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Kwando`s Green Season


michael-ibk

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michael-ibk

After our coffee break we proceeded to Leopard Pan. Lots of shrubbery and thorny stuff on the way, no mammals to be seen, but a wonderful smell of wild herbage, many birds in the sky and once in a while, beautiful flowers.

 

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Leopard Pan itself is much smaller than both Tau Pan and Sunday Pan. It was pretty empty, we only saw some very distant herds of Sprinbok. There is a loop road here too, but since we had to go on we didn´t have time to explore it.

 

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After we left Leopard Pan, the road got really bad. Very, very wet, with deep lane grooves. We even got stuck once and had to get out of the car. Luckily Vasco mananged to get it out of the mud, but he really needed all the engine´s power available.

 

The most fantastic thing about this part was the number of butterflies. There must have been millions, if not billions of them, covering all of the road, battening on the minerals and waters. When we would drive through them they would all fly up in unision, presenting us a floating cordon of colour and beauty. Would be very handy to hire them with this trick for a wedding. ;)

 

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It was so wet at times it would have been easier to believe to be in the Delta than in a desert:

 

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We even found hundreds of little frogs crossing the road:

 

 

 

The landscape started to open up a bit again, and we saw a few Steenboks:

 

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And a Wildebeest, again all alone.

 

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A few Springboks started to show up:

 

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And then we reached Deception Valley, the remnant of the ancient Deception River, confusingly still marked as such on many maps. Why Deception? "A mirage-style effect makes the blue-clay pan look as though it is filled with water when in reality it is bone dry. This deception is most noticeable from the air, from where even seasoned pilots have been taken in by the effect." Didn´t notice that, though, probably it´s only noticeable from a plane.

 

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The Valley was Springbok galore for us:

 

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We enjoyed the big herds, and the peaceful atmosphere they brought with them.

 

 

 

Gemsbok were around as well, of course, and we saw our only Wildebeest herd.

 

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Our only Springbok lamb. Lambing season is much earlier, so this latecomer was a bit of an irregularity.

 

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The herds were strictly divided, in the background the females are grazing peacefully, in the foreground a group of bachelors tried to get closer to them. But they were quite a craven bunch, every time the dominant male guarding his harem just looked at them they instantly lost all their courage and turned.

 

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The Females from the other side

 

 

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After lunch we did a loop, always hoping for cheetah since the area looked so perfect for them with the short grass and abundant prey around, but we didn´t find any. (The time of the day was obviously not ideal, and they definitely are around here as we were told.) Only Springboks, a few Wildebeest, Korhaans, and Gemsbok.

 

We felt a bit sorry for this one, apparently he felt a bit insecure about his looks and preferred to mingle rather with Springboks than with his own kind:

 

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And Springboks, Springboks, Springboks. They are quite curious, after they get over their first scare when the car approaches they get very close, checking out what this weird ugly big thing watching them is. (The car, not me.)

 

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Don´t know what this one was trying to say. :)

 

 

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On the way back we spotted some White-Backed Vultures, drying their feathers in the sun. When I took out the binocs I was quite puzzled by what I saw:

 

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They all had letters and numbers on their wings. As Vasco told us, they are part of a scientific project which tries to find out about their range. The vultures are caught with huge nets, "labelled" and then released back. Anyone seeing them is asked to report in which ones have been seen.

 

We also saw several Ostriches.

 

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We finally left the Valley, and started the long drive back.

 

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Again this area wasn´t too productive for sightings, but we saw some Helmeted Guinea-Fowl, raptors and a few Steenboks.

 

 

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But very interesting scenically, after every hill suddenly a different habitat seemed to begin. The ever-changing landscape of the Kalahari is its biggest appeal and what makes it such a fascinating place.

