glistening in the ripples on the water surface.

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Great White Egret

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Common Sandpiper

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Sacred Ibis

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Sacred Ibis

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Whimbrels

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And they're gone

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African Darter

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Cattle Egret

The sun is only just above the horizon now, as we have entered an area enclosed on three sides by mangroves and an island in the middle.

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Max, the captain, explains we will wait here for the sun to go down and the birds to come back to roost.

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We see a few single birds flying around in the sunset, then coming in to the island to settle down for the night.

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The sun has painted the sky a deep orange now.

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Beautiful reflections on the water

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Where there were initially just one or two, they are now coming in thick and fast, it seems to be never ending, and they seem to appear from nowhere.

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More and more egrets are gathering in the trees, and when you think there is no room for any more birds, a whole lot of others arrive.

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It is hard to know where to look, the birds are coming from three out of four directions, and seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere from behind us with a whoosh. It is an air traffic control nightmare!

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When there is no more room at the inn and the light is fading rapidly, we start to make our way back to the lodge, stopping from time to time to take photos of the sunset. To say this evening's performance has been spectacular is an understatement!

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By the time we reach the hotel, darkness has all but enveloped Makasutu Forest and the twinkling lights of Mandina Lodge welcome us back.

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Dinner

As time is getting on, we go straight to dinner from the sunset cruise; the boat conveniently lands at the jetty right by the restaurant anyway.

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Pre-dinner drink of Pina Colada

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Prawn Cocktail

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Butter fish with Lyonnaise potatoes and a delicious home made tartare sauce

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David's Samosas

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Gambian Rice Pudding with ground peanuts - a very delicate flavour

We decline the offer of an early morning coffee in the room tomorrow, in favour of a lie in, and sneak off to bed after a magical day in Makasutu Forest.

Posted by Grete Howard 15:16 Archived in Gambia Tagged trees birds fishing reflections sunset pelicans kite africa dinner forest birding captain baobab stork vulture ibis egrets spoonbill birdwatching mangroves cocktail west_africa samosas cormorant gambia boat_trip fores sunset_cruise piña_colada darter roost plover bee_eater sandpiper the_gambia butter_fish mandina_lodges makasutu makasutu_forest whinbrel flying_birds birds_flying air_traffic_control prawn_cocktail rice_pudding Comments (5)

Morning Boat Trip at Mandina Lodges

Such variety of bird life


View Galavanting in The Gambia 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I get up early this morning to catch the sunrise – there is a beautiful mist rising over the river.

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Sensing some movement out of the corner of my eye, I spot a new bird (to me) in amongst the foliage: a Mangrove Sunbird.

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Speckled Pigeon

Catching the sunrise was not the only reason I got up early today; we are off on a boat trip through the mangroves this morning.

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It's a glorious sunrise.

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An old boat lies moored near the lodge.

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The water is very still, creating beautiful reflections.

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Guinea Baboons

Just around the corner from the lodge, where our tributary meets a wider river, the trees are full of baboons. There are five different species of baboons worldwide, and the Guinea Baboons found here in The Gambia are the smallest.

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These are a new (sub)species for us, and I am very excited to see and photograph them at such close quarters.

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It looks like there may be more baboons here in the future.

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I am so in love with their facial expressions.

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African Darter drying out his wings.

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Great White Egret

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Green Backed Heron

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Blue Breasted Kingfisher

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Pied Kingfisher

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Rose Ringed Parakeet

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African Darter

A crocodile sunbathes on the bank of the river.

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He doesn't look too friendly.

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I hope he didn't hear me and is coming for his revenge!

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I am very excited to see this elegant and flamboyant Violet Turaco fly over – another new one for me.

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One of the birds on my wish list when I came over here, was the Western Plantain Eater. Here they are two-a-penny!

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Oyster Factory

Oysters are big business around here, with the meat being eaten, and the shells burnt to make lime which is mixed with water to make house paint, and with sand to make cement. There are no wasted elements as anything left is used for chicken feed.

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Oysters growing on the mangroves

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Pied Crows mobbing a Harrier Hawk

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Greenshank

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Spur Winged Plover

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Senegal Thick Knee

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Common Sandpiper

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Whimbrel taking off

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Long Tailed Cormorant drying his wings out

And so the morning's boat trip is over, and we are back at the lodge in time for lunch.

