Monday, June 20, 2011

A fishy drama

Here in the Selous, a thousand dramas play out every day.  Some involve wild chases with lions and other big game, but more often the story involves a few smaller players.

Out on a game drive this morning, I came around a corner on the shore of Lake Tagalala and caught sight of a Great Egret, with a fish in its mouth.  Is this just another quick and easy meal?  With a Striated Heron and a croc nearby, and a wriggling fish to hold on to, the outcome was far from certain.

The egret waded into the lake with the fish in its mouth, trying to flip it around so that he could swallow it whole, as egrets are want to do with their catch.  Meanwhile, the croc kicked off the bank and slid out into the water.

The fish flopped at just the right time and the bird couldn't hold onto its catch.

The Striated Heron thought he might be able to pull a fast one and started to lunge in after the dropped fish.  But the much bigger egret wasn't taking any of the little guy's nonsense.

A stern look told the punk to stay away.  The egret quickly thrust his head back into the water and popped out again, the fish securely in his beak.  The heron couldn't do much more than look on in disappointment.

Unfortunately for him, however, the egret wasn't the biggest player on the pond.  There was someone around a bit bigger than his own size to take him on.

The croc, a rather large one by Lake Tagalala standards, sensed he might be able to get an easy snack just like the heron.  

By this point, the egret was desperately trying to get the fish down his gullet.  When the croc closed to within a meter and a half, however, he realized he was running out of time to choke it down.

He legged it and the croc decided not to chase after the quick-footed bird.  A croc this big has more than enough experience to know that when a great egret decides to run for it, there's no point chasing after competition that can fly. 

Finally, with a little space between himself and his pursuers, the egret was able to accomplish what he had been trying to do since the beginning: get the fish pointed head first down his throat.

With a big gulp, the fish slid visibly down the long neck and the drama finally came to an end.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Selous Eclipse

Two nights ago, the KP guests were treated to a rare site while flycamping on the shore of Lake Tagalala--A full lunar eclipse.  I stayed up to get a few shots as the earth's shadow slid across the moon.

At 9:20, the moon was almost too bright to look at, but the edge of the earth's shadow was just beginning to creep across.

By 10:30, the bush had lost its usual full-moon glow, and the moon had taken on it's half-moon crescent shape.

At 11:30, just before the eclipse was completed, the surface of the moon was thrown into relief.  

As the eclipse was completed, the color of the moon transformed, displaying a gold-black gradient with a tinge of red apparently caused by the ashcloud from Iceland.

A lion roaring completed the experience.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Meet Jim

This is Jim. 

That's Jim's giant catfish.  Jim has been helping out at Kiba over the last few months but he's been working in the Selous for years.  During all the time Jim's been in the Selous, he's learned a thing or two about the Rufiji's catfish.  Every day, as soon as he finishes his lunch, Jim grabs his homemade rod, a couple of worms, and starts hauling fish out of the river.  A slow day means he can only fill five guys' bellies instead of ten.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The river runs down

After months of torrents of water running down the Rufiji river, collected from a watershed that is roughly 1000 kilometers long, the golden sandbanks have returned.

As impressissive as the brimming Rufiji is, however, the sandbanks bring with them plenty to enjoy: crocs sunbathing on the white sand, hippos enjoying an afternoon stroll, giraffes and waterbuck taking advantage of the safe and open areas to drink, and countless birds fishing or pecking through sand in search of food.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The little things in the Selous

Most people come to the Selous for the unnecessarily and frighteningly large animals.  Well, they also come for the scenery and walking, the boat cruises and fishing, the sunsets and sundowners, the relaxation and the adventure.  But mostly people come for the really big animals.

At this time of the year, however, as the green season wanes, one's eye is just as often drawn to the little flashes of color in the Selous as the prehistoric forms of the large mammals.  As the sun illuminated Kiba yesterday morning, I decided to take an hour to capture just a few of the little, and most colorful, organisms in the camp.

This flower is called Lion's Claw for its prickly pod beneath the orange blossoms, a name which has earned it a place among Africa's 'Green Five'