Friday, July 22, 2011

Young Hyenas


Although I've seen spotted hyenas before, this trip I saw some young ones.  Pictured here is a baby hyena nursing from mom.  In a separate sighting, a young hyena came up the rod very curious about our vehicle and gave it a good luck; that's the other picture.  Both viewings were very nice.  Although some people don't like hyenas, I do.  I think they are fascinating animals, from their matriarchal societies and hunting methods to their strange lopes and calls.  They always remind me of dogs even though supposedly they are not really related.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Black Rhino


The endangered black rhino can be hard to see, but we luckily got a viewing in Norongoro Crater of this one.  Unfortunately, Norongoro Crater is not a great place to see such an animals, because you have one rhino and about 40 cars.  It's sad.  Everyone wants to see a rhino, so the call goes out and WHAM every car in the crater is there.  This poor rhino wanted to cross the road, but as he walked, cars kept getting in his way as everyone positioned themselves to try and get a view or photo.  It was like a Yellowstone Bear Jam only worse.  Ug. 

It is a very sad fact that many African guides are more interested in great tips than respect for wildlife.  This is understandable - certain clients will tip more to get close and get that great shot, even if annoying or harassing the animal is the result.  Clients may demand behavior that is not best for the animals, and guides often feel this pressure so they do what is asked even if they know they shouldn't.  This pressure is even worse when the animal is particularly rare or very sought after.  Many times clients may not realize the negative consequences of getting too close or staying too long.  An ethical guide will respect park rules as well as what is best for animals, but may be penalized at tip time for doing so by clients who care more about their photo ops than the animal's welfare.  If you go on an animal viewing/wildlife trip, please think about what is best for the animal and respect whatever rules the guide sets out.

We left this poor rhino in peace quickly, but it was sad to see him struggle with the traffic and the cars jockey for position continuing to block his path.  This is where a park ranger would have come in handy if willing to block the road and let the poor guy on his way.  Unfortunately, all the park rangers we ran into in Norongoro Crater were speeding and none of them seemed to be actively engaged in animal protection.  Our guide reported that the rangers in fact kill many animals due to failure to obey speed limits they themselves set. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Common Zebra

As a horse lover, of course I have a soft spot for Zebras.  My favorite are Grevy's zebras, but those are endangered and hard to see; I have only seen them in Samburu National Park in Kenya.  On our Tanzania trip, we saw the much more common "Common Zebra" (so aptly named).  Although they may be common, I never get tired of seeing them. 

Young zebra have brownish stripes which get black as they mature.  The pattern on each zebra is supposed to be unique, though I can only tell the difference between them if I look really closely!  Smaller than horses, zebras have really cool calls to one another - sort of a cross between a donkey and a hiccup.  This photo is of a herd we came across in Norongoro Crater.

Southern Ground Hornbill


I am not a birder.  I do not like the checklist approach to wildlife viewing, and I admit I have a hard time understanding how someone can look past a mammal like a giraffe or an elephant to ooo and awww over a tiny bird.  But, I do understand that birds are harder to see, more fleeting in your time to view them, and often more elusive than elephants - so perhaps it is that element that makes birding addictive to some.  Not to me, however.

I have been fortunate enough to see a ton of bird species in my travels.  Though I can't always remember their names, I do enjoy seeing new species, especially when on a long trip or game drive where not much else is available.  Birds beat nothing.  I would rather see mammals, or reptiles, but when this is not possible, birds are quite nice. Taking photos of them also gives me something to do while bird afficianados I may be traveling with whip out the binoculars.

Some birds really are pretty cool, and I appreciate them much more since I've gotten chickens and observed a lot of their nuances in behavior and language over the last three years.

One pretty cool bird is the Southern Ground Hornbill, pictured here.  Hornbills in general are interesting, but Ground Hornbills live on the ground, as the name would imply, and they are very large birds that you can see from quite a distance.  I would estimate them at 2 to 3 feet tall.  You often see them in pairs, or with young, stalking around looking for snakes, insects, etc. int he grass.  It takes them several years to be sexually mature and the young stay with the parents for several years rather than just a season.  Only one chick is raised in a breeding season.  I think I've seen these birds on every trip to Africa and in many places each trip, but they are always noticeable and interesting to watch.  This trip, in the Serengeti, we saw a mated pair feeding their young in a hole in a tree.  Life is cool to watch; even bird life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lions in Norongoro


We had a glimpse of a pride of lions in Norongoro Crater.  I love how lions blend into the grass; scary but beautiful.  The scenery looks not unlike Idaho except for the lions.  We saw the same pride of lions overlooking some buffalo in the distance a few hours later.  I like this shot of a lioness looking out at the buffalo, perhaps hoping for them to wander her way, perhaps just enjoying the view.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Two serval cats in one day


One thing I was hoping to see in Tanzania was small cats, as I hadn't seen a civet, a serval, a genet, an African wild cat, etc. on previous trips  Although I love cheetah and leopards and lions, I was hoping for a new cat species...and I got lucky. 

We saw two different serval cats in Norongoro crater.  Even though they are usually seen at night, we got to see them in full daylight.  Here is a photo of each.  I loved the sightings - especially the first one.  We found a young male serval on the road marking territory and then hunting.  His jumps were very cool to watch - graceful and very high!  The first serval we found in the morning and the second was across the crater in the afternoon.  I don't know the gender of the second cat, which was moving rather quickly so I am glad I got a photo!!

The spots and markings on these cats are so gorgeous.  They have bright white stripes across the back of the ears, long tails, and slender, spotted bodies.  I may never have the chance to see a serval again, but I hope I do.  It was a very cool experience and the first new species I saw of the trip.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dik-Dik

The dik dik is a very small deer, smaller than a medium sized dog.  About 18" tall, they are generally found in mated pairs, sometimes with a youngster, near the bottom of a bush.  We came across this little dik dik in Lake Manyara, resting under a bush.  They have adorable noses that are always moving from side to side.  They have such delicate, tiny legs they are like pencils - with eraser sized hooves.  Dik dik are completely adorable and I would love to be able to touch them....but of course since I haven't run into a tame one this is not likely to ever happen.  I bet a baby dik dik is one of the cutest living things. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blue Monkeys in Tanzania

My long awaited trip to Tanzania and Rwanda finally took place in June and early July of this year.  My main goal was to take my husband to Africa for the first time, and hopefully have him fall in love with Africa, as I did on my first trip there in 2005.  He was reluctant to go to Africa, but he did enjoy it and would do it again, so I am glad that I got to go there with him and I look forward to the time we can go again.  Since it is a costly and time consuming venture, I am sure it won't be soon, but there are many places I would like to see in Africa that I haven't been to yet, and an ever growing list of places there I'd like to go back to as well.  This particular safari was not the best I have ever had in terms of wildlife viewing, but it was good all the same with a wide variety of animal species and some varied habitats, and it was an enjoyable trip.

The first park we visited was Lake Manyara in northern Tanzania.  Very near the park entrance we ran into some blue monkeys.  We saw blue monkeys several times within the park, and again later in the trip in Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania.   Of all the blue monkey sightings we had, this is the best photo of a blue monkey I was able to take.  They reminded me of guenon monkeys as they have a very similar nose.  Their hair made me think of Lizzie the cat - both have hairs that are multi-colored within the same strand.  Males and females have slightly different sizes and shading.

Hopefully in the coming weeks I will find time to post some of the best wildlife photos of the trip.