A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about wildebeest baby

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.

large_bb2df5f0-a5d5-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

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.

large_db29aca0-a5d5-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

large_eacde2c0-a5d5-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

large_4e0cfd80-a5d6-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

large_585f81e0-a5d6-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

Cape Buffalo

We haven't seen many buffalo on this trip.

large_3fad11c0-a5d7-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

large_ea36d3a0-d25b-11ea-b588-4d3d5d29df97.jpg

large_55d02f00-a5d7-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

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.

large_3473e170-a5d8-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

large_3ed050e0-a5d8-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

large_04873000-a5df-11ea-926a-ad22aefac738.jpg

large_11afb7c0-a5df-11ea-926a-ad22aefac738.jpg

large_1c8d8c30-a5df-11ea-926a-ad22aefac738.jpg

Tawny Eagles

large_68710de0-a5d8-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

large_7ad21a10-a5d8-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg

large_8d4e2850-a5d8-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg
Coqui Francolin

large_b41e1210-a5d8-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg
Crested Lark

large_9a83a860-a5d8-11ea-b373-99299d28d95f.jpg
Grey Breasted Francolin

large_1276bc40-aa48-11ea-8579-51cc2bc4c155.jpg
Blacksmith Plover

Southern Ground Hornbill

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

large_d9ac8c80-aa49-11ea-8579-51cc2bc4c155.jpg

large_e7b31830-aa49-11ea-8579-51cc2bc4c155.jpg

large_fb34d6a0-aa49-11ea-8579-51cc2bc4c155.jpg

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

large_162dbee0-aa4a-11ea-8579-51cc2bc4c155.jpg

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

large_306e7ab0-aa4a-11ea-8579-51cc2bc4c155.jpg

Bat Eared Fox

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

large_44c69490-aa4d-11ea-bdd0-b92629c03389.jpg

large_572d1f00-aa4d-11ea-bdd0-b92629c03389.jpg
Whispering sweet nothing in my ear

large_ed34c480-aa52-11ea-8e41-99fca0aa4163.jpg

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

large_05e98920-aa53-11ea-8e41-99fca0aa4163.jpg

large_12fc17e0-aa53-11ea-8e41-99fca0aa4163.jpg

large_1d2198d0-aa53-11ea-8e41-99fca0aa4163.jpg

Now there are four!

large_321a66e0-aa53-11ea-8e41-99fca0aa4163.jpg

large_3d5fafb0-aa53-11ea-8e41-99fca0aa4163.jpg

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

large_8891b780-aa53-11ea-8d29-a9dcebfc3aab.jpg

large_93bbfe40-aa53-11ea-8d29-a9dcebfc3aab.jpg

Dik Dik

large_a6a50d00-ab41-11ea-85f1-5395f3206785.jpg

large_bdef1e10-ab41-11ea-85f1-5395f3206785.jpg

Red Necked Spurfowl

large_d2f49650-ab41-11ea-85f1-5395f3206785.jpg

large_dcb36630-ab41-11ea-85f1-5395f3206785.jpg

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!

large_da76bba0-ab4c-11ea-89a3-695f3430a3b6.jpg

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.

large_e965d290-ab4c-11ea-89a3-695f3430a3b6.jpg

large_8abdfdc0-ab4d-11ea-89a3-695f3430a3b6.jpg
Lappet Faced Vulture

Pale Tawny Eagle

large_9ee3ab10-ab52-11ea-a014-33c9def7653f.jpg

large_a885a420-ab52-11ea-a014-33c9def7653f.jpg

large_b039d6f0-ab52-11ea-a014-33c9def7653f.jpg

Long Tailed Mongoose

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

large_846b20f0-ab53-11ea-a014-33c9def7653f.jpg

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.

large_8b02a3b0-ab54-11ea-a014-33c9def7653f.jpg

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.

large_fb007280-abf1-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

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.

large_1e030090-abf2-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

large_2721bfe0-abf2-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

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.

