Monday, 1 April 2013

Mikumi NP Easter 2013

A dazzle of zebra in Mikumi NP
Easter in Mukumi is always crowded with local tourists like us, giving it a zoo like feeling at times, especially around sightings and water holes. The onset of the rains gives the park a green dressing with fresh growth making it a beautiful time to be in the park and the rain brings low cloud adding to the beauty of the park. 

How much is an animal worth?
On the drive up we noticed new road signs signaling penalties for accidents with wildlife in an effort to limit the speeds on the TanZam highway. We couldn’t work out why the common elephant and giraffe were three times the penalty of the much rarer and much sort after lion or why a zebra costs double that of a wildebeest. 

Lilac-breasted roller
We arrived to the expected flurry of activity at the gate to be informed of a new camp site at Hippo pools. Not quite sure what to expect, we opted for the rest house for the first night while it was still available, with a view of checking out things before settling on the next two days.  

Eastern paradise whydah
First stop was the campsite and we immediately decided it would be our choice for the next two nights. Finally an opportunity for wild camping, albeit with a running water toilet. With only two camp sites, there was even a prospect of peace and quiet with bush sounds in the night, if you were willing to ignore the drag race on TanZam. 

With the expected crowds, we would be at the gate the next morning to book in to the camp site.  Having arrived late after needing a fundi to check a leaking diff, which was only noticed the night before when packing the car, the first day was a quick run to hippo pools and a quick round of the surrounding plains. 

Yellow-throated longclaw
On the way back with nothing significant noted we were surprised to see three lionesses walking in the scrub in the village and none of the inhabitants seemed awfully worried or interested. This was only a couple of hundred meters from the rest house and we too went about our business of settling in for the night more concerned about the car than the lionesses. 

Fighting giraffes
Giraffes are the most graceful of them all in the bush and everything they do seems to be in slow motion. A giraffe fight is both rare and graceful as anything and it’s still unknown how a winner is selected short of a knockout. 

The most photogenic of them all - zebra
Today’s highlights were giraffes and the other photogenic creature of the bush, zebras in beautiful sun going about their business. One of the great things about Mikumi is that the game is relatively habituated to vehicles so offering good photo opportunities. 

White stork
Zebra are probably the most photogenic animals in the bush and they probably offer the best poses for a photographer. We should be looking for predators in the morning light but when you come across a herd in good light close the road you just need to take the opportunity to shoot. 

Eland - an unexpected surprise
One of the great things about Mikumi is the great shooting light almost any time of the day. Even the midday sun doesn’t appear too harsh to shoot and the morning light stays soft for longer during the day while the evening light goes softer earlier. We believe it’s due to the surrounding hills and the low cloud but that just our theory but it’s a noticeable advantage in the park. 

Elephants drinking
Birding is a great source of pleasure to get in to in the bush as there always seem to be birds around as opposed to animals. 

First time sighting for us - Dickinson's kestrel
We consider a first time bird sighting on par with predator sightings. Shooting birds does offer a serious challenge as birds besides being small and restless hardly ever pose for the camera.  

Our neighbouring campers informed us that two lionesses has walked past within a within a few meters of them in the camp site that evening. 

Hippy buffalo? With flowers behind his ear :)
We also managed to follow the throngs and locate 3 lionesses behind a bush not too far from the campsite. We also caught a glimpse of a serval on the road but couldn’t track it down before he disappeared into the bush.

Hoorah! Camping again
There was an attempt to steal our campsite but thankfully we arrived at the campsite before the would-be thief. Ignoring the chair left to claim the site, we lit the firewood that was arranged obligingly by the thief and claimed what was rightfully our site. 

A flock of collared pratincoles in full flight
The thief arrived sheepishly to retrieve the chair with a story. The last thing you need in a bush camp is some city sod trying to steal your site. As I said to the chap, I come to the bush to get away from the city and to enjoy the peace and quiet and the bush sounds at night.   

Preparing to fight

Birds seen on our trip
(* first time sighting)

Helmeted guinea fowl
Superb starling
Egyptian goose
White faced duck
Pin tailed whydah
White browed sparrow weaver
Red billed francolin 
Black smith plover
White browed coucal
Black bellied bustard
Marabou stork
Crowned plover
White backed vulture
Palm nut vulture
European bee-eater
Red backed shrike
Black backed puff-back
Red billed buffalo weaver 
Water thick-knee
Grey heron
African grey hornbill
Zanzibar red bishop
Long tailed fiscal
Broad billed roller
Wattled starling
Fishers sparrow-lark
Common bulbul
Crimson rumped waxbill *
Cordon bleu
Yellow billed ox-pecker
Lilac breasted roller
Green winged pytilia
Black headed weaver *
Ground hornbill
Paradise whydah
Wooly necked stock
Collared pratincole
White stork 
Black headed heron
Knob billed duck
Spur winged goose
Emerald spotted duck
Yellow throated long-claw
Red billed ox-pecker
Saddle billed stock
Speckled mouse-bird
European roller
Cattle egret
Three banded plover
Green wood-hoopoo
Barn swallow
Open bill
Dickinson’s kestrel *
Grey headed kingfisher
Malachite kingfisher
Fan tailed widow-bird
Little bee-eater
Martial eagle
Grey kestrel *
Jacobin cuckoo

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