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  1. 41 likes
    Let’s get straight to the main point here. Bibi vs the Invaders was of course a “no contest”. “Right then. We’ll have no more of this invading. Naughty, naughty boys.” Note for Kenyans: Yes, we know ‘bibi’ means “wife” in Swahili but it is also “grandmother” in some areas of Tanzania and it is difficult to drop its use, even though using it in Kenya would have created all kinds of misunderstandings – like was my wife our adopted daughter or was I a bigamist with two wives (something that would not have raised an eyebrow in much of Samburu County)? One funny thing our guide Zarek told me was that he had assumed in past reports that Bibi was my wife, making Bibi’s comments and adventures hers, and creating a very confusing narrative! So I will probably more frequently use Mum or Mama this time around, with Bibi saved for “Bibi-like events”. We discussed the option of using the proper Swahili word “Nyanya”, but it also means “tomato” so that seemed likely to create even more misunderstandings, given that she was not grandmother to anyone on this trip. We stuck with “Mama” when discussing her with staff and guides and being a junior was just fine with my wife, who had a shocking “first” experience when she revealed her age to one of our young Samburu moran hosts at Sabache Camp. “How old are you?” “47” (Surprised) “Oh… Mama!” Actually the young moran nearly had a nasty experience too, but my wife was too shocked to get the slapping reflex going for days afterwards. Itinerary June 17 Boulevard Hotel, Nairobi (unscheduled) June18-19 Fishing Lodge, Aberdares National Park June 20-22 Sabache Camp, Namunyak Conservancy, Samburu County June 23-26 Saruni Samburu, Kalama Conservancy, Samburu County June 27- July 1 Kicheche Bush Camp, Olare Motorogi Conservancy July 2 Day room at Ololo Safari Lodge, Nairobi National Park So, a real Kenyan conservancy safari, without forgetting to pay our respects to the Daddy of them all, the Kenya Wildlife Service. Spending another small fortune may as well be virtuous. Of course the amount of love given to the NRT conservancies and the Samburu in particular was based on decisions made prior to the escalation of the Laikipia land invasions by the Samburu, and I probably wouldn’t have had quite the same itinerary if I had booked in May 2017. However, I checked out the security situation as thoroughly as I could and decided there was no reason to change things up, especially as Mum hadn’t read about the armed robbery in Samburu National Reserve and carelessly assumed that her son and daughter-in-law would never go anywhere that wasn’t completely safe anyway. And it did seem completely safe. While you can never say more than “seem” both Sabache and Saruni have good security and intelligence networks (although Saruni may need to review their protocols as the genet breached them a number of times) and our experience was very positive. The first 6 nights was a road safari with Zarek Cockar and team. The last 9 nights were genteel fly-in safari, coordinated by Chameleon Tours. The parts were knitted together with care by Chalo Africa. Main characters pault - Your narrator and most careful planner. What could go wrong? Mrs pault aka Mrs K aka wife - The only person I know who cried when arriving at a camp Bibi aka Mama aka Mrs. Tomato - The one and only Bibi, Queen of Adventure Zarek Cockar - A fine guide and a very good man to have an adventure with, but would he be able to answer all of Bibi’s questions? Job the moran - Driver and assistant guide for Zarek and occasional Samburu warrior Vincent - Our excellent cook brought by Zarek to Fishing Lodge Lepayon Lekotip & James Leitore - Our guide and spotter at Saruni Samburu - a great team but could they find the proverbial needle in a bone-dry haystack? Nelson Kasoe - Our guide at Kicheche Bush Camp – a recurring character in our adventures, and no bit player either. Could he do it again? I don’t think you’ll find this one as dull as the last one, although of course I would never expect to please everyone. Some highlights - with some surprises saved to make sure you don’t skip the full report Servals (yes, there is an s or two) Singing wells Bibi vs the camels Sleeping on top of Mt. Ololokwe (and getting up there!) I’m a wild dog magnet The fearsome genet that grew to the size of a leopard The Grevy’s megaherd Six hunts - arguably many more but half-hearted ones don’t count Four kills as a result of the hunts (but not always quite what you’d expect - including my most shocking safari moment ever) Zorilla (sorry @Tom Kellie – yes, again) Aardwolf and Striped Hyena? Oe were they one and the same? The beginning of the great rut Of course, as part of the ceasefire deal Bibi struck, my wife does now have to adapt to life as #3 wife of a Samburu elder....... apparently she's doing as well as could be expected.
  2. 34 likes
    This will be a fairytale. A story about two places. Far between. But connected in the way of wildlife and for some rare sightings. Part one will be a story about Marrick in South Africa and my search for the shy nocturnal animals who is roaming these lands. Was the reputation true? What did I find? Part two is a story about some characters in Okavango delta in the very high season when the flooding make the life easy for many animals. Not all, some of them will have a hard time. My story will tell... This part take place in Khwai Concession. In Marrick I stayed at Marrick lodge. Trevor Datnow and his crew make this to an exceptional place to stay. In Khwai I used WalkBotswanaSafaris and Gareth Flemix as a guide. Wild camping. Very luxury though with an attached toilet and shower built in the back of my tent. Even a proper bed and staff who make excellent food all the way. This was the real deal. I was there for wildlife, not sitting around in a lodge and spend most of the time to find a sunset point for a Gin/Tonic. Such a waste of time for the most perfect conditions for wildlife and photography. I can drink at home and I can hang around in a lodge at home. But I can definitely never ever photographing "African animals" in the sunset at home... WalkBotswanaSafaris fulfilled all my expectations. So let me introduce the stars of the show. These characters is where the most action were. But there will be others as well... First out, Marrick. My most sought after creature here was of course Black footed cat and Aardvark. We found alot of other things as well... African wildcat! I will tell you more day by day in my next posts. I had three nightdrives and one daytrip to Mokala NP. Oh hell... I almost forgot the Meerkats! There are alot of them around Marrick and also Mokala NP. Nice and cute family. Khwai Concession in Botswana is another story. About a Leopard family... The cub is around 3 month old. A Lion family... With cubs in most ranges... A Wild dog family. On the hunt... And 12 days old puppies who sees the sky for the first time in their life. Especially one of them who got lost and a very rough start (and maybe end) of his life... Here he is. A story about very rare sightings... ...and creatures who have some problem with all the water to collect food... ...while some others have more than enough and take full advantage of the pantry. African darter and Dwarf bittern. Now when the stars are introduced. We can start from the beginning in Marrick on day 1. To be continued...
  3. 32 likes
    Bale Mountains The title is compliments of the alliteratively talented @AndMic. Heading above the clouds last March along with @AndMic were @Michael-ibk and myself. We settled on the travel company, Ethiopian Quadrants, after some independent research and reaching out to other Safaritalk members who have gone to Ethiopia and have posted some great reports here. A key factor in choosing Ethiopian Quadrants was securing the guide @Nature Traveler had, Abiy Dagne. Red Jackal was also a company we considered and they provided timely, informative, and professional information. Traditional meal with injera bread After Ethiopia experienced some security problems in Oct 2016, we were cognizant of safety issues. Our investigations, contacts and especially our visit allayed any concerns. Absolutely nothing, even the least little bit unsettling occurred. As more time passes without incident, as more people heed Lonely Planet’s 2017 “Ten destinations you cannot afford to miss” (Ethiopia’s on the list), and as more accounts of successful travels to Ethiopia are shared, visitors are going to flock to Ethiopia. Geladas in Guassa, led by male Four safety anecdotes: 1) A hotel employee in Addis proudly described to me the beauty, wonder, and security of Ethiopia. He explained that the grass outside the city was so green and soft, it just beckoned you to lie down upon it. And when you did, he explained, “You can fall sound asleep on the grass and not one single animal or person will harm you.” 2) A longtime resident of Ethiopia from the UK explained he had no qualms walking around the city and heading home on foot at night. He added that he would not feel so safe in other African cities. (Or American cities, I might add, from my own experience.) 