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.
Wow, with all the wonderful series you guys submitted when I put out the call for posts in December, it seems like it’s been forever since we have had 5 single posts in one week. Either way, whether it’s a series or a single post, we are now caught up on the backlog, so it’s a great time to submit your photos to On the Road.
We’re in Africa with Albatrossity, then we head to FL with Paul in Jacksonville, and we look at winter skies with BillinGlendale on Wednesday. Then we hop over to Rome with Origuy, and we end the week with some charming photos of Shropshire Hills with knally.
We’re still on the sights and sounds of our first day in the crater, but since we spent all day there, so we had plenty of opportunities to take photos and observe the critters. So here’s the latest batch from that delightful day.
Gray-crowned Cranes (Balearica regulorum) were a popular bird here last weekm and were commonly seen in the crater. It appeared to be the nesting and chick-raising season for them, and this one seems to be tending an egg in a nest not too far from the “road”. Click here for larger image.
And this one had a chick following it around. Crane chicks are called “colts”, for their long leggy look, I presume. Hopefully this one grew up to be another beautiful bird for the next batch of tourists who visited the crater! Click here for larger image.
One of the zaniest creatures in Africa (or anywhere, for that matter), is the Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus). It uses those impressive tusks to dig and root for bulbs and tubers. The function of those “warts” on its head are less obvious, but are thought to protect the males during mating season, when they head-butt each other and try to intimidate their rivals. This is a male, with two large warts near the eyes and two smaller ones below; females only have the two upper protruberances, which are also smaller. The males were always solitary when we saw them; the females were often accompanied by some young piglets. And even they were warty and tusky! Click here for larger image.
Grazers were abundant in the lush grasses of the crater, and many of them were quite leisurely about feeding. Here a herd of Thomson’s Gazelles (Eudorcas thomsonii) feeds and lounges in front of a small group of lounging wildebeests (Connochaetes taurinus), with another grazer, the Plains Zebra (Equus quagga), also visible in the distance. No trouble in Paradise here! Click here for larger image.
But trouble is always somewhere near. This well-fed and sleepy male lion (Panthera leo) probably made a recent meal of one of the grazers seen in the photo above. But at this point, he looks like he is ready for a nap. Click here for larger image.
Another grazer, but one that does not usually have to worry about lions. Most of the African Elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the crater are older males, like this one. Our guides explained that as elephants age, their teeth get worn down and they prefer a softer diet. The lush grasses of the crater are perfect for them, apparently. Click here for larger image.
This lovely (and huge, with a wingspan approaching 12 ft.) Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) shared the pool with another grazer who also doesn’t give a hoot about lions, the Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius). This was a sizeable pool and had many hippos submerging and surfacing repeatedly, as well as lots of birds, while we ate our lunch nearby. Click here for larger image.
We had our own predators to contend with during the lunch stop here. Apparently the Black Kites (Milvus migrans) at this picnic site are quite adept at stealing a sandwich or other food item from the hands of unwary hippo-gazers. I did not have a sandwich in hand when I took this picture, but you can see that the bird is looking me over pretty thoroughly! As you can also see, this bird is not black at all, but brownish on top and rufous on the underside. Some bird names are pretty cryptic, but this one is probably at the top of that list. Click here for larger image.
Another lifer that day was yet another weaver, the Rufous-tailed Weaver (Histurgops ruficauda), showing off its eponymous rufous tail. It could also be called the Blue-eyed Weaver, although apparently the iris color of the young birds is brown. It is a very striking bird, and endemic to Tanzania; you won’t see it even in nearby Kenya. And this was the only time we saw this striking species during our time in Africa. Click here for larger image.
The final bird for today is a real beast, the Spur-winged Goose (Plectropterus gambensis). It weighs in at about 1.5X the mass of the largest race of Canada Goose; on average, this is the largest goose in the world, rivaled only by the Cape Barren Goose of Australia (Cereopsis novaehollandiae). You can see a spur on this one, but that is not the most dangerous bit. Their diet includes blister beetles, and cantharidin, the toxic chemical in those beetles, can accumulate in the tissues to the point that it would kill any humans who cooked the goose and ate the meat. So it is not hunted, even though that same chemical, cantharidin, is a component of the aphrodisiac known colloquially as Spanish Fly. Click here for larger image.
Rufous-tailed Weaver… Those eyes…
I love warthogs but I wouldn’t give 2 shits for our feral hogs.
Gorgeous. The photo with the gazelles looks like a painting
The warthog, elephant, lion, and kite are added to my don’t fuck around with list. I already knew not to fuck around with hippos.
Just love those crowned cranes.
Wonderful photographs. Thank you again.
@Benw: All living creatures are on my don’t fuck around with list by default. They can get off the list with good behavior. :-
Love the hippos and pelicans hanging out in the same space.
@WaterGirl: Thanks! Yes, the number of hippos in that pool was probably pretty large, but we only saw a few at a time as they surfaced, wiggled their ears, and then re-submerged. We were told that we should be very happy that the water level was high, since the stench of a hippo-infested pool gets much worse as it shrinks and becomes a mere mudhole. Eating your lunch at such a spot would not be a good idea…
What a fantastic trip! I’m glad you got to see the Rufous-tailed Weaver. Now I’m wondering, was there any one bird or species that thrilled you the most?
The Grey-Crowned Crane seems to sport a lot of bright colors; if I were doing the naming, I’d pick something other than grey to describe it!
Gorgeous as always. Seeing that spur on the goose’s wing is another “oh yeah, definitely descended from dinosaurs” moment.
Love the first photo (why oh why haven’t you hatched yet?!)…
@stinger: The birds that I was hoping desperately to see were Secretary Bird, Chanting Goshawk, Batelur, and Red-billed Quelea. I did see them all, but the looks at the last one were definitely BVD (Better View Desired)!
But I saw plenty of species that were amazing, beautiful, and memorable. And since I was with a group of folks who were keen on seeing mammals, with birds as a sort of side attraction, there are also plenty of species that we didn’t see (or didn’t identify), so it would be nice to go back with a group that is more devoted to seeing the birds.