Monday, August 20, 2018

Damara Helmeted Guineafowl

In East Africa four years ago we saw two of the nine subspecies of helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris): the tufted guineafowl (N. m. mitrata) and Reichenow's helmeted guineafowl (N. m. reichenowi). 
Damara helmeted guineafowl.
This year while in Etosha NP in Namibia, near the beautiful Olifantsbad waterhole, we saw lots and lots of Damara helmeted guineafowl (N. m. damarensis) which is found from southern Angola to northern Namibia and Botswana. There were many of them, along with a smattering of black-faced impala, but they were on the other side of the waterhole and none of my pictures are very good.

The helmet of the Damara helmeted guineafowl appears to be an off-yellow, less yellow than the tufted guineafowl we saw, and the helmet appears to be taller and have kind of a crescent moon shape. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk

We saw a goshawk in Etosha NP, Namibia and I've been struggling to determine whether it is a southern pale chanting goshawk or a dark chanting goshawk. We saw an eastern pale chanting goshawk in Kenya four years ago, so I knew it was a goshawk. This post helped describe the differences between the two: (a) the dark chanting is darker gray than the pale chanting; (b) the dark chanting has a gray, not a white rump (I couldn't see the rump); (c) the dark chanting is smaller (I didn't have anything to compare it to); and (d) the dark chanting is found in well wooded savannah as opposed to savanna, semi-desert and karoo scrub (this was in Etosha, so score one for the pale chanting). 
Southern pale chanting goshawk.
Description: The head and upper breast are pale gray and the rest of the underparts are barred with dark gray and white. The bill is red at the base and dark gray at the tip. The cere, facial skin and long legs are red. It has black primary flight feathers. From below the tail is white with black barring. One other fact, aside from the terrain helped tip the scale, the tail of the dark chanting has broad black and white stripes and the picture of the bottom of the tail looked more like the picture of the pale chanting than the dark chanting. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Chapman's Zebra

My prior post on the Burchell's zebra noted the six subspecies of the plains zebra, which include Burchell's zebra and Chapman's zebra, and DNA testing which suggests that there are no genetic subspecies, but differences in striping on zebras which reflects a continuum from north to south, the northern zebras having narrower and more defined stripes and the southern zebras having "shadow" stripes and even just blotches of brown fading into white on the hindquarters, lower legs and underparts. 
This zebra near Okondeka waterhole in Etosha NP has nearly all white legs. 
Note the differences in stripes on these zebras at Okaukuejo waterhole in Etosha NP. The zebra second to left is almost all brown with some fairly heavy shadow striping. The zebra second from top right is also almost all brown, but a little lighter and with much lighter shadow stripes. The zebra fourth from left is almost all black and white with very faint shadow striping on the hindquarters. The zebra just behind it to the left is almost all brown and white with very little shadow striping (it is probably a youngster - youngsters are brown and white, then turn black). The variations among this group are striking. 
Chapman's zebra has stripes similar to the Burchell's zebra, but appears to be one step further south on the north/south continuum, meaning that there is even more white on the legs, hindquarters and undersides and less defined stripes.  
Note the lack of definition in stripes on the hindquarters. Some of the brown shadow stripes look like varicose veings. 
Note the hindquarters of the mother feeding the baby, much like the zebra in the photo above. 
The leading zebra has almost white legs and very ill defined shadow strips and incomplete black stripes on the hindquarters. 
Chapman's are found in northeast South Africa, north to Zimbabwe, west into Botswana, the Caprivi Strip of Namibia and southern Angola. However, in this blog post showing zebra subspecies, which was one of the more helpful posts showing differences in zebras, they have photos of Chapman's zebras in Etosha NP which show stripe patterns on the hindquarters that are weak and kind of squiggly, kind of like varicose veins. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Burchell's Zebra

There are three species of zebra: (1) the plains zebra; (2) the mountain zebra; and (3) the Grevy zebra. 

There are six subspecies of the plains zebra (not including the Quagga, which is extinct), including: (a) Burchell's zebra; (b) Grant's zebra; (c) Selous' zebra; (d) Maneless zebra; (e) Chapman's zebra; and (f) Crawshay's zebra. However, a 2018 DNA study questions the subspecies classifications. The subspecies classifications are all based on differences in striping and it is argued that the striping reflects a north to south genetic continuum. All zebras have black and white stripes and dark muzzles and no two look exactly alike. All have vertical stripes on the forepart of the body and then tend toward horizontal strips on the hindquarters. Northern populations of plains zebra (starting in Uganda) have narrower and more defined stripes. Southern populations of plains zebra have lesser, but varied amounts of striping on the underparts, the legs and the hindquarters. The southern populations also have brown "shadow" stripes between the black and white coloring. Embryological evidence suggests that the zebra's background color is dark and the white is an addition. 
This young zebra in Hwange NP, Zimbabwe has light shadow strips on the hindquarters and stripes going all the way down its legs. The black stripes are all pretty well defined. 
Also in Hwange NP. The shadow stripes are very light, although part of it is the lighting. 
Another zebra in Hwange. Striping going down most of the legs and light shadow stripes. 
I believe this may be the same zebra and the shadow stripes stand out a little better. 
Burchell's zebra are striped on the head, neck and flanks and sparsely down the upper limbs, fading to white. The Burchell's range was north of the Orange River in South Africa, extending northwest from southern Botswana to Etosha NP and the Kaokoveld in Namibia and southeast to Swaziland and the Kwazulu Natal. It is now extinct in the middle of the range and found in the northwestern and southeastern portions of that range. 
Zebra in the Okavanga Delta of Botswana. Stripes down the legs and shadow stripes on the hindquarters and back leg. 
Okavanga Delta zebras. Note that they have a little bit more of a brown background color, but still have a fair amount of striping down the legs. 
Okavanga Delta. Shadow stripes are weak, but could be the lighting. 
Now we get to Etosha NP in Namibia, further south, and the brown background gets greater, there is more white and less stripe on the legs and the shadow stripes appear darker or more pronounced. 