3) An NGO worker who had been all over Ethiopia for the past 3 years stated: “I could tape money to my naked body and walk the streets any time of day or night and nothing would happen to me.” None of us put that suggestion to the test. 4) At the end of our trip we were a few hours outside of Addis Ababa when we noticed several men approaching the street and waving machetes over their heads. They were making obvious eye contact and gestures toward our vehicle. Alarmed, I asked our guide and driver what was going on. “This is the town where they make knives and they are selling them.” Oh, nothing to fear, just free enterprise at work. Scenery bordering Guassa Ethiopian Endemic--Black-winged Lovebird, Addis Ababa, Ghion Garden ITINERARY, and some notable wildlife MARCH 2017 10 Met upon arrival and transferred to Jupiter International Hotel. Visa upon arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, no hassle. 20 minutes drive to Jupiter Hotel. I had arranged for a morning check-in. Day at rest. Ethiopian Quadrants owner,Tony Hickey, offered to host me for dinner that evening at his restaurant, but I was asleep when the invitation was granted and needed the recuperation time. 11 Depart Addis Ababa to Menz Guassa 7:10 – 7:30 Gentlemen arrived on early flight, drive to Ghion Unity House and Gardens 7:30 – 9:00 Birding at Ghion Unity House in Addis Ababa 9:00 – 11:00 Drive 11:00 –12:00 Birding at ponds/lakes between Addis and Debre Birhan 12:00 – 12:40 Drive to Debre Birhan 12:40 –1:50 Lunch at Eva Restaurant, Debre Birhan 1:50 – 5:30 Drive to Menz Guassa, Guassa Community Lodge Some Notable Endemic Birds Seen in/around Addis: Black-winged Lovebird, Black-headed Siskin, Abbyssinian Long-claw, Blue-winged Goose 12 Menz Guassa, Guassa Community Lodge Mostly walking 13 Menz Guassa, Guassa Community Lodge Mostly walking Some Notable Guassa Wildlife Seen: Wolves, Gelada, Blick’s Grass Rat, Serval, Klipspringer, Mountain/Gray/Common Duiker, Abyssinian Hyrax, Rouget’s Rail, White Collared Pigeons, Abyssinian Long-claw, and other Birds 14 Menz Guassa to Awash National Park 7:00 – 12:40 Drive to Addis, stopping about 15 minutes for Gelada 12:40 – 1:40 Lunch at Road Runner, same owner as Ethiopian Quadrants 1:40 – 4:50 Arrive at Awash Park Gate 4:50 – 6:30 Drive in park, arrive Awash Lodge 15 Awash National Park, Evening at Harar Hyena Den, Awash Lodge Walk and drive during the day 5:30 – 8:30 pm Drive, then walk to Harar Hyena Den 16 Depart Awash Lodge to Ali Deghe Wildlife Reserve, Doho Lodge 6:45 – 9:00 Drive Awash to Ali Deghe Wildlife Reserve, wildlife enroute 9:00 – 10:00 Game drive in Ali Deghe 10:00 –11:00 Drive to Doho Lodge, wildlife enroute 3:30 – 4:30 Drive Doho Lodge to Ali Deghe Wildlife Reserve, wildlife enroute 4:30 – 6:30 Game Drive in Ali Deghe Wildlife Reserve 6:30 – 7:30 pm Drive Ali Deghe to Doho Lodge, wildlife asleep 10:00 pm Night walk for Defassa Waterbuck Some Notable Awash & Ali Deghe Wildlife Seen: Soemmerring's Gazelle, Gerenuk, Grivet Monkey, Abyssinian Hare, Beisa Oryx, Hamadryas Baboon, Olive Baboon, Bat-eared Fox, Hyena, Salt’s Dik dik, Crocs, Somali Ostrich, Abyssinian Ground Hornbills, Arabian Bustard 17 Depart Doho Lodge for Lake Langano, Hara Lodge 6:30 – 7:30 Bird walk around lodge 8:45 – 2:10 Drive Doho Lodge to town of Ziway, wildlife enroute 2:10 –3:10 Lunch at Bethlehem Restaurant, Ziway 3:15 – 3:30 Tree Hyrax walk and viewing in Ziway 3:30 – 4:30 Drive Ziway to Abijatta- Shalla National Park, wildlife enroute 4:30 – 6:00 Walk in Abijatta- Shalla National Park 6:00 – 7:00 pm Drive to Lake Langano, Hara Lodge 18 Lake Langano, Hara Lodge Walking Some Notable Lake Langano Wildlife Seen: Banded Barbet, Black-winged Lovebird, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Double-toothed Barbet, , Colobus Monkeys, Gambian Sun Squirrel, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Northern Carmine Bee Eater, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, White-cheeked Turacao 19 Drive Lake Langano to Bale Mountain Lodge 8:00 –9:20 Bird walk, Bishangari at Lake Langano 9:20 – 2:30 Drive Lake Langano to Gaysay Grasslands of Bale National Park 2:30 – 2:55 Game drive Gaysay Grasslands 2:55 – 3:15 Drive to Park Headquarters, Dinsho 3:30 – 6:45 pm Game Drive through Sanetti Plateau and reach Bale Mountain Lodge 20, 21, 22, 23 Bale Mountain Lodge Forest walks, drives to Sanetti Plateau, drive to Gaysay Grassland, grassland and owl walk Some Noteable Bale Wildlife Seen: Ethiopian Wolf, Giant/Big-headed Mole Rat, Blick's Grass Rat, Bale Monkey, Starck's Hare, Mountain Nyala, Menelik's Bushbuck, Reedbuck, Colobus Monkey, Abyssinian Catbird, Blue-winged Goose, Lammergeier, Rouget's Rail, Spot-breasted Plover, Thick-billed Raven, Wattled Ibis, White-cheeked Turacao 24 Drive Bale Mountain Lodge to Hawasa, Halile Resort 7:35 –12:15 Depart Bale, mostly game drive 12: 15 – 1:35 Lunch Meeboon Restaurant 1:35 – 6:00 pm Complete drive to Hawassa, Halile Resort 25 Drive Hawassa to Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa. Fish Market & Senkelle Sanctuary 7:00 – 7:15 Drive Halile Resort to Fish Market 7:15 – 8:15 At Fish Market 8:15 – 9:50 Drive to Senkelle Sanctuary 9:50 – 11:15 Walk through Senkelle Sanctuary 11:15 – 4:30 pm Arrive Jupiter Hotel 6:00 – 6:15 Drive from Jupiter Hotel to Roadrunner Restaurant for farewell dinner 6:15 – 8:30 Farewell Dinner, joined by Tony Hickey, owner of Ethiopian Quadrants 8:30 – 8:50 Drive from Roadrunner Restaurant to airport Some Notable Fish Market Wildlife Seen: Marabou Storks, Black Crake, Grivits Monkey Some Notable Senkelle Sanctuary Wildlife Seen: Oribi, Swayne’s Hartebeest, Northern Carmine Bee-eater Yellow-billed Ducks, outside of Addis Ababa Me at Awash Falls
  4. 31 likes
    "Guassa" is not only the name of the place but also the community´s lifeblood: "Guassa" - or Festuca abyssinica - is the Amharic name for the special grass growing here, slightly taller and coarser than ordinary grass. The locals use it as grazing fodder, to thatch cottages, to mix with mud for housebuilding, to make whips and ropes, to make raincoats known as "gesa" and much much more. Not a national park but something unique, the area is managed through a common property resource system by the communities living adjacent to the area. This indigenous management system has been traced back to the 17th century and is one of the oldest conservation management systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Because Guassa, the grass, is invaluable to the locals they have a good incentive to take care of the place which is of course hugely beneficial to the local wildlife. They are financially supported by the Frankfurt Zoological Society which also tries to assist the communites in practicing sustainable resource management. In part thanks to their work Guassa was gazetted in 2012 as the first community conservation area in Ethiopia. One more of the endemics - the huge Thick-Billed Raven, the largest corvid. Standing guard on the lodge´s roof. Another endemic - the White-Collared Pigeon. The Society also helped in constructing the self-catering lodge here which is the only accomodation for tourists. All revenue goes to the community. The lodge in the background Is this a great place to stay? Well, I will be honest. The rooms are rather damp and extremely basic. No sanitary facilites in the room. The one sink they have outside did not work, so we had no running water at all which was a nuisance. The shower did not work (but it was way too cold to get one anyway.) Let´s really not talk about the toilet. And it´s getting very, very cold up here - Ethiopian Quadrants provided us with warm sleeping bags which was welcome indeed. The eating room was ok. We had our own cook, a local, who prepared a combination of pasta - potato - rice with tomato and sometimes meat. Nothing special but absolutely alright. The evenings were quite cosy, the huge fire really was very pleasant. I did my very best to also warm myself up from inside and "enjoyed" a bottle of "Ethiopian Gin" (some brown extremely strong stuff made from barley) with our driver Bege (who knew he did not have any driving duties the next day) and our local guide. Miraculously I survived without getting sick, just a decent good old hang-over the next day. One evening we were joined by a party of four, two expats living in Addis who had visited their parents to show them the country. A fun meeting, and what they told us about living in Ethiopia and its people was very positive. (This was the guy Lynn mentioned plastering his naked body with money btw). All in all, the lodge is extremely basic - which I do not mind as such, simple can be absolutely alright. Unfortunately I also felt the place is not very well kept (and not very clean). All the facilites (running water, shower, even electric lights) are in place, they just do not work because they are being neglected. A bit of a shame, with only a bit of an effort the lodge could be much nicer. But - who cares! There are Wolves there! And it´s such a unique place, unlike anything else I´ve ever been to, majestic and simple at the same time, silent and powerful, plain and grand. And most important of all - it´s home to the Geladas!
