Elephant Plains Safari: Preparing for National Birding Day among Animals Everywhere …

News of the Day from Villiers:

(All images from back of Villiers’ Camera)

We woke up this morning to a glorious morning with a brilliant kaleidoscope of colors painted across the sky. It was fresh and so lovely, and of course we are enjoying the greenery all around.

We swung by Serengeti Pan that has been deepened since we were last here and therefore holds a lot more water. We found three Spotted Hyenas, two of which were playing around in the water. It was wonderful to see these animals that have such a bad reputation being so gentle and so joyful in the water. They splashed, nipped each other gently, and chased each other back and forth in the pan, having a thoroughly good time.

7-ep-villiers-hyenas-nov-2016-1

Meanwhile, while we were photographing the antics of the Hyenas, our other vehicle stopped at the Tsalala Lions to photograph them drinking at a small, muddy pool. We went to join them, and found the Lions, lights out and spread out on the open plain they have not left since their buffalo kill. Talking of which, the Lions still look quite full after that large buffalo meal, so maybe they may only start hunting in the next two days or so.

We drove around to find some fresh leopard tracks, but there is so much general game around that we stopped frequently for Zebras, Impala, Giraffe, Rhinos, Buffalos and Elephants. We never drove more than 200 meters or so without another stop. Among these were two young Giraffe necking while a young calf and some adults watched – all in glowing golden morning light.

7-ep-villiers-giraffe-nov-2016-2

A female Saddle-billed Stork walked along, catching insects as she progressed. Other birds included Wahlberg’s Eagles, Steppe Eagles, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Steppe Buzzard, Thick-billed Cuckoo (a rare sighting for these parts), Great Spotted Cuckoo, Diedericks Cuckoo, and we heard but did not see or photograph a Red-chested Cuckoo as well as a Black-chested Cuckoo – 5 Cuckoos! Everyone is really excited because Saturday will be National Birding Day, so the challenges are out! …

As we left the Lodge this afternoon we almost immediately encountered the three Wild Dogs that we saw yesterday. They rested peacefully next to a mud puddle just off the road. They had full bellies, and ony looked up occasionally to keep an eye on a White-backed Vulture that circled above.

We heard that Impala warning calls could be heard south of the dogs, so we headed in that direction and checked for any signs of leopards – but although Anderson (that large male Leopard) had left tracks around there, we were out of luck.

We returned to the dogs that were moving around, and after a few photos –

7-ep-villiers-nov-2016-1

– we moved on to fulfil a wish list for one of our guests, to photograph a Rhino close-up. We found one grazing on some of the fresh new grass and stopped there to photograph it from all angles and with every conceivable lighting situation in the setting sun. There were plenty of Oxpeckers hopping around on the Rhino’s back, head and around the ears.

7-ep-villiers-nov-2016-2

From there we continued our leopard search and saw many very nervous Impala. We didn’t find a Leopard, but we did come across seven Spotted Hyenas on an open plain looking very excited and calling repeatedly. Maybe they could smell the Wild Dogs or even a nearby Leopard. We photographed them using the spotlights.

I am convinced that we will hear Leopards tonight from the Lodge – and maybe we will see them tomorrow …