[Regular readers will I hope forgive me for another leopard post, and indeed it will not be the last. But I’m taking a break now for the holidays, and will be back in January.]
Leopards are solitary denizens of the secret places. Rock piles, thick brushy woodland, overhanging limbs high in an acacia. Quite unlike lions, who will casually lounge around in groups in the open grasslands.
So leopards are harder to see, unless the Ruaha evening light provides a convenient silhouette.
This young female watched us suspiciously from high in the tree, trying to decide if it was safe to stay or safer to come down and leave the area:
That elegant tail is not just decorative. It acts as a counterweight when climbing, and when dragging its kill up into the tree.
After a while the leopard returned to her high perch, draped languidly over a branch:
but without taking her eyes off us:
Their concealing habitats are places to hide their prey, which they drag into bushes and up trees where the much larger lions and hyenas are unlikely to find it (or them).
Leopard eat a huge range of animals, including tricky things like porcupines, and under certain circumstances they will even kill and eat other leopards. This rather grisly video was filmed in the Serengeti this year:
Such a name to live up to! The Goliath Heron Ardea goliath, is the largest living heron. It stands 5 feet high, nearly as tall as me. Its wingspan can reach 7ft 6in (my arm-span is only 5ft 4in, about the same as my height).
They stalk the shallows or the weedy banks, moving with a stately, ponderous gait. They are largely solitary, and because of their size they have few predators.
This one struck at a tempting mouthful, but missed, and then in embarrassment at such a public failure, he did a sort of shimmy, stuck out his elbows and and fluffed up his gorgeous feathers:
And tried again, to no avail.
Their huge size means they can catch and, eventually, eat very large fish. Watch this video, but be warned it takes a LONG time to swallow its humongous catfish :
They have a variety of calls, described rather wonderfully by www.oiseaux-birds.com as “similar to raucous barks of an old dog. Its calls include croaks, squawks, growls and gurgles. They are mostly silent outside breeding season.” I could only find one recording, made when the bird was flying overhead in South Africa:
Happily, they are not endangered, and are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Agamas, or dragon lizards, are a family of lizard species widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. Some have spectacular coloring. The Mwanza Flat-Headed Rock Lizard, Agama mwanzae, has acquired the nickname of the Spider-Man Lizard: one look at this male, and you will see why:
For purposes of comparison his namesake can be seen here:
Agamas are insectivorous, and the male is usually the flamboyant one. Here is a male of a different but related species, the Red-headed Rock Agama, Agama agama, who seems to have mistaken this tree for a tall thin rock:
And this is a male blue-headed Southern Rock Agama (Agama atra) , which I saw in Uganda a few years ago. This is their breeding coloration.
In all of these species, the females are rather dull!
The closest relatives of agamas are chameleons, famous for their ability to change color.