  5. 31 likes
    We stopped for lunch at Debre Birhan and had our first try of the local food! While the toppings were really good we agreed that Injera, a flat-bread with a somewhat spongy texture used both as plate and eating instrument, would need a bit of time to get acquainted to. Pretty weird and sour stuff. Ethiopians love it and eat it with everything, each household has their own recipe. Little did I know at that time that I would definitely not learn to like it but rather hate, hate, hate and detest it and would swear never, ever, absolutely really never ever again to touch this devillish stuff again. But more on that later. We drove up onto the highlands, on steep, winding roads through idyllic villages which seemed a bit out of time, like something from eras long past. In a good way - obviously people here don´t have much, but everything was tidy, and the locals looked content. It was already late afternoon when we finally reached Guassa Plateau. Straight away we found our second endemic - the Abyssinian Longclaw. After settling in at the "lodge" AndMic and me decided to have a look around the place. It was already very cold, and we planned to escape the freezing shadows and enjoy the last shimmers of sun on a hill close by. And enjoyed the golden light Guassa´s long grass was bathing in. But wait - what is that? Surely not a ... YES! A wolf, only 15 minutes after we arrived at the place. Supersuperlucky! Humdidum, we couldn´t believe our luck! While we had hoped for Wolves here we did not really expect it, from everything we´d read we knew that sightings were few and far between. But here it was - right at our feet. We carefully climbed down the hill and tried to approach the Wolf who luckily was busy - it was hunting for rodents. So how shy would it be? Would it allow us to get a bit closer? Well, this one was not very attentive. Completely oblivious to us it was totally fixated on getting a snack for dinner. Jump jump everybody! When suddenly it realized it was not alone, it stared at us indignantly and ran ran ran. Apparently this one is a bit different from the Bale population, the "Northern Ethiopian Wolf" (subspecies Canis simensis simensis), found here at Guassa (about 50), the Simiens (about 100), Mount Guna (probably extinct there) and the Wollo highlands (around 40). Interestingly enough it seems the southern subspecies has a "longer nasal bone". Contrary to that, my impression was that the Wolves at Guassa had a somewhat more elongated snout. The Wolf did not stop until it had reached a safe distance to us. Their population in Guassa seems to go up a bit. Wiki says there are 40, a Gelada researcher told us a recent count had come up with 54. The Golden Jackal (which was recently promoted to Golden "Wolf") is their rival here, and the two animals apparently do not get along too well. Abiy thought it could be beneficial to remove the (least vulnerable) Jackals from the area to ease the tension for the Wolves and ensure their survival. As the light was going down we spotted a second Wolf pretty close. We would not see the Wolves again in Guassa. This was a super-precious sighting we had not even dared dream of, even more special because we saw them on foot. I said to Andrew that Lynn would kill us once we´d tell her of what we had found. But I needn´t have worried, Lynn was right behind us, and even saw one Wolf more than we had. Just as the first Wolf focused on the rodents had not noticed us we hadn´t seen Lynn, transfixated as we were on our canine object of desire.
  6. 31 likes
    The cartographer bug bit. We traversed a small area of this expansive and fascinating country, as shown in red. It was more driving than most African safaris we have done. Thank goodness we had such a pro in Begashaw, or Bega for short. That man could motor! In keeping with the title of the report, that emphasizes “endemics,” the next map is where we saw some of the endemics. It is possible I omitted a bird species or two. Temps and elevations could be a little extreme, so they are noteworthy. And we did see wolves! I believe the count went like this: Guassa = 3* Bale = 3, 2, 12, 2, 6 for a total of 25 in 5 outings. The gentlemen may have spied even more in Bale. * The gentlemen saw 2 wolves in Guassa. I saw #3 while they were getting fantastic photos of #1 jumping off the ground. Collage from Bale At times they even hunted - from Bale
  7. 29 likes
    MARRICK DAY 1 After a 2 hour delayed flight between Johannesburg - Kimberley I was very much going from the airport right on my first nightdrive. Trevor, the owner of Marrick safaris had of course prepared dinner for me on arrival and then I went straight out in the darkness. My guide was Johnny. He knew this land like his pockets and is very very knowledge about where and when to find things. But damn it was cold! Winter in Kimberley....Brrr... Gloves and hat on. One of the targets here in Marrick is the Smith´s red rock hare. This species have a very narrow range with two different populations in Africa. Here in South Africa and also one in Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi. Here in Marrick it took Johnny 5 minutes to find them for me in a rocky outcrop close to the lodge. Sometimes they are very difficult to see though. This was not one of those days... Very long distance though. The other targets was of course Aardvark and the Black footed cat. This is probably the best place in Africa for them. But also Aardwolf was on my list. It didn´t take very long before Johnny spotted eyeshine from a very long distance in the high, dry grass. I have no idea how he managed to see this because i almost couldn´t see it even though I knew exactly where it was. He told me that he was almost certain that this is a Black footed cat... ...and YES, my 10th species of cat was now a fact! We waited some 15-20 minutes for the cat to move from the high grass and suddenly we could see him on a small termite mound or something. Quite far away but very clear. I was more than happy! Black footed cat is the second smallest cat in the world, only beaten by the Rusty-spotted cat in Asia. Very very small and cute. This is a big male... We continued on the grass plains and the next stop was a bit larger cat. An African wildcat. Only the second time for me to see one and by far the best sighting of one. He actually walked towards us and we just sat and waited in the car for the cat to come closer. Johhny told me that this was a pure wildcat, no crossbreed, Stripes all the way on the legs, the reddish color on the back of it´s ears and the size told him that this was a pure African wildcat. Actually, after a few minutes when we had leaved this cat we come across a hybrid. The difference was quite clear. Even for me. They should take them away, kill them if you ask me. Next animal was my other main target, Aardvark! They have no eyeshine so no reflection in the light. This means you have to look for movements. For like a "rock who moves" in the dark. Johnny was an expert in this. So, there it was! I lifer for me and the very sought after, Aardvark! I threw up my camera just to get the proof. You all know this feeling when you see something new and all that you care about is to get it in your camera. No matter how bad the picture is. Like a proof or something This was mine... He was quite shy and walked away in the grass. After 1 ½ hour I had already both of my targets which was an overwhelming feeling. Some Red crested Korhaan´s in the grass as well. Later on we came across another Aardvark. This one stayed much longer in the spotlight and posed quite well for us. I couldn´t believe this place. The reputation was really true! Bad eyesight makes them sniffing in the air. This night we also saw around 10 Bat eared foxes. They are very common here. One of them decided to come really close. Another very, very common creature here is the Springhare. A funny rodent. I think we saw like 30-50 of them every night. They are everywhere. Just before coming back home we saw another two Smith´s red rock hare on a different rocky outcrop. Totally 4 of them tonight which was unusually good. I was more than satisfied with my first nightdrive. The only missing target, Aardwolf fooled us this night. But a new chance tomorrow. Where I will also visit Mokala NP in the morning and daytime. More of Mokala NP in the next post. Summary first nightdrive: 4 Smith´s red rock hare 1 Black footed cat (male) 2 Aardvark 10 Bat eared fox 1 African Wildcat 1 Hybrid cat 30-50 South african Springhare 1 Scrub hare
  8. 28 likes
    Okay, that's done so I can finally move on to the last full day of our trip, although since we wouldn;t be flying our until midnight that isn't technically true. We had already agreed with Nelson that we'd make a full day in the Reserve and that our target would be the five male cheetah coalition... first time we had actually set him a specific target. But first we had to get out of the conservancy, and a few things did delay us. We were barely 5 minutes out of camp when we spotted hyenas and then notr-a-hyena - an aardwolf. There is a den near Kicheche so this isn't unique (we spotted one last time, two years before) but it certainly requires a bit of luck. In the interests of fairness, I would like you to notice the buffalos grazing in the background of this shot. The aardwolf moved on (very skittish) and so did we, to find the remains of that lion kill we had missed the morning before. We weren't interested in spending time with the whole pride, but there was no way we could pass up the pre-adult lions who had stolen away some wildebeest bits and pieces, whether from that kill or another, and brought them up on to a ridge for a chew, where they had attracted some hyena admirers. Their position, just before sunrise, was the most interesting thing! Hyenas and lions - BFF Of course in reality the hyenas and lions were not quite BFF, but they seemed to know their places and be comfortable just a few meters apart. The lion kill is visible down the slope in the background, with attendant vehicles. The hyenas did their thing and the young lions did theirs. The lions' thing was mainly chewing and licking The hyenas were a bit more active, with some individuals coming and going - I would guess this was close to the heart of their territory and they were very familiar with these particular lions. They might have been less chilled if one of the full-grown females had been around. Anyway, we had to leave them because we had to go and try to find those cheerahs, and preferably before the light got too harsh. Would we? Well, you have to know the answer to that by now, so perhaps the questions are how long would it take us and would it be a glance among a crowd of vehicles or a leisurely hour in their company on our own?
  9. 28 likes
    The afternoon started off in a similar vein but got very interesting as the clouds darkened and the rain came. It was a day when the rain certainly didn't spoil the experience. Still pottering around catching up on the things I hadn't photographed properly here yet. A terrapin A wattled plover The sky was getting quite gloomy but this little newborn giraffe brightened things up. So small compared to its mother More giraffes And then it started to get very dark. We were going to get rained on. A rainbow came and went quickly, I wonder if giraffes get struck by lightening? And then the rain came and it was heavy, We closed down the sides of the vehicle but I kept one flap open for my camera and put its raincoat on. I put my poncho on too, but it didn't help much as the rain gathered in a pool on my seat, with their waterproof covers. And the rain didn't stop. It slowed down slightly but it was here for the rest of the evening for sure. We could barely see so Nelson had little chance of spotting anything and were almost ready to give up (but not yet!!). Then Charles or Patrick called and said some lions looked like they might be plotting a hunt, using the rain as cover. So we slid our way over to where they were as fast as we could in the circumstances, crossing previously nearly dry luggas that were suddenly flowing fast, and arrived to see a herd of wildebeest backs against the rain. Nelson located the stalking lioness for me and I tried to work out how I could possibly shoot a hunt in this murk, and to get myself ready. Within 45 seconds of us stopping the wildebeest scattered and I looked wildly for a lion in the rain and murk, just spotting it in time to see it leap on a wildebeest calf. Naturally, theses shots do not reflect how dark it was. The lioness dragged the calf into the bushes and so we had to drive around the other side to get a view. Having killed the wildebeest and stashed it, the lioness went off to call her cubs and the sub-adults to feed. They were all sheltered somewhere, but came out when called. Dinner!!!!!! Of course,being cats, they got distracted on the way,,,,,, Climbing A tasty puddle Greetings And some weren't even hungry in the end, but enjoyed the social side of it all. The kill was in the bushes and it was nearly dark now but the sky was interesting and so I suggested we go for a quick sundowner in the rain, which was lighter now. And that was the wet end of another very interesting day!
