Beho Beho Bushblog -21st September

saningoblog  It has been so busy in terms of game sightings out here. Gladly the wild dogs that have been scarce for a little while started popping up right in front of camp. It was a good active week, early in the morning’s hyenas and wild dogs confronted each other. As both species are predatory animals, food competition could have been the main reason for the confrontations. With wild dogs having a high success percentage in hunting, it sometimes means the hyenas follow them and attempt to take over the kill that the dogs have made, but this depends on the numbers of the two predators, big numbers are needed to win the confrontation.

The other day we spotted the dogs from camp and, as I had not seen them for a while, I went out to look for them. From the front of the camp they moved towards the Beho Beho airstrip this just took a few minutes for them as usually they travel quite fast, I did spend a nice long time with this pack, as I was kind of tracking them , but at some stage I saw one female that was coming back to the rest with wet and red lips which told me that she had made a kill somewhere. It was fun watching them greeting her, licking, whistling and after a little while she started leading the rest right in the thick forest that I couldn’t manage to drive in to, so I decide to drive via the fire break road. When I drove half way I saw a very fresh impala kill that was made by wild dogs as I could see the foot prints in the ground, so I definitely thought that the leader was leading the rest toward this kill. After a short while I started to hear them running, and finally I saw the leader with the rest following behind, it was so nice watching them ripping apart their kill.

The rest of the entire game is incredible at the moment, including nice herds of buffalo, kudu, wildebeest, elephants and troops of baboon as well as prides of lion. There is one unique buffalo cow that looks white, actually as mentioned by Roel in his last blog. Scientifically its call Leucism which means the situation of an animal to have loss of pigment, for this cow loss of pigments made it look white. An interesting thing about this cow is that it has a calf, and its calf is pure black as normal. In the wild everything can provide you a great wonder, beside the animals, birds and vegetation even the landscape can also provide it’s unique atmosphere, late afternoon out on our activities we usually find a nice spot that we can end up our day, and enjoy seeing the sun going down in the west, it always give a nice red color in the sky especially on days with not many clouds.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Roel -15th September

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As I went out the other day with Anna and Andrew towards the Hippo Pool for an afternoon drive we got a bit distracted on the way there. As we were bumbling along I noticed a Lilac Breasted Roller flying into a tree carrying what looked like a frog. Now I have seen and photographed hundreds, maybe even thousands of these birds, but never with anything else than insects, even though their diet descriptions in the books do include small vertebrates and amphibians.

So we went a bit closer for a good look and indeed it was perched in a tree and smashing the hapless frog against a branch. It does this to kill/stun its prey and dismember it or soften it up before trying to swallow it. We enjoyed the view for a while but as the bird moved a bit leaves got in the way and we carried on, we were on our way to the Hippo Pool.

But again we were halted in our tracks as we found some Elephants in the forest along the Msini River, there were three younger bulls about to cross the dry riverbed. Of course we stopped for a look and some photos. As the bulls descended one by one they felt a bit exposed and vulnerable, for a heavy creature like an Elephant going downhill is not easy. But luckily there were a few Yellow Baboons around to take the brunt of their frustrations.

In the end we made it to the Hippo Pool where we were greeted with lots of honking, wheezing and the lovely smell of Hippos in stagnant water. But you have to visit here to really appreciate it. Sundowners we enjoyed in one of my favorite places where you look out over the Msini forest to the east and the sunset and the hills to the west.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Phil – 1st September

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To see African wild dogs is a rare treat! To be able to stay with the pack as they move and hunt is very difficult indeed, as they move with startling speed through broken, rocky bush-land. When you are lucky enough to do so it creates memories that shall stay with you forever, such is the frenetic pace and excitement that surrounds a pack of hunting dogs.

 

Driving out in the morning with François and Daniela, who were with us for their annual stay here at Beho Beho, we all noticed how quiet it seemed; the airstrip was empty. No warthog, no giraffe, not even an impala! Just as I had finished telling Francois and Daniela that such stillness and quietness always triggers a feeling for me that a predator may be around – Roel radioed from camp!

 

Dogs at Christopher’s Baobab! A quick u-turn and we are on our way.

 

Roel keeps us updated of their movements from his elevated position in camp, but as we get closer his detailed commentary on where they are moving becomes less necessary. The dogs have an entourage – low flying vultures coming from far and wide and hyenas loping from various directions towards a central point – that are arriving to follow these relentless hunters – African wild dogs.

