Tanzania Travel Diary - p 5

Lilac-breasted Roller11 April 2008
Today we left Ngorongoro Lodge.  They had to drag me from the breakfast buffet.  I just had to have one more glass of mango juice.
    We head northwest through Oldupai Gorge and then to Ndutu Lodge, set in woodlands at the edge of the Serengeti plains. Now begins the real safari, Steven says.  As this is not a national park, he can drive off the road, in fact cannot wait to do so.  We roll across park-like savanna, occasionally out onto the plains.  How does he know where we are, I wonder.  Turns out he can triangulate, using three landmarks on the horizon:  the Ngorongoro mountains, Naabi Hill, and Twin Mountains.  But if the clouds become low enough, we're in trouble.
    As if bee-eaters weren't enough, we have rollers that are just as tame and photogenic.  The Eurasian Roller, who will soon migrate back to East Europe and the Middle East, is sky blue and chestnut.  It's a tad shy, but the Lilac-breasted Roller just begs to be photographed, and of course we oblige.

Verreaux's Eagle OwlThe trick to photographing owls is to have a guide who knows where to find them, especially ones that perch in the open, like this Verreaux's Eagle Owl.  After that it's hakuna matata, as we say in Swahili, or 'no problem.'  They perch calmly, seemingly as curious about you as your are about them.  Steven also found a family of four African Scops Owls, but they remained concealed behind limbs.

Bat-eared Fox

The woodlands around Lake Ndutu abound in wildflowers this time of year, a nice setting for the aptly-named Bat-eared Fox.  They live in family groups and have a passion for digging.  A nature photographer working out of Kenya is photographing them for a magazine article.  She described watching the foxes as they dug up buried dung beetle balls and ate the larvae inside.


Fischer's LovebirdThe bird I'm most keen to photograph here is Fischer's Lovebird.  They abound in the woodlands, feeding on acacia leaves of which there's an endless supply.  They nest in dead tree trunks, also in abundance.  Sometimes natural crevices suffice, but they often occupy holes dug out by the Nubian Woodpecker.
    Unfortunately they're shy along the road, flying up into the treetops at the slightest provocation.  The best place to photograph them turns out to be the parking lot at Ndutu Lodge.  The lovebirds have nests in two acacias on either side.
    So for two mornings we stand in the Toyota for over an hour, watching and photographing lovebird goings-on.  Steven seems mystified that one would spend valuable safari time in the lodge parking lot.  But you go where the bird is. 

Lovebirds at nest hole

These birds are well named,  never happier than when perched on a limb side by side, kissing like mad.  This in fact is said to be an exchange of food, which is supposed to strengthen the pair bond.  They also engage in mutual grooming, as with this pair at the nest hole.




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