  10. 27 likes
    We´ll get back to the Geladas - but meanwhile, an interlude with another unexpected Guassa highlight. On the second day we were going to the hill we had seen the Wolves from, trying to locate them again. No luck. But Abiy, untiringly scanning with bincos and also his scope, found something equally interesting: A Serval! Really a testament to Abiy´s abilities as a guide, the local guide had never seen one, and also the Gelada researcher could not believe our luck - she only knew it from camera traps. The Serval was far off - many hundred metres, the other side of the swamp that was separating us from it. I asked Abiy if it would make sense to try to approach. He suggested to me to try it on my own but told me not to expect much - it would probably run very soon. And so I went down, across the swamp, pretty breathless, it was difficult to walk on the bumpy ground. But so exciting - how cool was this, trying to get close to a Serval on foot? And I was lucky again - the Serval trusted in its camouflage and stayed put. As a matter of fact, even though I knew exactly where it was it was difficult for me to remember the spot. There were no distinguishing features here in the landscape, and everytime I looked away (which I had to because I had to watch where I was going) it was difficult to relocate it. It blended in perfectly. The closer I got the more it crouched down, until I could only see its ears. Until it grudgingly came to the conclusion that hiding was not enough in this situation - and off it ran: After a while it stopped, hid again, and our game of cat and mouse started anew: But soon it retreated again, and I let it be - thrilled with my very own Serval hunt on foot!
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    But of course the main attraction was the incredibly fascinating plant life. Kidding! Now we´re talking - Geladas! As mentioned before we mainly walked around in Guassa, and found plenty of them, dozens, maybe hundreds. But of course we did not know that when we started walking, and actually were nervous if we would get to see them at all. And indeed, we had to walk for almost an hour until Abiy finally told us we were close. They retreat to the steep cliffs for sleeping, to be out of reach for predators. Once it´s warming up they are returning to their feeding grounds - Geladas are pure grazers. Our very first Gelada! And soon we made contact with the first proper troup: Enjoying a morning breeze. Spending time with the Geladas was one of the most peaceful things I have ever done. We were all alone with them, and after a while they did not mind us at all, and allowed us to mingle with them. What did they think of us? Were we part of the troop for them? Lynn did go to extremes to blend in:
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    After re-assembling our well-tried safari trio from India Abiy first took us to a restaurant in Addis after our long flights to have some breakfast and coffee. Of course we couldn´t sit still for very long, so soon ended up doing a bit of birding in the garden. There are 40 endemic birds in Ethiopia, and we found the first of them right away: The Black-Winged Lovebird Abyssinian Thrush - recently confirmed as a separate species from the very similar Olive Thrush. Tacazze Sunbird - the most common sunbird this trip Dusky Turtle Dove - a new bird for me, very common in the capital. And their cousins, Red-Eyed Doves. We did not have too much time too linger, it´s quite a long drive to Guassa, our first station, so soon embarked on our journey. One stop along the way was made for more birding (do not worry, we´ll get to the mammals very soon), at a nice pond close to the main road. Black-Necked Heron Yellow-Billed Ducks. Whenever we were close to human settlements it never took long for kids turning up, chuckling, following us around and wondering what the hell we were doing here in the middle of nowhere, running after something as uninteresting as birds.
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    No Ambo that I noticed @Inyathi. Overall, food was good and much of what we chose could be considered western cuisine. One common characteristic that I noted throughout was that the food was a little spicy for me, but I am a wimp when it comes to hot stuff. Littlest Gelada once again Group R, studied by Kaylee the researcher, getting a drink Flowing Geladas Such expressive eyes - they don't look real Yesheesh, our local guide, part of Guassa Community Lodge Me in the cold, early morning Guassa from the hilltop Double bums
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    But I´m getting ahead of myself. So, what to do in Guassa? This is not safari country, "game drives" do not really work here. Very few roads, and to get to the good stuff you have to mainly use your feet. Which can be quite exhausting - the plateau is roughly 3500 m above sea level, and one quickly notices the thin air. And with 100 km² there´s a lot of ground to cover. Four different raptors? No, this is all the same bird, the Augur Buzzard, omnipresent in the area. It comes in a lot of different morphs. After a while one gets a bit disappointed about them. "Is this a new raptor, Abiy?" - "No, Augur Buzzard again." - "Oh". We also saw a few Vultures and Harriers, but none of them as close as the Buzzard. Just like in Bale there are a lot of rats and mice around and are providing ample food for all the raptors. They are tiny and shy - we never managed to get close. This one was living in the lodge, however. Do not ask me about the species - I have given up. Maybe Blick´s Grass Rat, Abyssinian Meadow Rat, Unstriped Grass Rat - take your pick. What about other mammals? The brochures say they also have Leopard, Civet and Spotted Hyena. The researcher we chatted with confirmed that there are Hyenas around but they have never seen Leopard. Our local guide insisted, though, that they are in the area. We did see one Golden Wolf/Jackal but from a great distance. Antelopes? We found a couple of Common Duikers, twice. And these rocky areas ... ... are of course perfect terrain for Klippspringers. We saw them twice, a pair and a group of four. All very shy and not approachable. Which can´t be said about the Alpine Chat - a bold little guy. Some great vistas to be found in Guassa especially where the plateau drops down. Some more birds from the area: Blue-Winged Goose, another Ethiopian endemic Groundscaper Thrush African Stonechat Fan-Tailed Raven Wattled Ibis, a signature bird of the highlands. Another endemic. Yellow Bishop Brown-Rumped Seedeater, another - you guessed it - endemic to the horn. Endemic overload - White-Winged Cliff Chat And another exclusive Horn-inhabitat - the Abyssinian Wheatear
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    MARRICK DAY 2 NIGHTDRIVE Oh man, this night was even more chilly. A cold wind swept across the grass plains. The animals seemed not to care about it as much as I did though... No Smith´s red rock hares today on the rocky outcrops close to lodge. Yesterday they were many and today none. Maybe they didn´t like the cold wind after all. The first creature was an Spotted eagle owl. The second creature of the night was an Aardwolf. The one we missed yesterday. Only very brief sighting of it as it run away on a big distance back into the darkness. Only 10 minutes afterwards there was another Aardwolf! This time much better sighting. Still big distance and a skittish animal who just wanted to escape in the grass but it was a satisfying lifer for me. Unfortunately no pictures worth posting of it. Then we stumbled on probably the same male Black footed cat as yesterday. This time we approached it. To see if it were cooperative. It was very relaxed and I got the pictures I so much wanted. Couldn´t wish for a better Black footed cat sighting than this. A beautiful creature. It was so relaxed that it eventually started to sneak for prey in the grass instead of looking at us. Maybe for prey like this one, a Gerbil mouse or Large eared mouse as it is also called. We saw a couple of them this second night. A "stone" was moving in the grass. That means Aardvark. Jonnhy, my guide, spotted another one for me this night. First in the high grass, but we saw it was moving towards the road and waited for him to come out... ...Which it did. Another great Aardvark sighting! Also around 10 Bat eared foxes and 30-50 Springhares this night. Another creature who seemed to like the cold night was porcupines. Three of them showed themselves this night. Only brief sightings when they quickly moved into the grass and disappeared. No pictures. The last eyeshine of this night was another Black footed cat! This time a smaller female. She was on her lookout point over the plains. They are almost like mini-cheetahs. Very much like to get up on termite mounds for better visibility. Quite big distance and we did not do an attempt to approach as we were more than happy with our first sighting of them. The 3 hour nightdrive session was over and the summary this night were: 2 Black footed cat (1 Male and 1 Female) 1 Aardvark 2 Aardwolf 3 Porcupine 2 Gerbil mouse (Large eared mouse) 10 Bat eared foxe 30-50 Springhare One nightdrive left and the only missing thing now was a decent photo of the Aardwolf...
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    Great Spotted Woodpecker Red Squirrel The Red Squirrel is the native squirrel in the UK, however it has disappeared from most of England. (I have never seen one in England but see Greys every day in our garden). The American Grey Squirrel was introduced in the 1870s. It has since has spread across most of the Red’s range. There are now an estimated 140 000 Red Squirrels (down from an estimated 3.5 million) compared to 2.5 million Greys. Red Squirrels are still found in Scotland and efforts are in place to encourage and support them. A feeder has been developed that the squirrels can access, but not birds or other creatures
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    Geladas are closely related to Baboons but not a species of Baboons - they are put in their own genus "Theropithecus" which means Man-Ape. Relics of cooler times in Africa they are now only found in the Ethiopian highlands. Lots of young ones among them - always a joy to watch. These slightly older three rascals were obviously up to no good. Grass is not very nutritious so they have to eat basically all the time - and they do: Their thick fur keeps them well insulated - but sometimes makes them look like hairy little blobs.
