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Diary of a Safari. Day 6. Flying High

semi-overcast 26 °C

Tanzania is a nation of world record breakers when it comes to land animals. For example: the African bush elephant can weigh up to 6,000 kilograms (6 tonnes); the giraffes of the Serengeti can reach a lofty 9 metres (19 feet) in height and the world's fastest land animals are the cheetahs: they can reach speeds in excess of 120 kilometres an hour. We have been lucky enough to see all of these creatures here – in fact we have seen many examples of each and have seen all of them in a single day. However, not content with hosting the biggest, tallest and fastest land animals Tanzania also is the place to see the creatures that rule the skies. This is a Ruppell's Griffon Vulture...
This vulture is the world's highest flying bird and can attain heights in excess of 37,000 feet – the same cruising height as a modern airliner. It can spend 6-7 hours per day in the air and lives 40-50 years. It is a critically endangered species and we were very lucky to see this one.
Vultures of all kinds, together with giant maribu storks, are never far away when there are leftovers, and this black-backed jackal didn't get a look in on a dead zebra when thirty or more vultures and storks came for breakfast...
Black-backed jackals are only found in southern and eastern Africa and the two habitats are separated by 900 kms. They are the world's oldest canine species.
Another record breaker found here is the kori bustard...
This elegant, even haughty, bird is the heaviest creature capable of flight in the world and can weigh up to 40 lbs. However, it prefers to spend its time hunting small game on the ground.
But, when it comes to size, nothing comes close to the enormous male ostrich - the world's largest flightless bird....
The ostrich's powerful long legs are used as weapons capable of killing a human or lion with a powerful kick, and don't even think about running away – it can sprint at 70 km per hour. Unfortunately the ostriches' nests are easily found on the ground and young Maasai boys steal the massive eggs in order to sell them to passing tourists.
Another fast mover on the ground is the secretary bird...
This elegant creature has the longest legs of any bird of prey and gets it name from the crest of long quill feathers which gives it the appearance of a secretary in the 1800s. Although secretary birds can fly they spend much of their time on the ground.
Many of the larger birds stick to the ground unless escaping predators and this southern ground hornbill is no exception...
These are the largest of the hornbill species and they live on snakes, tortoises, lizards and small birds. Hornbills can live up to 70 years and are one of the longest living birds, however they only have two chicks every 9 years and only one of them will survive.
Another hornbill found in the Serengeti is the Von der Decken's hornbill, named after the German explorer...
These birds can live up to 20 years and survive on small animals, eggs and fruit.

This yellow billed stork was keeping a healthy distance from a 12 foot Nile crocodile on the banks of a hippos bathing pool.
These storks use one foot to stir up water and flush out prey. They have very quick muscular reflexes which enable them to catch the food and, presumable, to keep clear of the crocodile's jaws,
This is a pretty brown headed kingfisher. Although part of the kingfisher family it is a bit of an imposter. It doesn't usually eat fish and is not dependant on water. It lives on insects, spiders, small reptiles and even birds.

Another pretty bird is the stunningly coloured greater blue eared starling...
This one joined us in the restaurant for breakfast one morning. Male and female look alike to us but the birds have four colour sensitive cones in their retina as opposed to our paltry three. The additional cone enables them to spot the difference between a competitor and a mate at a glance.

That's all for today. The sun is shining and we are going hunting for one of the biggest, and rarest, of the big game. We will let you know if we bag one.

Posted by Hawkson 06:56 Archived in Tanzania

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The photos and dialogue are unbeatable. You have been so incredibly
fortunate. Imagine having such a beautiful bird join you for breakfast.

by Sue Fitzwilson

Wow. Again. The colour in these birds is amazing. What variety too. Look forward to the reveal for today’s big game.
How is the food? I don’t imagine any of the critters we see wind up on your plate, but there must be some interesting meal choices in those luxury lodges.

by Tom

Oh to be a vulture flying high in the sky - never thought I would be envious of a vulture.

by Janet

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