NGORONGORO,CALVING TIME

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Although the best months to spot wildlife are from July to September, February offers an excellent opportunity to see newborns of zebras and wildebeests.

Common Zebras are animals that usually live in family groups of one adult male (stallion), several females (mares), and their offspring.Several families of zebras join forming large herds.

Zebras performs periodically dust baths to clean their fur and remove parasites.They do it by rolling their bodies onto the dust.I had the privilege to presence this activity and take the picture that you can see below.

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Zebra males mature at the age of 4. At that age they compete with other males by kicking, pushing and biting at each other’s neck, head or legs.The victorious male forms an harem and mates with all its mares.The stallion has to defend his group from other males. When challenged, the stallion rubs his shoulder or nose with the other one as a warning sign.If the newcomer doesn’t follow the warning, a fight can start between them.

The gestation period of a mare lasts about one year.Once she give birth, the mare is ready again for breeding.Mares may deliver one baby, called foal, every year.The foal can stand and run within one day and start to eat grass within a week.Even though they continue to suckle for up to a year.Unfortunately the infant mortality rate is high, mainly due to predators like lions and hyenas.

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Wildebeests are animals that live also in large herds, mixed sometimes with zebras, to defend themselves from predators.

Males reach their maturity at about 4 years of age.When mating season comes, the herd splits into smaller groups. Males perform all type of antics to impress females.They paw the ground, rub their heads on it, gallop and buck around their territories. They can be very aggressive towards other males.They urinate and defecate to mark their territory and warn other bulls.Their mating season, which last 3 weeks, is usually timed so that most of calves are born close to the beginning of the rainy season when new grass is abundant.This occurs during the months of February and March.

The gestation period is about 8 months and a half.Most of the calves are born within a 3 weeks period.Once they give birth, the calves are able to stand and run within a day and graze also within a week.Afterwards they remain very close to their mothers due to they are an easy target for predators and they continue suckling for one year.Nonetheless their infant mortality rate is also high.

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In the picture above you can appreciate the paler coloration of calves.This is an adaptation to blend better with the environment to avoid predation.

Along the day i could see hyenas and lions actively looking for young calves.I could even witness a successful hunting of a young wildebeest by a Spotted Hyena.You can see it in the picture that i posted in my previous post.I felt very pity for the calf yet i thought that this is the way nature works, to hunt and not to be hunted.

If you check carefully the picture on top of the post you can see many calves of wildebeest.You can count them and post the number in a reply !

Even though i had already seen some of the animals in other national parks i enjoyed a lot in here.The high concentration of mammals and birds in such a small area was impressive and the astonsishing landscape  was something that i didn’t see anywhere else.I have to admit that this was my favourite national park hands down !!

Afterwards the driver dropped me in Karatu,where I slept one night.Next morning i arranged a trip with a motorcycle driver to Lake Eyasi,where i visited many interesting tribes that inhabit the shores of the lake.One of the most interesting ones was the Hadzabe, an ancient tribe that has kept their traditional nomadic style for thousands of years.See picture below.

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After Tanzania i went back to Kenya, where i visited Samburu NP and Mount Kenya, reports that you can see in my previous posts.

My next post i will talk about my following trip to Morocco, where i explored Ifran NP in search of Barbarian Monkeys !!

See you soon my friends !!!

 

 

NGORONGORO,AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

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Ngorogoro CA is a unique protected area situated between the Rift Valley and Serengeti NP. It contains an old volcano with the largest inactive and intact caldera in the world.Its huge crater and surroundings have become a natural enclosure for a wide variety of animals.It’s one of the best places in the world where to see Black Rhinos.

This area harbours one of the highest densities of predators in the world. Lions, hyenas, cheetahs and jackals are frequently seen and caracals, leopards and bat-eared foxes can be seen with some luck. Black Rhinos, wildebeests, buffaloes, elephants, zebras, warthogs, gazelles, elands, and hippopotamus are some of the herbivores that can also be found here.

Its birdlife is prolific as well, with more than 500 recorded species of birds.White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher,Livingstone Turaco, Hartaub’s Turaco, Kenya Rufous Sparrow,Rufous Chatterer, Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl, Black-winged Lapwing, Lesser Flamingo,African spoonbill, Red-and-yellow barbet, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Eastern double-collared Sunbird, Jackson’s Widowbird,Rufous-tailed weaver, Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Secretary Bird and Grey-crowned Crane are some of its highlights.November to April is the best time for birdwatching, when many migratory species are present and many resident birds are in breeding plumage.