The hyena and vulture know that where there are wild dogs the chance of a meal is not far away.

 

We follow too. And there they are. Five heads pop up from behind a hill to come and see what we are up to.

 

We hold their interest for a brief moment before they are off on the run, with more dogs joining until they number 15. Down into a gully. We can’t follow. I make a quick decision. The next road is not far away; we will act quickly and try to cut across their path there.

 

A few minutes later we find them again. They have killed an impala ewe in that short time we had left them and are busy tucking in. But they are not alone for long as the vultures collect in the trees above, so too the hyenas arrive. A few hyenas are no match for the speed and agility of 15 wild dogs though, and after a few times of chasing off the hyena the dogs lose their patience with these persistent beasts. A few hyenas are cornered by the dogs and the dogs start a vicious assault. The area all around us turns to chaos. Wild dogs are chasing and attacking hyena all around.

 

After about 5 minutes of this the wild dogs have all but finished their impala meal and the hyena numbers are now equal to theirs. The wild dog reluctantly break off and leave the hyena to snuffle around for the scraps and bones.

 

As we follow, astonishingly they immediately come across and give chase to more impala. We speed along in their wake trying to keep up, but this time the chase takes them into the Msine River valley and we cannot follow.

We hear excitement and yelps from the wild dog and yet more hyena from down in the valley along with the crunching of bones.

They killed again…….Amazing.

 

We drive a little way and I stop so we can all take a few breaths and get over the excitement of what we have just witnessed.

 

We hope this pack sticks around for a while. Life is just that bit more exciting when a pack of wild dogs are close by.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Saningo – 30th August

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The dry season often provides us with some great action moments that we have been waiting for and they have already started. The congregations of game also started building up as well, as most of the game is highly water dependent and so by being dry during this time of the year, it’s making the game move down toward the permanent water sources are the Lakes, like Lake Tagalala and Lake Manze where we tend to do our game drives, by driving along the lakes we now frequently find the action. Around Lake Manze there is a pride of two lionesses with their two cubs, making that side of the game park pretty active in terms of sightings. A few days ago I drove toward Lake Manze and the start of my day was slightly quiet in terms of animal sightings, but then as I got to the Beho Beho River crossing the sightings started. We encountered a tuskless elephant along with a few baboons in the palm forest, it was fun watching the cow elephant following the baboons as they dropped off palm fruits from the canopies, baboon being messy feeders, so for the elephant it was a good opportunity to follow on below picking up the fallen fruits.

After the elephant and baboon sighting in the forest we carried on driving toward the lake. As we kept driving towards the lake we started to encounter congregations of game, and all of the animals were heading toward the lake to drink. We drove further along the lake still and I saw a few vultures landing and other vultures were perching up in the trees, always a good indicator that there may be a carcass. I drove toward the vultures and we ended up seeing a little wildebeest carcass but just a small bottom section was open. It was a little bit of a puzzle for me that there was no sign that predators could have made that kill. However it seems like the two lionesses were well hidden in the bushes and after we left the came out for breakfast. During our drive back the same way, we saw the carcass again and that was when we saw this pride dragging the kill under the big led wood tree for some shade. It was a great morning that day.

Another frequent sighting is of nice big herds of buffalos coming close to camp down to the Msine river spring to drink, the last two days in the late afternoon I found a big herd of buffalos at the battlefield plains. Wild dog sightings seem to be seldom at the moment which is normal as we think they are denning now in well-hidden areas. The last sighting of the wild dogs was last month, and one female I might call the alpha female was pregnant, which is why we think they will be denning now. However I have that feeling we shall see them again soon.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Godlisten – 18th August

godlistenblogIt’s getting better and better as the grass is getting drier and drier everyday here in Selous, we are seeing a kill every day. Lion kill, Hyena kill, even a Monitor Lizard busy digging out Crocodile eggs around Lake Tagalala. Dry season is a good time for female crocodiles to lay their eggs on a sandbank, they lay anything from ten to fifty depend on their size and age, normally the temperature is what determines the sex of the hatchlings.

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It’s normal to see Lions kill other animals like Wildebeest, Zebra and Buffalo, but it was different this time; one of our Lionesses was killed by a clan of Hyenas. Normally predators kill each other to reduce competition for their food but it is different for Hyenas as they kill other predators as food. With lots of Hyenas around the camp it makes the Lions life very hard as they scavenge Lion kills or even kill them.