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    MARRICK DAY 2 Mokala NP is 1½ hour away from Marrick and this is wehere I spent this morning and afternoon. Mokala NP is South Africa´s newest nationalpark established in 2007. A beautiful park with different environments from rocky areas, to plains, forest and lowland bushes. A great potential for a wide range of species. No big cats in the park... so far. They do talk about introduce Cheetah... They are also in a process to expand the park even more. Also very quite. It seems like Mokala NP lies off the radar for most people. Trevor at Marrick easily organize a trip here if you want to go. He have a retired friend, an enthusiastic birder with a great knowledge of the park, who is more than happy to bring you here. Tsessebe´s walking away in the morning light. Black wildebeest´s thriving in this park. Actually they were a lifer for me so I gave them some extra notice. Walking in gold... Red Hartebeest and Zebra also thriving here. My guide showed me a Barn owl nest with some youngsters inside. Barn owl, also a lifer for me... very strange when I think about it. Roan Antelopes are also introduced here. Even though it´s outside their natural habitat. Both White and Black Rhinos exists in Mokala, the latter is very rarely seen though. I saw a few White Rhino´s this day. Nyala Family drinking... I asked my guide if there is any Meerkats around this park and I barely open my mouth before he said.... "there they are!" A quite skittish Meerkat colony looked at us as we watched them. As in Marrick, Bat eared foxes were very cooperative. We stumbled upon two different couples during my day. Funny looking when they leans back their ears like this... Some other small carnivores... Black backed jackal lurking around a waterhole. Yellow mongoose´s on the hunt... The beautiful Oryx and the "stand still like a stone"-Steenbok were in the area as well. There is some +150 species of birds in Mokala but probably more than that as the birdlist is very much incomplete due to the fact that the park is only 10 years old. We looked a bit for the Pygme Falcon as they are quite common here but unfortunately didn´t find it. The world´s most numerous bird, Red billed quelea was however present in very good numbers... Here sipping for a drink. In some sort of a bird-mayhem they went back and forward to drink. Three banded plover was not very happy with their low numbers compared to the Quelea and started to make more... Didn´t had any expectations at all about Mokala as it was a blank paper for me. But it was a very pleasant day with a great guide and a beautiful, quiet park. If you are in Marrick I do recommend a visit here. Now time to go back for my second nightdrive. I still have some species to tick off. Especially Aardwolf.
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    We wanted to meet the Gelada researcher @Kitsafari and @Sangeeta had encountered but their camp was empty - obviously they were out there on the job. No problem, because at least in this area we saw Giant Lobelia - always beautiful, I love these. Even though Guassa is a huge success story it´s not without problems. People need to get from A to B up here, many villages around, and apparently they have found the road to be no longer sufficent - so they are in the process of expanding. Which will mean more and faster traffic - never a good thing (for the animals). For the moment, the Geladas did not mind at all. And with views like this we soon forgot about this glaring wound in the landscape. And after a while trekking through lonely valleys, totally soaking in the wonderful solitude of Guassa, that perfect silence ... ... we met Kaylee, the young researcher, with "her" Geladas. We accompanied her for quite a while, always on the move following the Geladas which don´t stay put in one place for very long. Kaylee has been here for almost a year now, and is always on her legs studying her troop. An exhausting work with little comfort to be enjoyed in the basic researcher´s camp, but it was obvious she was loving what she was doing. And so she told us about the different character traits she had found in her entrustees, patient Leia, angry Arya, noble Oberyn and Cersei who is nothing but trouble. Yes, she´s naming them all, and she´s "a bit" into SciFi. The valley we were traversing with her until we parted again was wonderfully tranquil - one of my favourite places in Guassa. These were the only locals we met during our treks. To cap the Guassa section off (on my part) a few more Geladas. Admit it - sometimes all of you take shots just for the "Show us your bums" thread. Really no need to venture out far to see the Geladas - they are coming right to you! As mentioned the Geladas generally were very peaceful ... ... but just a couple of times, some of them got into squabbles: But soon everything was forgiven and forgotten and everybody was going for food again. Final Geladas - awesome animals indeed, and Guassa is a fantastic place to see them, I could easily have spent another day with them.
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    I forgot one sighting! An oribi. I had to confirm identification as, quite incredibly, Nelson had never seen one that he could remember. We'd come across them on our first two safaris so remembered the tell-tail signs ( a reedbuck in the wrong place that is too crouched over and has too sharp a face, a steenbuck that is too big..... and then look at the ears... yes it is an oribi). We had crossed the Talek for breakfast and ended up down by the Mara River. There were huge numbers of wildebeest and it was clear the southerners had arrived (the panoramic shots above are from this morning). There were also big herds of eland and buffalo and I am not sure why I didn't take pictures of these. I think I expected better light for them later but really I just wasn't thinking straight because we didn't see them later! We saw large herds gathering on the banks of the river at three different spots but we didn't have any desire to sit around waiting for a crossing in the sun with a crowd. For some reason they were all heading south, while all the other wildebeest we had seen had been heading north - there didn't seem to be much logic to it. However, the sheer numbers of wildebeest were keeping anything else away and it was getting a bit hot for the predators - in fact it was turning into a surprisingly hot day. In the end, Nelson found us a spot in shade with a decent view (although a little far away) of the herd that his riverside based contacts deemed most likely to be about to cross, and we just enjoyed the shade, birdsong and what little breeze there was and watched the wildebeest and hippos (as this crossing spot took them right past a pod of hippos). Sure enough, we only had to wait about 40 minutes. Even this we wouldn't have bothered, but like I said there was little going on and it was a pretty sure thing - plus I admit after the cheetahs and the masses of wildebeest in the ocean of yellow grass we were like people who had eaten a very large lunch being offered more food a little later and just kind of picking at it absentmindedly. It was quite a pretty scene and strange being at a distance that there was no sound at first and even when the sound did arrive, it was relatively quiet. I liked the spot though - no doubt one of the back-up spots for watching crossings when there is not a spot to park at on the banks from July to September. When the crossing got underway the hippos on that bank crossed too, to get out of the way. They knew what was coming. What was coming was that it was going to start raining wildebeest. Incredibly only one was injured in the cliff leaps. I'd set up the camera to frame the scene nicely but the wildebeest had foiled my plans by crossing slightly further up that I had expected. Eventually they started to cross in the right (and logical as there was a less steep descent there) place. Nearly right! That's it! This is what I wanted. The hippos kept a wary eye on the wildebeest but didn't interfere, and neither did a crocodile who was probably already full after the crossings the other way that there must have been in the preceding days. Bart the one wildebeest injured falling off the bank, all made it across. After that we watched the wildebeest rutting and running some more and then found a big journey of giraffes, which was quite impressive! There were more than 20. most of which are here. Another panorama you should be able to click on and enlarge. After lunch (and boy was it difficult to find a spare tree even on 1 July) crossing back across the Talek we watched some wildebeest, zebras and topis do the same and tried to take some different angled shots of this micro-crossing, with mixed success. Back in Olare Orok we pottered around for another 2-3 hours without seeing an awful lot. A relaxed reedbuck was another "first since Aberdare NP". A little-ringed plover had something in its mouth - a seed I guess? A sandgrouse - yellow-throated possibly although I should look through my files as I have a picture of the male somewhere too. And a secretary bird. We got back to camp before sunset and watched it from our tent as the herds had arrived and the camp was surrounded by wildebeest and impala, making a racket as they rutted away. We spotted eland. banded mongooses and gazelles too, without the aid of binoculars, but I didn't bother photographing any of it. With departure the next day i was feeling rather sad, but also quite happy. Anyway it was a time for wine, not a telephoto. I'll wrap up in the next post - not much more to come really - no last minute drama although I am going to have a moan about something, just because I can!
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    I am not even going to try to build the "can Nelson find them?" suspense. We made one request - to see the coalition of five male cheetahs (not all from the same mother) if at all possible. We went to an area near to Mara Explorer Camp along the Talek River where I think Nelson had heard they might be hanging out - although we had no radio or other contact that morning so it was just a "recently seen near...." tip from the evening before I think. We looked here, looked there, and then found a large gathering of wildebeest looking like they were about to cross the Talek North- South or West-East (it's a windy river of course, but heading towards Olare Motorogi). We said "nah, stick to the plan" even though we were the only vehicle there. That was a good decision because not long after Nelson got a smile on while doing one of his regular scans. There they were, eating a wildebeest that they had clearly only recently killed (we must have just missed it, but you can't have all the luck) and they were actually the reason the wildebeest hadn't crossed yet - suddenly the scene had the look of a crossing half-finished- interrupted by the cheetahs taking down a wildebeest. Amazingly, given the location in the Reserve (although there is nowhere to cross the Talek right near this spot, so it is a little sheltered) there were no other vehicles around at all despite it being well before breakfast time. The scene (should be clickable, although I think you can see the important things at this size. We'd come in from the left side of this picture originally and with the cheetahs having their heads down in long grass, hadn't initially seen them. 1-2-3-4-5 Hah!!! Chowing down. A couple of little snarls when two got the ends of the same bone, but generally they were all feeding together very peacefully, with one or the other popping his head up every now and again to scan for danger. \ A couple of vehicles appeared on the other side of the river, but as far as they knew we were waiting for the crossing. Nelson didn't turn on the radio to allow them to confirm this and it was another 40 minutes or so before the first of them got near enough that Nelson gave them a heads-up, having checked with my wife that she had had her fill (well, I am sure they were coming anyway - by that time we were clearly following something and it wasn't the elephants over there). Since one small wildebeest isn't necessarily enough for five cheetahs, we popped down to the river to see if a crossing was on, as that would have surely prompted them to hunt again, but the wildebeest and zebra were well aware of the cheetahs' presence and just coming down for a drink. When they had finished eating, the cheetahs went for a walk together... what we had been waiting for!! Of course there are a couple who lead, especially the one with the collar fitted, and there is one who is noticably smaller and really doesn't look like he should be away from his mother or that he could survive on his own (we thought Nelson's comment "I hope the others don't notice." when I pointed this out to be hilarious, and it was, but perhaps you had to be there. They were playing too, but mostly in the bushes unfortunately. Anyway, although they didn't all mount a termite mound together, this was well beyond expectations and after more than an hour we were happy to leave them to the three other vehicles now arriving (one guide gave Nelson a "you should have called us" look and Nelson gave him back a sheepish "Yeah, possibly.,,,, next time maybe." grin, but he had another tip up his sleeve that we hadn't used and shared that to make sure they were all buddies again. One last look and then we'll go and see if those wildebeest are up to anything. Oh, they are up to something! And of course we had most of this to ourselves too as the few vehicles around were with the cheetahs and some way from the river now. Eventually the crossing attracted about six vehicles. It wasn't a thriller crossing anyway, as the river was calm and shallow and the banks not very steep. But no mayhem is nice too sometimes and it was the perfect way to end stage one of the day. And then to breakfast!
