Along the road I see these vultures on a buffalo carcass. Whatever had killed it was long gone unfortunately but it was probably lion. These Whitebacked Vultures are very common and found almost throughout SA. They roost in trees at night and start foraging as soon as it gets warm. Often one sees them sitting in the watering holes when it is very hot.
The Hooded Vulture is much smaller than the previous species and only found in the northern areas of SA. They are mostly silent but have a thin, squealing call when feeding or on their nests. Unlike the Whitebacked Vulture which gathers in large groups, the Hooded Vulture is a solitary bird and only join up with others around a carcass where it picks up scraps from the others.
The juvenile Whiteback has not got its full colors yet. Females lay only one egg per season and it takes about 58 days to incubate. Both the male and female will take turns sitting on the egg and when it hatches, it will take its first flight when about 4 months old.
Around a carcass, great fights break out amongst the various species of vultures gathered there. You will constantly see one flying up into the air, chasing another. I have seen some lock feet and go rolling around on the ground, feathers flying.
Vultures go for the soft insides of a kill first, crawling right inside the body of the dead animal. They also eat bone fragments for the calcium content. They have long toes and claws for grasping prey and unlike most birds, the male and female plumage is the same.
At the next dam I stopped at, there was a small herd of buffalo laying back in the trees.
What was interesting to me was that the leader of the herd first went down to the water to drink by herself (the leaders are always female), then she stood there and the others followed her down, one or two at a time while she stood watching them. That is her on the right.
A hippo stood stretching its jaw muscles in a huge yawn. The males fight over territory and females like this and I have seen them tear each other to bits. Usually is does not go that far, with one backing away fairly fast.
There are colossal termite mounds there. This one is about 14-15 feet in height and I could see it was still active by the amount of fresh soil at the top. Many animals use old mounds to burrow in and raise their young. You can never get lost in the bush if there are mounds around as the hole at the top always points north, so remember that the next time you are lost in the bush. :)
And so my day ended. The feel of being back in the bush is like no other to me. To see and record all of this is always an unbelievable experience. After so many years in the bush one would think I have seen it all but never are two roads the same on consecutive days, never do animals behave in the same manner all the time. There is always something new to learn, something new to be amazed at and to see. How I miss being a tour guide!! It will always be my first and only love!!