Lion Cub (2018): Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

It is interesting how your perspective for photography changes with subsequent trips to a game park. Our first trip in 2017 to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania was so overwhelming with all the animal life that our cameras never stopped shooting and we took over 6,000 photographs. In 2018, we took half that number and began to focus more on interesting situations. This lion cub entertained us for a long time.

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There are many prides of lions scattered throughout the Serengeti. We were traveling in a more remote area of the park when we came across a very small pride. It was unusual in that there were two males (brothers) instead of one, just two females and only a single cub.

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There are advantages to having two males as the head of the pride. If another male attempts to challenge the pride to become the dominant male then he would have to fight two males instead of one. Therefore, his chance of being successful would be severely reduced. However, according to our guide, only one male will mate with the females and the other brother is subordinate.

 

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It is not uncommon for a new male or males, in this case, to kill cubs that they have not fathered. This causes the female to come back in heat and therefore he can mate with her. This female had only one cub. We assume that it was his offspring because why kill some cubs but leave one. Therefore, this female either had only one cub or some tragedy occurred that killed the other cubs if she had given birth to a few babies.

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Having no brothers or sisters to play with meant that this little cub easily got bored and continuously harassed its mother. She was attempting to sleep but on numerous occasions when it would look to play with her she would growl at the pesky little cub. It would role in the grass, chew on sticks and feed. All this was very entertaining.

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Elephants (2018): Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

We arrived at this dry riverbed at just the right time to see this small herd of elephants. The rains were late and had not arrived in the Serengeti yet. After a few minutes, it became apparent why they were here. In the photo below you will notice a small hole in the sand about the width of their foot. Inside there is water.

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We assume that the elephants have dug this hole themselves into the dry riverbed. The Serengeti can be a tough place to live in and animals must be innovative to survive. The adults will pass these skills onto the young calves.

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Elephants have a wonderful group dynamic. They work collectively for the survival of the herd. As large as they are they are amazing coordinated and use their feet and trunks to perform tasks that you would think they would be incapable of. However, if you are a young calf, drinking all that water can be exhausting and sometimes you just need to get off your feet.

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Fortunately, we were able to spend about 20 minutes with this herd before they had all drank from the water hole and began moving on. This group of seven consisted of 2 calves, juveniles (male and female) and adults. We never get tired of seeing and photographing elephants.

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Olive Baboons at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

There is so much expression in the eyes of a primate and you have to wonder what is going through his mind. This male Olive baboon was beginning to tire and was looking to get some sleep. With us nearby he was unwilling to close his eyes. We assume as soon as we left he closed those expressive eyes and got some deserved sleep.

0W4A0201Of course, if you have recently been born into this wonderful world then you have little use for sleep and would rather explore this new and curious planet. Everything is new, exciting and interesting so why sleep? This young Olive baboon was fascinating to observe and proved to be very photogenic and interested in us.0W4A0209-10W4A02140W4A0204-1 Mom, however, is never far away. She is allowing her baby to explore and learn about this new environment but within limits. Should this calm situation change then she will immediately intervene to protect her baby.

0W4A0219-3Of course, the male baboon is really in charge of the entire encounter. Here he is grooming the female and picking off insects and parasites. Just below his eye is a wound probably received from a fight with another male baboon. It is a tough job being a male baboon and protecting your status as the dominant male.

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Village of Hope Bulale, Tanzania (2018)

Larry & I have committed ourselves to help with the Village of Hope and the farm in Bulale. Each year we spend a couple of months helping on site. While Larry was busy at the farm developing infrastructure projects (future post),  I enjoyed spending time with the children at the Village of Hope. This school is one of 10 Village of Hope locations in Africa and opened in April 2018. Both the Lower Class (Junior Kindergarten in North America) & Upper Class (Senior Kindergarten) have approximately 17 children who were chosen because they were ‘at risk’ for a variety of reasons and may not have otherwise had the chance to attend school. I spent most of my time with the Upper Class and really came to know them & their amazing teacher, Betty.

I was really impressed that these kids didn’t know English when they started school and only 6 months later are taught exclusively in English. They take pride in their work and were happy to show me what they were working on.

A huge advantage of the small class size is the chance for one-on-one attention when needed.

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Mid-morning they are served a nutritious porridge which they really look forward to.

The kids enjoyed stories, crafts & playing.

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They also had a lot of fun with my hair 🙂

Outdoor fun was always a huge hit!

