Masai Mara: Secretary Bird vs Puff Adder

By August 30, 2013 Uncategorized No Comments

Ben Reports:

The early grey dawn found us inside the park, our plan being to head to the Mara River crossing areas as early as possible.

On the way, a quick check on the lioness with the four cubs was warranted … and there she was – lying on a termite mound with her little cubs gathered close around her. They made a charming picture with the slating golden rays of the sun and those beautiful flat topped trees creating a lovely background.  We managed to move around and to capture the heartwarming scene from every possible angle.

 

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There must have been some signal from mom to the cubs as the four jumped down from the mound together and walked directly past us into some dense vegetation where they remained out of sight.

As we moved on a Secretary Bird came walking down a narrow pathway directly toward us. We stopped, expecting the bird to veer off in a different direction – but no! She continued to approach us directly. We sat quietly taking as many photos as we could as she came closer and closer.

Suddenly, just a couple of meters away from us she started stomping furiously on the ground and then leaped into the air, only to return to the ground and stomp! stomp! stomp! Then back up into the air, a few flaps of her wings and down again – stomp! stomp! stomp! Again and again we had the stomp! stomp! stomp and a short flight. We delightedly filled our memory cards with head shots, flying shots, jumping shots, stomping shots! Amazing!

Finally, after more than ten plus minutes of this action the bird lifted a two foot long Puff – Adder triumphantly into the air! But not convinced that the snake was dead, she started the stomping – leaping – flying routine again. Eventually she was satisfied that her prey was definitely dead and we captured some wonderful images of her holding the snake in her beak and then swallowing it. What an amazing sighting!

By now it was definitely time to be at the river, and we arrived minutes before a crossing started – giving us just enough time to position ourselves in a prime spot before the cacophony, dust, spray, tumult began. Column after column of hundreds of wildebeest and zebra poured in an endless stream down to the river, swam and struggled across, to emerge on the near side.

 

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After watching this incredible event we stopped for some coffee, and then moved to a different, promising vantage point. The opposite bank was filled with animals and we were convinced that the pressure from arriving animals would force a crossing soon. We decided to check the Fig Tree area as this gives a brilliant view over the river and the opposite bank. And we were rewarded – another crossing, again lasting for more than a half hour. Again our cameras were ultra busy capturing the nonstop drama unfolding in front of us.

After lunch we returned to the Fig Tree area again after a quick scout up and down the river. The animals were beginning to run down the slopes, with a massive buildup and pressure from behind.

We watched, incredulous, as the pressure of the animals approaching the river forced many to start jumping down a 15 meter cliff to the river bank below.

 

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Many managed this treacherous leap and reached the water safely from where they could brave the waters and make the crossing. We did see one wildebeest fall down the cliff to her death. But the others just kept on jumping and swimming!

We went down to the Mara Bridge which is where the carcasses of the drowned animals wash up. Hundreds of vultures were there, taking full advantage of this bounty!

On the way back to the park gate we visited the lioness again. She was lying under one of the beautiful tress and we could not resist some more photos in that lovely setting. Then a few curious giraffe ambled up and  we captured some great images of the giraffe staring bemusedly at the resting lioness – with the beautiful sky and landscape behind them. 

The lioness slowly stood up, stretched and strolled toward the road. As she reached the road she called – once, twice, and as if by magic, the four little cubs came out of the bush. A massive greeting ceremony followed, after which the cubs settled down together to suckle. 

Time was passing rapidly and again we made it to the gate with moments to spare.

After yet another amazing day, and over filled memory cards, we have returned to the Lodge more than delighted with our experiences …