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
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.
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!