Three spotted eagle owls on the way back....
Some italian friends came from Njombe, they are staying with Mic but thay came this side so we all had breakfast on the mwagusi river.
Was a great break in an otherwise quite dull day of computer works and camp cleaning and organizing.
Got informations about an elephants that apparently had been poached so we went to see after asking permission.
Luckily the elephant had not been killed by poachers, not that this made a big difference for him, so we felt a bit better.
There was the dead elephant, a dead jackal probably killed by lions and tall grass, plenty of vultures on the trees, billions and billions and billions of maggots of bow flies feeding on the carcass, lions spoors but no lions.
The smell of rotten meat was absolutely unbearable, was like something solid crawling up my nose and clasping my throat.
After some time while we were taking pictures a male popped out of the grass and headed away, after som more seconds we heard an upset growling behind the car. Lions were everywhere totally unseen in the tall grass.
We left the place and three big elephant bulls on the way back set our heart to peace again.
Elephants were actually not very serious, more sparring then something else but were also very close to the car and was good fun looking at them pushing each other. The tusk clashing, the trunks entwined, everything beautiful but as a swahili proveb says... when the elephants fight is the grass that suffer.
The impala's fighting was way heavier, they were really into it, the battle was ferocious and both the parties were bleeding from cuts on the shoulders. Completely oblivious of everything but the fight they crashed through bushes and ditches, crossed the road to crash through other bushes and only after a long time one of them gave up.
The winner pursued the looser out of its territory with the remaining energies
Let's go with order.
I was worried because it rained all night but the day came out clear and sunny.
We drov towards the bridge, wet roads and lotof mud but not a big deal, the drive was still very enjoyable. Not far from the bridge Naiti spotted a male lion on the sand in the middle of the mwagusi river. From my position, driving the car i could not see him but Naiti was sitting on the door and from that point he managed another amazing spot.
Soon the lion stood up and walked straight into water crossing the river and disapeared into the bush.
We turned the car and went back from were we came and the turned into the road that was closer to the lion's direction
We found the mal walking on the road together with another big boy. they actually led us to the entire pride, 22 cats all together.
the location itself was absolutely stunning, the river running at full speed in the background, some lions in the sand some in the grass dotted by plenty of cleome's flowers.
Three small cubs around 2/3 months old were very fascinated by water and kept, to the dismay of the mother, going very close to the edge of the river.
The current was quite strong and it would have been dangerou for the little ones to fall in that's why the females kept calling them back and pushing them farther. She was relaxing only when the cubs were very close to her.
This was already a great sighting and we went on towards the river drive where we saw plenty of general game, zebras, impalas and giraffes making the big number.
We stopped for a sandwich on the main river watching a pond of 20 hippos half out of water, eventually we decided to stay out making the most of this day, we moved towards little serengeti.
there was not much around and for at least one our we saw very little.
Then we spotted an elephant in the distance and we drove towards him, what made this elephant attractive was the color, he was completely red from the soil he had been bathing in.
Getting closer we realized he was not alone, first we notice a small reeding herd of ten under an acacia almost on the road, together with them there was a huge bull, not a big tusker but definitely huge pobably around 6 tons.
We swithced the car off to give them the chance to move. We started seeing more and more ellies... and more and more and more... from one elephants in a bushland we got some bushes in an elephantland.
The elephants were very nevous and came out everywhere from the thick bush where thwy were moving.
I decided to move on a little bit to see if the elephants in front of us decided to leave the road, we needed to get out of the way not to get stuck in the middle of what seemed to be a huge aggregation. I went more or less 15 mtrs from them when thebig bull charged us, I stood in the car, shouted him, hitting the wind screen with my hand and he stopped 5 mtrs from the car, turned and hurried off.
The female were still there but when the male run they run a bit farther and then the matriarch charged from a bit more sistant, she run 20 meters while I was shouting her and then went back.
