Wednesday, August 1, 2012

the Safari

Leopard (Panthera pardus)
I have just returned from a safari  in South Africa.   There are eight blog entries related to the trip.  Some describe aspects of the trip which I made with my two cousin, Sharon and Bonnie and some friends.  Other entries are photo essays.   When you reach the bottom and it seems you can go no further, look for a tiny prompt for "previous pages."  Click there to continue reading and viewing.  That will navigate you from the Big Five blog entry to the others game animals to our stop over in Dubai.  Hope you enjoy.  
      You can enlarge images with a single click on the photo. Occasionally, and I cannot figure out why it does it sometimes and not others, the layout shifts and an image gets cropped
     I have thousands of images to continue to catalog.  These are chosen to give friends an overview. 


      In Africa's early European colonization hunting was a popular sport.  The term Big Five comes from the terminology of the hunting safaris.  Leopards, rhinos, lions, elephants, and cape buffalo were considered the most ferocious prey and the most valued as trophies.     On our safari, we saw them all, often at very close range.   Except for a black rhino, all of them are habituated to the 4-wheel drive vehicles which bring modern style "hunters," those with cameras, binoculars and curiosity.   As long as passengers stay in the vehicles, the animals ignore them.   I am used to this phenomenon from Yellowstone.  
      The leopard is a magnificent animal.  We saw several of them in different areas.  Usually it was a solitary leopard but in one instance a younger (but hardly a cub) was working on a carcass under heavy brush.

      There were only two black rhinos in the reserve, a male and female, who were relocated to the area just 8 months ago. They are still skittish and we had only a short view of one of them. The black rhino is endangered and considered to be the more ferocious and the one usually listed as one of the big five. We saw one of the black rhinos but I didn't get a good shot so my readers will have to settle for the white rhino.  The white rhinos are quite common and nothing to be tangled with.  The difference between black and white rhinos has nothing to do with color.   It is a bit like the Black Bears of the North American west who range in color from honey to black.  The major difference in the rhinos is in the shape of the mouth.

The bird flying toward this rhino and the bird on the juvenile rhino above
are red billed oxpeckers who eat bugs from a number of animals.  They will also eat
blood and flesh of wounded animals

   Each bush vehicle had a tracker and ranger.  The ranger was armed with a shot gun in case of emergency.  The tracker sat on a special seat on the front of the vehicle watching for tracks to lead us to animals.  These are fresh lion spore.

A well fed lion one evening.


This lion and his brother were sharing an recent impala kill.   Sharing is not the norm. 
But in this case the brother with the carcass allowed the other, who had been
injured, to take a chunk away.

Elephants are the largest mammals on land.  It is amazing to see one up close and realize how immense they are.   Grazers, they eat in excess of 15 hours a day and they only digest about 40% of what they consume.  It does not seem like a good evolutionary adaptation to me, but they are able to eat thorny plants which look impossible to handle.

      The last of the Big Five are the Cape Buffalo.   They are noted for a nasty temperament, although when not challenged they quietly graze, not unlike cattle or the North American bison.   Bison and buffalo are not related, although the reddish brown calf  shown below looks a lot like a bison calf.    

note the red billed oxpeckers on the back of this female

Birds of the Bush

The bush is filled with birds.  This is just a small sample of some of the colorful varieties. Since my cousin Sharon is an avid birder, I had helped identifying these. But the Lilacbreasted Roller Bird was so distinctive, I could identify it instantly after the first sighting
Lilacbreasted Roller

Roller bird in flight

Helmeted Guinea fowl are common

Crested Francolin

This looks amazingly like our Western Meadowlark, but look at the
claw.  This is a Yellow-throat Longclaw.

Crowned Lapwing

This magnificent bird is a Red-Billed Hornbill.  

And this is a Yellow-Billed Hornbill.  

A juvenile Bataleur and an adult Tawny Eagle argue over who gets the tree perch.  The Eagle flew away.

Egyptian Geese are common and beautifully


Blacksmith Lapwing
On top is a Grey Go-Away-Bird, so named because of its
call which sounds like it is saying, "goway"
Below the Go-away-bird are three green doves.

Pearlspotted owl.  This is a tiny little owl

Smaller Safari Wildlife

       There is hype surrounding the "Big Five."  While we saw and photographed all of those species, which are exciting, so are some of the less ferocious and/or smaller animals and birds.   This blog entry shares some of the images of these denizens of the bush.
   I love the long legged, long necked giraffes, each with a distinct pattern of brown and beige.   Look how the pattern swirls, cowlick like, on the neck of the giraffe in the image below. That is a red-billed oxpecker looking for insects.
    The oxpeckers have a symbiotic relationship with numerous animals of the brush.   The birds find food on the hide of the animals and the animals, such as giraffes and Cape Buffalo, find relief from the insects from the birds.  This same pattern is common in Yellowstone with cowbirds on the bison.  The oxpeckers, however, are much more interesting looking birds.

   Zebras often hang out with giraffes.  They provide protection and warning to each other and they do not compete for forage as they browse at different levels of the bush.

Plains zebras, note the tan coloration and stripes continuing around the belly

Spotted Hyenas are not among the Big Five, but they are tough predators,  Among predators, the Spotted Hyenas are second in size to lions.

The little domestic scene here belies their fierce predatory skills. The young pups rolled and chased and wrestled with each other like domestic puppies, and sought attention from both parents.
 Members of the antelope family are the main prey for the hyenas, lions, and leopards.  Impala, the super stars of the speed division are as common as deer in many areas of the US.  And while they may seem common place to the guides and locals, they are beautiful animals as you can see in some of the images below.  
Impala buck

Steenbok, a tiny, delicate animal

Nyala with elegant markings.
And finally, a female kudu

Dwarf Mongoose.  

Hippopotamus and two kinds of herons.  The grey heron is easy to spot.  The Goliath Heron is visible behind the tree.

How would you like this greeting you when you walked out of your tent?   This is a Vervet Monkey

Wart Hog


water monitor.   There is nothing to give scale here but he was
several feet long