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Cristalino - Birds, Otters and Tapir

Another day, another boat trip


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We go out in the boat with Gui again at first light to see what nature has to offer us today.

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Great Black Hawk

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Amazon Kingfisher

Tapir
With great excitement, Gui points out a tapir swimming along the bank.

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We follow him as he continues along the shoreline until he eventually exits the water and disappears into the jungle.

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My animal wish list for this trip is now complete: jaguar, giant river otter, capybara, agouti, armadillo, anteater, and tapir. I am a very happy bunny!

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Pale Vented Pigeon

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Long Nosed Bats

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A very shy otter

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Southern Rough Winged Swallow

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Black Fronted Nunbird

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White Bellied Parrot

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Blue and yellow Macaw

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Red Throated Piping Guan

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Anhinga drying its wings

Beach
I never expected to see beautiful sandy beaches here in the Amazon - these have become exposed as a result of the dropping water level. The lodge arranges excursions to the beach for swimming and canoeing – having seen numerous caiman and the teeth of the otters, and knowing that there are piranhas in the river, I think I will give it a miss.

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Cocoi Heron

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Blue Grey Tanager

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Southern Lapwing

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Osprey

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Pied Lapwing

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Muscovy Ducks

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Neotropic Cormorants

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Another dragonfly lands briefly on the boat

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Yellow Billed Tern

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Black Caracara

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Blue and Yellow Macaws

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Greater Yellow Headed Vulture

White Throated Mango
The captain pulls up at a shrub on a small island, with a labyrinth of criss-crossing branches. I can see no sign of life. Gui uses his laser pointer to draw our eyes to a small green patch, well hidden inside the bush. A beautiful hummingbird on her nest.

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“How on earth did you manage to spot that?” I ask Gui. He explains that he went out with a scientist last week, who had a heat-spotting device that helped them locate nests such as this.

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Southern Rough Wing Swallow

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Swallow Wing Puffbird

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Striated Heron

Back to the lodge.

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Gui has arranged for me to get a taxi (the luggage truck) back to the room again, while David takes the long route via the shop which is near the restaurant. I ran out of deodorant this morning, so am looking to replace it. The shop does not keep any in stock but Gui arranges for someone in town to nip out and buy one for me, and they will send it with this afternoon's boat carrying new guests.

My diarrhoea has returned with a vengeance (it has never really gone, but has been manageable until now), so instead of going to lunch, I take some Ciprofloxacin and go to bed for the afternoon.

Dinner
Feeling considerably better, I decide to brave some food this evening. Dinner is served as a buffet tonight, much to my disappointment. At least it means no-one will notice if I don't eat much.

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The guava souffle for dessert is incredibly light and very nice indeed

While we are sitting at the table eating our dinner, the waiter comes over and plonks a deodorant in front of me. Great!

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I message Gui to let him know it has arrived.

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Goodnight from Cristalino and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 23:06 Archived in Brazil Tagged wildlife beach river safari parrot swimming hawk brazil birding brasil luxury duck boating amazon pigeon mango south_america bats buffet tapir osprey tanager heron vulture anhinga caracara guan kingfisher macaw cormorant dragonfly diarrhea bird_watching hummingbird otter boat_safari undiscovered_destinations swallow tern lapwing diarrhoea wildlife_photography puffbird cristalino nunbird cristalino_lodge ciprofloacin Comments (2)

Araras Day Three - Bridge 3, swimming pool, anteaters

A great finish to our stay in Araras


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Another early start this morning: up at 04:15 for a 05:00 safari.

We stop at the statue of São Francisco, the protector of ecology, to photograph the sunrise, before continuing to Ponte 3, our favourite bridge (I never thought I'd end up with a favourite bridge on the Transpantaneira).

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Bridge # 3
There are way more birds flying this morning than yesterday, and in greater quantities.

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Most birds roost near water at night, as the sun heats the water during the day, which helps keep the birds warm during the night. In the morning they fly off in search of food.

