HOME Blog This Week at Angama #316

This Week at Angama #316

Two gnus go to war, while a kori bustard fights for love and the Egyptian Pride cubs have officially come of age
Above: Clash of the wildebeest


When it comes to making a potential kori bustard mate swoon, it’s all about puffing up to exaggerate one's physical attributes. During their mating ritual — known as lekking — male kori bustards inflate their necks to more than four times their normal size. They form a white throat balloon, cheeks bulging, with the crest held erect and bill open.

F 8, 1/1600, ISO 500 | Robert Sayialel

With their wings drooped and tails raised upwards and forwards onto their backs like a turkey, the rectrices are held vertically and their under-tail coverts fluff out. They then enhance their performance with an exaggerated bouncing gait as well as emitting a low-pitched booming noise when the neck is at maximum inflation, snapping their bills open and shut for extra effect.

The great white pelican is a huge water bird with broad wings, a long neck, massive bill, thick bodies, short legs and a square tail. Found mostly in water bodies, great white pelicans are sociable and are well adapted to aquatic life using their short-webbed feet to propel them in the water. They mainly feed on fish with their pouches serving as scoops ready to trap fish.

F 14, 1/1000, ISO 1000 | Robert Sayialel Great white pelicans
F 8, 1/1600, ISO 320 | Robert Sayialel Great white pelican

Sexually active male eastern white-bearded gnu are typically territorial and defend their territories with ritualised threat displays that, when not sufficient to deter an intruder, may develop into a head-butting contest. Knees bent and foreheads to the ground, these two bulls moved forward clashing their heads with horns entangled. After an impressive fight that lasted a good five minutes, the lord of this territory was declared and he chased his opponent well and good from his claim. The victor will then scent mark his territory by rubbing his facial glands on trees and scraping his pedal gland, found between the toes, on the ground.

F 8, 1/4000, ISO 1000 | Robert Sayialel
F 8, 1/4000, ISO 1000 | Robert Sayialel
F 8, 1/4000, ISO 1000 | Robert Sayialel

Hamerkops are renowned for their enormous nests, which can weigh up to 25kg. They're made of sticks, twigs, grass, reeds and other dead plants placed in a fork of a tree. Once a mated pair has been established, the building of a domed nest starts that will be used for years. Sadly, these extraordinary builders often don’t get to keep their nests as they attract many other species of birds such as eagles, owls and kestrels that evict the rightful owners. For days, I watched a pair of hamerkops tirelessly building their nest right outside our Photographic Studio at Angama Amboseli only to find one morning a pair of southern ground hornbills sitting right on top of it. We will see if the hornbills take over the nest or let the hamerkop keep it.

F 3.2, 1/1250, ISO 100 | Robert Sayialel

We are on the onset of long rains here in Amboseli which can run from March to May. One morning, after it rained during the night, we were treated to sweeping views of Kilimanjaro with a lot of snow — as is usually the case after the rain. All peaks had a good amount of snow, even Shira (seen on the far left here), the third-highest peak after Mawenzi and Kibo. –Robert Sayialel

F 8, 1/160, ISO 3200 | Robert Sayialel

The Mara:

In a place like the Mara, it is the absence of things that sometimes can be so magical. The absence of pollution, noise, traffic and artificial light, all build towards a peace full of a certain kind of emptiness. In a single day in the Mara, you can be exposed to all the elements as you navigate the land. Heavy winds have been blowing through the escarpment and not far behind are the afternoon rains; loud storms are heard thundering through the Triangle. Most recently, we have begun to see controlled burning again, which has not happened for roughly six months. So earth, air, water and fire can not only be seen but felt in the Mara.

F 5.0, 1/2000, ISO 100 | Andrew Andrawes
F 8.0, 1/640, ISO 125 | Andrew Andrawes
F 7.1, 1/2500, ISO 1250 | Titus Keteko

As mentioned many months ago, the process of controlled burning is crucial to the sustainability of this land and its wildlife. It has been a tool in encouraging regrowth and giving animals a habitat that is more suitable for herbivores and, therefore, carnivores. We have already started seeing animals move towards the areas with shorter grass and this will only continue to happen as the fresh grass grows and brings more biodiversity.

F 13, 1/500, ISO 400 | Andrew Andrawes

One of the amazing things about living in the Mara is the ability to follow specific animals for extended periods of time. You may recall when the sub-adult members of the Egyptian Pride were just cubs; now, a few have formed a coalition. Four young males, all brothers, were captured together around the 3km Junction not far from the pride's territory by Angama guest, Britney. It is fascinating to see how they must now rely on each other as they branch out from the main pride, roaming around the park looking to establish a new territory.

F5.6, 1/320, ISO 125 | Guest Britney Corin
F5.6, 1/320, ISO 125 | Guest Britney Corin

The skin of the Nile monitor lizard looks hand-beaded — to my eye, this mirrors the Maasai traditional dress. These animals can live up to 20 years and grow up to 8 feet in length. Similar to the terrapin and python mentioned last week, this species is also semi-aquatic. Solitary and rarely seen in groups, monitor lizards are carnivores and help control populations of rodents and small animals in the ecosystem. Every time I see them and the way they move I think they are prehistoric creatures that have walked out of another era.

F8.0, 1/640, ISO 125 | Guest Britney Corin

Titus, a member of Angama's Guiding Team, came across the two cheetah brothers, Ruka and Rafiki near the Tanzanian border. They were perfectly perched on a mound, huddled together, carefully scanning every detail of the horizon. These veteran hunters are famous around these parts and for good reason, too.

F7.1, 1/1600, ISO 360 | Titus Keteko
F7.1, 1/2500, ISO 1000 | Titus Keteko

We continue to see countless birds — some migratory and some local — and the rains bring plenty of food for them. We are also seeing a rise in aquatic birds, like the cormorant, as the dams increase in size. The grey crowned crane only breeds in the rainy season and, unlike most chicks, their chicks are precocial — means they are mobile and independent from the time they hatch and, best of all, they don't need their parents to feed them. This allows the parents (who are always found in pairs) to spend less time brooding and more time foraging for food. Culturally, the grey crowned crane is a symbol of new beginnings and hope — but also beauty and grace. –Andrew Andrawes

F 7.1, 1/400, ISO 500 | Andrew Andrawes Grey crowned crane chick
F 7.1, 1/800, ISO 250 | Andrew Andrawes Lilac-breasted roller
F 8.0, 1/2500, ISO 800 | Andrew Andrawes Long-tailed cormorant
F 7.1, 1/1000, ISO 1250 | Andrew Andrawes Male saddle-billed stork

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Amboseli , Maasai Mara , Photographic Safari , Wildlife Photography

About: The Photographic Studios

The team in both Angama Mara's and Angama Amboseli's Photographic Studio spend their days capturing our guests' memories and reporting on the fantastic sightings seen out on safari.

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