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I am absolutely fascinated by the bats in the ceiling of the restaurant.

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Isn't he cute?

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Look at him yawn! ♥

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Today there is also a Speckled Pigeon in the rafters.

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Mr Heron is back in position in amongst the mangroves as usual.

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He is after the crabs, of course.

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I am not sure what is happening here – it looks like the big crab is stalking the little one.

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We return to the room for a little siesta, but find we are not alone.

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This girl is looking down on us from the rafters.

It looks like she is raising a family.

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I know every mother thinks their babies are the most beautiful in the world; but, I'm sorry, there is nothing remotely attractive about these chicks.

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I drift into a light snooze, knowing that I am being looked over by the pigeon family.

Posted by Grete Howard 05:36 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds wildlife river sunrise africa crocodile hawk lunch forest birding pigeon dawn crabs baboons bats heron parakeet croc west_africa kingfisher cormorant oysters siesta gambia boat_trip bird_watching crows sunbird darter thick_knee plover sandpiper river_trip the_gambia the_gambia_experience greenshank plantain_eater wild_birds mandina_lodges makasutu mandina makasutu_forest guinea_baboons turaco oyster_factory Comments (6)

Pool time at Mandina Lodges - swimming with Bee Eaters

A new experience for us


View Galavanting in The Gambia 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After lunch we retire to the swimming pool, relaxing, reading, swimming, birdwatching. The pool area is full of at least two dozen little White Throated Bee Eater, swooping down into the water, to catch bugs on the surface, or just for a cooling dip.

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They are so fast, and never dive in the same place twice, making it impossible to catch them on the camera. This is the nearest I got:

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After little success using my small waterproof camera, I risk the SLR with my long lens into the pool.

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I don't do much better with the 'proper' camera.

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Looking rather bedraggled after his dip in the pool

A Fanti Saw Tail joins in – a new species to us, but sadly another rubbish photograph.

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Swimming with dolphins is so yesteryear – to be really hip in 2019, you've got to have been swimming with bee eaters. It really is quite something to have them splashing all around us in the pool!

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David in the pool

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We return to our own private balcony for the rest of the afternoon.

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Strange elongated fish in the river - trumpet fish?

The river is teeming with fish of all shapes and sizes.

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At times there appears to be a feeding frenzy, with the surface of the water covered in ripples.

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Palm Nut Vulture flying overhead

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Common Redshank

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Pied Kingfisher

Tourist boat – everything around here is very low key.

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Black Headed Heron

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Hooded Vulture

The kingfisher keeps returning, and hovering above the river for quite some time before diving in after a fish. Again and again and again he does this, providing us with endless amusement.

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We watch as Angela and Keane set off for their sunset cruise.

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Malin, the chef, comes to our room to ask what we would like for dinner, and stays chatting. And chatting. And chatting. He explains he is just about to embark on a hotel management course in Camberley, UK, and says he wants to come and stay with us while he is studying. I don't think he quite realises the distances involved in England, Camberley is well over two hours' drive away from us, each way, even without traffic. Not that I have any intention whatsoever to invite him to stay with us. Sorry Malin, it ain't 'appenin'.

The lights is fading now, but I stay on the balcony taking (bad quality) photographs of the birds flying around.

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Abyssinian Roller

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The Pied Kingfisher is still here, skimming the surface now.

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Common Sandpiper

Dinner

Soon it is time to tear myself away from the birds (which I can hardly see any more anyway, in the quickly fading light), and have a shower before wandering down to the restaurant for dinner.

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Tuna Salad

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Cottage Pie

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Chicken Curry

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Chocolate Ice Cream

The ceiling above the restaurant is home to a large colony of bats. Every evening we see them flying around.

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.

When we first arrived, I wondered why the dining tables were not positioned under the domed roofs - I have since come to realise that they are strategically placed to avoid any droppings.

The end of another lovely day - the stars twinkle over Mandina Lodges.

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:03 Archived in Gambia Tagged fish bird africa dinner pool birding swimming_pool bats roller heron vulture kingfisher gambia bird_watching waterproof_camera sandpiper bee_eaters the_gambia the_gambia_experience swimming_with_bee_eaters saw_tail redshank Comments (7)

Baku Creek

Another lazy-ish day


View Galavanting in The Gambia 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

The plan this morning is to take the path from the Observation Deck, through the mangroves, onto the main road and down to the bridge.