There are also some Massai villages  around the rim, see picture below.

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We arrived in our campsite late evening.The campsite was nicely located on the rim of the volcano.The tents were a bit small although comfortable enough for one night.

Next morning we packed our things and headed towards the crater area after dawn.The day was a bit cloudy although the visibility was good enough.While we were descending towards the caldera,i got very impressed by the stunning landscape.

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The first mammal we spotted was a Caracal, a bit far from the distance.This animal is a bit difficult to spot and i was very happy to see it.He lay on the ground while he was scrutinising its surroundings. Notice its distinctive black ears.

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Caracals are wild cats usually found in dry areas of Africa,Middle East and India.They are mainly solitaire,territorial and nocturnal animals.They hunt medium-sized mammals like mongooses,monkeys, rodents,hyrax and occasionally larger preys like impalas,kudus or domestic livestock.Caracals are well known by its jumping skills, reaching heights of up to 3 meters to catch  birds.

A female warthog with her calves was our next sight.The protective mother was a bit nervous of our presence and started to run towards our car.Fortunately she stopped running just a few meters from us.

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African Buffaloes were quite abundant in here.These animals live in herds and are also very protective with their calves.When chased by predators they stick close to each other.They are very aggressive animals, being even able to kill lions and humans, producing  over 200 fatalities every year.

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Golden Jackals were very active in the first hours of the day.I saw them quite often digging to hunt rodents or other little animals.

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Ngorongoro was the area in all East Africa where i saw the highest concentration of lions.Early morning i spotted a pride of lions chasing a herd of wildebeests.The pride was made up of a young male, with an undeveloped main, and several females that were following him.It was an unforgettable moment that i always remember with awe.See the females of the pride on the picture below.

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The weather was getting worse and the visibility was very poor.We finally reached lake Mangadi, that is situated in the centre of the caldera.We saw an important concentration of Lesser Flamingoes and some Greater Flamingoes near its shore.

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Near there, we found a solitaire Black Rhino quite far.Black Rhino is a critically endangered species with a population of only 5000 individuals scattered in Eastern and Southern Africa.Black Rhinos are a bit smaller than White Rhinos. They have a pointed upper lip adapted to pick fruits and leaves from branches, while White Rhinos have a flat and wide lip adapted to graze on grasses.I took a picture of it that i had to heavily cropped.img_0492-2

Common Eland was another interesting animals seen quite far in this area.This animal is one of the largest herbivores in the world.It lives in large herds on the vast plains and savannahs of East and Southern Africa.They feed mainly on grasses and leaves and their main predators are lions,hyenas,wild dogs and cheetahs.

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We spotted a solitary Black Kite standing on the grass.A few meters farther we saw a male of Kori Bustard while he was displaying.Notice its inflated feathered neck and its vertical tail when he displayed.

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Abdim’s Stork were quite abundant in here.They were usually seen in groups of a few individuals.Notice the blue patch beside its beak and the red spot in front of its eye.

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The next bird we saw was Glossy Ibis, usually found in groups of 4 to 5 individuals.
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Around mid morning we saw a Spotted Hyena hunting a calf of wildebeest.

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A Common Ostrich was seen feeding on the grass.You can see the ostrich accompanied by two Blacksmith Lapwings on the picture below.

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We also spotted large herds of wildebeests and zebras and some bull elephants grazing on the grass.

Late morning we stopped in a resting area where i got entertained photographing birds.See a Rufous-tailed Weaver on the first picture,a Superb Starling on the second picture and a Speke’s Weaver on the third picture below.

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February is the best month in Ngorongoro to observe calves of zebras and wildebeests.

In my next post i will talk about the calving time in Ngorongoro, with some pics of calves !! Don’t miss it !!!

See you soon my friends !!