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    Nelson pulled us back to the land of those with colour in their faces with another cheetah on a gazelle kill (cheetahs are like London buses - who knew!) And then the clouds finally broke and it started to rain quite heavily - but that didn't worry these elephants enjoying a wade in the river to get at juicy grass. And it didn't worry this little one, who had the perfect umbrella. With the rain getting heavier we returned to camp a bit early and disturbed Emma and Darren's little time alone chillout drink while they waited for everyone else to return - which was good because we wanted to tell someone but didn't want to tell everyone just in case someone was flying next day and nervous about it. When the others did return it was late, all hatched battened and with news of massively heavy rain - we had been lucky it seemed.
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    Balgavies Loch, Angus Osprey pair at nest The first time I have seen one. The nest was quite distant from the hide, but it was a good clear view. Jay Brown Rat - not a very popular mammal! The reserve has stopped using bird feeders because the rats were accessing the food - but they haven't (yet) worked out how to open the Squirrel Feeders! Osprey Bringing in some additions to the nest. Ospreys are exciting birds to watch - particularly for me seeing them for the first time!
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    The morning continued with those mating lions and more of the rutting (which I haven't forgotten to tell you about - it'll be next). It was much brighter now. On the way to breakfast. A Grant's gazelle strutting his stuff and don't the ladies love it?.(She must be rushing to call her friends to come and see too) Unfortnately Mum's time in Kenya was nearly over. She had a 4 o'clock flight that became a 3 o'clock flight and so we planned to leave camp at 2 o'clock to take her to the airstrip. She'd got her 5 purses and 20 pockets stocked up with what should be in there so she was going to be able to find things (eventually) during her long journey which went Mara-Nairobi-Paris-Manchester-Alicante because she had promised to be somewhere for one of the grandkids (I told her to cancel, but she wouldn't). She showed up on Whatsapp two days later looking dressed for safari because she didn't really have any other clothes with her. We had to go to Olkiombo airstrip because planes will only land in Olare Orok for two or more passengers, but it was still a comfortable drive to get there by 3 pm... or it was until Darren called and told Nelson the flight had been shifted again to 2.30 pm, although there would be another one at around 3,30 pm if we couldn't make it. Mum decided we should try and Nelson put his foot down, guaranteeing Mum an exciting and rather bumpy last 15 minutes in the Mara. We arrived just as the plane landed. We got her on board, said our farewells and found ourselves next to Intrepids at 2.30 pm, with at least 4 hours before we were due back at camp. Cheetahs maybe Nelson? Haven't seen one yet. And it took us all of 90 seconds to find one - I am sure Nelson had spotted it on the way in, but he denied it and said it was just our good luck. "I think it might hunt. That gazelle is alone there and not paying attention. But it is a lot of ground to cover, so maybe not. And there are baboons over there. She probably won't hunt if there are baboons around and they see her." And the cheetah did perk up and stalk a little when she saw the gazelle, but then she sat down as if doing the same assessment as Nelson and deciding "no". But we weren't in any hurry and Nelson had added "but you never know", so we watched the cheetah a bit longer, attracting a grand total of two vehicles even though we were right next to the airstrip and on the road. And you never know.......... hopefully no words are needed. What? Why did she stop just when she had it? Oh, I see.......oops! You can see how close we were to Intrepids in that last one. And chased right up to the airstrip itself. What happened next has to go in another post because it carries a warning.... don't read on if you are a nervous flyer.
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    Part One: The East Coast We (MrsQ a.k.a. @Thursday’s Child) were based in an apartment in Broughty Ferry, just outside Dundee. Although our main reason for being here was family related, we did have time for a few wildlife based activities. Morton Lochs, Fife Roe Deer (taken from the car on the track into the reserve) Buzzard Robin (baby waiting for return of parent) Pheasant Bank Vole Bank Vole I have never seen a Bank Vole before so this was a treat.
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    We climbed down from the plateau looking for a different mammal Abiy suggested we could probably find. Quite an exhausting descent (and much more so back up) but the views alone were totally worth it. Our target was on the rock in the middle - so which animal could live there? Hyrax of course. For a time the animal here was treated as its own (sub)species, Abyssinian Hyrax, but nowadays scientists have apparently agreed there´s just Rock Hyrax all over Africa. But I don´t care - it´s much more interesting to say we have found the uniqe Abyssinian Hyrax, especially after that descent, so this IS the super-special Abyssinian Hyrax and not just plain old Rock Hyrax you see everywhere, believe me! Because I definitely would not have climbed up the rock in a not totally safe maneuver with my telelens if this would just have been a Rock Hyrax. There you see, it looks totally different, absolutely Abyssinian, not rockhyraxy at all, no? Lynn was not equally convinced about the awesomeness of this sighting and preferred to watch from farther up.
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    Candid of Andreas His light colored hat served him well. The geladas have come to associate white hats with the researchers who obviously do them no harm, and we were told that a white hat can gain you proximity. Geladas also recognize skin color and associate that with behavior. The local farmers surrounding Guassa, who chase the crop-stealing geladas from their fields, have dark skin. Most of the tourists who come to view the geladas have lighter skin. The geladas retreat from people with dark skin, meaning Abiye, Bega, and our local guide would stay back at least 50 meters when we had reached the geladas so as not to scare them away. What really caught the attention of the geladas and sent them packing was a local guy leading a couple of donkeys through the meadow. Interestingly, when the geladas approached our lodge midday, they were unconcerned with any of us milling about, regardless of hats or skin color. Such intelligent creatures knew where they were unwanted and where they could forage in peace. Here is a different perspective of the serval encounter. The rest of us remained on a hill while Michael descended in pursuit of the serval. It was Abiy's specific goal to find a cat this trip and we did so on Day 2. The serval is in the green grass behind the white vegetation. Michael in the foreground. Serval viewed/photographed from the hill.
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    I spent a few days sailing down the Chobe as part of my birthday trip to Africa in August/September of 2016. This experience was completely different to Kruger. The safaris were on the water as opposed to a vehicle and this provided fascinating viewing opportunities on both the Botswana and Namibian sides of the river. I entered in .Botswana, got my passport stamped and then had to cross the Namibian border. That was a bit of an experience. The officer was as sick as a dog, dehydrated and stuck in a tiny windowless room with no electricity. I asked about it later and was told no one else wants to work the job so this officer has to work even when he shouldn't. On the Chobe you see vast open spaces and herds of animals as opposed to one or two. Also, there are lots of animal combos to be seen and oh the birds.......