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Village Weaver

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Hooded Vulture

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Long Tailed Glossy Starling

The trail meanders along the edge of the creek and heads for the road, but ends in a builders yard, obviously private property. There is a gate, but it is locked, so there is no way for us to join the road here, so we end up having to walk all the way back to the observation deck and through the hotel again.

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In the hotel grounds we spot some Green Vervet Monkeys, including a very young baby clinging to his mum.

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Out on the road we are amused to see a sign for Tesco Mini Market – in reality a small shack selling bottled water, ice cream and a few essentials.

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Having spend the last four days almost exclusively in the company of birds, Kotu is proving a bit of a culture shock. Outdoor cafés are full of fat, middle aged cougars with tattoos, piercings, bleach blonde hair and the obligatory toyboy Gambian hanging on their arms. We hurry past to reach the bridge over Kotu Creek, a well known bird watching spot.

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Pink Backed Pelican

The place is teeming with the gorgeous little Long Tailed Cormorants:

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Pink Backed Pelicans, African Spoonbills, Long Tailed Cormorant and Great Egret

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Grey Heron, Sacred Ibis and Marsh Sandpiper

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African Spoonbills

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Common Redshank

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Pink Backed Pelican

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Sacred Ibis and Grey Headed Heron

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Senegal Thick Knee

We are approached by a couple of guides offering their services, but we are pleased to find they are much more likely to take “no” for an answer than the people we encountered during our visit to The Gambia 23 years ago.

Lunch

Back in the hotel, I request my food “extra spicy. Gambian spicy, not tourist spicy”. It still only arrives as a 2-3 on Grete's scale of 10.

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Cheese and chilli omelette

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Burger and chips

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Refreshing fruit juice - youki?

After having asked for our food “extra spicy” at lunch, we are amused when we return to the room to find this large pack of toilet rolls sitting on our patio table. Are they trying to tell us something?

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We are chilling in the room with a drink and some snacks when we overhear someone outside mentioning the name “Mandina Lodges”. Our ears prick up, as we are waiting to hear about what time our transfer to Mandina will be tomorrow. Yesterday we waited for 45 minutes for the rep to turn up (at the advertised time), but he didn't show. This afternoon, however, he is here, although he's knocking on our neighbour's door instead by mistake, so we go out and ask if he is looking for us. At least we now know that we are leaving here at 10:30 in the morning.

Dinner

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Chicken Saté

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Seafood mornay with crepe

We spend the rest of the evening chilling on our private patio with a few drinks.

Posted by Grete Howard 05:41 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds monkeys trail birding heron egret vulture ibis pelican spoonbill whimbrel mangroves west_africa starling weaver cormorant tesco spicy gambia bird_watching nature_trail thick_knee sandpiper vervet_monkey the_gambia gambia_experience bakotu bakotu_hotel kotu observation_deck kotu_creek tesco_mini_market toilet_rolls Comments (7)

Brufut

So many lifers


View Galavanting in The Gambia 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Yet again Lariam (malaria prophylaxis) upsets my sleep with a series of bad dreams: while faced with a plethora of colourful birds, my camera refuses to operate despite repeatedly and frustratingly pressing the shutter. I wake up agitated and distressed, realise it is thankfully just a dream and return to sleep. And the dream. The same horrid dream. This repeats itself time and time again and by the time the alarm goes off at 6am, I am exhausted.

Birding Pool

Knowing we are too early for the breakfast, and will be out for most of the morning, we grab some snacks from our bags and head to the bird pool to wait for the guide to arrive.

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As it is still fairly dark, photography is almost impossible, so we just sit and enjoy until Malick turns up.

Police Check Point

We pre-booked Malick – Chris Packham's birding guide of choice - through The Gambia Experience before we left home, just to make sure we had a couple of days of serious birding organised. Having someone who knows where to go and the transport to take us there is half the battle.

As with so many African countries, The Gambia has its fair share of Police Road Blocks where they check the drivers' paperwork. It also acts as an opportunity to investigate the birds that hang around here, feeling on rubbish left behind.

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Yellow Crowned Gonolek

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Red Cheeked Cordon Blue

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Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher

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Western Red Billed Hornbill

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Brown Babbler

Brufut

Our destination for today, however, is Brufut, a community-organised bird sanctuary protected by the West African Birds Study Association.