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It is mesmerising to watch.

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Flash Gun
After the problems I had with low light necessitating high ISO (= noisy/grainy images) yesterday, I brought my Speedlight with me this morning, plus my Better Beamer.

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Ringed Kingfisher

The Better Beamer is basically a fresnel lens on a frame. Its main purpose is to extend the range of the flash, although it will also reduce the possibility of the lens hood casting a shadow.

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Green Kingfisher

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Caiman

I am impressed that it seems to work all the way across the other side of the pond!

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As well as into the sky above.

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Large Billed Tern

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Black Vulture

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Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

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Orange Winged Parrots

After a while, I abandon the flash.

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Caiman

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Wood Stork

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Jabiru

Black Skimmers
I love watching the way these birds fish by skimming the water with their beaks open. The lower mandible is larger than the top one, allowing them to more easily hook up some breakfast.

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This one's got a fish!

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Large Billed Terns having a bit of a domestic

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Yellow Billed Cardinal with a colouration issue

This is what he is supposed to look like:

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Southern Caracara

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Black Capped Night Heron

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Maguari Stork

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Peach Fronted Parakeet

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Unicoloured Blackbird

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Striated Heron

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Great Egret

Reluctantly we move on from the pond at Bridge # 3, and slowly make our way back towards the lodge.

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Maguari Stork

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Savanna Hawk

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Southern Lapwing coming in to land

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Black Stilt

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Wood Stork

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Wattled Jacana

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Monk Parakeets

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Roseate Spoonbill

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Rufous Cachalote

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Bared Faced Ibis

We see a Southern Caracara have a wrestling match with a stick.

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Guira Cuckoo

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Lesser Yellow Headed Vulture

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Black Vulture

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Snail Kite

Breakfast
By the time we get back to the hotel, we are too late for the breakfast buffet, but the lodge has laid our usual table in the shade of a tree on the patio, and they bring us a number of different dishes.

It seems the chachalaca have got to the butter, however, before we can.

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Caught red-handed - or is that red-beaked - with a large knob of butter in his mouth.

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I bet the butter does melt in his mouth, though!

This is the most we've eaten for any breakfast so far. Disclaimer: we didn't eat everything served! We do feel obliged to eat more than we normally do, however, as they've brought us all this food.

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Chill time
Mid-afternoon we spend some time in the pool cooling down. We are the only ones around, so have the pool to ourselves. I guess everyone else has gone out for a strenuous walk or horse-riding.

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This is not a sign you really want to see right next to the pool

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Afternoon safari
At 16:00 we set off for our very last safari in the Pantanal, as tomorrow we are moving on to pastures new.

The first thing we spot is another armadillo.

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Agouti
He is a long way away, there is lots of dust in the air, and I am shooting into the sun, so unfortunately I don't get any good pictures of the agouti.

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A Crab-Eating Fox rushes past us.

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Blue Crowned Parakeets

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Yellow Collared Macaws

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Collared Anteaters
Leaving the best until last, Roberto slams on the brakes and reverses the car back a few yards before jumping out with his binoculars. Soon he beckons us over: he has seen an anteater in a tree.

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Wow!

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Not just one, but there is another one in a nearby tree, which is quite surprising, as they are normally solitary creatures.

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Once the sun's gone down, leaving the anteaters in very low light, we reluctantly return to the lodge for a shower, dinner and packing before bed.

Goodnight and goodbye from Araras. Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 19:30 Archived in Brazil Tagged birds wildlife breakfast kite safari parrots pool hawk brazil birding brasil ducks fox swimming_pool south_america caiman swimmingpool heron egret stilt stork vulture ibis armadillo cardinal caracara blackbird kingfisher pantanal butter cuckoo bird_watching transpantaneira anteater jacana undiscovered_destinations tern lapwing parakeets bird_photography wild_birds flying_birds speedlight flash_gun skimmer araras sao_francisco bridge_three roosting_birds better_beamer cachalote chachalaca butter_wouldn't_melt_in_his_mou chill_time agouti Comments (0)

Araras Day Two - Bridge 3, Armadillos, night safari

Exciting morning, slow afternoon


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

It's a very early start this morning – we are up at 04:15, and leave the lodge at 05:00. Roberto wants to catch the sunrise!

