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The two sightings that are the subject of this topic and mainly involve three species of vultures date from October 2017.  They have already been reported in their time in the trip report of which they are part and a number of photos illustrated them.  However, as more than a thousand photos were taken on these occasions, I said to myself why not devote a full topic to them and reveal new photos (80% of the more or less 75 which will succeed each other below).  It is also an excellent opportunity to highlight these creatures, it must be said not very emblematic but extremely useful for the balance of nature.


The first morning of my stay at Camp Hwange, Washy, my guide, announced that we were going to go to the Big Toms area where we were very likely to find Vusi, also an old friend of @Safaridude.  It takes at least two hours to get there if you don't delay on the way.  Obviously, after many stops, we needed almost double.


Vusi was there, accompanied by nine females, near a gully in the bottom of which still enough water stagnated to quench their thirst.  I immediately noticed that the place, by its topography, is very conducive to ambushes.  Any animal, and they must have been numerous in this period of strong heat and drought, which ventured there signed its death warrant.  This, therefore, explained the permanent presence of the pride of lions.  Indeed, they had already, according to Washy, in the days preceding, killed some buffaloes.  As nothing was happening, we didn't drag on and decided to come back a few days later.








Four days later, we returned to Big Toms where we again found Vusi and its nine partners.  With the exception of one, they were all in the shade of a large bush.  Next to the water hole, was the carcass, almost completely devoured, of a young elephant of an already appreciable size (see the tusks).  The vultures were scattered all around (except as usual the hooded vultures), the ninth lioness being always near the carrion.
















When the latter decided to join their own under the bush, the vultures threw themselves on the carcass after however having had the certainty that obviously the lions abandoned their prey to them.

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@Bush dog


Great to see Vusi.  What a lion he is.  And Washy is my friend too!


That pride is probably the pride that I saw attempt to bring down an elephant when I was there a month before you.  (I recall Washy telling me that they tend to only go after big game like elephant and buffalo.)

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Is Vusi still alive?


I'm pretty sure it's the same pride.

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@Bush dog


I have no idea if he is.  I first saw him in 2014 with @Game Warden.  Vusi had to be at least six then.  So, he is at least 12 now.  Probably 12-14.  I think there's a better chance that he is gone than not.


Here he is in Sep 2014:



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Thanks @Bush dog for starting this topic , the stunnung first picture of the vultures makes me think again of my recent trip to the Kafue and our meeting with  the tagged vulture Z009  and his mates one cold morning in the Busanga Plains !

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First batch of the first sighting





















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@Bush dog


Thanks for this.  Vultures are underrated, aren't they?  I have learned to appreciate them.

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Me too. I think it´s especially cool when there is a fresh kill and all of them are coming in. Great photos Mike!

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Second batch of photos of the first sighting.






The waiting lines






Appearance of a lappet-faced vulture












Tug of war





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Brillliant pictures, such fascinating birds to watch.

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The last batch of pictures of the first sighting :  the entrance of the lappet-faced vulture.

























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The second sighting was different in that it was not resulting from a kill.  The next morning on the day of our second expedition to Big Toms, we found ourselves near a large herd of buffaloes.  This was led by a young calf.  You could clearly see that it was not in good health.  Indeed, it staggered and its eyes were haggard.  It was harassed by oxpeckers.  Since there were apparently no external signs of injury, although a snake bite takes up very little space, it was assumed that the calf must have suffered internal lesions or infections.  Obviously, the end was near.  So, we continued our game drive.




After lunch, I scanned the sky in the direction where we had seen the herd in the morning.  The first vultures began to spin there.  We jumped into a vehicle and drove there.  The calf was lying dead in an open space not yet invaded by scavengers.




We came back in the late afternoon.  This time, the vultures were busy on the carcass.  A black-backed jackal had joined them adding quite a bit of animation to the scene.  















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Second batch of photos of the second sighting





















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awesome shots, as always, @Bush dog of these amazing birds!

that's such a cool interaction between the valiant jackal and the vultures - it reminded me of a similar interaction we saw in Mara a few years ago.


I see mainly white-backed and hooded in the first sighting, and white backed in the second sighting with a single lappet in the first and second batches - did I miss other species?   Lappets have such a "gangsta" way about them. 


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On each sighting, white-backed vultures, as often in that part of Africa, were in large number.  There were more hooded vultures on the first sighting.  As for the lappet-faced vultures, there was a pair on each sighting, imposing their strength and power when it suited them.

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Last batch of pictures of the second sighting


























The next day, someone of the camp went out in the early morning to check what was happening.  Two young lions that were around were finishing the carcass.  Then they came to drink at the camp's waterhole.




End of the stories.

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Just catching up on this series @Bush dog.    Marvelous stuff Mike!


You captured Vulture Life from several important angles - from working out the dominance hierarchy to working over a carcass.  


Your action shots of the Lappet-faced jumping on others and going after its lessers with hooked bill and talons are a visual feast.


And several of your photos show the vultures using their nictatating membranes to protect their corneas.  


Love the fine details!

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  • 3 weeks later...

It's about time vultures get their own trip report.  You did them proud.  I liked the addition of the jackals, shaking things up and making for excellent action shots.

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  • 1 year later...

Brilliant photos, @Bush dog! You showed the dignity of vultures as well as personality! It is not so easy to photograph vultures on carcass becasue there are too many and it looks like a mess sometimes. But you've got it! 

We look for them to find predators. But predators themselves look for them to find some free food to scavenge!

Earlier I thought that only photographers and guides are looking up the sky to read the bush newspaper. But now I've read that some predators do it as well.

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