large_62453700-abf2-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

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.

large_886a3ac0-abf2-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

large_916ff3d0-abf2-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

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".

large_b42e9b10-abf2-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

large_d14ad880-abf2-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

large_d99b2440-abf2-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

large_e3bb4e00-abf2-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

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

large_057bbf20-abf3-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

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.

large_257b4660-abf3-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

large_3c3db0e0-abf3-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

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”

large_5e0ca0f0-abf3-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

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.

large_946f82c0-abf3-11ea-abfa-ddde82665a11.jpg

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

In the midst of the action


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

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

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

large_a3159e00-6f93-11ea-bcfe-9947a99cfe88.jpg

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

large_a2a9a490-713a-11ea-97b4-778cd81073d0.jpg

large_acc20620-713a-11ea-97b4-778cd81073d0.jpg

large_bd0cb570-713a-11ea-97b4-778cd81073d0.jpg

Marabou Stork

large_4946bad0-713c-11ea-830b-5f11f15ace87.jpg

large_541ec2e0-713c-11ea-830b-5f11f15ace87.jpg

large_5dd02540-713c-11ea-830b-5f11f15ace87.jpg

Grant's Gazelles

large_db0fe590-713c-11ea-830b-5f11f15ace87.jpg

large_e540d830-713c-11ea-830b-5f11f15ace87.jpg

Thomson's Gazelle

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

large_d1b4eb20-713d-11ea-915c-772c023c013d.jpg

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

large_da17d480-713d-11ea-915c-772c023c013d.jpg

Dung Beetles

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

large_a49e3da0-71b3-11ea-bc9d-a35e5c8a41df.jpg

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

large_b576d510-71b3-11ea-bc9d-a35e5c8a41df.jpg

large_146f1e60-71b4-11ea-bc9d-a35e5c8a41df.jpg

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

large_454679c0-71b4-11ea-bc9d-a35e5c8a41df.jpg

Things don't always go to plan.

large_5e0d8de0-71b4-11ea-a158-ed76b960c661.jpg

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

large_9805cb70-71b4-11ea-bc9d-a35e5c8a41df.jpg

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

large_f0da6d00-71b4-11ea-bc9d-a35e5c8a41df.jpg

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

I just love these little animals!

Hyena

A pregnant hyena eyes up a zebra.

large_13765e20-71c2-11ea-9251-6b07ae3a01b9.jpg

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

large_26b1c4c0-71c2-11ea-9251-6b07ae3a01b9.jpg

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

large_38275f80-71c2-11ea-9251-6b07ae3a01b9.jpg

Marabou Stork

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

large_620a7cb0-71c2-11ea-9251-6b07ae3a01b9.jpg

large_6c1c4e90-71c2-11ea-9251-6b07ae3a01b9.jpg

large_766cd720-71c2-11ea-9251-6b07ae3a01b9.jpg

And an Abdim Stork

large_137f6530-71ca-11ea-b7d8-c97fa34c19c1.jpg

Kori Bustard

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

large_5f9531c0-71d4-11ea-bfe5-996b5defd917.jpg

large_692af5d0-71d4-11ea-bfe5-996b5defd917.jpg

Zebra with Young

large_5e53a9b0-71d7-11ea-be99-3b34b88f177d.jpg

large_1bdf1b30-7283-11ea-9393-d134bfa5035b.jpg

large_683543d0-71d7-11ea-be99-3b34b88f177d.jpg

large_723b55e0-71d7-11ea-be99-3b34b88f177d.jpg

large_d3b8a5b0-7282-11ea-9393-d134bfa5035b.jpg

large_fcfc5e80-7296-11ea-b200-636b7acc5977.jpg

This guy seems to have a lot of passengers.