 

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This Gemsbok produced a minor squabble. We had two jeep buddies who were on Safari for their 50th wedding anniversary. Which had very clearly been her idea, she loved every minute of it, while he mostly dozed off and didn´t seem to enjoy it all that much. He never complained, though, until now, when he said in a completely baffled and irritated tone: "Now how does this one look different from all the hundreds other we have seen today?!" Of course we explained that this sighting was totally unique, different setting, different light, different markings, different horns and so on. His wife duly supported us, and he never complained again. :)

 

But his irritation was quite understandable, it had been a lot of driving, especially for someone elderly (they were in their 70ies), and I think everyone in the car hoped time and time again that after the next knoll we would see the Tau Pan area again. We were all quite happy to see familiar ground again at about 17:00.

 

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Again, we saw Gemsbok, Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, and then suddenly a Leopard!

 

 

 

....Tortoise. :P

 

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It looked again like rain would fall any minute now, and in some (very localized) areas it indeed did:

 

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We remained dry and returned to camp at about 18:00 and the day ended with a nice rainbow:

 

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I love animals. Always have, always will. And it was my first safari to Tanzania in 2011 (http://safaritalk.net/topic/10294-tanzania-2011-my-first-safari-ever/) which made completely sure that there´s

At the airport strip we were welcomed by our guide Vasco and tracker Voda. On the short drive to camp (about 10 minutes) I was happy. It just felt wonderful being back in Africa, and work and home alr

When we started our afternoon safari it was pretty cloudy and looked like rain could fall anytime. The good thing about being a relative safari newbie is there are a lot of firsts on every game dr

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michael-ibk

Ah! Deception Valley ..... brings back many memories to me from March, 2010 ..... We camped right there while on a mobile safari and the place was truly magical!!!

@@madaboutcheetah

 

That sounds fabulous, do you have a trip report on that somewhere here?

 

@michael-lbk ........ How reliable were the Lion sightings around the Tau Pan area itself? Reason I ask - as I mentioned I have friends and family going in the winter and are curious as to what they will see (what with the game all spread out and all ......)

 

Very good, we saw lions on three out of four game drives near Tau Pan, and each sighting was lenghty and action-packed. I think the other guests did see the pride when we had our Deception Valley trip.

 

Nice road trip to Deception, @@michael-ibk..Was interested in seeing myself when in Bots, but not enough time for everything. One reason I so enjoy everyone else's TR's...seeing places I may get to one day...never soon enough.

 

I liked TonyQ's remark," Maybe the winner in the beauty contest is the one you are looking at" I think like that when asked, what is your fav. sighting today.

 

 

Looking forward to more :)

Thanks, @@graceland. I´m afraid life is too short for all the great places seen on reports here on Safaritalk (like your stellar Ruaha walking adventure). But I will do my very best to seeing as many as possible. :)

 

 

at first glance I thought the reptile looked like a stiletto snake - but it does not sound like what the guide called it, still could be some sort of sand snake

Thanks, @@ice , that could be it, according to Wiki the Stiletto Snake is also called "Burrowing Asp", and mayba he said "Asp, Burrowing Asp" or something like that.

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the flower smells out at the pans were so unique....

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stiletto snake - interesting reptile, lives underground and it able to "bite backwards"... only saw one once, in the South African part of the Kalahari (KTP)

Edited by ice
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wilddog

Super report @@michael-ibk with some lovely images and scene setting. Glad you managed to explain to the 70 year old husband that this might all be worth it!

 

Love that 3rd sky image in the last post, with the threatening skies and mini rainbow. Very artistic.

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michael-ibk

Birds, pt. 3 (Vultures)

 

Four species of vultures occur in the area we visited, and we saw three of them. (If we did see a White-Headed Vulture we didn´t notice it.)

 

By far the most numerous species was the White-Backed Vulture, they were a pretty regular sighting in any of the four areas we visited in Botswana.

 

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Hidden on the left in the picture above is a Hooded Vulture, the smallest in the area.

 

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On the other end of the size spectrum is the Lappet-Faced Vulture:

 

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michael-ibk

@@ice

 

Biting "backwards"? What does that mean?