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    MARRICK DAY 3 Last installment about Marrick. My third and last chance for a decent picture of Aardwolf. I thought back and forth if I would do the last nightdrive or not. The fact is that I was so satisfied with my sightings so far that a quiet evening crossed my mind... But only for a very brief period. I wanted to go out there. But first, in the morning a look at the land in daylight. Some Springboks in the distance... Some beautiful Sable Antelopes. Please note that this is introduced animals outside their natural habitat. Then I spent the day with the Meerkats who lives close by. Very fun and interesting to follow them. See them hunting and collecting food for their youngsters. Always one on the guard when the others collect food. Here he is. This night was unexpected much warmer than the others. A much warmer breeze over the grass plains. We started out with another Smith´s red rock hare on a great distance close to the lodge. Then we met the same female Black footed cat as yesterday. Much closer this time. She was looking for rodents. I don´t know if it was because of the warmer wind or not but this night we counted to 23 Bat eared foxes! One Aardwolf as well. Unfortunateley on very big distance and running away. For some reason, they seem to be always shy and running away. Then something very weird happened. We saw an Aardvark... Well, that is not so weird in Marrick as you now understand. But 150 meters further on we came across another one! And just beside that one, ANOTHER one! We now had 3 Aardvarks within 150 meters of eachother. Very, very unusual even for Marrick. Johnny spotted a small eyeshine pretty far away. We approached gently. At first we thought another Black footed cat but it was not. It turned out to be a Small spotted genet. It couldn´t sit still for a second but we got a nice look at it. A Scrub hare got to be the last thing I saw. By the way, I found it strange that people generally say they have seen one "Scrub hare" wherever you are in Africa. When in fact the Scrub hare is endemic to South Africa. So stop calling every Hare you see for a Scrub hare. Because it´s not. Summary for my last nightdrive: 1 Smith´s red rock hare 1 Scrub hare 3 Aardvark 1 Black footed cat (female) 23 Bat eared fox 30-50 Springhare 1 Small spotted genet 1 Aardwolf Maybe some of you planning to come here for the shy nocturnal animals and I can very much recommend this place. Marrick is a peaceful place. Fantastic food if you choose to let the kitchen cook for you. Otherwise you can also do self catering. Trevor and his staff are really wonderful and helpful. They can fix pretty much everything you want. And if you don´t want anything... you have your free time. Just strolling around the land on your own, follow the Meerkats or read a book in the garden. They also pick you up and drop off at the airport if you want. Great people and you will not regret it if you come here. To give you a hint about what and how much you see in three nightdrives, maybe it helps you decide how many nights you want to spend here, I think 3 nights is pretty much perfect. My total summary of this 3 nightdrives: 5 Smiths red rock hare -- Were lucky the first night as we saw 4. Can be a hit or miss. 4 Black footed cats -- 2 different individuals. One male and one female. 6 Aardvark -- At least 4 different individuals. 3 Porcupine -- Only saw them one night. 3 Aardwolf -- Only distant and brief sighting. Very shy and running away. 2 Large eared field mouse -- Didn´t look for rodents but came across this two. 1 African Wildcat -- Seen on the first night only. 2 Scrub hare -- One at the lodge and one on the grass fields 1 Small spotted genet -- Not that common here. They seeing them on 40-50% of the nightdrives. 1 Hybrid cat -- Not very good sighting. Should be killed to save the pure African wild cats. +33 Bat eared fox -- Well, they are more or less everywhere. +100 Springhare -- Everywhere, jumping around. Time for me to change position. Change country. The story will continue in Khwai concession, Okavango delta, Botswana. For some bigger cats and alot of other things. To be continued... (with this White bellied sunbird)
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    Sometimes the errors and misspellings are the most endearing, @inyathi. Awash & Ali Deghe Awash (also spelled Hawash) is named for the river that runs through it, and which forms a picturesque waterfall (Awash Falls), then heads underground and into the Red Sea. Fantale Volcano/Mount Fentale, which erupted 170,000 years ago, is prominent in Awash. The park is 756 square km. Ali Deghe Wildlife Reserve is larger at 1800 square km and less exposed to the challenges that Awash faces. Challenges to Awash and its flora and fauna include: ~ Nearby Metahara Sugar Company, discharges chemical pollutants into the Awash River, endangering not only the park but the surrounding communities. ~ Private and state-sponsored farms, including sugar cane farms, have expanded in the area. ~ Illegal grazing occurs within the park due to no enforcement of rules. ~ Burning to increase grass for cattle has changed the habitat so that grassland has replaced brush. ~ Large carnivores, seen as a threat to livestock, have been shot by pastoralists. On a walk in Awash ~Settlement and permanent structures occupy much of the park either temporarily or permanently. With the development of schools, clinics, mills, water treatment facilities, and places of worship, parts of the park are becoming urban areas. ~ Cutting of forests for firewood and for charcoal production is decimating the hardwoods. ~ Invasive species are proliferating. ~ A lack of cooperation between those in charge of managing the park and the communities within and around the park means there is no shared vision for sustaining the park’s resources. ~ The Dire Dawa Highway and Railroad, which run through the park, contribute to road/rail kill. Fentale Mountain, seen while driving in Awash, early eve Sustainable Tourism can play a positive role: The scenic beauty, the waterfall, which gushes even in the dry season and huge number of bird species (450) of the park draws visitors. PHE (Population-Health-Environment) Ethiopia Consortium trains local people from the Afar community as tour guides. Women are being trained in handicrafts to sell to tourists. PHE promotes local ownership and collaboration between park management and the community. Educational outreach by Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority emphasizes the tangible benefits of a thriving park for the local community. Awash Falls as seen from Awash Lodge A few of those 450 bird species… Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (seen on foot at Awash Lodge) African Hawk Harrier (seen on foot during a walk in Awash) Klaas's Cuckoo (seen on foot during walk in Awash) Pearl spotted owl (seen on foot during walk in Awash) Two classics: foreground is Fish eagle, background is Goliath heron (at Awash Lodge) White-bellied bustard with something to crow about Tawny eagle chick (on walk in Awash) (seen while driving in Awash, early eve) Dark chanting goshawk (seen on drive in early eve, Awash) I like to think our presence and dollars helped contribute in some small way to the preservation of Awash and Ali Deghe. This region has a lot to overcome if it is to remain viable for wildlife. The first Sommerring's gazelle, endemic to the Horn of Africa, seen on our evening arrival into Awash Back when I was a teenager with a new driver's license, it was popular to pull up to a stoplight, everyone got out of the car and ran around it, then jumped back in, and we drove away when the light turned green. That’s kind of the novel approach to game viewing in Awash and Ali Deghe. You could call it an Ethiopian Fire Drill. One of our first sightings in Awash (after we all exited the vehicle and approached on foot) of a nursing Beisa Oryx was a highlight of the trip and the challenges facing Awash seemed far away. I like how the calf's little horns are so evident; of course the turds are too.
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    It was such fun to watch the family play, stalk, and groom each other. They were watching us watching them, but not stressed at all. You can't see us. But I can see you. I'm going out of town this evening for a week. Sadly, no big cats where I'm going.
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    The Eagle flew in, scooped up the fish and was immediately mobbed by a gull sensing some easy food But it held on to the fish and took it to the cliff-side nest (bad photo in poor light, but if you look hard you can just make out the other Eagle on the nest)
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    In contrast, the first wolf sighting that caught us by surprise and the serval even more so. Guassa Based on our experience, I’d be comfortable stating that anyone spending a couple of days at Guassa has a near guarantee of geladas, if using a guide. For wolves, Abiy felt 5 nights was needed for a very good chance to see them in Guassa. The intertwined tails were a common sight The youngest member that we saw
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    We stayed for a couple of hours after the birds had been fed (most other visitors had gone long before this, but there were plenty of birds around to see!) Eventually we headed off to the nearby RSPB reserve – Ken Dee Marshes. It is a lovely place to walk with many warblers in the trees. We sat in a hide for a while watching woodland birds Great Tit feeds babies We heard a disturbance and noticed Red Kite and Black-headed Gull Very quickly followed by So quite a spectacular end to a peaceful visit (though I don't think it caught anything!) So an excellent day ended a great trip. Next day would be motorway to Birmingham - a bit of a contrast. I am sure it will not be long before we return to Scotland – it has such a lot to offer. In the meantime I hope @Chakra and @xelas post trip reports for me to enjoy!
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    The boat moved on to another site, and another fish was thrown into the sea Picks up the fish and heads back to the nest (very heavy crop to show very large nest in a tree this time -chick just visible!) On our trip we saw 2 White-tailed Eagles come for fish. I think that if the weather had been better, and in particular the sea in some areas had not been so rough we may have seen more. We really enjoyed the trip - seeing these magnificent birds fly in so close was a real thrill. And we even had time to see another otter on the way back to Ulva Ferry.
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    Loch of the Lowes When we travelled from Dundee across to the west, we stopped off at the Loch of the Lowes reserve (north of Perth), hoping to see some more Osprey. It is a very nice reserve, with 2 or 3 hides looking towards the Osprey nest. The nest is quite distant but it is a good clear view. Mandarin –male. (originally from Asia, there are quite a few living wild in the UK) Male Osprey leaving the nest Coming back with a fish Bringing it to the nest Passes it to the Female Female begins to feed chick So it was an excellent way to break the journey, and a real pleasure to have my second sighting of Osprey. They really are beautiful birds.
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    I can't begin to imagine how scary this scenario would be... Matt
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    For our third day at Cheetah Camp, we had an early start at 4:30 a.m. It took an hour to our destination, inside the Maasai Mara. Moon and Jupiter over the Mara. Our first adventure of the day... Preparing for lift-off An endless sea of grass Lots of zebra. Hyenas on the prowl. A pretty BIF.
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    In Search of the Corncrake One bird we really hoped we would see on Iona was the Corncrake. It is a rare and a very difficult bird to see. It has suffered through changes to agriculture, but conservationists are working with farmers here to modify practices. One simple change has been to mow from the centre of a field (so the crakes move outwards) rather than from the edge (crakes move inwards and get killed). They have also been leaving more plants at field edges) Before and after (a superb) dinner on the first night we went walking about, hoping to catch a glimpse. (Turn the sound up!) (about 10 seconds) So on our wanderings, we heard 5 or 6 different birds and spent a lot of time staring into undergrowth but didn't see one. However it was encouraging to hear them in gardens as well as fields. We got up early the next morning and headed out to have another look. We checked tha place we had heard them the previous evening, it was very quiet, but then checking one of them again we saw... (The irises you can see in the background are an important part of the bird's environment providing cover. Many garden and fields now have these planted to support the Corncrake). For us this was a wonderful start to the day, and we headed back to breakfast very happy!
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    Tooth check on the female A little drama that required revealing the pink gums. A wee bit 'o gums on the left as part of the infant exchange Noticeable teeth even in peacetime @Michael-ibk's previous photos show dental closeups where the males have the definite incisor advantage.
