Sand Rivers Selous

Life in the Selous Game Reserve

Hi. We live and work in the Selous Game Reserve, overlooking a wide bend in the Rufiji River. People from all over the world visit us, and tell us how lucky we are to live here. We're inclined to believe them.

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Mon, Aug 25, 2014

The Break-Aways

On a recent trip to see what the Selous Game Reserve has to offer, we came across something rather special.

A Bateleur was spotted perched atop a tree fast asleep, the Bateleur is an indicating species that guides use to find other animals as they often follow carnivores and will scavenge a meal when they can.

So whilst looking at the Bateleur, something else was noticed by a guest, Henry, in a tree and binoculars were shifted left and there they were, two breakaway leopards that have recently left the safety of mum but still remain within her territory.

They found themselves a great big Mahogany tree with many horizontal broad branches to snooze on.

These two youngsters were kind enough to give us one hour of their time while they slept, stretched, yawned, played and eventually jumped down from the tree and disappeared into the undergrowth. 

Hopefully they hang around in their mothers territory for some time more as it is very close to homebase. 

Thu, Jul 31, 2014

What’s Your Favourite Colour?

Well I just have to say ours is Yellow! Have a look and you will see why.

This Grey-headed Bush-shrike is quite impressive in my eyes.

Birds get the colour in their feathers from several sources. Pigment is attained in 3 different manners. Firstly melanin just like we have in our skin give birds darker feathers, a lack of melanin gives feathers a white colour.

The Crested Barbet has one of our favourite designs.

Secondly carotenoids give them the colours of red, orange and yellow, carotenoids are gained from the birds’ diet as they are formed in plants through photosynthesis.

The Lesser Masked Weaver is somewhat of a spectacle in the right light.

Finally porphyrins also give feathers pigment, these are modified amino acids and is the rarest formation of colour, but we do find it here in the red wings of the Turaco species.

The Little Bee-eater has the most amazing yellow throat. 

Keratin is another source, keratin is the same substance that makes up your hair, the sheath around the horns of an antelope, the horn of a rhino, the feather of a bird and many other things. This keratin gives colours in a very complicated process of layering and scattering and generally gives that iridescence in the feathers giving colours of greens, violets, purples and blues.

The yellow streaks of this female Black Cuckoo-shrike sets it far apart from the male.

These sources are often combined to form the most wonderful colours that birds display and is just another reason to have a closer look next time you see a bird.  

Golden-tailed Woodpecker, gold is better than yellow.

Wed, Jul 23, 2014

Old Friends and New

Since returning to Sand Rivers Selous in May we have spent many days scanning the waters for our little friend with no ears and one eye.

With an odd chance I spotted this little hippo with very similar facial features up in Lake Segezi which is a fair way away from his home here in front of the lodge. Could it really be that funfilled ugly little hippo, with this being the only picture I managed to snap we were somewhat doubtful. 

With the mighty Rufiji in full flow we were somewhat doubtful our friend would ever return to us. Each day the river dropped and a group of Hippo moved closer and closer. Scanning every day for that recognizable face and feisty demeanour. Yet nothing could be seen among the many hippo that made their new home on the bend of the river right in front of us. 

Then while enjoying lunch from the deck, a commotion in front of the lodge gained my attention...Hippo were tussling and up popped a familiar shape. Immediately recognising the figure of a bald head, Binoculars were pointed in the right directions, there it was, our favourite little hippo had returned. It had been 2 months of searching every hippo that came passed. As usual the little one was full of muster and having a great time at the peril of adults. Seeming to torment only fully grown hippo's but also pretending to be one, as seen lying among the big four.

On another note a whole batch of new born hippo have also joined the 'house hippo,' here mum shows her new born what a Pied Wagtail is before shooing off a crocodile that really wasn't much of a threat. 

Mon, Jul 14, 2014

Sitting Skimmers

A little bit of a gap in the morning and we decided to hop on the boat and go for a walk on an island sandbank. We were met by an unhappy African Skimmer who was calling and circling us. We knew there were babies around but where were they. 

So we were searching all over but could see absolutely nothing. Until Hamza said, 'look down'...we thought he was joking at first. 

Can you see it?

Take a closer look...

They lie extremely flat, digging a small hole into the sand. They even flick sand onto their backs with their wings to cover up even more. 

You can see the famous Skimmer bill forming here with the lower mandible extending beyond that of the upper mandible. These little guys were at fledgling stage and have a few developed flight feathers and they can fly for very short distances, but really they are 'sitting ducks' and maybe a change in that saying to sitting Skimmers is a good fit for when you are on Safari here with us.   

We were then lucky to spot this little nest right out in the open with 3 Skimmer eggs...hopefully Mum will be back to shade them from the hot sun soon. 

Mon, Jul 7, 2014

Undertakers Under Threat

The Vulture has never really been at the forefront of our favourite species amongst African avian varieties, they come with a lot of negative connotations....most commonly someone known for benefitting from another’s misfortune is considered to be a vulture in modern society. 

A White-backed Vulture salivates at the thought of some fresh meat

But these ancient creatures serve a very specific and fundamental niche in the animal kingdom. They are very much the undertakers, cleaning the land of rotting flesh that can very easily spread disease throughout. Without them an animal carcass would take far longer to be found and thus decompose slowly. They are capable of cleaning a carcass in a matter of hours if there are enough of them.

A flock of White-backed Vultures ascend as we approach

These great birds have evolved within their niche of scavenging to each serve a more specific niche. For instance we can look at the most commonly seen species here in the Selous, the giant Lappet-faced Vulture will be the one to open up the carcass using its powerful bill, and it will then generally dominate the carcass as it is more aggressive than the others. The White-back Vulture is the classic African Vulture who descend the heavens hopefully in large numbers and will clean a carcass down to skin and bone, each one filling their crops in a matter of minutes, Then we have the Hooded Vulture who uses its delicate bill to finish off the scraps on the bones. 

A Hooded Vulture away from the main carcass has found a bone with some meat to peck at

Vultures are a guide's best friend as they very much indicate the activity of predators, so if your guide sees a lot of vultures you know you will be finding some evidence of the great carnivores that you have come to Africa to see. The locate food using their impeccable eyesight, they fly at incredible heights covering many hundreds of miles a day in search of food and when one vulture drops out the sky all the others will see and follow suite. 

A mixed group of White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures spiral up in a thermal.

But with the current poaching crises of Africa, the vultures traits are not being appreciated by such poachers as they will give away poaching activity to rangers and conservationists. Poachers use poison, quite often something as simple as diclofenac, to booby trap a carcass and kill of hundreds of vultures at a time. Putting vultures populations under increasing pressure and forcing some of them into a vulnerable state. Without vultures performing their crucial duty who knows what will come of the land and spreading disease. 

A Lappet-faced Vulture shows off its powerful bill used to break the tough animal hide. 

So next time you see these formidable creatures please pay tribute to the duty they perform that no other creature can on such a massive scale. 


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