 

@@wilddog

 

Thanks Linda, and I am already looking forward to your report very much. :)

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michael-ibk

Our last morning dawned, and this time we really waited hard for dawn - electricity was gone, and it´s not so easy finishing packing in the dark.

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After breakfast we drove to the south of the camp, an area with high grass. While the scenery was lovely with the morning sun we didn´t see any mammals here.

 

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So we returned to the pan, which had the usual mix of Springbok, Gemsbok and Wildebeest. The lions, however, had apparently decided to take a day off. The morning drive was therefore pretty quiet, we didn´t see anything out of the ordinary.

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At least the Red Hartebeest felt a bit more generous this time and allowed a somewhat closer approach:

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Since our plane was departing at 09.50 we already drove back to camp at 09.30, and said good bye to our guide Vasco and tracker Voda:

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Both had done a very good job, Vasco was very respectful with all animals. Just this morning we had come extremely close to a Roller (the one from post #1), about one metre, and were hoping to get some pictures of it flying away. The little one didn´t quite cooperate, however, and just stayed still, looking back at us completely unconcerned. Of course Vasco could easily have clapped hands, or rev the engines. He didn´t, and I liked that.

All in all, the Kalahari was more than we had expected. We went there for the scenery, for big open skies and just the feeling of really being far, far out there. All of which it delivered. The lushness in all that green, the butterflies and the water everywhere were quite a surprise, however. I enjoyed the abundant Gemsbok and Springbok, the varied bird sightings and all the lion action the place had given us. We missed Cheetah and Leopard, but this is just a matter of luck. Guests we met later on told us of a cheetah kill they had witnessed at Deception Loop, and other guests of a wonderful leopard sighting just half an hour from camp. Wild Dogs do wander in occassionally (according to the Kwando sightings reports), but are pretty special. I asked about Brown Hyena, btw, and it seems to be extremely rare - even the guides said once or twice a year.

Maybe next time. And there will definitely be a next time, I loved Tau Pan. :)

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"elderly" 70's! ouch.......

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graceland

"elderly" 70's! ouch.......

Heading in that direction @@marg....hate those elderly references myself!

Ouch indeed....

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michael-ibk

Oh my, only now do I realize what I have done. :unsure:

 

Uhm, can I get away with this when I repeat that I am not a native speaker and therefore thought it means "young, active, vital, full of energy?"

 

And @@marg and @@graceland , you are both looking veeeery beautiful this evening. :wub:

 

 

Sorry, really didn´t want to insult anybody!

Edited by michael-ibk
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graceland

Oh my, only now do I realize what I have done. :unsure:

 

Uhm, can I get away with this when I repeat that I am not a native speaker and therefore thought it means "young, active, vital, full of energy?"

 

And @@marg and @@graceland , you are both looking veeeery beautiful this evening. :wub:

 

 

Sorry, really didn´t want to insult anybody!

No insults taken here Michael-ibk...just like fooling with the "youngsters" here...And you did provide a most entertaining Trip Report for these failing eyes.

 

I can't speak for @@marg but I'm sure she has also run into as I - many "oldsters" (nearer to 90 than 70 you know!) on safari with way more energy at 5:30am then I've had! And on top of that they keep the sundowners going as the moon is going down and that sunrise resurfaces!

:wacko:

 

Must be that African sage brush.

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Atravelynn

Those butterflies are wonderful, then you had all the butterflies plus the frogs. Nice rainbow. I hope the anniversary couple end up enjoying their 50th.

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michael-ibk

Thanks, Lynn. They celebrated the day before our departure with champagne and invited all guests. Was a nice evening. :)

Nxai Pan National Park, Nxai Pan Lodge

We left Tau Pan at 09:50. The plane was dead on time.

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Tau Pan Camp

The flight lasted a bit more than an hour.

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The Boteti River, an important lifeline to the Makgadikgadi area.

Very befitting a place famous for zebras, the pilot first had to shoo some of them away from the airstrip by flying very low and could only safely land on his second try.

