The first thing I saw this morning was a yellow weaver tending to his nest, just outside the main building at Ndutu Safari Lodge.
Yellow weaver finishing its nest
On our morning drive, we saw some lions – first a female pair, one of whom is pregnant and the other wears a collar. There is an interesting story about this 5-year-old lioness. Last July, on the Internet there was a story of a leopard cub being nursed by a lioness as if it were her own. The lioness lived in the Southern Serengeti and was tagged – it was the one we saw today! I didn’t hear any details about the story, but apparently the leopard cub had lost her mother and the lioness had lost her cubs, because she was lactating. So the handlers gave the leopard cub to the lioness to nurse, which she readily accepted.
The pregnant lioness, probably the sister (litter mate) of the other
After we moved on, we saw several other animals – some predators and some prey – including buffalo,
a group of male Grant’s gazelles,
two gazelles sparring
and a martial eagle in a tree.
Not long after seeing the lionesses, we came upon some male lions. One was a mature adult with a full mane,
while the other two were young – one of them had a mane which still amounted to little more than some extra tufts of hair on his neck. These two were most likely brothers – lions often hang around with their litter mates; the brothers cooperate in seeking prey and guarding territory. They were just lying around, same as the females – they may have gotten a meal during the night.
And speaking of meals, we next encountered a pair of jackals,and a group of hyenas.
This many hyenas together generally indicates that there is a possible meal nearby, and soon afterward, we came upon a large group of vultures, so we knew they were feeding – or about to feed – on carrion.
Actually, all these animals were waiting their turn, because a Marabou stork was picking the last meat off the bones.
Probably a young wildebeest, Livingstone said. All that was left was a skull picked clean and a rib cage the birds were getting the last morsels of meat off of. Then the bones would be left to dry up, adding to the scattered bones that litter the area.
The animals that feed on carrion definitely have a pecking order, although the major spoils go to whichever animal found it first. Soon we came across a couple of hyenas eating the remains of a young wildebeest, with the buzzards waiting impatiently nearby.
Whenever the hyenas took a break from eating, the vultures moved in. One of the hyenas finally got tired of this and yanked the carcass away and had its fill.
When it was done, the hyena simply walked off, and the vultures took over to pick the remains clean.
The afternoon drive was very different and at times a bit scary, at least for me. We were with Livingstone again but with different people in the truck with us.
There was more evidence of death: a half-eaten zebra surrounded by vultures and a Marabou stork, who apparently had had their fill, letting the jackals move in.
Here on the southern Serengeti we saw large herds of migrating wildebeest. Those at a distance looked like an army of ants moving along in a line.
We saw a herd much closer, walking on the shore of Lake Ndutu.
The lake was in their migratory path, so they would eventually have to cross it, many accompanied by their young alongside them. They chose a relatively shallow area to cross.
Even so, some of the calves, in spite of their mothers’ proddings, would probably not make it – either getting lost in the crowd, unable to keep up with the herd or make it across the water. Finally, late in the day, we saw a wildebeest calf, abandoned and alone. There was no sign of the herd. We knew that calf would not live to see morning.
We search for, hoped to see leopards. Where would a leopard be in late afternoon? In a tall tree, high up – it would need a strong, thick branch that was more or less horizontal.
Meanwhile, I added to my list of animals I have seen: two owls in a tree, making low, short hoo-hoo sounds; an eland close-up;hippos out of the water and close enough to see their faces;
and various other birds.
I think Livingstone got lost or tried to take too many shortcuts – he not only cut across flat plains, but also down washes and up the other side, rocky banks, over thorny bushes. Every time we approached some harrowing driving challenge, I held on tight and tried to look away. At first it was funny, but eventually I became annoyed. All this extreme bumping and jostling was not good for my sensitive stomach right now.
I trusted his driving skills, just felt that it was unnecessary to do so much off-road jostling and bumping.
But then as the sun began to go down, I realized he was in a hurry – we were supposed to be out of the reserve by sundown. I think we made it with only a couple of minutes to spare!
Coming up: More of the beautiful wildlife around Lake Ndutu in the Southern Serengeti!
The wildebeests (also known as gnus) in the crater don’t take the long migration of the Serengeti, but they’re always on the move to find better grassland. Large herds of them migrate from one side of the crater to another. Most of the time, you also see zebras migrating alongside the wildebeest herds. They have a mutually beneficial relationship with the wildebeest – the zebras can remember the route, while the wildebeest can smell water.It’s calving season and many wildebeest females had newborn calves alongside them – the mother of this newborn was still expelling the afterbirth.Another one gave birth (we could see its legs hanging down) in a field near the road. There seemed to be a sort of “gnu nursery” over there, where several newborns were either lying down or trying out their legs.
The newborn we’d seen being born tried to nurse, but his mother wouldn’t let him – she kept nudging him forward to get him to walk. She knew there was danger nearby: several hyenas lurked on a hillside, keeping their eyes on the herd for easy prey.
A short time later, several hyenas passed us, two with traces of blood on their muzzles and paws – they’d had their meal!
We saw two kinds of gazelles – Thomson’s gazelles are the smallest …
and Grant’s gazelles are larger, about the size of impalas.
Gazelles are a subgroup of antelope in which both male and female have horns. That is how you know impalas are not gazelles. Another non-gazelle antelope is the eland, quite a bit larger than impalas.
Other animals besides hyenas, gnus and lions that were sighted today: a couple of rhinos way far off; rhinos tend to stay away from the roads and other animals.
hippos, foraging on land…
but mostly submerged in the water – we could see their snouts when they came up for air.
Baglafecht weavers, who tried to steal our food while we were having a picnic lunch…
..and a jackal finishing off a meal with her pups.
Note: I wrote most of these haiku myself and took all the photographs. The haiku “Photography” was written by Dale Berman (my husband); “On Safari” (with slight modification) and “Origins” were written by other members of our Tanzanian Safari group. Posted for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Wildlife.
Wildebeest Is it possible
that the gnu knew? Or was he just
a bewildered beast?
Zebra Zebras’ stripes, black, white
Black and white and black and white
But no two alike.
Migration Zebras know the route.
Wildebeest can smell water.
They move in tandem.
Are lions lazy?
They’re always lyin’ around.
First: hunt, eat; then rest.
black tail of Thomson’s gazelle
back and forth and back.
This is a young male Thomson’s gazelle.
Thomson’s gazelles are the smallest of the gazelles on the Tanzanian plains.
Whiskers and black spots
Curious big eyes, ringed tail
It is not a cat!
Big ears constantly alert:
The elusive leopard
High in the acacia tree
Descends for a meal.
He feasts on young wildebeest
Bloodied and cackling.
Small, furry creatures
Living in rocky kopjes
Ostrich on the plain
Long neck craning, pink legs run
Flurry of feathers!
High above the ground
Ungainly shape yet graceful
Nibbling tops of trees.
With mud-caked skin, they
Lumber on African plains
Their youngsters close by.
Pert yellow weaver
Weaving a nest to impress
He hopes she approves.
A watery life
Just their snouts protrude
out of the water to breathe.
Hippos in a pond.
Dust swirls ‘round the truck
As more jeeps gather nearby
Big cats wish us away.
We all started here
Herds migrate; hunters follow.
The bright continent.
Pictures were taken
Memories are kept alive
Trip not forgotten