A balloon ride seems like a quintessential part of the Mara experience, yet I have never taken the time to experience it. Every morning I watch 10 to 20 balloons take off and soar above the Mara like a chain of Christmas lights they flicker on and off as the burners lift them higher into the sky.
Today I finally got a chance to see what it is all about. Ballooning makes for an early start and I was up and excited at 5:30 AM. After a quick drive in the park I found myself standing next to a turned over basket and a huge green and yellow balloon slowly being inflated with a small fan. I’d seen this done before – a sideways take-off – but I wasn’t really sure how it would work. …read more of Hot Air Safari here
As I watched the squabbling vultures at a nearly finished wildebeest carcass, I noticed a Marabou stork behaving strangely. It jerked from side to side and leaned close to the ground as if about to pick something up, only to jump back again wings spread. I focused my binoculars on the bird to get a pick at what was happening.
Lying in front of the cunning Marabou lay a long slim green snake, head raised in attack as the bird reached for it again. The snake lunged but the Marabou still got in a nice bite to the back and easily avoided the fangs. Again and again the snake lunged and the Marabou ducked until finally the Marabou grabbed the snake by the head. …read more of Snake in the Grass here
If you want to hit paydirt the Appalachian region is the world’s salamander El Dorado—home to over 70 salamander species. Australia and Sub-Saharan Africa have no salamanders, Asia has 27 species the whole of Europe has 36 species. Central and South America have a bunch of salamander species, but they are mostly from just a few genera of lungless salamanders.
I lived in England for a while and saw what a big deal people make out of the few newt species there. People love ‘em. As a result, I was expecting to find a hardcore citizen-naturalist contingent of salamander fans in the USA.
What I found instead, was a hardcore biologist fanbase of salamanders who were acutely aware of these hidden jewels. However, the more I spoke to non-biologists living in the Eastern USA, I learned that many people take these critters for granted, or have never noticed them. …read more of The Hidden Jewels of Appalachia here
I’m back in the Mara and what a spectacular field season it is looking to be. The wildebeest have returned in great numbers and have been crossing the Mara river every few days. Lions are looking healthier than ever and several mating pairs have been seen.
On my first day back, I managed to see a beautiful Black rhino mom and baby relaxing peacefully in the shade. In the afternoon, we came upon one of my favorite small cats – the serval. Sleek and slim it was sneaking through the grass in search of some unsuspecting songbird.
Elephants have been plentiful with some adorable small babies witnessing their first wildebeest migration. I suspect the little ellies are also amazed by the number of odd-looking new neighbors that have moved in. …read more of Cat Up a Tree here
Carnivores have it easier in the Mara, especially this time of year when the park is filled with wildebeest. As I drive around searching for carcasses, the number of lion, leopard, and cheetah kills has been staggering (though the number of vultures at these carcasses is usually minimal). Thus it shouldn’t be too surprising that some carnivore moms are atypically successful.
For no animal could this be more true than the cheetah I saw today. We drove up to see just one cheetah sitting in the short grass under the shade of a small Orange Leaf Blossom bush. She didn’t have a kill and I was just about to head out when I realized there were many more spots in the bushes. …read more of Super Mom here
1000 km. Two drivers. Four observers. Just under 300 raptors.
As of last year, The Peregrine Fund has been conducting country-wide surveys throughout Kenya to better monitor the raptor populations.
The surveys consist of a Southern Route thru both Tsavo National Parks and a Northern Route through Laikipia plus the data from my on-going surveys in Masai Mara National Reserve.
This year I was able to join the Northern Route team for an adventure in camping, counting, and ultimately driving. The long trek through the North would take four days and involved traveling nearly 1000 km over some of the less friendly roads of Kenya.
White rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) are currently the most numerous of the five species of rhino, and are divided into two distinct subspecies: The Southern white rhino and the Northern white rhino.
The Southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) is the least endangered of the living rhino species, with a population of about 17,500. This species is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species®.
I’ve reached the point where I really know the Mara. Everyday we drive through different areas and I look for the elephant herd with the little calf or the warthog family with the six piglets that have somehow made it through the last two months.
Each geographical entity – each river crossing, fig tree, and termite mound – has significance – that was where I saw the cheetah kill a few weeks ago or there is the tree where I trapped my first Lappet-faced vulture (I couldn’t stop smiling as I held the soft, feathery beast). I know all the landmarks and the hiding places of each little herd or creature. …read more of Bad Day to be A Topi here
Sun bear in forest. Photo courtesy of Siew Te Wong.
Malayan sun bears, also known as honey bears (or Helarctos malayanus), are the least known of the world’s eight bear species. Few people know they even exist, especially compared with other types of bears, like polar bears and grizzlies.
Perhaps part of that is because sun bears are so challenging to study. They’re the smallest bear species. They weigh just 100 pounds and are less than half the size of a North American black bear.
To complicate matters, they have black fur and spend their time in the trees of Southeast Asia’s dense tropical rainforests-making simply finding them a tricky task. In this case, out of sight has meant out of mind-and little attention has been given to this endangered species. …read more of The Forgotten Bear here
The greater one-horned rhino (Indian or Nepalese rhino), is the most numerous of the three Asian rhino species. These rhinos number just 2,850 and are surviving in only two countries.
Photo courtesy of Suman Bhattarai
Greater one-horned rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) were once widespread throughout the northern floodplains and nearby foothills of the Indian sub-continent between the Indo-Myanmar border in the east, and Sindh River basin, Pakistan in the west. It is also suggested that the species could once be found in southern China, Myanmar, and Indochina.
Unfortunately, this Asian rhino species was decimated after decades of demand for its single horn, a key ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine. They were also hunted relentlessly by royals and “big game” collectors.
Whether you’re a scientist working in the field or a young person in your backyard, this is where you get to share your stories through pictures, videos and articles with the rest of the world. Without your voice, these stories go unshared, and our planet’s ecology, wildlife and natural resources go unexplored. Connect with each other and us and let’s enjoy this process of learning from one another.