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Nxai Pan Airstrip

We were welcomed by Alex, who would later be our guide at Kwara, and then driven to camp, which is about half an hour away. Pretty bad roads here, very deep dried out lane grooves, and driving was a bit of a balancing act at times. In camp (which I´ll describe later on) we had time for a little rest and watching zebras from our terrace, until the game drive began at 16:20. We shared with three French guests and had one row for ourselves, a definite step up from Tau Pan.

Our guide was Vago, supported by tracker "Shoes". Of all the guides at Kwando Vago was the only one I was not totally happy with. He certainly knew his job and could tell interesting stories and facts, but I didn´t get the feeling with him like with the others that he really loved doing this. Didn´t always agree with this style, either. While other guides would ask "Ok?", asking if we were ready to move on after a sighting he would just announce "ok" without asking. (Though in pretty much every case we would have said, yes ready, anyway.) Just minor things, nothing that detracted from the overall experience, but his guiding was not as enjoyable as that of his colleagues. "Shoes" was an immensely likeable guy, but I have to say that he was not that great of a spotter, many times we pointed things out to him, not the other way round.

It was very dark and cloudy this afternoon, it had rained a bit just before we got going.

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The landscape here at Nxai Pan was not as exciting as the ever-changing scenery at Tau Pan, but I enjoyed the open meadows and the big sky as well.

In the green season the park is home to thousands and thousands of Chapman´s Zebras, it is estimated that about 60000 of them wander through on their migration through Botswana. And indeed, they were practically everywhere, and first we spent a good half hour watching countless stripes and shadow-stripes.

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Punk foal.

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Not content with just having stripes.

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Black-Backed Jackals

After a short while, we were delighted to see our first (Angolan) Giraffes. Quite a lot of them actually.

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After this bushland full of giraffes we came to the open areas again, and saw some distant Springboks and Wildebeest. The roads are quite far apart here, and very often sightings are just tiny dots in the background. But our attention immediately shifted to something a lot more exciting when we found this:

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The local lion pride, who had apparently just killed a zebra two days ago and were still feasting. The males were lying quite far away, almost invisible in the grass, but three very healthy and enterprising cubs were right on the road, and everyone of us was just smiles all over.

Their main goal in life seemed to be "Fight Mommy´s tail"!

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Clearly, after so much exertion, they needed nourishment:

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Once in a while, a Jackal was successfull in sneaking up on the carcass and fetching a little snack.

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The young ones didn´t care, and watched us just as concentratedly as we were watching them.

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Finally Mum and offspring had enough of their admirers and retreated.

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So did we, and after a quick sundowner (without any sundowning) we drove back to camp, and enjoyed dinner debating just one topic: Just how adorable are lion cubs?
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Atravelynn

"Just how adorable are lion cubs?"

Extremely!

 

Did you get an age estimate of them? The tail biting video adds to that adorableness.

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michael-ibk

@@Atravelynn

 

I think they were about 3 1/2 months if I remember correctly. They were first seen in January.

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The Bear

I look away for a week and you have posted 2 more pages of pictures! Michael yes you remember out trip correctly. Was Lagoon, Kwara, POm Pom and Tau Pan (Plus Kruger and Vic Falls before). The CF card problem was sorted, We had 3, When I asked at Lagoon I was concerned the rate I was taking pics they wouldn't be enough but they were.

Our experience of Tau Pan was similar to yours, we had lines walk right past out room then drink at the water hole. We were able to get in the jeep and drive round and watch them. We also did deception valley. Didn't see the Honey badgers though, there was a great program on UK TV last week about the Honey Badgers and what they get up to, very interesting it was

Looking forward to seeing more

 

Mark

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Big_Dog

Excellent stuff @@michael-ibk !
Love the raptor shots, especially the ones of the falcons in flights and the beefy LPV. It can often be underestimated how hard it is to photograph birds!
And very glad you got your honey badger sighting! The first of many, I hope?...