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The sky takes on a fiery red this morning, painting everything with a surreal warm glow.

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Capybara crossing the road

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Dust on the bushes along the side of the road

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It hasn't rained for well over three weeks here

While getting up so early for the beautiful sunrise and the flaming red in the sky is tremendous, it does mean that there is still not much light for bird photography by the time we reach the pond at Bridge Number Three (which goes on to become my favourite spot in the area). While the colour in the sky – reflected on the ground – is sensational, the quality and detail of the images are anything but.

A number of birds fly over us, heading to a spot to chill for the day.

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Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

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Snail Kite

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Jabiru

Black Skimmer
These birds fascinate me – their lower mandible is larger than the top one, allowing them to skim the surface of the water for small fish or insects.

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I am captivated by this, and watch them for ages, just whooshing from one side to the other, around and around.

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As the sun gets higher on the horizon, the light gets brighter, and the deep colours fade, making it easier for photography as the day goes on.

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Caiman

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Little Blue Heron

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Wood Stork and Snowy Egret

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Little Blue Heron

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Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

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Lesser Yellow Hooded Vulture

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Boat Billed Heron

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Anhinga

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Greater Kiskadee

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Black Collared Hawk

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Immature Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Adult Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Roadside Hawk

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Black Collared Hawk

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Capybara

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Wattled Jacana

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Guira Cuckoo

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Black Capped Donacobius

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Black Howler Monkeys. Only the males are black, the females are golden brown.

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Rhea

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Muscovy Duck - the oldest domesticated duck in the world (although this one is wild)

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Great Egret

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Brazilian Teal

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Cocoi Heron

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Snail Kite

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She's got a snail!

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Monk Parakeet nest

They are everywhere on the trees and the ground around here

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Roadside Hawk

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Savanna Hawk

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And a nearby juvenile

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Maguari Stork

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Limpkin

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Blue Fronted Piping Guan

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Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Black Tailed Marmoset

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Chaco Chachalaca

The Chachalaca are such noisy birds, we hear them in the morning at the resort.

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Neotropic Cormorant drying his wings, his wet feathers glistening in the sun

We return to the lodge for breakfast, I can't believe it is only 9 o'clock, considering the number of birds and animals we've seen already.

Later this morning I take a walk around the grounds to see what birds are around.

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Chaco Chachalaca

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Yellow Billed Cardinal

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Greater Kiskadee

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Saffron Finch

I join Tina, a German lady, and Alexandria, her local guide, for a cool drink in the shade. Tina, in her own words, is on a “one-woman mission to show the world that Germans do have a sense of humour”. By sheer coincidence, Alexandria is the sister of Julinha, the pilot who flew us here. It's a small world.

Lunch
The barman has got the message that we like to sit out on the patio rather than under the straw roof for lunch. It is less to do with the roof keeping the heat in and that area being crowded, and more to do with the fact that the tables on the patio have proper chairs with backrests rather than the picnic-style benches.

Jeep Safari
For our afternoon excursion today, we head off-road opposite the lodge rather than along the Transpantaneira. Initially, there is not much to see, but then Roberto spots something in the dry grass.

Armadillo
We follow this little guy for quite some time as he munches his way across the field.

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He rarely looks up from his food.

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Red Legged Siema

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Crab-Eating Fox
We see a couple of foxes lurking around the edge of the field.

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Stopping to photograph the sunset, we make our way back to the lodge as the light fades fast.

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Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Capybara

Dinner
It's the job of our favourite barman to decide who sits where at meal times, and this evening he has placed us with a lovely Brazilian couple from São Paulo and their two young children.

