Saturday, 24 September 2011

Catching up 2...

Wildebeest heading for the plains for the night
After Serengeti our next weekend activity was a trip to Tarangire and Manyara Ranch, leaving after picking up H and M from the airport and Kitty from school and after a slow lunch. We arrived about 4pm and headed straight out for a short drive around the Small Serengeti. For a 2 hour drive of no more than 10kms it was pretty spectacular, with almost noone else on the road and huge numbers of yellow-throated sandgrouse to be seen. Mammal highlights were 8 lion cubs with a female in the tree above, another young male nearby, then coming back to camp we were treated to the sight of two male cheetahs chasing wildebeest on the plains. (little bit distant, but quite spectacular!). Soon after the monkeys were shouting 'leopard' all around us, but we couldn't find it and had to get back before curfew... With the usual elephants and assorted plains game it made for a spectacular evening drive, my only gripe being the lack of a decent sunset!

Lions and admirers
Next morning H and I went for a walk along the lodge site looking for birds ( and whilst nothing spectacular was playing, we had a nice time before breakfast and then abandoned Mama and littlies at the pool before on down to Silale. Approaching the river we found the lions from last night being very obliging by the main road (and now attracting a typical Northern Tarangire crowd!).

Most of them seemed to miss the main highlight of the bridge area though some obliging painted snipe.
Male Painted Snipe (the females are brighter!)

Mutant Buffalo
I pulled through the first two river loops, finding a nice female lion with a newly killed impala lamb (and a crowd of admirers) in the riverbed, before leaving the crowds and heading south. Highlight of the drive down was a couple of huge buffalo herds, including this extraordinary beast bringing up the rear: looks like the sun got too hot! Not in particularly good condition either (presumably it can't graze with these horns), but obviously survived a number of years.

Siliale had over 500 elephants visible from the picnic site, but the birds weren't quite as good as a couple fo weeks ago - we missed rufous-bellied heron and wooly-necked stork - but was still heaving with life. The highlight was probably the three pythons I found in trees nearby - never guaranteed to find even one, but Silale's the place!
Python - one of 3 (two in this tree alone!).

Heading back along the north of the swamp, via boundary hill, we stopped first to admire yet more lions under the trees, and then a rather nice leopard in a tree. Being the middle of the day there' wasn't much to be seen coming over the kopjes near boundary hill, but it's nice to see the woodlands there looking good. And then when we hit the river again we immediately found a cheetah sitting in the cool shade, being the highlight of the trip back.
Very spotty...

Leaving the park 5mins before our 24hr permit expired, we headed straight onto Manyara Ranch. Stragely, the clouds had come down and the wind got up, making this rather a cold and dusty drip, but we found a new bird for the ranch (short-tailed lark), which was rather nice and we got to camp in time to pick up drinks and head off for a last drive. With noisy children in the car we opted against joining the other client at the hide by the dam and took ourselves to the far side of the (dry) river, passing a beautiful group of lesser kudu en route. Parking up near the river, we hopped out and enjoyed some birds and 7 big bull eles nearby, with the kids enjoying their drink on top of the car... A short drive back in the dark with the spotlight found a nice family of lesser galago and a few hares, but nothing too spectacular. Kids in bed, we had a civilised meal before heading out again with the spotlight. Highlights of this drive were one (possibly 2) Aardwolves, Bat-eared Foxes and many Spring Hares.
Doe lesser kudu

Rosy-patched Shrikes
The others went for a good walk in the morning, tracking very recent lion spoor, but not quite catching up, whilst the kids and I explored around the camp, nearling walking into Aldo the rather large, but fairly friendly bull elephant that seems to have taken up residence in the camp area this season. I also found some white-tailed larks displaying, which was rather nice, and the camp birdbath pulled in a single Fischer's Lovebird among the large flock of Yellow-collared, another new one for the ranch list. More birding followed second breakasts (H catching up with the rosy-patched shrike I'd heard from my bed in the morning...), before we headed back to Arusha mid-afternoon. A nice weekend by anyone's standards...

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