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Posted (edited)

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So, the Sanetti Plateau. Lynn already described this wonderful place and the number of our Wolves sightings in great detail, so I won´t be very verbose here.

 

A completely otherworldly realm - I have never been to someting similar. Not beautiful in a classic sense, probably not as majestic as the rugged mountains of the Simiens but totally unique and enthralling - I loved it up there.

 

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I really was surprised how difficult the Giant Mole Rat was. Somehow I had expected to see lots of them, but actually we only had two in a place Abiy knew, and had to be quite patient for it to stick its head out. I was trying lying down close to its burrow to get some closer shots but to no avail, it stayed put. This endemic is assessed as endangered because its extent of occurrence is approximately 5,140 km², all individuals are in fewer than five locations, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat by overgrazing by domestic livestock - we saw plenty of cows even up here. They are declining fast apparently, in 1996 they were still classified "Least Concern". They are still common in Bale, though - apparently 2,000 to 4,000 animals per km². 

 

Other Rodents were far more visible - probably Blick´s Grass Rats, but there are several rat and mouse species in the park, and IDing them is way over my head.

 

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This one was very interested in our picnic basket. I was tempted to reward it with some snippets but stayed strong. :)

 

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The main road crossing the plateau. It´s not exactly heavy traffic, but a few trucks are going through by hour certainly.

 

With the number of rodents I had expected to see lots and lots of raptors here, but not really. Quite a lot of Augur Buzzards, one distant Lanner Falcon, and a few Beardeds. Unfortunately no Golden Eagles, a small population is here in Bale. This one is probably a Tawny although I´m not 100 % sure.

 

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Starck´s Hare is abundant but you would never know from the car. We never ever spotted one from the road, but once you get out and start walking (which is ok everywhere in Ethiopia) a lot of "rocks" suddenly start running. We also saw Hyrax but pretty far away.

 

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A record shot of some very distant Mountain Nyala. A few of them are living up here on the Plateau but unlike the ones in Dinsho they are extremely wary and shy and stay far from the road.

 

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But now - Wolf Time!

 

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Edited by michael-ibk
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Posted (edited)

On 30.7.2017 at 8:18 PM, SafariChick said:

I wonder if the wolves were generally closer to your vehicles than they were to ours or if your zoom is just better than mine (which I know it is, actually!) Do you know about how far they were?

 

Well, most of them were pretty far away, hundreds of metres. But we had three sightings very close to the road (maybe 10-20 m or something like that?), and we were often out walking and approached them that way, which worked quite well - maybe within 50 m or similar (difficult to estimate) though it was not so easy taking photos out of breath as we were - the altitude of more than 4,000 m is quite taxing.

 

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I remember this was the very first Wolf we saw on our way in, far off the road, and only when looking at my pictures did I realize there had been a second one.

 

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This was our first "good" sighting on our full day - it had just crossed the road.

 

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I ran after it afterwards but (obviously) could not keep up with it - but I did see it devour some rodent.

 

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This one was also on foot. There were three Wolves in total close by (but never actually interacting), they used the Cows to find prey.

 

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Both having lunch.

 

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This one was kind of our farewell present when we left the park - spotted by Eagle-eyed Abiy of course. Quite close to the road.

 

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He was busy which is probably why he did not run.

 

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Most other Wolves were pretty or very far away, sometimes only visible with binocs or scope.

 

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But our closest sighting was a pair of them, one having dinner, the other apparently standing guard. This was at the end of our "full Wolf" day.

 

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It was really fascinating hearing them like this:

 

 

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And that concludes the Bale part of the report.

 

Did we like it there?

 

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Hell yeah!

Edited by michael-ibk
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Absolutely stunning pictures of Africas rarest large carnivore.

They are really beautiful.

 

Thanx for showing them! 