large_524a7f30-71d8-11ea-8303-3359b6ba0a50.jpg

large_e7ebd4a0-7294-11ea-8234-c3133a5d895d.jpg

large_f04f87c0-71d8-11ea-8303-3359b6ba0a50.jpg
Wattled Starlinsg

Black Headed Heron

large_11453fb0-72a6-11ea-9d3a-b1327eb44f65.jpg

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

large_93d22570-72c8-11ea-bafa-9197cc67e87d.jpg

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

large_a082be10-72c8-11ea-bafa-9197cc67e87d.jpg

large_ab07eb30-72c8-11ea-bafa-9197cc67e87d.jpg

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

large_b782f4e0-72c8-11ea-bafa-9197cc67e87d.jpg

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

large_c6954b40-72c8-11ea-bafa-9197cc67e87d.jpg

large_d2c960e0-72c8-11ea-bafa-9197cc67e87d.jpg

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

Knob Billed Duck

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

large_4f51b0b0-72cc-11ea-a728-8b721afb0176.jpg

Wildebeests

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

large_0e677780-72cf-11ea-b6c6-9b84c15e3d22.jpg

large_aff383f0-72cf-11ea-b6c6-9b84c15e3d22.jpg

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

large_06f58860-72d0-11ea-b6c6-9b84c15e3d22.jpg

large_a144b4e0-72d0-11ea-8aa6-0d3c88dd496f.jpg

large_55616000-7334-11ea-bccb-c7b093321f2c.jpg

Zebra Dust Bath

large_ea73f1f0-734b-11ea-ac9a-c9f10765025d.jpg

large_f48e7660-734b-11ea-ac9a-c9f10765025d.jpg

large_fe2720a0-734b-11ea-ac9a-c9f10765025d.jpg

Zebra on Heat

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

large_216b96b0-736d-11ea-9229-ed43b7960dac.jpg

large_2bd7e4a0-736d-11ea-9229-ed43b7960dac.jpg

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

large_3bfa4b70-736d-11ea-9229-ed43b7960dac.jpg

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

large_5fd67b30-736e-11ea-9229-ed43b7960dac.jpg

Car stuck in the Mud

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

large_03907b60-7444-11ea-a5da-811003e457a7.jpg

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

large_2c3a7c50-7444-11ea-a5da-811003e457a7.jpg

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

large_3c495b20-7444-11ea-a5da-811003e457a7.jpg

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

large_4596f2a0-7444-11ea-a5da-811003e457a7.jpg

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

large_d3ba1fd0-7444-11ea-a5da-811003e457a7.jpg

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

large_3a341a40-7445-11ea-a5da-811003e457a7.jpg

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

large_66fc7d10-7445-11ea-a5da-811003e457a7.jpg
There's an enormous amount of surface water about!

Hyenas

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

large_fae20d00-74e6-11ea-816d-0b9785ac7c7f.jpg

large_04a94150-74e7-11ea-816d-0b9785ac7c7f.jpg

large_1d6c84e0-74e7-11ea-816d-0b9785ac7c7f.jpg

large_2753eb60-74e7-11ea-816d-0b9785ac7c7f.jpg

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

large_91ecbce0-74e7-11ea-816d-0b9785ac7c7f.jpg

Eland

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

large_590afb90-74eb-11ea-af69-89fbc49afa3d.jpg

large_62de3dd0-74eb-11ea-af69-89fbc49afa3d.jpg

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

large_7ce35030-74eb-11ea-af69-89fbc49afa3d.jpg

large_7209c180-74eb-11ea-af69-89fbc49afa3d.jpg

large_db84ed30-751b-11ea-b9fc-2be10e837c16.jpg
Abdim Stork

Pee break

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

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

Thomson's Gazelle

A mother and her ten day old baby.

large_effc31f0-7599-11ea-80de-79329e39fdc6.jpg

large_e2f9cfd0-7599-11ea-80de-79329e39fdc6.jpg

large_d590bca0-7599-11ea-80de-79329e39fdc6.jpg

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

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

large_66b40a70-759a-11ea-80de-79329e39fdc6.jpg

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

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]