Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Red Hartebeest

There are eight subspecies of hartebeest (Alcelaphus bucelaphus), one of which is now extinct and one, Coke's hartebeest (A. b. cokii), that we saw on our trip to East Africa. 
Red hartebeest in Etosha NP, Namibia. 
The red hartebeest, or Cape hartebeest (A. b. caama), is now found primarily in central Botswana and Namibia, with Makgadikgadi Pans and Etosha NP being two of the best places to see them. 
We saw them only once, our third day in Etosha NP, traveling east to go out the east entrance. They were set back from the road in some trees and started to move away from us when we stopped. 
The red hartebeest is golden brown with black legs, a black blaze down the nose, a white rump and abdomen and short twisted horns set high on the head. 
A better picture, from Wikipedia, gives a better indication of the markings. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

African Bush Elephant

We had some great elephant sightings on our last Africa trip. Just after entering Etosha NP in Namibia there were probably 30 or more, on either side of the road, spread among the trees. We watched them for 15 or 20 minutes. 
I didn't get any great pictures during the first sighting. But this big bull came to the Okaukuejo waterhole that night, along with some giraffes. This photo was taken without a flash and without a tripod. 
The next day, as we were near Halili Camp, we stopped for another 20 minutes or so as we saw another similarly sized group. There we had elephants crossing the road in front of and behind our car and they are amazingly large and intimidating. 

In the Okavango Delta of Botswana we saw them a number of times while in our modified Toyota Land Cruiser. The most exciting time was when an angry male came out, ears flared and trumpeting and looked ready to charge our vehicle. Our guide, K.T. sped away and did not slow down for awhile. I was a little disappointed as we missed some great pictures, but I assumed he knew what he was doing. I asked him about it later and he told a story of a fellow guide having an angry elephant lift the safari vehicle up with her tusks and nearly turn the vehicle over. 
Mama leads a baby.
We also saw them out along the river while in a motor boat...
This guy looked a little irritated by us. I love it when they flap out their ears. 
...and had a resident elephant, Franklin, that spent most of his time around camp causing troubles for the caretakers, but entertainment for the guests. Franklin left a large calling card in the trail to our tent one evening, and another evening, let out a growl and a roar that we were sure was a lion, right next to our tent. 
Franklin, near the tents in Kadizora Camp in the Okavanga Delta. 
Franklin in the marsh outside of camp.
In Victoria Falls we saw a number of elephants walking through the outskirts of town and saw some from the air on our helicopter ride. 

In Hwange NP in Zimbabwe we saw more elephants, but nothing as impressive as in Namibia and Botswana. 
This big bull was a little excited: ears flared, tail swinging to the side. 
I like this picture of their backs. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

African Darter

There are four species of darter, also known as snake birds: (1) the American darter or anhinga (Anhinga anhinga); (2) the Oriental or Indian darter (Anhinga melanogaster); (3) the African darter (Anhinga rufa); and (4) Australasian or Australian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae). 
This African darter stands in the top of a tree. 
A cormorant flies over illustrating its much smaller bill. 
I'm very familiar with the American darter which I've always called the anhinga which I've seen a lot of in Florida. The Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park is the best place to view wildlife in the Everglades and my first exposure to the Anhinga. 
Some of these are darters and some of them are cormorants. 

While we were on a motorboat in the Okavanga Delta of Botswana we saw a lot of them lining the shore or standing in trees. I thought the guide was calling them "dakar" as in the capital of Senegal. I kept saying, or at least thinking, they look like anhingas. It was only later as I looked at a book that it dawned on me the guide was saying "darter." I never thought of the American version as a darter, always as an anhinga. 
The main difference between the African and American darter is a white lateral neck stripe against a rufous background on the African darter which shows up quite clearly in the photos. 
Many of these birds are darters, but there is also a sacred ibis (white), white-faced whistling ducks  and cormorants. 
They are found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa wherever there are large bodies of water. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Zambezi Kudu