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Just fabulous photos, guys! I am a bit jealous that you were permitted to walk and approach the wolves. We were told that it was no longer allowed due to the pressure on the wolf population (this was by our guide who worked for Bale Mountain Lodge). He did let us get out and walk very short distances from the road but not very far. Of course, having a great camera and being a good photog would help too! Love the videos as well!

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Posted (edited)

@michael-ibk, the scenery of Sanetti Plateau is breathtakingly beautiful ... and so are your photos!

 

Curious to learn why are the low season prices higher (220 USD) then mid season ones (170 USD) ??!!

Edited by xelas
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Posted (edited)

Glitch

Edited by michael-ibk

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Those are amazing videos of the vocalizing & chomping wolves, @michael-ibk - and those vocalizing/chomping stills are equally astonishing! Well done, you :)

 

Ali Deghe looks like it's well worth spending the extra time there.

 

hmmm, you've all given me some lovely ideas for Feb! Yay & double yay for your wonderful TRs @Atravelynn, @AndMic and @michael-ibk

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A wonderful feel for the environment and the wildlife that live there - and of course the people. Beautiful pictures of the elusive monkeys and the wolves. Stunning.

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Thanks, @Antee, @SafariChick, @xelas, @Sangeeta and @TonyQ!

 

Alex, sorry, that link I used is obviously not correct as you pointed out, of course the rates are higher in high season. From BML´s own homepage:

 

http://www.balemountainlodge.com/rate.html

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On 7/30/2017 at 1:18 PM, SafariChick said:

Great photos of the Bale monkeys and the wolves @Atravelynn  We were not lucky enough to see any Bale monkeys. While it is possible to have the Bale monkeys appear from the forest right in front of the vehicle, we spent the better part of 2 days seeking them out.  On a 5-night trip, devoting that much time to monkeys (or any non-wolf species) is possible. With the more typical 3-night stay, as you had, I think luck becomes much more of a factor in monkey viewing.   I wonder if the wolves were generally closer to your vehicles than they were to ours or if your zoom is just better than mine (which I know it is, actually!) Do you know about how far they were? Someone (I think @pault) asked me about how far the wolves were in my report and I have no clue about distances but I asked Mr. Safarichick and he made some estimates which I now can't recall but which are in my trip report!

 

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Posted (edited)

On 8/2/2017 at 2:59 PM, SafariChick said:

Just fabulous photos, guys! I am a bit jealous that you were permitted to walk and approach the wolves. We were told that it was no longer allowed due to the pressure on the wolf population (this was by our guide who worked for Bale Mountain Lodge). He did let us get out and walk very short distances from the road but not very far. Of course, having a great camera and being a good photog would help too! Love the videos as well!

None of our close photos were on foot.  Our views on foot were distant for the most part, except for a few running wolves that passed by within photo range.  Like all predators, the wolves avoided us.  I recall saying several times when the wolves were just outside on the opposite side of the vehicle from where I was sitting, "Let's get out."  Each time Guide Abiy cautioned that we'd just chase them away.  Following the wolves, at a distance on foot, gave us longer views of them as they trotted across the plateau, but not better views than when they were next to the car.  The ideal setup was wolves next to the road where they pretty much ignored us.  The best way to allow that ideal wolf-viewing setup to happen IMO is maximizing time on the plateau and checking out the actions of the other couple of vehicles that shared the plateau with us. At least once we saw wolves because we first saw another car.  I think 2 cars per sighting was the max though.  Nothing like a Mara crossing.

 

We did traverse the plateau and stray from the road for longer periods of time  to look for giant mole rats and Stark's hare.  So our actions were similar to yours when it came to wolf hunting on foot!

Edited by Atravelynn
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Posted (edited)

On 8/2/2017 at 1:56 PM, michael-ibk said:

 

 though it was not so easy taking photos out of breath as we were - the altitude of more than 4,000 m is quite taxing.

I remember the evening after I went "jogging" down the road trying to catch up with wolves in the distance.  I was too sick for dinner and slept off my nausea for about 5 hours.  Lesson learned!

