On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
I think Albatrossity could have saved his photos of copulating lions and peeping toms (!) for Balloon Juice after dark :-) but that’s an artistic decision, so we’ll leave that to him.
BillinGlendaleCA takes us to the North Fork of Big Pine Creek; I have no idea what what that is or where it is, but it’s sure to be lovely. And we spend the final 3 days in amazing Namibia with lashonharangue.
Later in the morning on our first day in the crater we found herds of ungulates, peeping toms, and, of course, more birds! Here are some of those.
Last week’s images included a photo of a male Ostrich (Struthio camelus) with a herd of Cape Buffalo. Here’s another one who looks a little different, with a pinkish-red neck and bill. That is the plumage that they wear when they are ready to court and breed. Hot pink, just to show off for the ladies. Click here for larger image.
Last week’s images also featured a Thomson’s Gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii) with a nice set of horns. Most of the “Tommies” we saw looked like that, but this poor fellow seemed to have broken one of his horns and was trying to grow another. Click here for larger image.
Wildebeests (Connochaetes taurinus) have to be one of the goofiest-looking creatures on the planet. These two were engaged in a bit of head-butting, which they continued to do once they satisfied themselves that we were not a threat. I have to admit that head-butting while on one’s knees is pretty comical as well. Click here for larger image.
One of the highlights of this morning was seeing a herd of Common Eland (Taurotragus oryx). This was the only time we saw them in our time in Tanzania. These are massive creatures, with males weighing 1200 – 2000 lbs, and are the second-largest antelope in the world, just barely smaller than the Giant Eland (T. derbianus). We learned that these antelope are mild-tempered and can be domesticated and raised for meat, having the advantage that they are more suited to the East African climate than are most imported cattle. Click here for larger image.
A much more common native grazer, the Plains Zebra (Equus quagga), was seen everywhere we visited. Handsome and gregarious creatures they are, and it was always tempting to take just one more portrait of these striking animals. Click here for larger image.
Where there are herds of grazers there will be predators, and the crater was no exception to this rule. We saw many lions (Panthera leo), and true to their Wild Kingdom reputations, some of them were mating. This pair of sporadically-copulating lions attracted a crowd of peeping toms for most of the morning. In fact, we watched one vehicle get stuck in a giant mudhole that was on the road to the peep show; it had to be pulled out of the mudhole by another vehicle from the same touring company, but only after the show was over. That stuck vehicle (and the mudhole) effectively kept us away from this couple, but no worries, we did spend some time with copulating lions later in the trip. If there is anything more boring than watching lions lay around for half an hour and then copulate for 2 seconds, it might be watching mud dry on your stuck vehicle. Click here for larger image.
Enough of these mammals; let’s look at some birds! Here’s a majestic Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori) strolling though the crater landscape. We saw lots of these birds here, but relatively few elsewhere. These are the largest flying birds native to Africa, although we never saw them fly. I’m not sure I would want to see that 30 lb bird in the air! Click here for larger image.
Wheatears (genus Oenanthe) are a group of Old World birds containing at least 33 species. The Northern Wheatears (O. oenanthe) occasionally get to North America from their home range in Eurasia but if you live in the USA and want to see a Wheatear, you will have to travel. The odd name Wheatear has nothing to do with wheat or ears, but is derived from the term used to describe what this Capped Wheatear (O. pileata) is showing you, a white arse. I’m not sure that all members of this genus share this feature; it was originally applied to the Northern Wheatear and may not apply to some of the others. But it is striking when the bird is in flight away from you! Click here for larger image.
Larks (family Alaudidae) are also a large and diverse group of mostly Old World birds, and a large proportion of the 100 or so species are native to Africa. Only one, the Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris), is common in North America. The Red-capped Lark (Calandrella cinerea) is primarily found in highlands, and this one was singing lustily from atop a volcanic rock in the crater, elevation 6000 ft or so. Click here for larger image.
And finally, the bird you have all been waiting for, the Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis)! This unobtrusive bird with an unobtrusive song has one of the best names in all the animal kingdom, n my opinion, and I was happy to get a shot of this one perched in the ubiquitous (and invasive) yellow flowers that carpeted the crater floor. Click here for larger image.