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michael-ibk

Birds, pt. 4 (Rollers, Hoopoes & Oxpeckers)

If there´s one ultimate "safaribird" it´s without a doubt the Lilac-Breasted Roller. Colourful, conspicuously perching at vantage points, and not shy at all - perfect for pictures.

This beauty is also the national bird of Botswana and Kenya. We saw it often in all four areas visited, but pretty much stopped taking photos of it after Tau Pan, where we had already fulfilled our quota. :)

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The German name is "Gabelracke", which roughly translates to "Fork Roller", and here it´s pretty visible where that name comes from.

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This one had a weird green parasite-thingy sticking out from its throat:

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A couple of times we also saw its cousin, the European Roller. Only at Tau and Nxai Pan though, it apparently prefers drier habitats:

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At Nxai Pan we also saw a Purple Roller (the largest one of the family), but unfortunately it didn´t stick around for pics.

Here it was where we also had a good sighting of my favourite bird, the Hoopoe. Don´t know why I like them so much, I just do. :)

Though people generally appreciate them now, that hasn´t always been the case, in Europe they were considered thieves, harbingers of war in Scandinavia and even foreboding death in Estonia. Though ocurring back home in Austria (in the east), I have only once (and fleetingly) seen them back home.

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Just because I don´t know where else to group them, two other "safari birds". Often seen, but never alone - Yellow-Billed and Red-Billed Oxpecker:

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Yellow-Billed

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Red-Billed

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michael-ibk

I look away for a week and you have posted 2 more pages of pictures! Michael yes you remember out trip correctly. Was Lagoon, Kwara, POm Pom and Tau Pan (Plus Kruger and Vic Falls before). The CF card problem was sorted, We had 3, When I asked at Lagoon I was concerned the rate I was taking pics they wouldn't be enough but they were.

Our experience of Tau Pan was similar to yours, we had lines walk right past out room then drink at the water hole. We were able to get in the jeep and drive round and watch them. We also did deception valley. Didn't see the Honey badgers though, there was a great program on UK TV last week about the Honey Badgers and what they get up to, very interesting it was

Looking forward to seeing more

 

Mark

 

@@The Bear

 

Glad to hear you didn´t run out of cards, Mark. I take it you had a good time after Lagoon? Any special sightings? Were you in the room (or on the terrace) when the lions were walking through Tau Pan camp?

 

Excellent stuff @@michael-ibk !

Love the raptor shots, especially the ones of the falcons in flights and the beefy LPV. It can often be underestimated how hard it is to photograph birds!

And very glad you got your honey badger sighting! The first of many, I hope?...

 

Thanks, @@Big_Dog

 

"LPV"? I taxed my brain with this one, but to no avail...?!?

 

Not the first of many, the first and the last. I remember you saw lots of them at Kwara (and Lagoon?), but with the high grass in the Green Season it´s very hard to spot them. But still, I had my honey badger sighting, so I´m not complaining. :)

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Atravelynn

"Here it was where we also had a good sighting of my favourite bird, the Hoopoe. Don´t know why I like them so much, I just do. :)"

 

Oh my goodness! Mine too! I'm not just saying this. There is evidence in posts all over the forum of me stating it is my favorite bird. But I know why. It was the first cool bird I saw in Africa, however I was not aware of their history: "harbingers of war in Scandinavia and even foreboding death in Estonia."

 

The rollers were strutting their brilliant colors for you in the sun.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Atravelynn

LPV:

 

Lappet Faced Vulture

Could be Little Pooping Vulture but I don't recall any of those in your report, yet.

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michael-ibk

 

 

Oh my goodness! Mine too! I'm not just saying this. There is evidence in posts all over the forum of me stating it is my favorite bird.

 

@@Atravelynn

 

You certainly have good taste. ;)

 

 

 

Lappet Faced Vulture

Could be Little Pooping Vulture but I don't recall any of those in your report, yet.

 

Ah, LaPped-Faced Vulture is a (remote) possibility. Acronyms always confuse me. Ok, I will include pooping from now on.

 

Thank you, @@SafariChick . :)

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