Elephants were everywhere and still very nervous, we moved towards a bigger road and elphants went ballistic. We heared trumpetic and rumbling from every direction on from a narrow valley came out an umlievable quantity of pachiderms and all of them went running towards the woodland.
we had elephants on the right side, in front of us, on the left side and behind us, and many of them were vocalizing at the top of their lungs.
We managed to stay out of the way but the show was impressive, the loudest concert I have ever heard, another female charged us but I drove off and got in front of the heard in order to have a better escape route in case the herd became too aggressive, the moment was quite adrenalinic but both we and the ellies behaved properly and eventually some of them cooled down.
We drove all morning and we struggled to see something. It is always like that when we get big rai in the night, and we got rain.
Mbagi empty, Mwagusi empty, Old airstrip empty, river drive empty... around mid day we were desperate.
We just went farther then usual and eventually the luck turned. Four lions few meters from the road in the tall grass made our guests day much better and more then this going towards mdonya juu we got a beautiful cheetah standing amongst the bushwillows.
It was a bit shy so it disappeared quite fast but we had time enough to enjoy the cat properly.
Great ending of the morning.
The afternoon was not nice, we had to come back early from the drive because was pouring cats and dogs.... as it is still doing now
In the afternoon I drove with my friend Naiti,we got another male lion. First i thought it was dead but it was still alive even if very sick.
The lion was far and laying down under a bush, it was impossible to see but still Naiti made the miracle, I do not have a clue how he spotted that thing, it was unbelievable.
ah.. plenty of ellies around the bridge
At 6 in the morning it is still a bit dark and chilly and driving with the wind in your face is great.
The river is drying up even if there is still a bit of running water, most of the bed is back to sand and exactly in this sand Bakari spotted the first pride of the day from an amazing distance.
It is the mbagi pride in all its component, actually the males are 2 and so far we always saw only one, but anyway, 2 adult males, 4 adult females, 3 subadults and 5 cubs were half sleeping and half playing in the river bed.
At a certain point they also started roaring giving us shivers and goose bumps not for fear but for the intimate emotions that this sound can give. We watched them for almost 2 hours and then we moved on.
Close to breakfast point was my turn to spot a pride, more or less twenty lions were laying some meters from the road in a shady bush, 4 of them 3 of which cubs were actually sleeping just on the side of the road some 20 mtrs farther.
Great sighting again, the cubs moved and went to drink and eventually from nowhere a big male walked in.
We went on just to find plenty elephants on the hills and an amazing birdlife.
Cardinal queleas, white winged widowbirds, red collared widowbirds and southern red bishops are all in breeding and it is a great show of clours.
We got a big rain in the afternoon but it cleared up so we drove in a superb light ofr wet sand and mud, the river full again and frogs singing everywhere. The sunset was sweet and was a perfect closing of the day.
Last gift was a couple of heuglin’s courser on the way back.
We started with more then 10 lions in the sand of the mwagusi river. We first saw cubs and females but then a blonde male jumped out of the bushwillows on the shore chased by a young bull elephant.
The second sighting was by far the most exciting, we were in an open patch on the hills, surrounded by combretum and baobabs, we were busy looking at a herd of zebras, I was actually pointing to my guest a zebra that was standing and looking around from a termite mound, I was actually explaining that zebras often look for high ground to scan the surrounding for predators.
I did not even finish the sentence that from 50 mtrs farther another zebra dashed out of the thick bushland followed at close quarters by a lioness.
The cat managed to stay close to the zebra for at least 100 mtr but then lost the sprint and gave up the chase. For strange it may seem the other zebras together with the one on the termite mound, realized what was happening only after the chase was over and then all of them started running in the opposite direction in a concert of alarm calls. All except one who decided to run the other way just to be chased by another lioness that was following the first.
Both lionesses were not lucky but we were thrilled by this amazing show of skill, speed and power.
Close to camp we got the 4th sighting, another mating pair but this time not very active, all they did was sleeping.