While the buffet dinner is nothing special, the milk pudding with a fruit (plum?) sauce is delicious.

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Night Safari
At 20:00, we go out for a night safari to get a different perspective of the Pantanal wildlife. To be honest, the trip is probably not worth it. The only wildlife we see is two rabbits and a rhea, plus domesticated buffalo and zebu cows.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 19:37 Archived in Brazil Tagged animals monkeys bird sunrise kite safari hawk brazil birding brasil ducks south_america caiman dust heron stork vulture anhinga parakeet egrets cormorant capybara howler_monkeys birds_nest bird_watching rhea teal jacana undiscovered_destinations wildlife_photography kiskadee skimmer black_howler_monkeys araras birds_of_brazil no_rain jaribu donacobius marmoset black_tailed_maromset chacalaca Comments (0)

Araras Day One - walking tour and Jeep safari

A bird-watcher's paradise


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Another slightly later start this morning: up at 05:30, breakfast at 06:30, leave at 07:00 for a wee walk around the hotel grounds to check out what's about.

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Red Breasted Cardinal

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Little Woodpecker, hiding

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Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork

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One in, one out!

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Wattled Jacana

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We see Mr & Mrs Hornero, and this is their somewhat unusual nest.

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Greater Kiskadee

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Ringed Kingfisher

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Chopi Blackbirds

The grounds are surrounded by ponds covered in vegetation, amongst which caimans hide, waiting for an unsuspecting breakfast.

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We hear several loud grunts and look around expecting to see wild boar or something similar. “It's the mating call of the caiman” explains Roberto.

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Monk Parakeets

Black Collared Hawk
The hawk has caught something, although at first, I cannot make out what it is.

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On closer inspection, I can see it's a fish, and he is having quite the feast!

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Cattle Tyrant - it is the first time we have seen that red crest on the top of its head

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Yellow Rumped Cacique

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Rufous Bellied Thrush

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Rufous Cachalote. That is one very ambitious nest builder!

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Boat Billed Heron

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She is feeding her young

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Black Vulture

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Thrush Like Wren

The property owns a lot of land surrounding the lodge, and several boardwalks lead out across the marshland into the jungle beyond. There is also an observation tower, but neither of us feels up to climbing it.

On one of the boardwalks, we see a couple of spoonbills. I suggest Roberto walks onto the bridge so that I can catch the moment they fly away.

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Unfortunately, they both fly in the opposite direction from what I wanted them to do.

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A caiman looks as if he is heading to the swimming pool.

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Another is making a beeline for David.

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This one makes me laugh - I don't think the camouflage is working!

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They are awfully close to the hotel in my opinion.

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Roberto assures me that no attacks on guests have been recorded. “They are more afraid of you than you are of them”

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Amazon Kingfisher

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Savanna Hawk

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Purple Gallinule, hiding

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Black Capped Donacobius

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Plumbeous Ibis

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South American Ground Lizard

This place really is a birdwatcher's paradise. On a three-hour walk, during which we strayed no more than a few hundred metres from the lodgings, we have seen 34 different bird species, 22 of which are new to us on this trip.

Very satisfied, we return to the room for a few hours in the air conditioning before lunch. David is feeling only slightly better from his throat infection, and I still have the runs, so it is nice to chill for a bit.

Lunch
We make sure we go down to the restaurant as soon as the food is ready when they ring the bell at 11:30. I dislike buffets, and I dislike buffets that have been left out for an hour or two even more.

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Chicken stew, rice, and beans

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Caramelised payaya - very nice!

We have it on good authority that the large tree in the courtyard of the lodge attracts macaws most afternoons, so after a post-lunch siesta, I wander out there to see if I can spot any.

Hyacinth Macaw

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This is the largest parrot in the world, and I hear them before I see them. They are loud, very active, and quite humorous to watch.

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They are not so easy to photograph, however, and for the best part of an hour, they play hide and seek with me.

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I swear they are laughing at me.

