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.
We start in Serengeti with Albatrossity, and then stop to look at the Milky Way with BillinGlendale, After that we’ll spend the rest of this week traveling in Chile with way2blue.
Next week we’ll cruise to British Columbia with Elma, head to wine country (Burgandy, France) with Dextrous, and on Friday ema will take us on a trip to Central Park!
After we left the cheetah who so graciously posed for us earlier in the morning, we headed to another kopje. But on the way we found a bird that is on the bucket list of just about every birder I’ve ever met.
Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius). Iconic, unmistakable, unique, and best of all, simply elegant. It uses those sturdy legs for long walks while hunting, and also for pinning down and stomping prey, including the (sometimes venomous) snakes that make up a sizeable fraction of its diet. Our guide told us that they are mostly solitary hunters, but in the dry season they will often congregate at the edges of the fires that can flare up in these grasslands. This one was the first we saw, and we spent a fair amount of time with it. Click here for larger image.
I mentioned that I thought they were elegant; here’s some evidence. Eyelashes befitting a Hollywood starlet! Click here for larger image.
Another snake specialist, this Black-chested Snake-Eagle (Circaetus pectoralis) was sitting in this spot on our way out in the morning, and still there when we headed back in the evening. They do hunt while soaring, apparently, but also spend a lot of time perched, waiting for a snake or lizard to reveal itself. That bright yellow eye definitely gives this bird a menacing glare. Click here for larger image.
And speaking of menacing, this Greater Kestrel (Falco rupicoloides) has the same look. Although most falcons have dark eyes, this one is the exception. We saw several of these on that day, both singles and pairs, and it remains one of my favorites of the birds seen on this trip. Click here for larger image.
One of the largest flying birds in east Africa, this Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos, aka Nubian Vulture) was one of a pair perched on a small kopje we passed that morning. It took off and flew nearly directly over us, allowing me to get some better looks at that massive beak and the eponymous lappets on its head and neck. Click here for larger image.
Unlike the vulture above, which ranges across much of sub-Saharan Africa, this bird has a very limited range. The Grey-breasted Spurfowl (Pternistis rufopictus, aka Grey-breasted Francolin) is a Tanzanian endemic, not found even in nearby Kenya. That sturdy beak and even sturdier spurred legs are a clue to its diet, which is mostly tubers of various sedge species. Thus, as one would expect, it is found in wetter areas, and along streams in the area, where it can find sedges to dig up. The plumage patterns on the various spurfowl species are all very fine, but this one is certainly near the top of the list for me. Click here for larger image.
Resting in the grass nearby were these two male lions, which our guide guessed were probably brothers. The one in the rear, who was resting his massive paw on his sibling’s hindquarters, seemed to be injured or ill; he did not raise his head or move much at all. The one in the foreground was quite tense, and even growled at us, which was not something we heard any other time on this trip. All of the other lions we saw were quite indifferent to our presence. That growl prompted the guide to start the vehicle and quickly leave the area, so that these guys could heal up in peace. Click here for larger image.
The highlight of the day, and perhaps the entire trip, was hanging out with this momma Leopard (Panthera pardos) and her cubs. We watched from a respectful distance as she moved in and out of various perches in her kopje, and then were thrilled to see the cubs emerge. As you can see, she was less than thrilled to have them come out in the open. She tried to coax/threaten them back into whatever hidey-hole they had inside those rocks. Click here for larger image.
But kids will be kids, and cats will be curious. This youngster wanted to see what all the fuss was about, despite mom’s threats! Click here for larger image.
While waiting for the leopards to reappear, we had a lot of time to watch the Agama Lizards sunning on the rocks. There are many species in this group. I am not sure which species this is, but most likely it is the Mwanza flat-headed rock agama (Agama mwanzae, aka the Spiderman Agama because of its color scheme). Click here for larger image.