Saturday, 2 November 2019

Buffalo with Calf


We had driven along several trails looking for an elusive herd of buffalo that one of the other drivers had spotted the day before. The driver and guide thought the best approach was to track a small pride of lions that we had seen earlier in the morning. He pointed out that where there are lions there are buffalo nearby.

Buffalo with calves


The lion tracks and spoor ended near a wide open plain with just islands of trees dotted here and there. Another short discussion and the verdict; drive through the grassland towards the trees which are perfect lion resting spots.

Lurking Lions


We cautiously entered the sea of grass and bumped our way towards the trees. Suddenly, we were amongst the buffalo. The herd consisted of around twenty animals including calves. Bad tempered at the best of times, the buffalo did not look pleased at our arrival.

Sitting quietly we waited for the animals to settle and within a few minutes they went about grazing seemingly oblivious to our presence. A wonderful time to take a few close up pictures of these iconic African animals.

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Monday, 7 October 2019

Crocodiles Rock


From the light plane aerodrome to the entrance to the national park there is a twenty minute drive past fields of corn and other crops then through villages before crossing a broad sluggish river that is not so benign in the wet season. Although this is the park boundary local people are allowed to fish there with special permits. But it is not the law that is their main adversary but the enormous crocodiles that live in the waterway.



Reaching lengths of 20 feet (6 metres) and weighing over 1500 pounds  (620 kg) these huge predators are capable of attacking all but the largest of African animals and have no problems snacking on the occasional human.

As we drive along the river ban towards the lodge some twenty kilometres our guide Malcolm concentrates on telling us about the plethora of animals whose lives revolve closely around the river. Hippos provide nutrients for many fish with their dung. Kingfisher perch on branches to look for prey. Numerous other birds follow the hippos and elephants when they stir up the water and disturb fish, insects, frogs and other small animals....and so on...the list is exhaustive and fascinating.



But it is the crocodiles that are the apex predators along the river and just before we turn inland we are privileged to see a truly massive example of these fearsome predators. The croc is lying on a small island its mouth open to regulate temperature and in doing so it displays a formidable array of teeth. Malcolm estimates its length at around 4 to 4.5 meters.

Later in our travels we will see many large crocodiles but this first sighting of a big croc is one that will always reside in our memories.

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Friday, 20 September 2019

Zambezi Elephants in Reeds

Zambezi Elephants feeding among reed beds in Botswana


We sat in a flat bottom boat just a few metres from these magnificent animals that had swum from the far bank to feed in reed island near the centre of the river. A wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Over the next few days we often watched this herd of elephants as they crossed the river taking the young ones with them.


Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Elephant Babies


Baby elephants are one of the most endearing of all Africa's animals. The intelligence and social nature of elephants makes them animals that humans can easily relate to. On my most recent trip to Zambia’s lower Zambezi I was privileged to spend considerable time watching and photographing these incredible animals.

Early one morning we were lucky enough to see a herd of elephants crossing a small river. Two of the babies were so small that they had not yet grasped the idea of using their trunks to drink. The pair comically tried to dip their heads and mouths into the river to drink. Not really a very successful technique but fascinating to watch. Later I watched one of the more mature infants trying to show the younger animals how to drink before giving up and suckling its mother as the herd reached the bank.

The protective nature of the herd was an oft repeated feature of elephant behaviour. Mature females would quickly shepherd their young into the centre of the group at the first hint of danger. On one occasion a mature female, sporting massive tusks, stood within a couple of metres of our vehicle while the rest of the herd quickly shuffled away through the bush then quietly followed after giving us a loud trumpeting blast to voice disapproval.

We stayed at the river crossing for over an hour watching a variety of wildlife but it was the elephants that really stole the day.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Leopard Moments


It is night and we are spotlighting for wildlife along the edge of the Luangwa River. Our guides have heard both baboons and antelope warning calls and they know that something dramatic is happening nearby.

The spotter sweeps a powerful beam through the bush. It has a yellow filter which is less disturbing for the wildlife and in some cases an infrared light is used which is invisible to most animals. The light is flicked continuously over the scrub and trees. Due to the guide's wealth of experience the various intensities, colours and height of eye reflections above ground, indicate the type of animal.

Near a shallow creek bed he pauses and then re-focuses the 
light on the forked branch of a large tree where a leopard is chewing at the carcass of a puku that it has killed and dragged up into the branches.

We watch spellbound as the powerful predator goes about its meal. We can hear other movements in the surrounding bushes. There are glimpses of other eyes before a spotted hyena emerges from the cover. When a big cat kills these opportunistic scavengers are always nearby.

Sensitive to the cat’s needs the guides only stay for a few minutes before moving off in search of other wild moments that the African bush might provide.

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Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Zambezi Elephants





Zambezi Elephants
We were travelling down the Zambezi River by powerboat To the Chongwe River Camp. On each side of the vast expanse of water were scrub and reed beds while the middle was dotted with grass covered islands.

Hippos were the most prevalent animals and a few crocodiles ignored us as they basked along the banks; mouths agape for temperature control and teeth exposed.

But it was the elephants that I found most intriguing. They were in small groups of five to twenty with a range of sizes from massive adults to teenagers and babies.

Every so often we wold catch a glimpse of them feeding amongst the long grass or patrolling the bank ready to cross.

On one occasion I was lucky enough to see a pair of adults emerging from the river to clamber up the bank and feed on a grass island.

Later that day I sat on my deck at camp and watched a herd crossing the smaller Chongwe river just a few hundred metres away from me. Elephants are quite common in the lower Zambezi national parks but they never fail to elicit a strong emotional response whenever I encounter them.









Saturday, 18 May 2019

Hippo Behaviour

Nature is volatile and unpredictable. It never does what you need or expect. But occasionally, when the gods are in your favour and the stars positioned just so; animals do what you want.

I had been travelling along a tributary of the Zambezi watching hippos and trying to get a single shot that described their behaviour. These imposing animals are part of a complex ecosystem. They contribute tonnes of fertiliser to the river systems in the form of dung. Birds follow them as they trundle along river banks stirring up insects.

Adult Hippos in their prime have few natural predators. Young animals are sometimes prey for crocodiles while the old and weak are fodder for a myriad of hunters and their remains an appetising meal for crocodiles and a host of carrion eaters from vultures to hyenas.

Eventually I managed to make a pair of images that described aspects of their social behaviour as well as capturing their natural environment. Hopefully these aspects of hippo life are obvious from the pictures.

Cheers
Baz

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