Our first day in the Serengeti central area and we were seeing a great variety of wildlife in its natural habitat.
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Going round the reserve, driven and guided by Frank, we came across some Lappet-Faced Vultures, Africa's largest vulture, feeding on the remains of a Lions kill. When a Buffalo dies they are so thick in the hide that the only Vulture that can open them up is the Lappet-faced so the others have to wait until they turn up at the carcass. The Von der Deckens Hornbill is one of the common variety but always nice to see with it's brightly coloured bill. The Stein bucks we found are a small, very shy, Antelope which seems to spend much of the time in the undergrowth so we count ourselves lucky to photograph this pair.
The full belly on the Spotted Hyena was probably the reason for the siesta. These Hyena's are not scavengers but hunters, killing to eat. I found the Saddled Billed Stork fascinating. We were ready for moving on when the Male Lion started getting amorous and Frank said if we waited we would photograph a sight not usually seen. I am glad we did to get series these pictures.
Quite often during our travels round the lanes we saw Ostriches in the distance but this one was in range of the big lens. The Lions were a different 'kettle of fish' and this young male popped it's head up out of the long grass some 20 yards from the track, making it my favourite Lion photograph. I think this shot epitomises what the lion is about. A master of cover although this one was not hunting but coming to a puddle on to the road for a drink.
A couple of miles further on and Gordon spotted this female with two young cubs. she was not with a pride so was probably rearing them alone. This bird strolled across the bare ground, out of the grassland near to where we were photographing the Lions. It is a Southern Ground Hornbill and as the names suggests spends most of its daytime walking. One of the treats of the trip was the sighting of this tiny, gorgeous Leopard cub in a small cave in a rock pile. We saw at least two of them but they were too small to venture out without mum.
Kori Bustards strutted around in the long grass, either alone or in pairs. I believe they are Africa's heaviest flying bird, weighing up to 15 kilo. The Ruppel's Long-tailed Starling with the striking coloured feathering was picking grit from the track when we came across it. It obliged us by standing still for a couple of seconds while we photographed it. Quite suddenly, rounding a corner we came upon a Hippo pool. Frank obviously knew it was there but it surprised us as the area around was so dry. The Crowned Plover had a nest near the road.
Our first sighting of the magnificent Cheetah was from a distance of some 250 yards but I thought it was worth a 'record' shot in case it was the only one we saw. I caught it jumping from one rock to another. Later in the day Frank responded to information over the two way radio, of another Cheetah, nearer to the road and we drove around five miles to find it. It was stretched out in the shade of an Acacia tree about 150 yds off the track. In the Serengeti it is forbidden to drive off-road without a special permit. I took a photo or two and the fitted a 2x converter to try to get it bigger in the frame, successfully I think as we were using beanbag supports, not tripods. She was very fidgety, looking round all the time and then she started to move and in our direction. Off came the converter and we both managed a series of pictures, Gordon using slide film and me quickly switching between digital and slide. She was a magnificent animal and came within 20 yards.
We passed the Lions kill that we had seen the day before and one Lioness was dragging her claws through the rough grass as if cleaning them. the White Backed Buzzards were waiting for an opportunity to get at the carcass. The fascinating Bare faced Go-away birds were drinking from a stream not far off the road and made for a different type of photo to the usual ones of them in trees.
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