Monday, 8 January 2018

Ngorongoro Crater

Where to start? This was one of those ambitions I’ve had since childhood after watching a wildlife documentary about this pace but never thought I’d ever fulfil it. And it didn’t disappoint. After struggling to nail Lynes’s Cisticola on the downward journey and being constantly distracted by the awesome vista below, there were also views of Lanner, Northern Anteater-Chat, Purple Grenadier, Schalow’s Wheatear, Brown Parisoma, Yellow Bishop, Lappet-faced Vulture and Sooty Falcon

Northern Anteater-Chat
Red-rumped Swallows were perched beside the track

Nearing the crater floor we could see a few jeeps watching a group of Lions beside a small lake so headed down there, only to come face-to-face with a majestic Caracal about 30 feet away from us! What? We’d just been staking out an area that Caracal has sometimes frequented higher up and never thought we’d have a realistic chance and now here we were. 

It had just killed an African Hare but been spooked and was tentatively trying to cross the track in front of us towards a kill that 4 Lions had made, but was now being taken over by Golden Jackals and Black-backed Jackals, with some White-backed Vultures also moving in. 

This Lioness was a bit feisty....
Vultures and Jackals at the kill

But after several minutes it decided against that course of action as a Lioness began chasing the Plains Zebras before turning her attentions to the Caracal. So it hightailed it out of there and disappeared up the slope. I’m sure some of the other jeeps weren’t even aware of the presence of this scarce mammal as they were too focussed on the Lion action. But we were elated and the huge surge of adrenalin really is something you need to experience at some time in your life. I love it! So we stayed around the water for some time, taking in the Lions, Kori Bustard, Thompson’s Gazelles, Fischer’s Sparrow-Larks, Red-capped Lark and other commoner species.

Fischer's Sparrow-Larks
Kori Bustard

After a toilet stop we drove out into the plains where amazingly we found another Caracal, albeit quite distant. We also saw Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Black-bellied Bustard, Spotted Hyena, a confiding Rosy-breasted Longclaw, Montagu’s Harrier, another sleeping Lion, some African Quailfinches coming to drink in a stream, before heading to the Hippo Pools. 

African Quailfinch

Rosy-breasted Longclaw

Needless to say they were full of Hippos and some waterbirds but with rain threatening we drove to the picnic site. Here there were many Fan-tailed Widowbirds in non-breeding dress, African Fish-Eagles, flocks of Red-billed Queleas and a hunting African Hobby.

Leaving here we headed back towards the escarpment, and along the way enjoyed watching displaying Black-bellied Bustards, Isabelline Wheatear, several Kittlitz’s Plovers and Plain-backed Pipit

Hildebrandt's Starling
Spotted Hyena

Entering a more lush area with lots of larger trees we saw some perched Lappet-faced Vultures, Dusky Turtle Dove, Hildebrandt’s Starlings, Ruppell’s Vultures nesting, both Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Broad-billed Roller, Black Storks, Martial Eagle and a pair of White-headed Barbets. And that was our day.

Lappet-faced Vulture

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