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As last year, I left Selinda in the middle of the morning and landed at Kasane at noon. A driver was waiting for me. The formalities at the two border posts were carried out, as usual, without problems. Two hours later, we reached Hwange Town where we turned right and quickly arrived at Mbala Gate where my guide of last year, Washington Sibandi, was waiting for me. He was again my guide but only for the three first days. For the two last days, I joined Adam Jones, who was guiding a keen photographer who was in camp for fifty-five days. For information, the journey to the camp is about 2 hours and a half if you do not see anything spectacular on the way. In this year of heavy rains, the situation was similar to that of Selinda ; water everywhere, on the roads and on the plains. Hwange had, moreover, given itself some airs of Okavango. So apart from hippos, shy elands, solitary elephants and some plains game, we did not see a lot of mammals. No matter what, we were again able to focus on birds and smaller creatures. There were nevertheless some good and interesting sightings of lions, leopard, martial eagle, spotted eagle owls and…… bullfrogs. Concerning the camp itself, nothing more to add to what I wrote in the report on my stay last November : still a great place with great people. The day of my arrival, between Masuma and Shumba, we found the Masuma pride making its way on the road. Unfortunately, it did not stay there and disappeared very quickly on the left side in the mopanes and the kopjes. When we arrived at the camp, we were told that four lions, two females and two sub adults, called the Super Models, had been spotted nearby. Photo taken in the space between the hood of the vehicle and the windscreen, turned down on it. One of the two dominant males of the Masuma pride, Liam or Mandla, seen near Masuma. Another lion, this one nomadic, was heard roaring every night and even seen by other guests feeding on a dead elephant.
This took place in November last year, when we were at Siwandu, in the Selous game reserve. In the late morning, we were slowly on our way back to the camp, when we came on it. The road was running through wooded glades, when we spotted on the right, at about 20/25 meters, on the ground, the martial eagle and its prey, a big rock monitor. The capture probably occured not long before we arrived, the lizard was of course still alive. A part of its tail was missing but that was the result of another battle for life, I guess ? The martial eagle was not on familiar ground, and as a consequence, worried. We decided not to go closer, so as not to add more to its stress, manifested by regular squeals and anxious looks in all directions, a similar behavior a cheetah can have when having caught a prey, or a leopard in the same situation when there are no trees or thick bushes around. The problem, for the martial eagle, was not to find a place to go with its prey, there were some suitable trees around, but first to weaken its prey and then to fly away with it. That was perhaps a bit too ambitious, the weight of a full grown rock monitor is about 8 to 9 kilos ? When we arrived on the sighting, I said to Allen, my guide, that I wanted to stay until the end. As we were, my wife and myself, the only guests on the car, it was very easy for him to agree. While we were there, another car arrived. Fortunately they stayed at an acceptable distance and were gone after several minutes. To weaken its prey, the eagle tried to blind it. A quick look at us. I was surprised by this move. First attempt of the eagle to fly away with its prey. It’s a failure, back on the ground Another look to us. New attempt to blind its prey Third look at us One more attempt to blind its prey, in the other eye this time. No look at us anymore, we are now part of the scenery. New attempt of the eagle to fly away with its prey. It’s a failure once again, back on the ground. Now, it’s moving to change its grip on the lizard. The talons are really impressive ! Two more attempts to fly away resulting in two more failures A last attempt to blind the lizard. Obviously, after a succession of failed attempts to take off with its prey, the eagle decided to drag it towards a tree. Finally, it gave up to it and went on the tree where it kept a close eye on the weakened monitor. In normal conditions, the monitor is fast. There, its strength had dramatically declined, it had lost one eye and a small part of its internal organs was out through a hole made by the eagle’s claw (visible on the third picture). After a short moment of wavering, it decided to go in the road’s direction. It was moving like it was in slow motion. The martial eagle tried a last attempt to catch it in flight like fish eagles do with a fish, but it failed, and went on a tree on the other side of the road. When the monitor reached the road, it disappeared behind a tree that was alongside. It did not reappear on the other side. So, we moved to discover that there was a big hole in the trunk, about three meters from the ground. End of the story, that lasted 30 minutes, back to the camp.