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We have different types of animals visit the camp every day, Hippo, Buffalo, Water-buck and Leopard come around looking for water, it’s lovely having your drink or meals and enjoying all this game right in the camp. The Msine valley is busy now with big herds of Buffalo and Wildebeest, we hope a pride of Lion will move in anytime soon.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Roel – 16th August

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They say a leopard cannot change its spots, next to that they are really rosettes, they kind of can. In rare cases animals, like humans, can develop pigmentation disorders that change their outward appearance. It is caused when the parents both carry a recessive gene that expresses itself in their offspring. So, in the case of leopards, there are individuals that are completely black and even (in extremely rare cases) strawberry colored.

From time to time, while out on a safari we see animals that differ in appearance from the rest of the group, they can be darker (melanistic) or lighter (leucistic) in color than their counterparts. In my time as a guide I have seen melanistic Gabar Goshawk, leucistic Baboon, white Lions and a melanistic Giraffe bull amongst others. But in truth it is quite rare to see, as these individuals do stand out and might be more prone to predation.

Recently while out on an afternoon Jacopo, Alessia and I went out to the hippo pool to enjoy our sundowners, as luck would have it there was also a troupe of Yellow Baboons on the opposite bank getting ready for the night. As we got back to the vehicle I heard a low rumble coming towards us, these were likely buffalo coming to the springs to drink. But what made them run? As we found the herd they looked like nothing was wrong and were slowly moving towards the water, leaving us with a bit of an anti-climactic feeling, we were hoping for lions on their tails. We then heard the alarm calls of some guinea-fowl lower down in the forest near the Msini River itself and of course we went to investigate. As we drove down we found the birds to our left, still in a bit of a panic and as I looked around I found the source of all the panic, a young male leopard resting in a large Sausage Tree on the banks of the river. We stayed with him until he got up and disappeared into the undergrowth and listened to the various alarm calls by small birds and mammals that betrayed his general direction through the forest.

Leopard

After that great sighting of a leopard, the second one for Jacopo and Alessia, we continued slowly back to camp only to be stopped by another herd of buffalo just outside the forest. We took some time to check this herd out as they were nice in the open and quite relaxed. As the buffalo were milling around we noticed an abnormality amongst them, a white buffalo. I had never heard of this before and got quite excited. I took quite some photos myself and encouraged Jacopo and Alessia to do the same, they might win the photo-competition with a good shot of this rarity. Eventually it got too dark and we had to start heading home for a couple of celebratory drinks.

White Buffalo

Leucism is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigment, not just melanin.

 

 

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Roel – 9th August

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    The ways we use to find the animals we are looking for are quite varied. In its simplest form, we get “lucky” and just bump into the animal(s) on or along the route we are driving or walking. This is not the most skillful method, but it works just fine. The other ways involve a bit more skill and experience in the bush; you need to be able to read the signs and signals around you to lead you to the things you want to see.

The first one is using the tracks and signs that animals leave behind and follow them to where the animal has gone. These are usually footprints that betray an animal passing by and those can be supplemented by dung/scat, urine, scent-marks and evidence of feeding. Looking at all those things can give you a direction of travel for the animal and give clues as to how long ago the animal came through the area. We then try to follow those tracks and signs to where the animal has ended up and hopefully get a good look at it. Unfortunately it can also lead to nothing as the tracks go into areas we cannot follow or they just “disappear”. Although a bit frustrating it can be an interesting exercise to go through and learn about. Guides will pretty much spend their whole careers improving on this skill.

We can also use cues given to us by other species, like the other day when a herd of about 7 giraffe were standing a bit bunched up and all staring into the same direction, they must have seen something that they do not trust and are keeping an eye on it. As we went to have a look in the direction they were staring at we found two lionesses resting under a Leadwood. Without the giraffes we would have never spotted them. Many herbivores will look intently at a predator if it is spotted, sometimes accompanied by alarm calls and they will even follow them to keep an eye on the threat. In my time here at Beho Beho I have also used the excited calls of the spotted hyenas to find interesting sightings like lions and wild dogs. When there is a kill or a dead animal, eventually there will be birds that will go in to see if they can get a meal out of it, with vultures being the most obvious ones, but the bateleur and tawny eagle will also see if there is something in it for them. Seeing large congregations of different species of vultures and eagles sitting in trees is something to look out for.

So to help us find some of the more elusive species there are various ways we can use to help us find these and a bit of knowledge and experience definitely helps with that.

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