Jan-March 2001

 

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Saturday, 31 March 2001

 
LOCATION    Serengeti
 
WEATHER  Dry morning, with some showers in the afternoon
 
DETAILS

 

At the Gol kopjes in the south east of the Serengeti a female cheetah was observed killing a Thomsons gazelle fawn. Shortly after the cheetah had settled down to feast on its meal another Thomsons gazelle fawn wandered into view.  Unable to abandon its instinct to hunt and kill where there is an easy meal on offer, the cheetah left the first kill and chased the second fawn, killing and eating it.   By the time it had finished though there was nothing left of the first kill, which had been devoured by the omnipresent vultures.    
 
This proved to be a good day for sightings as a leopard was seen near Seronera river and three lion cubs were viewed at Simba kopjes (just south of Seronera).  There proved to be drama here too as a hyena loped menacingly towards the cubs, before three lionesses appeared to chase it off.

This report was produced by the drivers and staff at Wildersun Safaris 

 

Friday, 30 March 2001

 
LOCATION    Serengeti/Ngorongoro Crater
 
WEATHER  Dry
 
DETAILS

Good rains have turned the dry landscapes of northern Tanzania a lovely shade of green. The southern plains of the Serengeti are teeming with wildlife – the largest gathering of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and other antelopes of the last few years. The calving season began the second week of February, giving traveler’s excellent opportunities to observe and photograph the arrival of the new life. The plains were filled with tiny Thomson’s gazelles, playful Zebra foals and thousands of light chestnut colored wildebeests struggling to keep apace with their mothers.

At Ngorongoro Crater the numbers of a biting Stomoxys flies have increased. Their bites have led to many animals suffering from painful sores. The lions have been most affected by this epidemic and 6 out of 68 in the crater have died. This situation is not new in the Ngorongoro Crater. A similar epidemic occurred in 1962 after the extensive drought of 1961, followed by heavy rains, that brought an explosion of Stomoxys flies who decimated the crater’s lion population. Similar outbreaks were also known at the Simanjiro Plains in 1997 /98 after El Niño rains.

The number of predator sightings in the Serengeti has been incredible. With some many animals in one area the odds of observing the predators in action have increased dramatically. One recent day clients at Shifting Sands, the drifting dunes close to Olduvai Gorge, watched a solitary cheetah capture a baby Thomson’s gazelle, while its mother was able to run away to a safe distance. Amazingly, after playing with the young gazelle for several minutes, the gazelle was released unharmed. Apparently the cheetah was actually interested in the mother and kept waiting for it to come and try to rescue her baby. The mother had observed the situation from a safe distance deciding not to risk moving in. Fortunately for her the cheetah gave up!

In another area clients watched as a newborn wildebeest tried to suckle a hyena! The hyena simply nudged it aside with its nose and eventually the baby walked off looking forlorn and hoping to find mum somewhere.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ultimate Africa Safaris)

Saturday, 24 March

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Dry

DETAILS


The Wildebeest certainly took centre stage again this last  month with the huge concentrations of animals for which the Serengeti is world famous. They are still stealing the show after moving across from the Oldupai area in the East over to the even closer Southern plains. We had a spectacular lake crossing at Lake Ndutu in full view of the lodge. Thousands of animals passed through the lake in plumes of dust and noise for well over an hour. Sadly many young wildebeest calves lost their mothers in all the confusion only to be taken by predators. One large acacia tree near the lake had three young wildebeest calves cached in it's branches together with a very full leopard.

Drinking water is what determines how long the wildebeest stay out on the short grass plains and not the availability of food. Once the pools of fresh water start to dry up the wildebeest have to start moving to the permanent water sources in the woodlands. At the moment there's still plenty of water on the plains and with more rain on the way these pools are often little gems for birders. The large numbers of water birds found in these pools, include knob-billed ducks, garganey, tree ducks, teals, shovelers and grebes. Also many species of waders such as, plovers, godwits, sandpipers, stilts and avocets together with large numbers of egrets make the plains an exciting place. 

The large flocks of European white storks which graced the plains last month are now heading back to the northern summer although there are still small numbers to be seen. The interesting thing this month are the dark clouds of red-billed quelea, which flock in huge numbers and swarm across the plains feeding voraciously on grass seeds. These small weavers can devastate farmers' entire crops but in the Serengeti it is truly a spectacular sight to see these birds swirling like clouds of thick smoke with a harrier amongst them speeding them on their way.

The camp-fire this month has been a great place to unwind with a cold beer after a hot day. With many visiting scientists, filmmakers and guests from all around the world we have had some interesting evenings under the stars. Last night we heard lions roaring in the distance which only added to the experience. The Southern Cross is just starting to come up in the south  around 10 pm in the evening. The Crux as it's called is part of Centaurus with it's two bright pointer stars Rilgil & Hadar make it one of the most easily recognised constellations in the night sky. The familiar plough is starting to make an appearance in the north but to the surprise of guests coming from the Northern hemisphere it is upside down here in the South. Just above the plough is one of my favourites, the very faint constellation called the lynx, not that it looks like a lynx, just that you need the eyes of a lynx to see it!

Driving through the Ndutu woodlands now is fraught with hazards in the form of the hundreds of tiny guinea-fowl and francolin chicks, which sit on the open tracks. But in my opinion the biggest hazard are the tortoises, which plod along these tracks. It never ceases to amaze me that you can spend all day tracking and watching lions, cheetahs or elephants only then to have your road blocked by a tortoise! 

