Monday, 29 August 2011

Serengeti - Day 4

Green-winged pytilia
Again up early in the morning, but the morning drive was unsuccessful, hardly seeing anything around.  Ali needed to put petrol in the car, so he dropped us off at the visitor’s centre to have breakfast.  We were still photographing the birds and rock hyraxes by the time he got back, entertained by the boldness of the hyraxes looking for scraps.

Rock hyrax
After breakfast we left the centre but stopped almost immediately when we found a band of banded mongoose.  They’re great to watch when they start to run, it’s like a wave of rodents squeaking when they’re alarmed, the cause of which in this case was a Dark Chanting Goshawk.  

Banded mongoose
We decided to head to the Masai Kopjes again, and were rewarded again on the turnoff with the sighting of a leopard – again in a tree.  Just too far away to photograph, but our 3rd leopard in a tree – not too bad…

Leopard in a tree
After driving for a while and seeing a male lion sleeping in the tall grass, we spotted another cheetah and her 2 cubs.  This was too far for good photographs – we’d been spoilt with the photo opportunities the day before! 

Red-billed oxpecker on giraffe
What followed was a very interesting, but unproductive drive through a stack of kopjes – perfect for leopard, but none to be found!

Lappet-faced vulture
Finally back at Masai Kopjes we found the mating male lion from 2 days previously resting on a rock, obviously done with his duties for the next few months!

Kirk's dik-dik
Back to the other side of the river, and we drove for quite a while, but it was very quiet on the predator front.  We eventually found a couple of lions who appeared to be keen to hunt, especially since there were a few dozen gazelles close by.

Lioness stalking
And after a bit of stalking and hiding in the grass they spooked the gazelle who started to run.  Unfortunately, it seemed the lionesses were frozen with all this flurry of running and the hunt was over before it began! 

Eagle with kill
We waited for a while over lunch, but in the end we left them for a while and went to search for more.  We found a nice herd of elephants on the veld and spent some time with them, but eventually returned to the lionesses to see if they were trying to hunt again…

Grazing Thompson's gazelles
And so they were… The one lioness was almost in the same spot that we’d left her, but her sister was further down watching the gazelles, which seemed very uneasy.  We left the lioness that was close to the road, and headed toward the other one, who seemed in stalk mode – right down in the grass that we could hardly distinguish her. 

The gazelles knew there was a threat and surprised us when they actually started to mob her – about a dozen were so close to her that she could had reached out and touched one!  She eventually took off and scattered the herd, we were surprised looking at the photos afterwards that she actually ran right past one!  

And more chasing...
But she obviously had her eye on one and targeted it – unfortunately for her, he was up to the challenge and escaped! Meanwhile the scattering in the herd took a number of them right past her sister – who hardly moved in the whole time!  I think if she had just stuck a paw out she would have tripped one ;)  but in the end the gazelles all survived another day, and the lionesses went hungry!  I can now see why they have such a low success rate ;)

Elephant eating an acacia bush
After that bit of excitement, we found another leopard – for the first time not in a tree ;)  But so far away and mostly hidden by scrub, that we needed binoculars to see it. 

Rock pigeons in a rock
We waited quite a while in the hope that she would get up and head our way, but it wasn’t to be, so after about an hour we left and spent the rest of the evening drive with a nice herd of elephants grazing in the setting sun before heading to the campsite. 

Elephant herd
We had one last highlight before we got to camp – just outside the campsite we spotted a side-striped jackal – a most unusual sighting for us.  We’ve only seen 2 of these jackals before, as opposed to the common black-backed jackal – and this was our first in Tanzania. 

Side-striped jackal
He was very relaxed, and even though it was quite dark, he posed long enough for us to get a couple of shots, before headed into camp for dinner and an early evening, since we were leaving the next day.

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