Red-billed oxpeckers squabble over prime seating on the back of an African buffalo. These birds are famous for travelling on tolerant buffalo and other mammals, feeding on various insects on their hosts or nearby.
When the time comes, these birds build nests in tree cavities, which makes this photo all the more interesting. This group of birds seem to be using a rudimentary nest made out of mud and hair plucked from the back of this buffalo. This is the first time I have seen this and I haven’t been able to find any reports elsewhere, so if anyone has some insights into this behaviour, please share!
It’s been some time since my last post to say the least. Since April I’ve travelled to Tanzania for work and then onto South Africa for a holiday before eventually coming back to Canada. It had been a few years since I had been to this wonderful part of the world so it was great to get back. For the next little while I will post some images from my experiences there.
There was certainly no mistaking when this buffalo herd was nearby. Stretching for more than a kilometer, this large herd was a sight to be seen, kicking up dust with every step as they slowly made their way to one of the last remaining watering holes not dried up from the prolonged drought. Travelling along with them was their mini-ecosystem of assorted insects and birds.
Equally as impressive were the sounds. The constant rumble of their hooves pounding the dirt, periodically interrupted by snorting bulls crashing through bushes in their way, bawling calves, hordes of buzzing insects and flocks of squawking ox peckers.
Even when hidden from view and resting in the shade, getting downwind of them told me they had not gone far! Three adult lions were nearby, but they didn’t even bother getting up to investigate. With full stomachs and the hot sun beating down, they had no interest in testing the buffalo that day.
No doubt the true origins of the idea behind the energy drink came centuries ago when our ancestors were chased through the African savannah trying to escape these buffalo! On foot you would have to develop wings from the adrenaline surge to have any chance of escape! African buffalo are notoriously territorial and will readily stampede if threatened.
This week I was reliving some memories of my last trip to Africa and came across several photos that I overlooked. This is one that I’m glad I rediscovered. A few more to come soon!
By coating himself in mud, this old bull buffalo is able to cool off and more importantly, limit the amount of exposed skin to biting insects.
First, this scene is one uniquely African. A man rests in his brightly coloured fishing boat while his wife takes care of their baby while keeping an eye on a buffalo. Buffalo are one of the fiercest animals in Africa and they will actively defend themselves and members of the herd. However, this old bull didn’t seem to care about anything other than sleeping. Once a bull gets dethroned, he leaves the herd and lives out the rest of his days on his own or with other displaced males. This one seemed to have set up his territory in a small village in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
However, the more interesting fact, which seems to be unique to many countries in Africa, is that in general African babies cry substantially less than babies in North America. Repeatedly, this has been one of the only saving graces on my long, overcrowded bus rides throughout East Africa, where everyone is packed like sardines into the buses. I often wondered if this was just my own observation or if it had been studied. Indeed, it has been studied by a man named Ron Barr out of the University of Montreal. He and other researchers concluded that it is due to the fact infants are carried around in direct contact with their mothers for at least the first three months, fed much more often and provided immediate attention whenever they are in distress (as compared to North American infants that are often placed in a crib or only held for limited periods of time). Hopefully this catches on in other parts of the world as the last thing anyone wants is to listen to a crying baby!