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Mind you, chasing them around the tree with a walking stick in one hand and a chair in the other must have looked quite amusing. My balance is pretty awful (David would say I am 'unstable'), hence the chair for when I want to look straight upwards holding a long lens up to my face.

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Jeep Safari
Here at Araras, a number of activities are included in the package, such as trekking, climbing the observation tower, horseriding and canoeing. Obviously, I am unable to partake in any of those, so Roberto is taking us out on a Jeep Safari this afternoon.

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The safari vehicles are converted pick-ups, where the tiered seating on the back can be removed if the Jeep is needed for something else, like transporting luggage.

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David sits on the back, while I sit inside the back seat – I choose the back rather than the front, as I then have unobstructed views out both sides.

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Ringed Kingfisher

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Whistling Heron

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Thrush-Like Wren

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Purpleish Jay

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Black Collared Hawk

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Southern Lapwing

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Orange Backed Troupial

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Great Black Hawk

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Green Ibis Eating a Frog

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Grey Necked Wood-Rail

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Marsh Deer

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Before dinner, a group of guests have gathered around the camp fire, singing songs and playing the guitar.

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After the meal, David and I wander down to the boardwalk for some light painting.

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I also try my hand at some more astrophotography. I do think that I need heaps more practice!

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Goodnight from Araras, and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 22:46 Archived in Brazil Tagged birds wildlife safari hawk brazil lunch lizard birding brasil deer jay caiman woodpecker heron stork vulture ibis cardinal spoonbill blackbird kingfisher macaw pantanal astro bird_watching eco_lodge camp_fire milky_way jacana undiscovered_destinations lapwing astro_photography light_painting thrush after_dark wildlife_photography parakeets kiskadee araras jeep_safari hornero pousada_araras_eco_lodge tyrant cacique chachalote troupial wood_rail marsh_deer wild-birds wren galinule caramelised_papaya rice_and_beans Comments (2)

Porto Jofre Afternoon Safari Day Two

A delightful surprise


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After lunch, I take a quick walk around the hotel grounds to see what birds are around, then retire to the air-conditioned room for a much-welcome snooze.

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Southern Caracara

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Cattle Tyrant

I am so tempted not to go this afternoon, as I feel completely knocked out, but I don't want to miss anything, so I join David for anotehr safari.

The Boat
While there is plenty of space to spread out my gear (I carry two cameras, one with the 100-400mm plus a 1.4 extender, and the other with either the 24-105mm or a fish eye), legroom is at a premium as a result of the raised shelf at the bow of the boat. I can, of course, stretch out by placing my leg on this higher 'platform', but by doing so, my back ends up hurting. Every day I have been eating painkillers as if they are sweets in order to enjoy the boat trips.

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Dinio, our trusty captain

Jaguar
I am so glad I did come out this afternoon as we are just motoring along at some speed when the captain stops the boat and quietly shouts: “Jaguar!” Roberto doesn't believe him at first but then spots the cat in amongst the tall grass.

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Walking along the riverbank, he meanders in and out of the tall grass, emerging out into the open at regular intervals.

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Initially, there is only us here, but after Dinio radioes the other boat captains, other photographers turn up.

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Depending on where they were when they received the message, quite a few miss the sighting; or they just see his head sticking up from above the long grass.

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Just like he appeared out of nowhere, 14 minutes later he is gone into the undergrowth.

We go off to see what else nature has to offer us today.

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Jabiru

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Peach Fronted Parakeets

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Great Egret

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Cocoi Heron

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Black Vulture feasting on a capybara carcass

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Lesser Kiskadee

Neotropic Cormorant
Watching a cormorant attempting to take off from the river, I am fascinated by the number of flaps and how long a runway he needs.

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Finally airborne!

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Large Billed Tern

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Caracara with an interesting growth on its chest

Giant River Otters
We come across a couple of otters, fishing.

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While we are watching the otters, drifting slowly along the river, a couple of little fish jump in the boat. To get away from the otters, maybe?

