Sunday, July 21, 2013

Game On! - 03 Jul 2013

I woke at about 3:30 am from a sound sleep but was unable to go back to sleep. So I lay in bed trying to will myself to get up to work on yesterday's notes. At 4:30 I was able to get up and start working on the blog. Our alarm would go off at 5:30 for a 6:30 breakfast and a 7 am game drive. While we ate breakfast we watched several bats fly around in the center of the restaurant, which is shaped like a giant oval tent. In the windows were several Vervet Monkeys hoping to get in to enjoy some breakfast of their own.

 Charles arrived about 7:15 am and we took off for the morning game drive. While waiting for him I took a few pics of one of several Vervet Monkeys sunning itself on the roof. A couple other monkeys were trying to get into a delivery truck out back. We put the roof up and headed back out the same way we came in. Almost immediately Charles pointed out a Dik-Dik walking into the brush, and a second one a bit farther away. These tiniest of antelope are very shy and tend to freeze when alarmed, so we were able to get a few pics before it disappeared. We would spot several more along the road within the next half hour. An Emerald Ground Dove caught my attention with its iridescent green wing feathers. A Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu flew past the van just moments before we spotted a tiny Black- backed Jackal. I couldn't get a focus on the little guy before it bolted for cover. We drove past the ranger station and folks made a pit stop. While waiting I took a few pics of a Common Bulbul with its brown head, white belly and bright yellow under tail.

Charles noticed vans flying past and suspected that something good was spotted. We followed the caravan past dozens of Zebras, Impala, Wildebeest, a pair of Crowned Plovers I so wanted to photograph, and cut across the short grass where everyone was gathering: a pair of Cheetah basking below a tree. We pulled up, took a few photos and moved back quickly. Props to the guides for not staying long enough to put the animals under stress. CHEETAH!

We then continued on driving the vast grassland (2) past dozens of small herds of Thompson's Gazelle, Zebra, Impala, Wildebeest, Common Ostrich, Cape Buffalo (one would cross the road directly in front of the van), Topi (2) (3) and Hartebeast. I spotted a pair of Elephants a quarter mile away but they in among the trees to see well. As we drove and bounced all over the place I spotted what looked like an Eastern Meadowlark: a Yellow-throated Longclaw! This was followed by Anteater Chats and a singing Yellow-crowned Canary off in the distance. Overhead a pair of Lappet-faced Vultures soared. 

A very huge herd of Zebra appeared in the grass ahead, and they were moving fast, as if spooked. We watched them cross the road and took dozens of pics with both cameras. Was there a lion nearby? Or a kill? One little zebra was isolated from the herd and made a great ruckus while the remaining herd stood in the road (2) and called back in return. They were soon reunited and continued on.

We then came upon another herd of Zebra and Wildebeest, but now there were two Secretary Birds heading toward us. I fired away as one bird scratched and hopped around looking for prey. cool! Numerous Buffy Pipits were bouncing in the road ahead of the van as we continued on. Charles was following his buddy in the jeep ahead of us, and speaking several times in Swahili, never telling us what the destination was. But we were heading in the same direction that a very large Ruppels Vulture was headed. A kill!

Next to a riverbank we spotted a Lion chasing a flock of Hooded and African White-backed Vultures from the remains of a very large Cape Bufflalo carcass. As we pulled up and photographed her in the open, we started counting two more, and more, and more, until we counted 10 Lions! They were resting under the nearby trees while we took turns photographing the vultures and the Lionness. At one point a very old, beat-up Lionness walked right alongside the van and looked up at us. She hard a deep cut over a glazed-over eye indicating a fresh battle scar and blindness. Soon the rest of the pride got up and followed her back out to the road. One Lion remained behind sleeping. I took so many photos of the pride that I put them into a slide show (click on the image below).

Click on image to start Slideshow

As we drove out we spotted a Crowned Plover on a large rock. This was soon followed by a pair of African Darters, a pair of Grey-backed Fiscals, Ruppels Starling, an African Grey Hornbill, and a Lilac-breasted Roller. We then spotted a Zebra Migration in progress. Hundreds approached us from a grassy hill and marched across the road to join hundreds more Zebras and Wildebeest. Watching these animals walking through golden grass in long formation was almost a religious experience. In some ways it was more memorable than the lion experience.