Before we reach the woods themselves, we stop near some habitation at the edge of a few plantations and take a short walk to see what species can be found around here. We are very excited to spot so many 'lifers' (species new to us, indicated by * below) in such a small area.

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Yellow Billed Shrike*

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Stone Partridge*

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Piapiac*

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White Crowned Robin Chat*

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White Faced Whistling Ducks

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Greater Honeyguide*

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Village Weaver

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Blue Bellied Roller*

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Senegal Wattled Plover*

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Black Crake

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Long Tailed Glossy Starling

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Fine Spotted Woodpecker*

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African Jacana

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Pied Crow

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White Billed Buffalo Weaver*

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Greenshank

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Spur Winged Plover

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Beautiful Sunbird (female)

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Bearded Barbet

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Splendid Sunbird (female)

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Copper Sunbird*

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Intermediate Egret

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Northern Red Bishop in non-breeding colours*

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Variable Sunbird (female) The female sunbirds all look very similar.

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Common Sandpiper

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Pied Kingfisher

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Black Headed Heron

The plantations include such crops as cashew nuts and mango trees.

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Unripe cashew fruits with the nuts not yet having developed - they will be hanging down below when ripe

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Mango fruits

Brufut Woodland Bar

We continue to an area known as Brufut Woods, where there is even a bar serving drinks. Fearing that they may not be open this late in the season, Malick had already contacted them by phone earlier, to make sure they put the kettle on.

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A number of benches are set out, overlooking an area with several bird baths in the trees and on the ground. I notice that rather than putting out food for the birds so that they become dependent on humans for feeding, only water is provided. I like that.

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This is the civilised way of photographing the birds.

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We spend the next couple of hours watching, photographing, and listening to the birds, seeing their family squabbles, how they interact with each other and some obvious pecking orders.

As before, any lifers are denoted with *

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Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu

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Senegal Coucal

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Black Billed Wood Dove*

I usually have a wish list of birds (or animals) I wish to see when we travel, and this is one of only three on my list this time:

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Western Plantain Eater*

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Bronze Mannikin

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Yellow Throated Leaflove*

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Laughing Doves

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Common Bulbul

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Red Billed Firefinch (female)

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Black Necked Weaver*

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Greater Honeyguide*

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Lavender Waxbill*

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Orange Cheeked Waxbill*

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African Thrush*

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Splendid Sunbird

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Hooded Vulture

We employ the services of a local guide to help us go in to the woods to look for the Long Tailed Nightjar which is often found in this area. After a short moment of concern when the bird is not where he saw it half an hour earlier (as nocturnal birds, nightjars don't tend to move far during the day unless they are spooked), he spots it on the ground, very well camouflaged.

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We start making our way back to the main road, along dirt tracks frequented by more animal carts than vehicles.

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But first, Malick wants to check out some palms on the way.

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Grey Woodpecker*

Having seen them here in the last couple of days, this is what he was looking for:

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Red Necked Falcons*

And so ends a very productive morning's birdwatching. Now back to the lodge for the rest of the day.

Posted by Grete Howard 08:41 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds crow africa birding coffee mango woodpecker heron egret vulture dove malaria west_africa kingfisher starling plantations weaver falcon shrike bulbul dreams finch barbet gambia lariam nightjar bird_watching hornbill sunbird jacana cashews coucal plover thrush sandpiper life_list robin_chat mefloquine malaria_prophelaxis malaria_tablets nightmares disturbed_sleep police_check_point chris_packham malick_suso the_gambia_experience gonolek cordon_blue brufut brufut_woods piapiac whistling_ducks honeyguide crake glossy_starling greenshank red_bishop mango_trees cashew_nuts cashew_trees plantain_eater mannikin firefinch waxbill Comments (4)

Pench National Park - Part I

A very rare and endangered sighting this afternoon


View Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright - India 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

There appears to be some sort of confusion about our park tickets for today. It seems our agent booked them for the wrong gate, some 60km away. Hence the very early start of 04:30. Rakesh (the driver who brought us down from Jabalpur) is picking us up and driving us to the gate in his car, where we will change into the open top safari vehicle (known as a 'gypsy'), so that we won't get frozen solid by taking the long journey in an open top car. Wise move.

