Friday, January 6, 2012

Kenya Safari Part V

For anyone visiting my blog for the first time, please do scroll back to Kenya Safari Part I, if you wish, and catch up to our tour of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Having had a most enjoyable and fruitful (especially birding-wise) early morning ride through the park, and another very rewarding mid-morning tour, we took to the routes again just after 4pm. In a field we spotted a couple of Southern Ground Hornbills.  The one I focussed on was marching through the grass enjoying its evening meal.  I will do a post on this huge bird later.

Southern Ground Hornbill

As we drove along, I asked Grant to stop as I'd seen a Go-away bird in a thicket near the road. He stopped and I snapped away, only realising when I downloaded the photos, that we'd spotted a Bare-faced Go-away bird and not the White-fronted Go-away bird which we see often here in the valley. The Bare-faced Go-away bird is endemic to NE Africa so this bird was a lifer for us.
A Bare-faced Go-away bird - a lifer for me and Grant
This Go-away bird has a diagnostic bare black face which seperates it from the other Go-away birds and Plantain-eaters in Africa. This one was pointedly silent but it's calll is a deep "kow-kow"

Continuing we came across a small herd of buck (antelope) which we thought were Thompson's Gazelle. However, once again when I downloaded the photos, I managed to identify these (with help of Mr Google) as Grant's Gazelle.

 A small herd of Grant's Gazelle
Grant's Gazelle
 In case you're wondering why I photographed this buck minus a head and feet, I was trying to focus on the birds on the animal's back

From the beginning to the end of our safari, I tried (without much success) to photograph the birds sitting on the backs of buffaloes, buck and zebra. The birds in question are called Red-billed Oxpecker birds. My book on Birds of Africa south of the Sahara says that oxpecker birds are specialists, gleaning ticks and other ectoparasites* from large mammals. They also take blood and tissue from wounds. They are slender, long-winged and long-tailed relatives of starlings. They roost communally, usually in dead trees and call with a short "hiss-hiss"

I was surprised that the birds were so skittish. Whenver we stopped near an animal with a couple of oxpecker on it, the birds would fly away. Hence the fuzzy photos.

And then...

 A baby elephant follows its mum across the road directly in front of the vehicle

Note: * An ectoparasite, also known as an external parasite is a parasite that lives on the outside of its host, e.g. on the skin or in the hair. Fleas are ectoparasites.

Thus ended our second day, albeit it our first full day at the Mara. We returned to camp tired but happy and armed with many photos!


  1. Oh, Jo, I'm so glad you did this safari. I'm beginning to think I might never make it.
    Fascinating birds today, and I love love love the baby elephant.
    Hugs to the cats from me, and a woof from Lindy to you.
    Luv, K

  2. I really love the ever changing show of wildlife on safari. You saw a lot on your first full day. I could never tire of the elephants.

  3. Oxpecker birds are the alarm systems for wild animals. If they see something strange they fly off, thus warning the animal.

    Lovely photos.

  4. Just wanted to wish you all the best for 2012. We have been of line since Christmas so it has been very frustrating. Love your photos. Diane

  5. What a great adventure seeing all those picture book animals in real life and a new bird to boot. So Grant has his own Gazelle?

  6. Yes I read about these birds cleaning the animals from all kind of critters. I honnestly prefer the elephants to birds, maybe because I don't have any in my garden.

  7. Great job, Jo! And I meant to compliment you also on that bokeh of the butterfly in the blog before this one. You are quitea good with that camera you know.

  8. Very cool looking birds, Jo! Great sightings. And I just love the elephant and baby. Fantastic photos.

  9. Beautiful shots of the Go-Away Bird (funny name!), the Grant's Gazelles and elephants! Was Grant pleased to see the gazelles named after him?


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