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Ruddy Pigeon

As we make our way back to the lodge, I amuse myself by trying to be creative using a slow shutter speed on a moving boat.

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David, meanwhile, is not feeling at all well.

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It gets surprisingly cold in the boat when it is moving at speed. In the heat of the day it gives a welcome relief, but first thing in the morning and last thing at night it is good to have some extra layers.

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Tonight is our last night here at Porto Jofre. We celebrate by having an early night (as we have done every day so far on this trip). David's throat feels raw, and he spends most of the night coughing.

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Goodnight from Porto Jofre, and thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 21:55 Archived in Brazil Tagged birds boat wildlife safari brazil birding brasil pigeon speedboat heron egret vulture parakeet caracara jaguar cormorant pantanal bird_watching otter cough boat_safari porto_jofre undiscovered_destinations coughing tern wildlife_photography bird_photography wild_birds slow_shutter_speed kiskadee sore_throat giant_river_otter tyreant speeding_boat throat_infection Comments (4)

Porto Jofre Morning Safari Day Two

Exploring further afield


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We have a later start this morning: breakfast at 05:30, leave at 06:30. David is still feeling pretty rough, so again decides to stay behind when Roberto and I go off.

Having already seen eight jaguars (including the one at dinner the first night), we head to a different location this morning.

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The scene may look idyllic, but the water is dirty and certainly not good for swimming as there are a number of dangers lurking under the surface: caiman, piranha, and sweet-water stingray to mention a few.

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Capybara
These giant guinea pigs are the world's largest rodents, at twice the size of the beaver.

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The most interesting thing about capybara is that they are known to eat their poo in the mornings.

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I am disappointed that we don't see them do this (I think). We do see one of the youngsters drinking, however.

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Pied Lapwing

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Amazon Kingfisher

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Wood Stork

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Great Egret

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Roseate Spoonbill

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Black Crowned Night Heron

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Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Greater Ani trying to hide

Black Howler Monkeys
Today we see the male – which is actually black – as well as the golden-coloured female we saw yesterday.

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One of the females has a baby on her back!

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Golden Tegu Lizard

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Green Iguana

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More Capybara

Caiman
There are caimans everywhere!

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This guy is a real giant of a grandaddy!

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I didn't realise until today, that caiman (and crocodiles) have no tongue as such. Well, technically they do, but the tongue is held in place at the roof of the mouth by a membrane. Because caimans spend so much time underwater, the tongue helps keep the throat closed, protecting the animal's airway. Unlike other species, the tongue plays no part in feeding.

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This poor guy is missing the tip of his tail – he could have had an encounter with a jaguar, or possibly even one of his own. Caimans have been known to turn to cannibalism.

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More Capybara

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Jabiru

Nesting Site
We arrive in an area where almost every tree has a birds' nest. It is a beautiful, peaceful place with lots of tall trees offering shade, and we are the only people here, so I ask if we can just hang around for a while.

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Jabiru on her nest

I try to photograph some of the numerous birds flying above the canopies, without a great deal of success.

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Large Billed Tern

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Lesser Yellow Hooded Vulture

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Southern Caracara

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Neotropic Cormorant

I have a bit more luck with the perched birds.

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Anhinga

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Cocoi Heron

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Lesser Kiskadee

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Southern Caracara

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Cormorant and Anhinga

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The Anhinga is not happy

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She has more than her hands full with feeding her young. I am amazed at how far down her throat the youngster sticks his head!

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His brother tries to muscle in on the action.

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Enough is enough!

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

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More Capybara

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Southern Screamer

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Jabiru

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Black Collared Hawk

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Bare Faced Ibis

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Black Crowned Night Heron

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Green Iguana

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Cocoi Heron

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Another Jabiru - this large bird is the symbol of Pantanal

We return to the lodge for another buffet lunch.