There are two kinds of kudu (Tragelaphus): the lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis) and the greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros). A recent taxonomic revision has named four species of greater kudu:  (1) Cape kudu (T. s. strepsiceros) found in south central South Africa; (2) northern kudu (T. s. chora) found in eastern Sudan through Ethiopia and Kenya; (3) western kudu (T. s. cottoni) found in southeastern Chad, western Sudan, and northern CAR; and (4) Zambezi kudu (T. s. Zambesienis) found in Tanzania, northern South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique and eastern DR Congo. We saw the Zambezi kudu in Etosha NP in Namibia, primarily, and a few in Hwange NP in Zimbabwe. 
This male kudu at Okaukuejo waterhole in Etosha exhibits the white chevron between the eyes, the twisted horns and head darker than the rest of the body. 
Also at Okaukuejo, this photo shows the mane on the neck. 
These females at Halili waterhole in Etosha provide examples of the vertical stripes. Each has a different number of stripes - I count between 7 and 11 on each one. 
This is a beautiful and majestic antelope that I was thrilled to see and wished we'd seen more of than we did. 
These kudus were seen near Rietfontein waterhole in Etosha. We got to watch them for quite a while as they wandered in separately and walked around. 

It is one of the largest species of antelope. The coat ranges from reddish brown to brown/bluish gray. The head is darker than the rest of the body. They have 4 to 12 vertical white stripes along their torso and a white chevron between the eyes. Bulls have manes along the bottom of their throat and horns with 2 1/2 twists. 
It appears to have a white strip along a little ridge mane along the center of the back. 
The inside of the ears appears to be a rust red. 
It appears to have more white on the face: on the chin and near the jaw. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Grey Go-Away Bird

There are three species of go-away bird and we've now seen two of them. On our first trip to Africa we saw the bare-faced go-away bird and on our latest trip, in Hwange NP in Zimbabwe, we saw the grey go-away bird which is a little more drab. 
Unlike the bare-faced version, which we saw singly, we saw the greys in groups. 
They have a uniform grey plumage, a long tail, and a large crest. It is found in southern Africa from Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Tanzania down. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Crested Barbet

The crested barbet is a "wow" bird, as in "who put that together?" It has a speckled yellow and red face, a black crest, a yellow belly with red speckles, black wings with white specks, and a black band on its neck. 
They are found in Sub-Saharan Africa from Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda down. 
We only saw this one, in Hwange NP in Zimbabwe. I would love to see more, and some of its cousins. Truly spectacular. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Blue Wildebeest

We saw blue wildebeest in Etosha NP in Namibia and Hwange NP in Zimbabwe. There are five subspecies of blue wildebeest and this subspecies is the nominate form (Connochaetus taurinus taurinus) known as the blue wildebeest, common wildebeest, white-bearded wildebeest or brindled gnu. 
Near Chudop waterhole in Etosha NP.
It is found in a pretty significant portion of southern Africa as noted in brown on the map below. The western white bearded wildebeest, the other subspecies we saw previously in East Africa, has a much more limited range as shown in yellow on the map below.  
Subspecies distribution of the blue wildebeest from Wikipedia. 
Some of the differences between these two subspecies are that: (a) the manes of the western white-bearded wildebeest are lank (limp), while the manes of the common wildebeest stick up; (b) the western white-bearded wildebeest is the smallest of the subspecies; (c) it is the darkest of the subspecies; and (d) it has the shortest muzzle.  
This wildebeest, in Etosha NP, has an illustrative mane sticking up. 
In the same vicinity, near Okondeka waterhole, northwest of Okaukuejo. 
This ugly wildebeest is made uglier by rolling in mud. Their ugliness is part of what makes them so fun. 
Near a lone thorn tree on the edge of the pan in the vicinity of Homob waterhole.
In Hwange NP.
Back to Etosha.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cape Wagtail

The Cape wagtail (Motacilla capensis) is one of thirteen species of wagtail and there are three subspecies. The original specimen which gave rise to naming this species, the nominate subspecies, was collected from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa in 1760. The Cape of Good Hope is where we found the one we saw (M.c capensis). It was on a rock very close to the ocean. This subspecies is found in western and southern Namibia, southeastern Botswana, much of Zimbabwe, western and southern Mozambique and South Africa. 
Cape wagtail near the Cape of Good Hope.
It has a relatively short tail for a wagtail, grey/brown upperparts, a buff supercilium (a stripe from the base of the beak, over the eye and ending towards the rear of the head), dark lores (between the eye and upper base of the beak), creamy white underparts, and a dusky breast band. After looking at quite a few pictures, I think I have it right. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

African Sacred Ibis

I posted on the African sacred ibis after our trip to East Africa four years ago. We saw some recently in Botswana and South Africa which merits another post. 

We first saw them in South Africa near the Cape of Good Hope. 
As much as anything, I like the colorful backdrop. 

We saw them again while on a motorboat on a river in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. 
Flying with white-faced whistling ducks.