These strange little birds feed exclusively on the bodies of mammals. They dig through the fur with their beaks and pick out ticks and other insects found on the ‘host’ animal. They will also feed on insects that are found in or on wounds that the mammal may have. The smallest mammal that the Oxpeckers will feed off of is the Impala, anything smaller is usually avoided. This is probably because of the heavy tick load and also the more social nature of the species. Smaller buck like the Duiker and Steenbok are more solitary animals. It has also been discovered that Oxpeckers will open old wounds and enhance existing ones to drink the blood from an animal upon which they are perched. I have visited Kruger Park many times in my life and have always wanted to snap a clear shot of these birds in action. It’s proved a difficult task and finally on my most recent trip, I got what I was waiting for!
I’ve always thought the name, “Hippopotamus” was somewhat strange and sounded kinda funny. It’s understandable that people prefer to call them “Hippos” as it rolls off the tongue much easier! I recently discovered that the name “Hippopotamus” comes from the ancient Greeks and it literally means, “River Horse”. For many years people believed that these animals were herbivores but it has quite recently been shown that will and do eat meat if the opportunity arises! Some Hippos have even been known to kill young animals as they cross the river. We stopped our car at the edge of a river in Kruger Park and sat there for what must have been over an hour, I had noticed these 2 bulls displaying some aggression towards one another and decided it was time to be patient and wait for them confront one another… These are the shots I got.
These guys are quite common throughout Southern Africa as they are able to adapt very well to all kinds of environments. There are actually 3 sub-species of Baboons that occur throughout their range in Southern Africa. The ‘Cape Chacma’ is the larger of the 3 and has black feet. The ‘Grey-Footed Chacma’ occurs from the northern parts of South Africa and into Zambia, these are generally smaller and have grey feet. The smallest of the 3 sup-species is found in Namibia and into Angola, they are known as the ‘Ruacana Chacma Baboons’. The best way to appreciate Baboons is to turn off your car engine and sit and watch them, I have found early morning to be the best time to do this. We sat and watched these guys for about an hour in the Kruger Park recently and I managed to snap these shots.
Definitely one of my favorite animals to watch when on Safari. Majestic and huge, towering well over any vehicle, these animals are elegant and completely silent. They have no vocal chords and how they communicate with one another is still a mystery to scientists the world over. Although their necks are so long, they actually have the exact same amount of neck vertebrae as we humans have. Males and females can be told apart by their horns. A males horns will usually lack the tufts of fur on the ends as a result from ‘necking’ with other males in combat. Females do not show aggression and manage to retain the fluff on their horns.
Unlike many other waterbirds the feathers of the African Darter do not contain any oil and are therefore not waterproof. Because of this, the bird is less positively buoyant and its diving capabilities are enhanced. After diving for fish, the feathers can become waterlogged. In order to be able to fly and maintain heat insulation it needs to dry its feathers. I shot this picture of a Darter at the Lake Panic bird hide in the Kruger National Park, sunning his feathers after some time in the water.
These birds are currently endangered in South Africa and I’ve only ever seen them in The Kruger National Park. They are endangered due to habitat loss and a recent study has actually shown that Elephants in the park have contributed to their shortage of nesting trees! The birds usually nest in the ‘forks’ of big trees but as Elephants like to push these over, a lot of nesting space has been destroyed. Rangers have found a solution in the form of special boxes which they themselves make and place in specific areas fr the birds to nest in. It’s proved a success and hopefully the numbers of these special creatures will rise in the years to come. I took these pictures in the Kruger National Park just recently.