Tanzania Travel Diary - p 4

Rosy-breasted Longclaw9 April 2008
There is one rough road down to the crater and a different, even worse road out.  It sometimes takes the better part of an hour to reach the floor, partly because of all the avian distractions.  We enjoy good views of Variable Sunbird, not to mention beautiful Tacazze, Golden-winged, and Malachite Sunbirds.  They feed on the nectar of Leonitis, which unfortunately is just coming into bloom.  None is close enough to the road for a photo of the sunbirds enjoying it.
    This Rosy-breasted Longclaw posed on an acacia shrub, but mostly we see them messing around in the tall grass of the crater plains, just like our meadowlarks.  Its overall pattern calls to mind a meadowlark as well, although it is actually in the same family as our pipits.   

Grey-crowned Cranes

Grey-crowned Cranes are among the most familiar crater birds, occurring in loose flocks of up to a dozen.  Some appear to be paired off for mating, like the two shown here.  Often we see males (?) turn their backs to the females and perform a sort of jumping dance, wings outspread, toward which she shows not the slightest degree of interest.


Two ZebrasThe gazelles are cute, but the most interesting grazing animal here is Plains Zebra.  When a predator attacks, they will fight back with their hooves, and the herd will protect its injured or sick members.  With wildebeest and gazelles, by contrast, it's every man for himself.     
    You see lots of social behavior with zebras too.  Mutual head-resting is common among members of a stallion's harem.  It allows each to swat away flies from the other, and enables them to see in all directions.

Elephant vs Rhino10 April 2008
This morning brings unpleasantry between elephant and rhinoceros.  For no apparent reason except perhaps to throw his weight around, the young bull charged a rhino mother with half-grown calf.  It was a complete African tableau:  Cape Buffalo in the background, not to mention Kori Bustard, Red-billed Oxpeckers on the rhino, Cattle Egrets trying to get out of the way; even flamingoes in the distant lake. 
    The rhino mom stood her ground for a moment, with her calf behind her.  But no one backs down a bull elephant in these parts.  It ended with rhino mom and calf galloping away in full retreat.


Charlotte's favorite animal here is, oddly enough, the warthog.  She delights in watching them race away as the vehicle approaches, their ropy little tails held erect.  Today we find a nice male, clean for once, posing in the green grass.  Will this yield a pleasing photo?  No, he's still an ugly spud.


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