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Goodbye from Porto Jofre for now. Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 13:01 Archived in Brazil Tagged animals boat wildlife safari iguana hawk brazil brasil south_america caiman heron egret stork vulture anhinga ibis spoonbill caracara kingfisher ani cormorant pantanal capybara howler_monkeys bird_watching boat_safari jabiru porto_jofre green_iguana undiscovered_destinations tern lapwing wildlife_photography kiskadee monekeys black_howler_monkeys birds_nests screamer Comments (2)

Porto Jofre Morning Safari Day One

A good start!


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I had a dreadful night: my shoulder, back, wrist, knee, pelvis, and ankle were all hurting at some stage, and my stomach felt very unsettled (I still have the runs); while David spent the night coughing and blowing his nose. I finally give in and get up just after 04:00.

David decides to stay in bed for the morning, so I go out with Roberto in a boat to see if we can find any jaguars. The Pantanal is said to have the world's highest density of these beautiful cats, and Porto Jofre is known as Jaguar Central, so I am hoping we'll get lucky.

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We agreed quite early on at the planning stage that we didn't want to be in a group (too many bad experiences as a photographer on group tours), so we paid extra and upgraded to a private tour. Seeing some of the bigger boats with up to 12 people in them, I am grateful for the small four-seater boat with me, Roberto and Captain Dinio.

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We leave the hotel before dawn, and the sunrise is beautiful with the early morning mist hanging over the water! It is surprisingly cold this morning with the wind from the moving boat. I am glad I listened to Roberto and put a wind-proof jacket on!

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We are heading in a leisurely fashion towards an area where jaguars were spotted yesterday, stopping to photograph the birds and animals we see along the way.

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Bat Falcon

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Pied Lapwings making baby lapwings

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Black Skimmer

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Large Billed Tern

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Green Iguana

All the boat captains are in touch via radio, and we get word that some guests from the hotel have seen a family of five otters, so we decide to go there to check it out.

It seems to take forever to get there, as the captain is very courteous and slows right down every time we pass fishermen in their boats. I worry that the otters will be gone by the time we get there.

Giant River Otters
The otters are still around, eating fish. They are quite large (I guess there's a hint in the name), and they have viciously sharp teeth. You can easily hear the crunching of the fish bones as they eat.

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Other Wildlife

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Cocoi Heron

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White Winged Swallow

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Wood Stork

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Great Egret

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Neotropic Cormorants

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Amazon Kingfisher

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Black Crowned Night Heron

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Wattled Jacana

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Anhinga drying its wings

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Caiman

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Southern Screamer

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Brown Capuchin

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Crane Hawk

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Lesser Yellow Hooded Vulture

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Toco Toucan

A passing boat indicates to us that they have heard of a sighting, so "hold on to your hats, it is full speed ahead!" Sod the fishermen, this is business!

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Jaguar
The first hint that there is something of interest, is a boat jam!

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At first, I can't spot the cat, as she is doing her best to be camouflaged (very successfully) while she stalks an unsuspecting caiman through the long grass at the riverbank.

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Her camouflage skills are better than her hunting skills this morning, however, as she pounces with a menacing growl, the caiman gets away with a large splash at the last minute!

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The look of dejection on her face as the caiman gets away!

The jaguar walks along the bank. We follow.

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She stops. We stop.

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She turns around. We turn around. We lose sight of her for a while and thinking she might have wandered over to the other side of the peninsula, we check it out. Nope. We return to the original side just as she appears out of the undergrowth.

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Soon she gets fed up with sitting on a log and disappears into the undergrowth again.

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Our next spotting is one of her two sub-adult cubs in a tree further down the bank.

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The other one is hidden in the thicket behind the tree.

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Meanwhile, mum is keeping an eye on them from the riverbank.

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We're all getting roasted by the fierce sun while waiting for further action.

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Mum is fidgety and heads along the edge of the river towards where her babies are.

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She looks straight at us and heads for the water.