Another Etosha zebra with significant brown background and shadow stripes. 
These zebras are in the far eastern part of Etosha, at Kalkeheuwel waterhole. More signficant shadow striping, less on the legs and more brown background than the Hwange and Okavanga Delta zebras. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Kaokoveld Springbok

The springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) gets its name from some oddities that it has. The common name comes from Afrikaans and means springing, or jumping, gazelle or goat. The scientific name, "antidorcas," is Greek for not a gazelle, and "marsupialis" refers to a bizarre pocket-like skin flap it has which extends from the tail up along the mid-line of the back. This is the feature that distinguishes it from a true gazelle. 
I love this photo. The streaks along the white face, ornamented eyes and ornate horns remind me of a Japanese Geisha girl. Note this picture with those below. The marsupial-like pouch is not visible.
At Okaukuejo waterhole. 
The common and scientific names combine to somewhat describe the springbok's display of "pronking" where the springbok springs into the air, with all four feet off the ground, all relatively stiff and pointing down, and back arched and head pointing down. Adding to the display, the marsupial-like skin flap opens up exposing a shocking, long, wide, bright-white mohawk-like area of fur. Both elements add together to provide a weird and entertaining display. We saw pronking a couple of times and managed just a few terrible photos that at least give an indication of what it is about. Here is a great video with pronking set to ballet music. 
This is one of my horrible, but few, pictures of a springbok pronking, in mid-air. 
Here the marsupial-like skin flap is open, exposing the mohawk-like white fur. 
The springbok has a dark stripe from the corner of each eye to the mouth crossing a white face. There is a dark patch on the forehead below the horns. It is light brown with a dark reddish-brown band from the upper foreleg to the edge of the buttocks, separating the light brown from the white underbelly. The tail (except for the black tuft at the end), buttocks, insides of the legs and rump are white. Both male and female have horns that are straight at the base and then curve backward. 
Here the stripes down the face make the springbok almost alien-like. 

A young springbok with small horns. 
A good view of the lateral stripe and face stripe. 
There are three subspecies of springbok: (a) Angolan springbok (A. m. angolensis) found in southwestern Angola; (b) Kalahari or Kaokoveld springbok (A. m. hofmeyri) found north of the Orange River in South Africa up through Namibia and Botswana; and (c) Highveld-Karoo or Karoo springbok (A. m. maruspialis) found south of the Orange River in South Africa from the northeastern Cape of Good Hope to Kimberley and the Free State. 

There are differences in size and coloration between the three subspecies. We saw the Kaokoveld springbok in Etosha NP in Namibia. The Kaokoveld Desert is found in northwestern Namibia and southwestern Angola. It is the largest of the subspecies. 
Our best sighting of springbok occured near the Etosha pan on our way to Okondeka waterhole. There were many of them congregated together. They are at once beautiful and also very weird. 

We also saw them in much smaller quantities, for example at the Nebrownii waterhole, mixing with gemsbok and zebra. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pied Crow

I previously blogged on the pied crow which I saw in Ghana. We saw more pied crows in Southern Africa, in a number of different places, but in particular I got photos of several in Etosha NP, Namibia. Those below were at Rietfontein waterhole. 

The photos below were also taken in Etosha, but I don't remember the location. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Cape Jackal

There are two subspecies of black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas): (a) the East African jackal (C. m. schmidti), which I've previously blogged on and the distribution of which is shown in red on the map below; and (b) the Cape jackal (C. m. mesomalas), the nominate subspecies and the distribution of which is shown in blue on the map below. The differences are not obvious by looking at them, they relate to skull shape and teeth. 
From Wikipedia.
We did not get a lot of great looks at the Cape jackal and my photos are marginal. The pictures below were taken at Olifantsbad waterhole in Etosha NP, Namibia. We saw at least three of them there with black-faced impala and guinea fowl.


The pictures below were taken at Okondeka waterhole in Etosha, near a dead antelope, along with a bunch of vultures, some ostriches and a giraffe.  
Several jackals in the foreground, along with vultures and an ostrich in the center. 
Jackals next to the dead antelope.