I can’t wait to see them again next year!

Birds: Often Overlooked In The Serengeti

Okay, we know everyone thinks of lions, elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes and leopards: the big animals. While working on our animal photos it became apparent that there were lots of bird photographs. 29 different species to be exact! Of course we want to give the illusion we are intelligent so onto the internet we go to find bird names 🙂 Three of the species below we could not find a matching photograph anywhere. Enjoy the birds and if you see we have labelled a species incorrectly or know the species we have as unknown, then let us know in the comments section.

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Black-Headed Heron
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Usambiro Barbet
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Helmeted Guinea Fowl
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Lilac-Breasted Roller
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Coqui Francolin

 

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Auger Buzzard
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Common Ostrich: Male
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Common Ostriches: Female
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Egyptian Goose
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Spotted Crake?
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Greater Flamingoes
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Lesser Flamingoes
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Unknown
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African White-Backed Vulture
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Superb Starling
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Unknown Pigeon or Dove: Ngorongoro Crater
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Yellow-Billed Stork. Note the crocodile in bottom of picture
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White-headed Buffalo Weaver
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African Spoonbill
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Red-Necked Spurfowl
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Great White Pelican
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Blacksmith Lapwing
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Cattle Egret
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Rufous-tailed Weaver
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Southern Ground Hornbill
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Unknown Weaver: Female
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Kori Bustard
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Spekes Weaver
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Black-winged Stilt
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Marabou Stork

 

 

 

Hyenas Cubs: It Seems Everything Small is Cute!

When compared to animals that we are familiar with in North America, it is safe to say that there are some unusual animals on the African continent. During our 4 day safari in the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater we came across numerous examples of odd looking birds and animals including some downright ugly ones. It seems however, that every species, regardless of looks, always produce cute babies. Perhaps it is their size & shape, their looks or their playful nature that draw us to this conclusion. Just like the female leopard we saw whose small cub eventually made an appearance, so did two small hyena cubs eventually come out of the den. The pups are very dark and I may not have identified them as hyenas if I saw them without the mother as a reference. Very cute however!Hyen8Hyen7Hyen1Hyen9Hyena & pups

Hyenas are scavengers and predators. They will often steal the prey from other hunters like cheetahs or come in after big predators like lions have had there fill and moved on. However, they are capable of killing larger prey such as wildebeest and antelope but will resort to eating insects. We came across this group that were getting away from the heat and flies by laying in the mud puddles created by the recent rain. They didn’t mind our vehicle but eventually decided to get up and move on. Notice one carrying the skull!

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This last photo captures the more classic look of a hyena on the Serengeti with its typical grasslands and sparsely scattered trees. This is how we think of the African plains – vast & beautiful!

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Wildebeest And Zebra Migration In The Serengeti

The wildebeest are famous for their epic migrations from the Maasai Mara in Kenya into the Serengeti in Tanzania. The migration had started while we were there and we saw 10,000 plus wildebeest at times: sometimes as far as the eye could see! There are an estimated 1.5 million that follow the rains with each migration and this produces new grass growth for food and a source of drinking water. However, other animals are part of this great migration including 200,000 zebra and 500,000 Thompson’s gazelle. The zebra and wildebeest are commonly found in mixed groups.

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Wildebeest as far as the eye can see. Above the tree line in the middle of the photograph are small black dots which are all wildebeest. A photograph just can’t do justice to the populations.

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Zebra herds in the southern half of the Serengeti. Notice the difference in colour of the grasses compared to the previous photographs. The rains have not yet reached this far south.

Wildebeest, also known as gnus, are interesting looking. They are a type of antelope but their body proportions seem odd compared to other antelope.

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Zebras look like a horse with black and white stripes and each pattern is unique to that zebra similar to a fingerprint. Although the reason for the pattern is unknown most believe that in relates to camouflage against predators, helps with temperature control and repels insects.

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This photograph caught my eye because of the unusual pattern in the centre of the zebra.

This group of wildebeest interrupted their migration for a quick drink. They are a bit skittish during these times as they are vulnerable to lions when they put their heads down to drink. However, the need to drink outweighs their fear.

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Wildebeest temporarily stoping at a watering hole for a drink.

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Many of the zebra had small foals with them. We noticed that many were still nursing from their mothers. The younger the foals, the more brown they have in their coats.

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This zebra foal is still nursing from its mother.

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