Samburu in March is Hot, very hot. But it is also the time that the Somali Ostrich is rearing their new broods. We had never seen so many, from Immature right down to new chicks, they were everywhere. On one drive we came across two different males, one with 10 chicks and the other with 8. Later that day we found one of the males with all 18 chicks. The other male never returned during the week we were there. It is difficult not to get caught up in the awe factor when young are concerned and we spent quite a bit of time with them during our time here. With all youngsters there are always the bossy ones, the adventurous ones and those who keep their heads down and get on with life. I have always liked the adventurous ones, the ones who push the boundaries, but they are of course a nightmare for the parents. With so many bundles of fluff dashing here & there and becoming more & more spread out the danger increases significantly. Samburu has many birds of prey and one of these chicks would make a nice meal. Each day we came across groups of 6-8 Immature Ostrich. As we never saw them with any adults we assumed they had left the protection of the parent' and were big enough to take care of themselves. On our next encounter with the brood of 18 was in the evening and it was good to see that they were still all there. We spent some time with them filming the chicks who were very active. The day was cooling down as the sun had slipped behind the hills that form the backdrop to Samburu. As I was filming the shadow of the hills was slowly creeping across the plain, but the chicks were still in good light. As I zoomed in on one chick who was pushing the boundary and moving further away from the rest, a shadow suddenly covered it. I stopped filming, looking up to see what was causing the shadow, and as I did I saw that a Martial Eagle had swooped down and grabbed one of the other chicks and was now flying away with it firmly in it's talons.. I had no chance to film what had happened as it was literally over in seconds, and all I could do was watch as the Martial Eagle flew off towards a distant Acacia tree. "Wow! that was amazing" I said, I got no reply, my wife was firmly on the chicks side. In an instant of it happening all the other chicks ran to the parent for protection. But within a few minutes the chicks went back to feeding, and the parent, like a huge sentinel took up guard duty. So, does safety in numbers really work? I thought the chick I was filming was the most in danger, and yet it was one of the chicks on the edge of the brood that was taken. Could it be a case of; it's the chick in the most suitable position for the Eagle to take with as little difficulty and harm to itself?
We came from Jongomero in the Ruaha. When we landed at Siwandu airstrip, the sky was overcast and from the plane, we could see that it was raining in some places. Last month, we stayed 5 nights at Siwandu, that belongs to the owner of Jongomero. I had been there already in October 2010 (also 5 nights), it was then called Selous Safari Camp, and twice in 1997, when it was called Mbuyuni. It was, in those times, located elsewhere, closer to the Rufiji river. The Rufiji river and crocodile in 1997 It had to be rebuilt several times because of damages done by natural elements, like thunderbolt or flood. In 1997, there were, of course, less lodges in the reserve. The camp is now located on the lake Nzerakera, where the concentration of game is the highest one. This dead tree is, around the lake, the most photographed one. 2010, the level of water was higher 2014 Siwandu is a place that I am particularly fond of. It has a fantastic location and the light, especially in the afternoon, is gorgeous. The lake gives you many opportunities to see animals, not only birds, crocs or hippos, from a boat or a pontoon. The camp is divided in 2 separate entities with their own restaurant, bar and kitchen. I had a very good guide, Allen. I was surprised by the fact that he did not use binoculars. He said that, for him, it was not necessary. Indeed, I quickly realized that he has eyes like a hawk. The tents have an octogonal shape with the bathroom and the out of doors shower, en-suite, on one side. We had tent n° 7, for me, the one with the best view on the lake. View from the tent Concerning wildlife, first of all, sorry Hari, no cheetahs at all. Lions in 2010 were often seen. In 2014, only 2 sightings, a total of 6 lions. The Selous is the place where I saw wild dogs for the first time, in 1997. In 2010, I saw two of them not far from the lake and a pack, far away in the direction of Beho Beho. This year, one car from the camp, that went out for a full day, saw a pack near the Sand Rivers lodge, an area that they are attached to. The problem is that, in this part of the reserve, there is not much more to see. I deliberately decided not to go there, when so many other species can be seen on and around the lakes. This year, I saw 3 leopards, 4 years ago, I only caught the glimpse of one. In fact, I saw it, in the dark, during one of my most thrilling african nights. Around midnight, I was awokened by the alarm call of the impalas. I opened the zip and in the beam of my flashlight, I saw, what I expected to see, a leopard, but it was a surprise to see it with a baby impala in its mouth. It disappeared in the bushes, accompanied by the wails of the mother. One hour later, I was again awokened, but this time by the racket made by a pack of hyenas, close to the kitchen. And it’s not finished, about one more hour later, I was, violently, dragged from my sleep by the roaring of a big male lion that had decided to begin its concert at the entrance of my tent. There were more elephants this year, but strangely, not seen on game drives, but from the boat and every night in the camp. There were no sightings at all of zebras this year, but a lot of hyenas in and out the camp. Concerning the birds, less malachite kingfishers this year, because, I think, of the lower water level. There were no black-headed herons this year, but well hundreds of great white and pink-backed pelicans attracted by the fishes trapped in the remaining pools of dry lake Manze. This year, I also noticed the great number of bee-eaters, in quantities and in species’ varieties.
Game Warden posted a topic in Africa birdsFollowing on from the Crowned Eagle topic here, what are the visual differences between Martial and Crowned Eagles? Can we upload images, (that you have taken), of both immature vs mature, male vs female of each species and also talk about their habitats, behaviour, where you personally have seen them and where one is likely to see them when on safari. Matt
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