From there Charles took us to Keekorok Lodge for a rest stop and to see Hippotomus. Vervet Monkeys greeted us on the exterior of the lodge while Ruppel's Long-tailed Starlings greeted us inside the grounds. A canopy boardwalk took us several hundred yards into the forest and pond area where we counted 6-8 Hippos, a Wattled Plover, a pair of Yellow-billed Storks, Speckled Mousebirds, Lesser-streaked Swallows, and a Spot-flanked Barbet. On the way out I spotted an African Grey Flycatcher that looks much like our Warbling Vireos.

Lilac-breasted Roller
Our drive back to the lodge brought us marvelous views of a Lilac-breasted Roller, Sooty Chat, Common Fiscal, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Bare-Faced Go-away Birds, and a Crested Francolin.

Bare-faced Go-away Bird
Speckled Mousebird

A family of Elephants 100 yds away was the highlight of the mammal sightings. We spent a few minutes photographing them from a distance, then headed back to the lodge.

Robin and I skipped the afternoon tour of a local Masai Manyatta (home), opting to clean up and rest before the evening game drive. While I sat on the porch and digiscoped a Common Bulbul an Olive Baboon sauntered across the lawn in front of our place. I didn't have the camera. I did have the camera to photograph some of the Vervet Monkeys that continued to hang around the courtyard to the lodge.

We had a surprise guest for our evening game drive. Thomas, a Masai tribesman and guide/friend of both Charles and Guy, came with us. Sandi and Deb had met him at the afternoon Manyatta tour where Thomas explained about life in a Masai world. As we drove out away from the lodge we were met by a large cattle herd being driven by some of Thomas' siblings. Things started on a tense note. We were stopped as we past the game warden's compound by an armed and agitated soldier. Charles explained that he wanted to see all of our entrance tickets to the park. Luckily we had them. We were able to proceed.

A huge rainstorm in the west provided a lovely photo setting that would,ve been great if we could stop in front of the many Wildebeast, but time was short and Charles had news that the Cheetahs were still in the same area.

We drove over and got a few pics of the still-snoozing cats. As we were driving away I spotted what I thought was a lion, but Charles said "Spotted Hyena!" We fired away at it as it padded its way toward us, then toward the now-alert Cheetah, all the time sniffing the air for scent of a nearby kill. It finally ran between ours and the other van before heading off into the plains. A second hyena was spotted far out in the plains of Wildebeest. Nothing happened, though.

Crowned Plover
We would get great views of evening sunset, Topi, Grant's Gazelle, Zebra, Impala and Cape Buffalo. With darkness falling we headed back for dinner and sleep. Along the way we spotted a small, hawklike bird flying in the low light toward a muddy creek bed. Charles recognized it as a Hammerkop! I managed a few long distance flight shots before we had to move on, stopping just long enough to photograph more buffalo and a pair of Grey-backed Fiscals.  Wow, what a day!

Mara Sopa Lodge, Masai Mara NR 
Vervet Monkey
Emerald Ground Dove
Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu
Black-backed Jackal
Common Bulbul
Crowned Plover
Cape Buffalo
Koki's Hartebeast
Yellow-throated Longclaw
Maribou Stork
Sooty Chat
Anteater Chat
Yellow-crowned Canary
Secretary Bird
Buffy Pipit
Hooded Vulture
African White-backed Vulture
Lappet-faced Vulture
African Darter
Grey-backed Fiscal
Common Fiscal
Lilac-breasted Roller
Ruppel's Long-tailed Starling
Great Blue-eared Starling
Wattled Plover
Lesser Streaked Swallow
Yellow-billed Stork
Speckled Mousebird
African Grey Flycatcher
Bare-faced Go-away Bird
Crested Francolin
Northern White-crowned Shrike
Spotted Hyena
Grant's Gazelle
Thompson's Gazelle
White-headed Saw-wing
Black Saw-wing
Olive Baboon
Spot-flanked Barbet
African Grey Hornbill

1 comment:

Mark Wloch said...

I'd be lion if I said your gnu posts weren't amazing.

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