 

I remember this was the very first Wolf we saw on our way in, far off the road, and only when looking at my pictures did I realize there had been a second one.

Funny, I did the exact same thing.  I knew we had seen 2 not far apart, but did not know the camera had caught them.

 

I ran after it afterwards but (obviously) could not keep up with it - but I did see it devour some rodent.

I found that I was running for nothing (actually running to induce nausea) because I was not fast enough to see anything.

 

This one was also on foot. There were three Wolves in total close by (but never actually interacting), they used the Cows to find prey.  Smart wolves--they know the cows flush out the rats.

 

 

And that concludes the Bale part of the report.

Did we like it there?

Hell yeah!

Sums it up perfectly!


.................................................................

Weather in Bale compliments of Bale Mountain Lodge, which may be accessible from their home page.  I couldn't find weather on the home page and had better luck searching directly for bale mountain lodge weather.  I like how the site describes the wildlife viewing along with weather.

http://www.balemountainlodge.com/weather.html

 

 

Edited by Atravelynn
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Wow, what an epic report. It's taken me a few hours to read and digest, must have taken days in the preparation. Thanks for sharing so much detailed information. I don't see myself being able to persuade my other half that this is the trip for her so it's all the better that at least I have had the opportunity to live the experience through your report. The birding opportunities are amazing and the mammals pretty damn good too.

 

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Posted (edited)

On 8/12/2017 at 8:35 AM, Atravelynn said:

Great photos of the Bale monkeys and the wolves @Atravelynn  We were not lucky enough to see any Bale monkeys. While it is possible to have the Bale monkeys appear from the forest right in front of the vehicle, we spent the better part of 2 days seeking them out.  On a 5-night trip, devoting that much time to monkeys (or any non-wolf species) is possible. With the more typical 3-night stay, as you had, I think luck becomes much more of a factor in monkey viewing.


Actually we stayed at Bale 4 nights but I was sick one day so that day I really did nothing.  So three full days minus one being sick meant really two full days for wildlife-viewing, plus the afternoon we drove through the Sanetti Plateau on the way to the lodge and then the morning we left, we did devote a bit of time looking for wildlife.  But we didn't do that kind of searching for the monkeys that you did, so that is good advice for those going to Bale: devote that time if they want to see them.

 

And it makes me feel better to understand that none of your closer sightings were on foot.  We really didn't see other vehicles out there that I recall, not ones looking for wolves, just the buses zooming through with locals going from town to town.  

Edited by SafariChick
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Posted (edited)

On 8/13/2017 at 2:12 PM, SafariChick said:


Actually we stayed at Bale 4 nights but I was sick one day so that day I really did nothing.  So three full days minus one being sick  I knew I came up with 3 through some kind of math.  meant really two full days for wildlife-viewing, plus the afternoon we drove through the Sanetti Plateau on the way to the lodge and then the morning we left, we did devote a bit of time looking for wildlife.  But we didn't do that kind of searching for the monkeys that you did, so that is good advice for those going to Bale: devote that time if they want to see them.  The monkeys are likely an added bonus for many Bale visitors.

 

And it makes me feel better to understand that none of your closer sightings were on foot.  We really didn't see other vehicles out there that I recall, not ones looking for wolves, just the buses zooming through with locals going from town to town.  And some big trucks too!

 

Edited by Atravelynn
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Posted (edited)

On 8/2/2017 at 1:01 PM, michael-ibk said:

 

And we had one of my favourite bird sightings - Bearded Vulture!

 

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We saw this immensely cool bird a couple of times, but mostly high up in the sky and out of photo reach. This one was much more accommodating. 

 

The quest for a bearded vulture (or lammergeier) photo was rife with drama, if I recall correctly.  If my recollections are all wrong, then I’ll blame it on deliriousness caused by the altitude. 

