Monday, December 1, 2014

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda: Savannah

First glimpse of the Victoria Nile (Source, Lake Victoria)
One fine morning last September, I found myself in the Ugandan Rift Valley, on 'Safari' at Murchison Falls National Park. "Finding" myself there had not been easy, it was a crazy eight hour drive from Kampala, followed by an evening Nile River crossing, to reach the Garden of Eden. 

Nile Crosing
And so I deem it to be, as the African Rift Valley is where our deepest ancestors came down from the trees of the receding forests and emerged onto the savannah.

Murchison Falls National Park, is named after the eponymous falls, contained within its boundaries. It is the oldest of Uganda's National Parks and is located on the last leg of the Victoria Nile, joining Lake Albert. The Nile bisects the park. Wildlife in MFNP is mostly concentrated on the Northern side of the Nile River, and tracks have been developed for visitors such as myself to view wildlife.    
The red earth of Uganda, and Acacia dotted savannah.

I appreciated that this park requires drivers to stay on the track. I was uncomfotable on a previous excursion to a private reserve in South Africa, where drivers used land cruisers to bulldoze through the terrain.

Elephants are not grey, because they 'bathe' in the red earth.

Oxpeckers flock to devour tasty elephant pests, and sometimes the elephant.
There is dispute as to whether this is a mutualistic or parasitic relationship.

An Oribi, a small antelope.

A closer look. Only the males have horns.

There are many Ungulates on the savannah. The Borassaus Palms in the distance
provide food for Elephants, and rely on elephants for seed distribution.

Hartebeest and termite mound. In Uganda, Harbeests are found only in MFNP.

Ugandan Kob

The Kob is Uganda's National Antelope.

Lion in wait for an Ungulate!

African Queen.

African Eagle

Out for a stroll..Lake Albert and the Congo in the background.
These are Rothschild Giraffes, an endangered species. Only a few hundred remain.


Acacias are delicious!

I am not so pretty. African Buffalo

Borassus Palm and Cycads.

Francolins, not sure which species. I'm sure they know!

We continue towards Lake Albert Delta

Defassa Waterbuck. I hide in the water to escape predators.

Water Thick-Knee

Walk like an Egyptian Goose

African Wattled Lapwing. The largest African Plover.

The crowning achievement..the Grey Crowned Crane
Uganda's National Bird.

All this and more, thanks to my intrepid driver Noah (from Naturelink Safaris)
and charming MNFP guide Sarah.
Uganda has a great deal to offer the intrepid traveler, and saving what is left of this astounding biodiversity, depends largely upon tourist dollars. If ecological tourism can provide livings for the local population, there will be less pressure from subsistence hunting or clearing land for farming. Should you decide to travel to Uganda, check out They are a small local tour group, reliable and honest, and they made our visit to Uganda special.

The heart of the wise man lies quiet like limpid water ~Buganda Proverb

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wings in the Wildlife Garden

Harvest Time
Suddenly summer is on the wane, asters, goldenrods and cool season grasses are blooming. Time to look back on the summer that was. I garden for the birds and the bees. An all out effort for hummingbirds the last two years has made my yard a riot of Salvias and Lobelias.  

Salvia "Oxford Blue" A stunning plant!

Fennel, parsley and milkweeds are larval hosts for Swallowtails and Monarchs respectively, and as a volunteer for the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, I have spent the last four years adding many Long Island Ecotypic plants to the mix. To make room for these, I have extirpated aggressive and invasive plants that provided no wildlife value. If it doesn't attract buzz or flutter,  it wont grow here for long..

Salvia cocinea provides dramatic accents.
Was the yard a riot of butterflies? Not so much. Sadly there were many fewer than in previous years. I did see two species I had never seen in the garden before. There were however ,myriad bumble bees and other pollinators. A family of Yellow Jackets has also moved in..We'll see about that, I am trying to coexist, and so far so good.

Little Wood Satyr, Megisto cymela.  New to me and to the garden.

Great Spangled Fritillary, Speyeria cybele, a first for the garden.

Tiger Swallowtail, papilio glaucus, a little the worse for wear.

Black Swallowtails , Papilo polyxenes, breed in the garden every year.
Here, nectaring on Long Island ecotypic Asclepias tuberosa, aptly named "Butterfly Weed".

Silver Spotted Skipper, Epargyrus claruswere the only plentiful butterflies.

Even Cabbage Whites, Pieris rapae , were scarce this year.

Northern Pearl Crescent, Phyciodes selenis.

Only two Monarchs, Danus plexippus, were spotted, 
here nectaring here on native Liatris aspera.

Each one was precious. No Caterpillars this year.

The stars of this years garden were the two female Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, Archilocus colubrus, that visited almost daily during July and August. Mission Hummingbird was a success! Not only Lobeliaa and Salvias, but Cardinal Climber, Scarlet Runner Bean, Hyacinth Bean Vines, Monarda Jacob Cline and Zinnias were planted to attract them. I'd know they were coming by their staccato chirps and buzzing wings. Sometimes they would come right up to me.

Hummingbird attraction tower (top of an eight foot trellis).

By far the favorite was Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis.

Enjoying some Cardinal Climber nectar (Ipomea sloteri)

Red was the preferred color, but they were pretty in pink.

Enjoying a sip of Agastache species

There was one feeder, but natural foods were greatly preferred.

A favorite perch was the pea trellis.

This is not a Hummingbird..
Strawberry Clearwing Moth, Heymeris thysbe.

This is not a Hummingbird either, teeny, tiny Bufo americanus.

A young Bluejay, Cyanosita cristata.
Many fledged in the woods surrounding the garden, 

encouraged by plentiful feeders.

"All good things must end someday..

Autmn leaves must fall"...

Same time next year?
If people were superior to animals, they would take care of the world~ Winnie the Pooh