We have just said good bye to Virginia who is one of our regular guests who has been returning to Ndutu for the past seven years. Virginia who stays for about 6 weeks each time is already planning to return next year as it soon becomes addictive. That's the beauty of Ndutu, you never know what you are going to see as every day is always different.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

Saturday, 10 March

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Dry

DETAILS

Although now dry, the Serengeti is still green.  Most of the wildebeest have now finished calving although many calves have become separated from their mothers with all the confusion of the movement of the huge herds.  This presents the predators with easy prey and in this time of plenty a leopard has recently been seen with no less than four wildebeest calves in a tree, and lions watched just playing around with another calf - too full to finish the job and actually kill the animal.  

(The thumbnails below were taken less than a week ago in the Serengeti and show a wildebeest giving birth and a group of five lions enjoying the shade of Wildersun landcruiser)    

wpeE.jpg (22740 bytes)        wpe1A.jpg (19492 bytes)        wpe14.jpg (46780 bytes)

 

This report was produced by the drivers and staff at Wildersun Safaris 

Saturday, 3 March 

LOCATION    Lake Manyara

WEATHER     Dry

DETAILS

The Lake Manyara region is still green even though no rain has fallen for three weeks now, and is providing excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.  Although Lake Manyara is famed for its so-called tree climbing lions, it is extremely unusual to see lions in trees.  Yesterday though some were spotted in an acacia tree at the very south end of the park near Maji Moto Ndogo (the hot springs).  Why do lions climb trees?  Nobody really knows, although possible explanations are that it may provide them with some relief from irritating biting insects, be a little cooler, or simply provide a better vantage point.  It may also of course be a convenient way of avoiding the large herds of elephants and buffalo that frequent this area.

Many elephants, giraffes, impalas have also been seen in the park this last week, enjoying the greenery, as have the ever present hippos and the numerous baboons and vervet monkeys.

This report was produced by the drivers and staff at Wildersun Safaris 

Tuesday, 20 February 

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Fine 

DETAILS       

Driving across the plains this week, the sheer numbers of Wildebeest and zebra has been absolutely mind blowing. Tracking the big herds across the short grass plains at this time of year has to be one of the most rewarding experiences in nature. At a distance the wildebeest look like ants spread across the plain for as far as the eye can see. They're constantly moving searching for fresh grass and the calving season is now well under way.  The sight of the light tan calves sticking close to their mother's side only adds to the spectacle.

Lions have been seen daily. Spotted hyenas seem to be sleeping in
every hollow, scrape or puddle, full and almost too fat to move in
this time of plenty. Cheetahs are very visible at the moment,
generally away from the big herds, on the periphery of all the action
and tucked away from the competition of hyenas and lions. Leopards have been seen on a regular basis, although we seem to see them more often in our dry season months, as the vegetation is then much shorter so they are far more visible. Just last week there was a male lazing in a tree just a few hundred metres from the Ndutu lodge entrance.
 
The wildebeest have competition for the new grass in the shape of the armyworm, which have invaded the plains in their millions to eat down the taller grasses. Armyworms, the scourge of the farmers are the migratory birds gain. European white storks, visiting from Eastern Europe have flocked to the area in their thousands to feast on the worms along with abdims and marabou storks. A local bird expert counted over sixteen thousand white storks in one flock on the plains and with a world population of only 400,000 that's quite something.

There has been great excitement on the bird front as for the first
time village weavers, also known as black-headed weavers, have been
breeding in large colonies around the Ndutu lodge grounds thus providing
great photographic opportunities. The resident wire tailed swallows
who raised three broods of fledglings last year are breeding again
in the bar. Huge flocks of wattled starlings are everywhere; the
breeding males have bright yellow heads and bizarre black wattles
making them a colourful addition to the already prolific bird life.

The night sky so far this month has been spectacular. The January sky was very disappointing with many overcast nights, but we were lucky enough to witness the moon eclipse in its full splendour. Venus is shining bright in the west and Jupiter and Saturn are easily seen overhead. Sitting out by the camp-fire in the evening Auriga (the herdsman) is visible in the north. The familiar Orion (the hunter) is squaring up to Taurus the bull whose fiery red eye looks down from directly above. Others easily seen at this time of year are Gemini (the twins), Pleiades (the seven sisters). Perseus (the hero) is just starting to disappear into the western horizon but is being replaced by the magnificent Leo the lion. It rises from the east and with a little imagination or a few sundowners actually looks like a lion.

With the above average rains, we have so far received, exciting times are sure to continue. The wildebeest will stay here as long as it keeps raining, The birds are nesting, butterflies and wild flowers are everywhere, the plains are just bursting with life. If you are planning to visit the Serengeti the coming months are sure to be special.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

Monday, 19 February

LOCATION   Ngorongoro Crater

WEATHER    Sunny

DETAILS

There have been several close encounters and sightings of interesting animal behaviour in the Crater today.  Three lion cubs took refuge from the hot sun under one of the Wildersun safari landcruisers; a herd of elephants passed within six feet of another Wildersun vehicle - so close that the passengers could actually hear them breathing; and finally, in the Gorigor Swamp, three buffalo were spotted enjoying a lengthy mud bath. 

This report was produced by the drivers and staff at Wildersun Safaris 

Friday, 9 February

LOCATION   Serengeti

WEATHER    Rain

DETAILS      

The Serengeti has finally been receiving a lot of much needed rainfall, and is green once more.  The Migration is east of the Gol kopjes, and, before reaching Naabi Hill, in the short grass plains, some wildebeest have begun calving.  There have also been some rare sightings in the area in the past couple of days.  The Aardvark is nocturnal and rarely seen, but one was sighted with three babies.  A caracal, a medium-sized lynx-like cat with reddish-brown coat and tufted ears, was also sighted.  This too is extremely unusual as, although fairly widespread, they are also nocturnal.       

This report was produced by the drivers and staff at Wildersun Safaris     

Did you like these reports? 

Email Tim at mailto:TimClark@wildlifetravel.net.

       

 

 

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