NGORONGORO BIRD CHECKLIST.FEBRUARY 2016

Common Ostrich

Cattle Egret

Black-headed Heron

Hamerkop

White Stork

Abdim’s Stork

Marabou Stork

Sacred Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Greater Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Egyptian Goose

Black Kite

Secretary Bird

African Fish Eagle

Rupell’s Griffon Vulture

Lappet-faced Vulture

Tawny Eagle

Helmeted Guineafowl

Grey-Crowned Crane

Kori Bustard

Blacksmith Lapwing

Spur-winged Lapwing

Namaqua Dove

Ring-necked Dove

Speckled Mousebird

Pied Kingfisher

Broad-billed Roller

African Pied Wagtail

Common Bulbul

White-browed Robin Chat

Olive Thrush

Northern Anteater Chat

African Paradise Flycatcher

Variable Sunbird

Superb Starling

Rufous-tailed Weaver

Speke’s Weaver

Southern Red Bishop

Straw-tailed Whydah

Other animals:

Plain Zebra

Wildebeest

Coke’s Hartebeest

African Elephant

Black Rhino

African Lion

Caracal

Eland

Thomson Gazelle

Hippopotamus

Warthog

African Buffalo

Vervet Monkey

Olive Baboon

Spotted Hyena

Golden Jackal

SERENGETI NP, AN EXTRAORDINARY SAFARI DAY

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Next morning i woke up early and checked the birds on the nearby area.Rupell’s Long tailed Starling,Superb Starling and a variety of weavers caught my attention quite a while.Afterwards we took breakfast and packed our things into the car.

While going back we saw a hot air balloon taking off.I thought it would be a fantastic experience to observe all the game from a bird’s eye view.The guide told me that the cost of a balloon trip was about 500 euros.

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Early morning, we spotted a group of a few topis, see first picture below, mixed with some hartebeests,see second picture below.Notice the characteristic dark bands and darker colour of the fur of topis when compared with hartebeests.

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After a while, we saw a group of impalas.The group consisted of one male with several females.You can see the horned male on the back of the picture below.

This diurnal hervivore feed on grasses and sometimes fruits and live near water sources or succulent plants if water is scarce.Males are territorial when mating, demarcating its territory with urine and feces.They are an habitual prey of lions,cheetahs and leopards.Notice the characteristic pattern on the backside of the animal.

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A bateleur was seen soaring the skies on the first hours of the day.Notice its distinctive red beak and white and black pattern of its feathers.

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Cheetahs were very active during the early morning looking for prey.This animal is well known for being the fastest land animal in the world, reaching speeds of up to 120 km/h.Its streamlined,slim and light body is perfectly adapted to accelerate rapidly in short distances.Large nasal passages,enlarged heart and lungs are other adaptations that ensure to maximise the amount of oxygen in blood and hence allowing them to run at high speed.

The claws, unlike in other felids that are fully retractable, are narrow and semi-retractable.They are easily differentiate from leopards by its slimmer body and black round spots, in contrast to the most robust body and black rosettes of leopards.Notice also its characteristic black tear marks on the face in the picture below.

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An African Mourning Dove was seen near the rough road mid morning.

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Later on,we headed towards the famous Hippo Pool.This place is home of about 150 hippos.The hippos were half submerged on a small pond while some of them were fighting against each other.

These herbivore animals like to spend most of the day into the water, while grazing on the grasslands at night.Their body is very well adapted to its semi-aquatic life.Their eyes,ears and nostrils are located in the upper part of the head, allowing  them to see and breathe while mostly submerged.Their skin secrete an oily substance that protects them from bacterias and ultraviolet rays.

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Hippos are territorial in water, marking their territory by defecation.When pooing they agitate their tail to spread their feces over a greater area.Hippos can be very aggressive defending its territory or protecting their calves.They are one of the most dangerous animals, alongside elephants, in Africa.They are responsible for many human fatalities every year by charging and attacking on boats.

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I stretched my legs around here, where I could get near a Grey-capped Social Weaver.This allowed me to take a close shot of this cuty bird.

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Our last stop was in Seronera Lodge.We took a stroll around this area, where we could see rock hyrax roaming around.

A dwarf mongoose was seen observing its surroundings attentively on a thick branch.

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Speckled-fronted Weaver was another nice addition to my bird checklist seen here.Notice its unmistakable black crown with white tips.

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We continued our trip along the road.On the way we could see again herds of zebras and wildebeests on the sides of the road.

We spent several hours before reaching the gate.The park was inmense.It was a short but intense experience although I would like to spend more time in here on my next visit.

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Next stop  Ngorongoro NP, a superb national park with mammals and birds roaming around a huge caldera !!!

See you soon my friends !!!