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There is a strict code of conduct for boat safaris in the Pantanal, and keeping at least 25 metres away from any big cats is one of them. When it looks like she is going to swim across the river, all the boat captains move to a respectable distance.

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As it turns out, she swims away from us along the bank and disappears into the jungle further along.

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It's time to head back for lunch. Last night Roberto suggested we start at 06:00 this morning, and be back at the hotel between 10:00 and 10:30. It is now 12:30, and lunch is served in half an hour. David must be wondering what on earth has happened to us!

When I get back to the hotel, I find David sitting outside the room. While he is up and about, he does not look well, with his right eye swollen and watering. He tells me he is feeling slightly better and we both go off for some lunch.

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Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 19:19 Archived in Brazil Tagged wildlife monkey iguana hawk brazil birding brasil toucan heron egret stork vulture anhinga jaguar kingfisher falcon capuchin cormorant pantanal bird_watching otter porto_jofre jacana swallow tern lapwing wildlife_photography undiscovered_destination skimmer river_otter giant_river_otter swollen_eye Comments (2)

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

What an emotionally charged morning!


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

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 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)

Serengeti VI: elephants, crocodile, lions

Too close for comfort


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Elephants

We finally find the elephants we went out looking for this morning – or rather: they find us, crossing the road all around us.

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Giraffe

This giraffe is being pestered by Yellow Billed Oxpeckers, and keeps trying to shake them off.

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White Headed Vulture

Black Faced Vervet Monkeys

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Egyptian Geese with chicks

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A little less flooding

Hopefully this is a sign that the surface water is receding and some sort of normality can be restored on the roads here in the Serengeti. Providing we don't get more rain, of course.

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Or maybe not.

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Nile Crocodile

On the far bank of a small lake, a huge crocodile exposes his predator teeth. The reason crocodiles lie around with the mouths open, is to catch birds. The food left in the teeth attracts insects, and the insects in turn attract birds: the lazy approach to hunting.

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A Cape Hare unintentionally wanders into the proximity of the crocodile, and freezes to the spot when she realises.

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Meanwhile, another crocodile is coming our way.

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They are such prehistoric looking creatures.

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A third croc fancies his chances with a Black Crake.

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He is way too slow for the birds (yet too fast for the camera, or rather my reactions)

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Black Headed Heron

Black Faced Vervet Monkeys

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I am forever fascinated by their blue balls.

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She looks almost human here

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White Bellied Busard

Lions

We'd heard on the grapevine that there was a lion close to our lodge, and there, in the fading light, just before we turn the corner into the lodge's parking area, is a big cat under a tree.


Here you can see our tent from where the lion is.

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You can see where numerous cars have driven around this tree earlier today. Now we have the lioness to ourselves.

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She's on the move.

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She joins two others under another tree.

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We leave them to it and drive the few metres to our camp, feeling a little nervous as we get out of the car.

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I don't think tonight is the night to have sundowners around the camp fire outside, sitting between the tent and the lions.

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There are three lions under one of those trees in the distance

The grass is so long beside the path to the tents that a lion could easily hide in there for later on when we go to dinner...

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Tsetse Fly Bites

I have been itching like mad all afternoon, and when I get undressed for the shower, I find my shoulder and back are covered in bites, some of which have turned into large blisters.

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Dinner

Tonight's dinner is pumpkin soup, followed by beef and pork kebabs with ugali (stodgy grits-like local dish), pilau rice, spinach, pilipili (hot sauce) and salad; followed by rhubarb tart.

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Yet again I offer my thanks to Calabash Adventures for this fabulous safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 16:34 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals monkeys wildlife elephants bird africa dinner safari tanzania crocodile birding lions giraffe flooding serengeti heron vulture geese goose hare ugali bird_watching calabash_adventures game_viewing vervet_monkey crake oxpeckers matawi_serengeti_camp matawi_camp insect_bites wilflide_photography egyptian_geese lions_close_to_camptsetse_flies tsetse_fly_bites Comments (4)

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)

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