Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Selous Game Reserve's Winged Creatures

Undoubtedly you cannot ignore the sights and sounds of the birds of the Selous in Tanzania. On most safaris the moment you set foot into a reserve you will become aware of the noise that fills the air like a well orchestrated symphony. The Selous is no different in that respect, but what is surprising, is the sheer volume of visible species on show.

We leave the Sand Rivers Lodge on our first game drive and not one kilometre from the lodge we witness a Tawny Eagle demolishing a Buffalo Weaver’s nest. The pieces of grass fly off in every direction while a single Buffalo Weaver tries in vain to bombard the gigantic raptor. The cacophony of calls resounds back and forth as all the nest inhabitants flap to and fro valiantly and futilely defending their home. We leave them to it and head off in the direction of the Beho Beho Hills in search of Black Rhino. All we find however, are many journeys of Giraffe and some Yellow Billed Oxpeckers.

In the following days Lake Tagalala proves to be a goldmine of wings and beaks. January appears to be the season for juvenile Fish Eagles and around this body of water the Fish Eagles do not appear to have clearly demarcated territories even though we hear constant territorial calls. On almost every tree another Fish Eagle is found perching, surveying the lie of the land. On the edges of the lake we find a plethora of other species from the smallest Kingfisher to the larger Pink Back Pelican all participating in some serious fishing.

Further afield in the savannah areas the Northern Carmine Bee Eater forages ceaselessly. The Northern Carmine is an inventive bird that will make use of a vehicle moving through the grass to scare up its prey. An afternoon drive turns into an opportunity for fun when we specifically drive next to the road in order to scare up the insects. At least 50 Northern Carmines take their turns at dive bombing in front of and next to the vehicle while we desperately set our shutters clicking.

The setting sun presents us with an opportunity to back light a Maribou Stork with the cleanest legs I’ve yet seen on one of these rather macabre looking birds and we are able to get close to a Southern Ground Hornbill taking home some tasty grasshoppers.

A late afternoon drive along the banks of the Rafiji River delivers a Bee Eater Photographers feast along with a Grey Headed Kingfisher and some Golden Weavers.

But the personal cherry on the cake must surely be the Palm Nut Vulture. A weird looking creature not found in many places on the Continent.  We are fortunate enough to have three different sightings of this rare bird. It brings me ever-closer to completing my list of Vulture sightings.

Methinks this reserve must be on every birder’s highly desirable list. I don’t think that I managed to photograph even a tenth of the birds on show and had I been a birding photographer I would certainly spend a lot more time just sitting next to Lake Tagalala where the winged creatures of the Selous present a constant display just waiting for a camera’s lens. The remoteness of this wilderness ensures that vehicles are at their minimum and some patience will certainly deliver spectacular one-of-a-kind results.

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