 

The first bearded vulture was flying overhead in Guassa while Michael was in the loo.  Abiy spotted it and excitedly pointed it out so Michael could get a shot,  but it was not to be.  The second bearded vulture was indeed high overhead and by the time we stopped and exited the vehicle, it seemed the bird had left Earth’s atmosphere. Defeat again. There may even have been more incidents of the bearded vulture that got away.  So near the end of our stay in Bale when this bearded vulture (and I believe it was a pair) suddenly came into view, Michael spotted them and was jubilant.  Victory at last.

 

 

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One of the bearded vulture photo attempts that ended in defeat.

 

@Dave Williams thanks for your kind comments!  My other half feels like your other half.  Would your other half mind if you ventured off to Ethiopia without her?

 

 

 

 

Edited by Atravelynn
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3 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

 

@Dave Williams thanks for your kind comments!  My other half feels like your other half.  Would your other half mind if you ventured off to Ethiopia without her?

@Atravelynn I have the best, most understanding wife a man could ask for... and I'm not exaggerating!! In the last 12 months I have had 10 days in The Gambia, 8 days in Scotland and 14 days in Spain, all without her and travelling instead with birding pals. 14 days is pushing the limit and my next trip without her planned for May next year has been set by me, and my friend was of the same mind, at 10 days.  

I don't think Ethiopia, certainly not covering anything like the distances you did ,is viable in 10 days.

As an aside, I wouldn't set a foot outside without her if it did anything to damage our relationship either!

Consequently I'm always looking for the best places to suit both our needs and lap up trip reports in the hope I find them!! 

I would rule out Ethiopia despite it's superb wildlife because of 1) the driving distances and 2) the standard and type of accommodation which is grand enough but lacks swimming pools and sunbeds where I can abandon her to a good book when she gets fed up of watching me take photos.

 

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Perfect logic, @Dave Williams

 

You've done some amazing birding trips!

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In p144 the Long Creasted Eagle seems to be in control of a vast field of inferiors. great! the Gaysay grasslands under spring clouds are enchanting like all the wonderful landscapes I didnˋt expect in DRY Ethiopia. Above all I loved the two self-assured beautiful kids. Simply adorable.

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On 7/27/2017 at 2:16 AM, optig said:

I can only say that I may skip Awash National Park entirely in favor of Lake Lagano. It truly has everything to offer.

Perhaps the list of 12 activities on a business card for Awash Lodge and Doho Lodge might change your mind.  How about that #11 for some exercise?

 

 

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10 hours ago, screentraveller said:

In p144 the Long Creasted Eagle seems to be in control of a vast field of inferiors. great! the Gaysay grasslands under spring clouds are enchanting like all the wonderful landscapes I didnˋt expect in DRY Ethiopia. Above all I loved the two self-assured beautiful kids. Simply adorable.  Were you referring to the always young-at-heart Michael and Andreas?  :P  Thanks for the comments!

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

We´ve almost reached the end of the road of this report - so time to finally talk about roads a little bit. As mentioned before one needs to cover long distances in Ethiopia to get from A to B, and probably should always expect to need a little more time than anticipated. The state of the roads is by no means too bad - as a matter of facts some parts of the traffic network are very new, very modern. From Addis eastwards to Awash and also a bit to the South in the Rift Valley new fenced off multi-lane motorwayshave been built, allowing travellers to really go fast for quite a while, and I expect more and more of the main routes will ultimately be that way - the Chinese are very, very busy indeed, and Ethiopia seems hellbent on modernising in a breakneck pace. Certainly good for the economy, but obviously this will bring more problems to the remaining ecosystems on the way, fragile as they already are. We already talked about Awash which is the prime example for a victim to the country´s development.

 

Most roads, however, are simply unfit to accomodate the amount of traffic. This is especially true in the Rift Valley where we had quite a few traffic jams and were stuck between trucks. Cities, of course, are always busy in Africa.

