SERENGETI - CENTRAL AND MARA RIVER AREA
Yesterday afternoon we travelled from the central region further north, nearer to the border with Kenya and to where the Mara River flowed through the Serengeti. The border at this point is around 50 miles further north across the river. Again we spotted lots of animals and birds en-route but as any wildlife photographer will tell you, seeing is one thing - photographing another. We had no complaints, Frank pointing out things we had not seen and I might say, that it was occasionally vice versa. Don't ask me how, perhaps it was the long dusty drive.
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As we were driving through the reserve towards the river some 3 or 4 miles away we spotted these magnificent Eland Bulls on a banking. I have seen photo's of them but never did I realise just how large they were. Frank told us they can weigh a tonne and the meat was excellent. They are of course protected on the reserve but if they strayed off, they were game for the local hunters. Unfortunately they are an endangered species with numbers down to a few thousand. Not many for such a huge place. We were off to see if there were any Wildebeest's crossing the Mara, this is the famous place you see on the TV and although the migration had not really started there were reports at the camp that several hundred had crossed the day previous. This was the sight that Gordon was hoping to see so it was fingers crossed as we headed for the river. We passed this superb Eland buck but it refused to look our way and then the Water Buck which was moving quickly away from the river.
A pride of Lions had killed at least three Wildebeests and they were feeding hard on one of them while one of the well fed cubs was enjoying itself by chasing off the Marabou storks which were trying to feed on another carcass nearby. The male had been sleeping under a nearby tree when he decided it was time for his lunch and the others left him too it.
The Lappet Faced Vulture was standing by to get at one of the carcasses as were the Marabou Storks and the White backed Vultures.
We carried on up and then across the river and spotted around a thousand Wildebeest.
There were some on the opposite bank that had obviously crossed but we only saw one Zebra make the swim across. A couple of dead Gnu foals appeared to have died natural deaths and the vultures were cleaning up. A beautiful Woodland Kingfisher was perched in a leafy shrub near the river bank.
Quite a number of Hippo's were cooling off in the river and in their way, being curious, they came to a point below us presenting me with this lovely head shot. Standing on the rocks, out of danger were a pair of Spur winged Plover.
We got a close up photo of the strange looking Hamerkop bird. Frank spotted the 2 metre snake going through the grass, disturbed by the vibration of the engine running. I got a quick photo, this one and it was gone. Gordon hadn't even got time to get his camera. Frank thought it was a Spitting Cobra but from the books I have looked at, I thought it was a Black Mamba. A family of Francolin were feeding with one nearer to us making for a decent photo.
An Egyptian Goose leaves the company of a Crocodile, of which there were several up to about 4 metres long but a Yellow Billed Stork was perched safely on the higher rocks.
Another unfortunate casualty of the crossing. I was surprised it had not been mauled by the crocodiles. A magnificent Black Headed Heron was on the rocks and on the drive back I spotted this Crested Eagle perch on top of the tree.
Travelling fast with something in sight was the Black Backed Jackal and we then sighted an Elephant family nearby. On leaving the river we had the most torrential downpour, thunder and lightning which lasted for about two and a half hours. some of the viewing vehicles were open sided and the guests were soaked. Luckily they had a good sense of humour and saw the funny side of it.
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