4:30 comes and goes. No Rakesh. At 05:00 I ask the young receptionist what is happening. He wanders off to check with the manager. After a few minutes, he comes running back and continues on to the car park.

A short while later a Gypsy arrives for us. There has been a change of plan. We are going to the nearest gate just a few kilometres away after all; and will pay for a new ticket instead, saving all the hassle of the long journey. That sounds good to me, as it would take well in excess of an hour to travel 60 km on these roads.

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We also have to pay for a (compulsory) park guide who will accompany us on this morning's safari. Once that is all in order, we can enter the park.

The first thing we spot, is an Oriental Honey Buzzard, another new tick on our life list.

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Seeing very fresh tiger pug marks is promising for a sighting this morning.

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The sun is just beginning to break through the mist as we make our way deeper into the forest.

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Dhole
We are very excited when our guide spots a rare and endangered dhole (Indian wild dog) in between the trees. Our very first sighting of this species in the wild.

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There are thought to be fewer than 2500 of these animals left in the wild, so it is in fact even more rare than the tiger.

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We follow him as he makes his way through the forest.

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Indian Ghost Trees
Found all throughout the park (as well as being quite common elsewhere on the subcontinent), the bark of this very distinctive tree (Sterculia urens) exudes a gum that is used for laxatives.

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Rufous Treepie

Jungle Fowl

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The sun is slowly warming up the air, but the mist is still hanging over the lower ground, creating a mystical and eerie atmosphere.

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Yellow Footed Green Pigeon

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Spotted Dove

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Indian Peafowl

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Indian Pond Heron

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Indian Pond Heron

Changeable Hawk Eagle

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Another Peacock sunning himself

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Brown Fish Owl
The guide keeps telling us the name of this bird, but I just can't get what he is trying to say. It sounds something like 'ground peace owl'. It is not until very much later that I realise he is saying 'Brown Fish Owl'.

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We pass a flooded area with a Green Sandpiper feeding in the shallows.

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Golden Jackals in the far distance

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Indian Roller

Breakfast
We stop for breakfast in a dedicated picnic area. A structure has been created to provide shade or shelter you from the rain, but as the temperature this morning is still very much on the cool side, everyone remains outside to catch some warmth from the sun's rays.

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The breakfast box is rather disappointing this morning, especially considering how superior the food was at the lodge yesterday.

A rather hideous plastic Mowgli adorns the site, which is appropriately called Mowgli Picnic Area.

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We continue to a large wetlands area that is teeming with birds, and spend some time with binoculars picking out various species, many of which are new to us. It is all rather exciting.

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Indian Cormorant

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Bonelli's Eagle

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Green Sandpiper

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Little Ringed Plovers

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Painted Storks

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White Rumped Vulture

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Indian Pond Heron having a bad hair day

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Great Egret

There are also a couple of jackals around.

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We reluctantly leave the pond area behind to go in search of more wildlife.

Hanuman Langurs

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Red Wattled Lapwing

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Hoopoe

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Chital

Nilgai
This is the first nilgai we see on this trip, and then only for a few seconds as she disappears into the forest.

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Jungle Owlet

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Black Drongo

Upon hearing loud warning calls, the driver stops the car and we sit and wait. There is obviously a predator in the vicinity, and a lot of very distressed langurs. We wait. And wait. And wait. As time is now getting on, we eventually have to move, despite not having seen any tigers.

It is time to leave the park and return to the Lodge as the park rules have very strict timings for just morning and evening safaris rather than the whole day as we are used to from Africa.

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On the way we spot these two gorgeous Indian Rollers, one with his lunch.

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As we were up so early this morning (plus I didn't sleep well last night), I decide to forego lunch and spend the time snoozing instead.

Stay tuned for the next entry.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:37 Archived in India Tagged animals birds india sunrise breakfast safari eagle mist birding picnic national_park pigeon peacock roller heron egret stork vulture dove langur gypsy owl cormorant jackal chital drongo bird_watching pench nilgai buzzard early_morning hanuman_langur owlet plover tiger_park breakfast_picnic pench_tiger_park pench-tree-lodge pench_national_park tiger_pug_marks dhole indian_wild_dog wild_dog ghost_tree indian_ghost_tree treepie jungle_fowl early_morning_mist mowgli sandpiper hoppoe snooze Comments (3)

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