In the afternoon we went along the river again and we got another sighting, probably the same pride of the morning but in a different position, after a while the weather turned cloudy and windy so they moved for hunting, we managed to follow for a while but then they headed towards an area with no roads so we left them on their own.
Definitely a lion’s day with the cherry on the cake of another spotted eagle owl on the road to camp
We also saw an Oribi resting in the open plains, always a precious sighting.
We drove towards the main river mostly birding and enjoying landscapes. Birding is a quite slow process so to do few kilometres take long time but it is always very good fun. I also saw a bird I never saw before, a chestnut sparrow.
A guide from another camp told us he just saw a mating pair of lions not a couple of hundred meters from where we were, we reached the place but the lions were behind a bush so we could not see them.
They were mating and they always move when the copulation takes place so we bet on this and decided to wait there for them to come out. We just needed a bit of luck and we actually got it, after less then 5 minutes the lioness walked out from the bush and the male mated her in the tall grass in front of the car. It was quite a special thing for my guest particularly being the first time she saw this happening.
We drove off to see a wonderful white winged widowbird, one of the first of this season.
On the way back we got a wounded zebra, we could see the marks off three lion’s claws on the muscle of the back leg, 2 claws went very superficial but one was very deep in. Amazing strength must have occurred to survive that attack
Many tse tse fies on the road to Mdonya this afternoon.
We went first to see another camp, two nights ago a couple of elephants destroyed their tented lounge and the owner asked me to go and checked what happened there.
The bulls savaged the tent horribly, I have never seen something like that. Apparently for no reason they bent metal poles and broke some of them, they ripped canvas and smashed furniture.
I really could not understand why they did that, there was no food inside, no people around, nothing that could trigger such rage.
It was a sort of powerful vibrations given both by the sight of them and by the sound they were producing. The look like an endless line of huge boulders between the acacias and the baobabs.
On the way back we kept seeing other herds of elephants but the excitement of the sighting of the big herds stayed with us.
We got a puncture on the way back and this delayed us a bit
Getting late on the road to camp gave room to a very cool surprise: three sighting of spotted eagle owl, all of them were just in the middle of the road but in three different spots.
The third one actually did not want to leave the road.
Eventually he flew up on a tree by the side of the road, only to fly back on the road in front of us as we passed by.
He kept dancing in front of the car regardless of all we did, lights on lights off, on again off again.
He left the road only when he decided to do that
They almost walked half way between kimilamatonge and mibuyuni along the mdonya river, I hope they are not going to challenge the Kaka and Pua, the 2 dominant male lions of the mdonya pride.
Crossing the bridge of mdonya chini we got almost shocked looking at catfishes in the river, tens of them were fighting the current under the bridge, splashing and swimming through the rocks to get the rich food coming down from the flood coming from the hill.
Ok, probably the salmons in Canada are a better show, but I enjoyed this sighting very much.
The morning gave me a beautiful surprise insectwise.
Clinging on small stems I found three Arrow Sphynxs, beautiful huge moths with brown colour and a strange white pattern on the wing.
Walking along the tall grass another marvellous moth appeared as a pinkish cloud in the green, it is on of the emperors but I still do not know which one. It is so stunning, if you look at the false eyes on the wings, the center is made of a transparent membrane.
Getting out of camp we were surprised to see big catfishes (at least 80 cm long) in the pools of water in the middle of the road, they probably just emerged from the ground in some muddy pool nearby and they are making their way to the river.
The drive took us towards kimilamatonge, it is cloudy and all the streams are rivers.
Driving up the hill we stumbles into a coalition of male lions, three kings patrolling their territories and probably moving to conquer new ones. they kept following the road for long time and eventually we had to leave them to their duties.
Was a great sightings, the lions kept walking on and off the road often passing very close to the car for the amusement of my guests.
Went to mdonya in the evening and had dinner with Mic and Malcolm.
