The Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus)
Our grand life at Stanley’s Camp continued as we indulged in an afternoon siesta after high tea.
Refreshed, we climbed back into the Landcruiser for our afternoon game drive, eager to explore the territory. We were all on the lookout to score the next big find. Maybe we could spot an elephant, a lion, or even a leopard. A couple of us were very interested in birds, so we also scanned the trees for unusual profiles.
We asked our guide, Poniso, what bird builds these uncommonly large nests. We were convinced that it belonged to a giant eagle or oversized stork.
The architect of this mansion, he told us, is a medium-sized wading bird called the Hammerkop. Believe it or not, this compulsive nest builder may build 3 to 5 of these nests every year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammerkop
Hammerkop (Scopus umbretta), also known as the Hammerhead Stork.
Even from a distance, we knew this silhouette showed promise.
I was bowled over when we drove closer:
Named the Bateleur, it is no surprise that this eagle is sometimes called the “Pine Eagle”. As the top photo reveals, its fluffed feathers sometimes resemble a conifer cone.
Here’s another unusual profile in a tree. Is it another nest?
Here another hint:
If find her Red-billed Oxpecker bird “tiara” quite fetching:
Here’s where one of us shouted “Elephant!”
Not! It was only a pump, not a baby elephant.
I don’t have a photo of the termite mount that I declared to be a giraffe. A bit gun-shy now, I was hesitant to call out a dark shadow in the distant grass. Poniso smiled as he drove unhurriedly in its direction.
Known as one of the “big five”, the African Buffalo is a formidable foe with its considerable size and impressive horns. It probably took multiple lions to bring this one down.
With their impressive row of incisor teeth, the African Buffalo can eat tall, coarse grass more quickly than most other African herbivores.
***It takes no talent to spy impalas. The impala is the most ubiquitous antelope in the region. Poniso said some locals refer to it as the McDonalds of the delta. McNuggets on the hoof? Running at 50-75 km/hr, impalas give new meaning to fast food. They were so plentiful, we eventually dismissed them as “only impala”. They are easily identified by the two vertical stripes on both sides of their tail.
When they don’t think they can outrun their predators, impalas sometimes try to stand perfectly still, hoping to blend with the environment.
Even when we don’t see game, the tranquil terrain is a treat to explore.