It only appeared for a few minutes but what a sight. I'm ok with the mystery. Yes I could suss it out and talk about refraction and light splitting into its constituent colors but I'd rather just sit quietly in my amazement.
But first... just a little more sleep. Sorry if I'm shattering your notions of Lion behaviour. They do earn their prodigious rest with amazing displays of predatory prowess and general carnivorous intensity. It's just that seeing those moments takes tremendous luck and once-in-a-lifetime timing. Most of the time they lay prone, breathing heavily, waiting out the heat, and biding their time.
Don't think you should get out of the car though. It would be the equivalent of a warm blueberry muffin magically appearing next to you first thing in the morning... it wouldn't stand a chance. The lions ignore the cars, basically treating them like big moving rocks, but a person hopping out of one would likely cause some excitement.
In the video below, you see that they often get up just to find a better place to get back down.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/35615892 w=590&h=332]
The scourge of the picnic area are the brazen, bold, and fearless Black Kites. They will take a sandwich out of your hand or even your mouth provided it's still open. They know exactly what lunch boxes look like and are on patrol every second of the day. Eat in the car or face the consequences.
If you don't have food on you they are sublime and beautiful. If you are trying to gnaw on a dry roll or sort out how to open your juice box with one hand while shooing the birds away with the other, they can be downright scary. Enjoy some of the sublime moments below.
This male Montagu's Harrier flew by so quickly and so close to the car that I barely managed to get it in the frame. It was in the middle of its molt cycle, as were many birds in December. For some birds, their disheveled appearance and strange color combinations made guessing age and ID a bit trickier than normal.
Yellow-billed Oxpeckers are beautiful and gross. They live on the ticks and other insects roaming around on their free rides. They also have a habit of keeping small wounds open to they can drink the blood of their hosts... but they make up for it by performing another valuable service... eating earwax. See what I mean?
Warthogs on the other hand, like this one fresh from a mud bath, are all sweetness and light. Cuter than they seem once you watch them foraging for food and sprinting from danger with their tails held straight up. Some say you can use their tails as a speedometer with vertical indicating top speed.
An Augur Buzzard takes flight from a low perch. Much of the crater is treeless and any little gain in elevation means a much better vantage point. Like the Harrier above, this bird is molting too. Check out the dark fresh feathers visible on the wings. The older juvenal flight feathers are brownish and the new tail feathers (mid-tail) are red with no barring. It means this bird was just over a year old and was going through its first molt. This is Tanzania's version of a Red-tailed Hawk.
Well my internet connection has finally returned and I can start sharing the fruits of last month's journey to Tanzania. It took me three trips before I ever got to see a Cheetah but thankfully they have been less elusive lately. This one was lounging on the crater floor waiting out the rain. It seemed to be considering whether it was worth the effort to amble toward a nearby herd of Thompson's Gazelle.
Ngorongoro Crater is one of my favorite places to spend a day. Looking into it from the rim you might see a few specks which later turn out to be Elephants or Cape Buffalo, but only if you are looking hard for them. It just seems like a vast, beautiful, calm, cauldron of green and the animals don't really appear until you take the long drive down the entrance road 2000 feet to the crater floor.
Once at the bottom you beging to see Zebra, Warthogs, Gazelle, Jackals, Flamingos, Kori Bustards, Lapwings, Falcons, Harriers, and in between wandering bundles of grazing Wildebeest you spy a slender tawny creature slinking through the grass and see the first big cat of your trip... a Cheetah.
This guy has had a rough week. He sustained an injury to his snout. It might have been a confrontation with feisty prey or a tussle with a competitor for food. Their are plenty of Hyenas about and they seem happy to forego any social niceties. He looked like he was on the mend though. In the video below you might see him breathing heavily but it turns out that's a feature of big cats, rapid, heavy, body-pulsing, respiration.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/34519176 w=590&h=332]
There will be more photos from Ngorongoro Crater over the next few days and we'll head toward the Serengeti after that.