It was a great day, we saw lions other two time, once again on another zebra kill and more then this we saw a Serval, even if from distance a great sighting.
Yesterday I forgot to mention a pair of white tailed mongoose on the road to camp together with the spotted eagle owl that was so kind to show himself also today.
He is so full that is not even funny, he cannot stay put in one position, the stomach is too prominent pushing on the lungs, making his breathing difficult and making him absolutely unconfortable.
I felt the same several time after big xmas dinners, he needs to change position very often, tries to sleep but there is no chance, so he keeps laying down then standing up and moving few paces to lay down again in a close bush and then standing up and returning to another bush closer to the kill.
This pattern reapeted over and over again.
Even 4 hrs later he is in the same condition, vultures and jackals are coming but he does not leave the zebra and keeps trying to sort out his difficult digestion.
Poor little thing, we really felt sorry for him
A muddy patch of black cotton soil just passed 3 seconds before when a breeding herd of elephants appears ahead on the little track going uphill. Only 3 or 4 are visible and amongst them the tuskless matriarch, huge female standing tall and staring.
The warm light of late afternoon is painting the ellies. We are silent, enjoying the moment. She starts moving and she slowly comes down the road, slowly slowly getting closer. I talk to her sweet words and she aknowledges me, she is thinking now, getting her mind straight to understand if I am friend or foe. She is a bit nervous but she keeps coming, 5 meters, 4 meters, she stops at 3 and rumbles. Out of the blue comes all the herd, not five or six animals as I expected but more then thirty. A wall of muscles and ivory coming towards the car, they block all the road walking side by side and they also come closer and closer,the guests are frozen, not a single camera shutter is heard, seconds are also frozen in different timing perception. we are in the middle of an horseshoe of ellies the farthest one maybe 10 meters from us. They are tense they still do not know how to react, what to do. And the tuskless one comes again, I keep talking and talking to her, she passes by and stops 2 meters from us. she looks beautiful she looks powerful she looks at us and then slowly moves. All the others follow her passing both sides of us as we do not exist as we, that were felt as a danger ten minutes before, are already forgotten. Within seconds they disappear, again wonderful silent ghosts.
Few minutes later lions roared as the giraffes where posing silhouetted agains the sunset.. The heart beats faster.
Insects are amazing, pure geometry with stunning colors and shapes.
Mic and me we spent just half an hour looking for them in the tall grass and the results were fabulous.
A funny stalk-eye flies with the strange reddish eye at the edge of a long stalk, a hungry black and green caterpillar busy feeding (actually there were hundreds of there where we looked as well as in all the park), a tiny grasshopper so tiny to be able to stay on a grass leaf blade as if it was an entire highway.
And again a leaf beetle (Plagiodera caffra) with its metallic color and what we think is their pupa attached on the under surface of the leaves with a pattern that makes them looking like ghostly faces and a beautiful ladybird we couldn’t identify properly with its bright red coloration and elegant black lines running on the elitras.
All of this in just ten minutes… everyday there is something new to marvel about.
While I was writing I heard black backed jackal frantic alarm call, I thought there were lions because they have been seen through camp this afternoon so I went out wrapped in my kikoi with the torch to have a look, didn’t see the lions but as soon as I got my feet on the verandah a leopard started calling with its raucous voice not farther then 15 mtrs from me, I shone the torch in its direction but the grass is way to tall..
Even with no sight of him I am delighted.
But the time passes an the mood comes back bright.
We found a nice nest of red faced crombec in camp, two eggs are inside and the bird is incubating them.
Went to see Mic by night and had a very nice evening at her camp, I needed that a lot.
That forced me in the tent all the morning.
Went for a training drive in the afternoon, very nervous and not patient at all which is not the perfect mood to teach. I couldn't make the trainee overcome his shyness at talk with a voice that could be heard from the back seat, leave alone proper guiding. At least he is getting better and better with his birds. We saw a small small, extra small leopard tortoise that was the highlight of the day.