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    This is fantastic. Thanks @Atravelynn, @michael-ibk and @AndMic Njera, how can you not like that? With a spicy lamb stew? I dream about having a good plate of it to share with Lizzy. And some of those Gelada images remind me of myself, looking in the mirror Looking forward to more updates. And I just wanted to reinforce what I've said recently, it really does fill me with pride and a sense of personal satisfaction that ST has brought people together in this manner. Thanks for making my Safaritalk dream come true. Matt
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    A Goodbye from SafariChick and Sangeeta: Our Eulogy to Lady Liuwa Lots of you already know the story of the Last Lioness – and the resilience that helped her survive all alone in a remote Zambian park after her entire pride had been hunted down. With the help of humans, she went on to thrive and lived the remainder of her life with a new pride she eventually called her own. Hers is a story of hope and despair, both for her species and our own. @SafariChick has already written a great trip report detailing our trip to Zambia, but I was very moved by her passing and thought it would be fitting to talk today about the back story of our safari to Liuwa Plain NP in November 2014. At the time, this was the maddest trip we had ever planned. Sometime in the summer of 2013, Jane & I (and @KitSafari too, though she was not able to join us) got a strange bee in our bonnets that whatever else we did or did not do, we were going to see Lady Liuwa and Busangadude before they passed on, so help us God! Both these lions were old and had already lived long lives in the wild, and we were infected by a strange sense of urgency to make this trip happen nownownow. Liuwa is best visited in early November (or May) but that’s also when it buckets down on the Busanga Plains, and the camps there (wisely) close for the season by then. That was also the same year that Robin Pope had discontinued his Liuwa trips and suddenly, there was nowhere nice to stay in Liuwa and no easy way to get there either. The upshot to all this was that we had no place to stay on the Busanga Plains (for Busangadude) and no place to stay in Liuwa (for Lady Liuwa) You’d think we’d have thrown in the towel, but no, no, the fever raged on unabated. We wrote to everyone we knew (and many we did not) in Zambia and every last person told us that it was impossible, foolish and very unwise to try and get to the Busanga Plains once the rains had arrived. So Jane and I measured the kilometers outwards from the Busanga tree line to see if we could possibly prevail on someone do a day trip for us. And we wrote one last time to none other than our own @KafueTyrone. Tyrone & Phil were our knights in shining armor on this trip (against their better judgement, I think). But they were great sports and Tyrone eventually agreed to drive us all the way up to the plains and back again to Musekese – though we needed to be ready to spend the night in the vehicle if we got mired in Kafue’s infamous black cotton soil! Stuck in the mud? Tsetses on the Busanga treeline? Pffft, when was that a problem? High fives everywhere as we had Busangadude sorted! Now what on earth were we going to about the Lady? There were simply no camps open in Liuwa, so where could we possibly stay? After a lot of research, we finally settled on Bundu Adventures, a mobile safari outfitter who came to us highly recommended and who agreed to drive us from Kafue to Liuwa, rain or no rain. But the safari numbers they came back with were scary for just the 2 of us. And so off we went again – this time, looking for prospects to join us on the trip. We first stumbled upon a really nice young man from Chicago, equally smitten by the Lady, who was also looking for safari companions for his return trip to Liuwa. Then we were three. We still needed 1 more person to make this work and Jane finally roped her massage therapist in! Poor AM. Her first safari to Africa was going to be a road trip that crossed half of Zambia, had her staying at the Hollywood Motel in Mongu, in little dome tents and 43 degrees Celsius in the park, dark common loos with big spiders lurking and Lady-obsessed safari companions who were happy to park beside the sleeping lions for hours at an end! If there’s someone else besides Tyrone who needs a medal from this trip, it’s AM. Since then, I’ve often wondered why it is that so many of us get these bees in our safari bonnets. What is it that pushes us and pulls us and forces us to be accommodating, intrepid, persistent, annoying, adventurous and so much more? What is it about these parks and these animals that beguiles us over and over again? Sometimes, it’s just the stories… I was enchanted by Busangadude the moment I saw Swamp Lions, and was fascinated by the many stories about him that I read through @Safaridude and others who were fortunate to see him many times over his remarkable life. We never did get to see him on that trip to Zambia, but at least we know we tried and that makes us happy. He was no ordinary lion. He was a character unto himself and lived a full and storied life, doing things that you don’t expect lions to do. The Last Lioness was a haunting movie that sucked me into the life of a lonely lioness, and along with many thousands of her fans the world over, I too rooted for her to bond with the transplanted males, to have cubs (and was sad when it became clear that she could not), to enjoy her time with her new pride. Nor was Lady an ordinary lion. She too was a character and lived a full and storied life, doing things that you don’t ordinarily expect lions to do. It is sad but fitting that she passed away yesterday, on the eve of the International Day of the Lion. An Ambassador for her species until the very end. RIP Lady Liuwa. We’re so glad we made it out there to you.
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    To get to Iona you catch a ferry from Fionphort in the far South-West of Mull. Only resi dents can take a car to Iona, but there is a free car park at Fionphort (it is big, but we got the last place when we arrived). The ferry trip only takes 10-15 minutes. The main village on Iona, with the ferry, taken from Fionphort Iona Abbey taken from the ferry We had booked 2 nights at the Argyll Hotel - a lovely place with excellent food... Our room was above the door and to the left (taken from ferry) Iona is a small island (3miles by 1 ½ miles) with about 120 residents. It gets a number of day visitors, most stay in the area of the village and the Abbey - it is very peacful early and late in the day, and away from the village. It is famous as site where in 563, Columba established a monastery bringing Christianity to Scotland. The Abbey is from later (about 1200-1500) , restored at the beginning of the 20th Century and continued from 1938 by The Iona Community, a Christian group who still live and worship on Iona. Celtic Cross Cloisters in the Abbey View from Abbey Grounds
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    White-tailed Eagle This is the UK’s largest bird of prey. It was made extinct in the UK in the early 20th century by illegal killing and possibly overfishing. It has now been reintroduced in Scotland. It is believed there are about 35-40 breeding pairs – so still a very small poulation. The RSPB run a couple of hides called “Eagle Watch” to give a chance to see the birds on the nest. We went to one of these but the weather was very wet and it was very difficult to see anything. On the same day we had booked a boat trip with Mull Charters in the afternoon. http://www.mullcharters.com/ The boat takes a maximum of 12 passengers, and has plenty of room for that number. The weather still didn’t look great, but we thought we would make the best of it. This is a trip where the crew throw a fish out to the water, attracting the eagle. The company works with the RSPB to carry out the trips responsibly. When reading about it I had mixed feelings, but the trip was recommended to us by @towlersonsafari and I am glad we followed their advice as we really enjoyed it. Some people will not like that a fish is thrown out for the eagle but we thought the trip was well run with consideration for the eagles and other wildlife seen. When the boat set out, it had to change route because the sea was rough in some areas. We had light rain but it did not stop the enjoyment. Black Guillemot Gulls following the boat Gannet White-tailed Eagle on Cliff At this point, one of the crew threw a fish into the water, but there was no response from the Eagle. A little later, they threw another fish, and the Eagle took off and started heading towards the boat. (I think that once an Eagle takes a fish that they do not then give any more to that bird, but move on to another site. I think this is so that it remains as supplementary feeding rather than the birds becoming dependent on them) Being harrased by a Hooded Crow
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    @Kitsafari, fortunately no nausea, just could not eat. Some altitude pills would be a good idea. I have used them in the past. A few more Guassa and pre-Guassa comments before moving on to Awash... ~Addis Ababa – We stayed at Jupiter International Hotel. Very comfortable and they even had a spa, plus this attractive chandelier. About 15 minutes away from Jupiter, we birded around Ghion Gardens for a couple of hours, where ABIY GOT MARRIED about a decade earlier. A very picturesque location and loads of interesting birds! There is a Ghion Hotel next to the gardens, but currently it was under renovation and not up to EQ’s standards. "I am a red-eyed dove. I am a red-eyed dove." Always hear them, found one in Ghion Garden, Addis Ababa ~For anyone who gets car sick, a Bonine or a portion of, is a good idea for the drove to and from Guassa. Simple, but I'd go back to this peaceful place with a well managed habitat. Overview from above - we did lots of climbing in Guassa, and not just to photograph the compound ~ Geladas like to forage near the lodge. They are quiet so it is unlikely you'd hear them in your room or the main lodge. It's all happening at the lodge Even midday I wore 3 layers on top and 2 prs of trousers Mother and baby visit our lodge The Ethiopian endemic White-collared Pigeons also came to us and sat on the roof. ~Geladas can be found even many kilometers outside of Guassa. Not at Guassa--this gelada was found along the road at a scenic lookout point Full moon over Guassa - it illuminated the path to the loo in the night, no torch needed.
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    Once you have got the Puffin shot, you want the Puffin with Eels shot, once you have that, well you try for one with the fish facing alternative direction or maybe all facing the same way. Still working on those! Puffin by Dave Williams, on Flickr
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    Hyrax from the hill Michael photographing the hyrax before the descent While Michael and Andreas descended for a closer look at the hyrax, I remained on the hillside with Abiy. We heard loud noises and shouting coming from across the valley and through our binocs could see the farmers chasing geladas from the terraced fields. A few sheep are visible in bottom left - terraced farming which the geladas sometimes invaded
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    Did the raven bring his wife? We had a pair of them flying around in the air and hopping all over the ground. Funny I should mention "husband and wife" ravens, as your photo stamp date is my anniversary and the time is almost exactly when we said our I do's way back when. I'm sure you'll get to Ethiopia again with all the travel you do and find those wolves. Let's hope that there are even more of them to find when you go back. The jealousy trades places when I look at your Zakouma report. Here's that Ethiopian endemic again, the Thick-billed Raven. In the second photo it has a tiny seed in the bill.

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