 

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The exception - a lonesome road with no car in sight.  This was more normal the farther away we got from Addis and the Valley in general.

 

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Some roads leading to the parks (like here to Senkelle) are pretty basic but servicable - in the dry season at least.

 

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Ethiopia is probably not a fun country for self-drivers, I certainly would not have enjoyed being there on my own. When driving faster you have to be super-attentive because you never know when the next pothole will suddenly be there, and most of all something will always, always be in the way.

 

People on their way to business ...

 

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.... Cows ...

 

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... Horses ...

 

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... Camels ...

 

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... and especially Donkeys. I´ve never seen so many Donkeys in my life like in Ethiopia.

 

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Our driver Bege really was very, very good, very skilled and careful. And way faster than I ever could have been - he slithered through between the trucks, went left, went right, left the road for a while, drove back on, but always in a manner that I felt totally safe with him. A real professional.

 

Lots of traffic unfortunately also means many roadkills. I remember Jackals, Bat-Eared Fox, Hyena and probably more. This here is an unfortunate Civet.

 

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And a very fortunate Somali Crow.

 

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One thing true for almost all of Africa - no matter where you stop, in a couple of minutes people will turn up, especially kids.

 

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Not much of big game in this area of Ethiopia - so some well-known birds apparently have just switched to cattle - Red-Billed Oxpeckers.

 

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Vultures seem to be doing still quite well in Ethiopia, we saw many of them, and apparently poison which has had so catastrophic effects on their populations elsewhere in the world is fortunately not so much in use here.

 

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Rueppel´s is by far the most common species.

 

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But we also saw a new one for me - the Griffon Vulture.

 

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Edited by michael-ibk
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Posted (edited)

For our last night we stayed at the Haile Resort at Lake Awasa, a big hotel mainly catering to Ethiopia´s upper class looking for a leisurely weekend getaway. Ok for what it is. For our very last dinner in the country I tried to be brave again and went local for my food.

 

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A mistake. The memory of my miserable time in Awash was still too fresh, my stomach revolted just from the smell of it, and I really could not eat more than a few bites. I´m afraid Ethiopian food and me will never hug it out again.

 

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Early next morning we visited the local fish market. Not the most pretty of places ...

 

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... but quite interesting to spend some time with the locals - and the Marabous.

 

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Soon the sun came out, and everything looks much nicer when the light arrives.

 

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But sorry guys, even in good light you will never win any beauty contests. :P

 

The market is a a very good place for birds, we saw dozens of different species.

 

Black-Winged Stilt

 

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Little Stint

 

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Hammerkop, surprisingly our only sighting of this familiar bird in Ethiopia.

 

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When we walked a bit away from the fishingmen the surroundings became very lush and beauitful, and again, tons of good birds to see.

 

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Great Egret

 

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And also some Grivets in the trees.

 

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Marsh Sandpiper

 

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Our only Ethiopian Malachite.

 

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My favourite moment, however, was something I´ve longed to see for quite some time - a Black Egret.

 

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Maybe not the most striking bird, but they have one of the coolest hunting techniques in the animal kingdom - they go umbrella!

 

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This is called "canopy feeding", the Egret uses the shade it creates to attract fish. I have often read about this but never seen it - so I somehow imagined they would stand motionless for extended time periods with the umbrella on, but it´s actually a far more hectic affair.

 

 

 

Edited by michael-ibk
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On 8/3/2017 at 1:43 AM, michael-ibk said:

 

I´m afraid not, @jeremie, the main road is heavily used, we saw burnings going on and areas which had been burnt, livestock (and dogs) are abundant, and people were everywhere.

 

:(

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A great overview of the roads, and a wonderful sequence of the Black Egret - the video really helps - I did not know it was such a quick process.

A shame the report is coming to an end!

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The Cinnamon Bracken Warbler's song (p148) to the world is enchanting, pure joy of life!

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