Birds of a Feather

As they soar into the air, this huge flock of  flamingos give a whole new meaning to the term ‘pretty in pink’.

These stunning aerial shots capture the two  million vividly-colored birds gathering to feed in the world’s largest desert  lake – and the flock resembles the type of tiny pink microbes they  eat.

The fantastic feathered creatures are  photographed skimming gently over the serene waters of Lake Turkana in Kenya’s  spectacular Rift Valley.

All together now: A flock of up to two million flamingos gather to feed in Lake Turkana, Kenya
A flock of up to two million flamingos  gather to feed in Lake Turkana, Kenya
A sea of pink: The fantastic feathered creatures skim gently over the serene waters of Lake Turkana in Kenya's spectacular Rift Valley
The fantastic feathered creatures skim  gently over the serene waters of Lake Turkana in Kenya’s spectacular Rift  Valley
Flamingo formation: The birds fly in a tightly-knitted formation as they fly over the African lake. The birds are originally born with grey feathers, but the food they eat contains a natural dye which transforms their plumage into a bright pink one
The birds fly in a tightly-knitted  formation as they fly over the African lake. The birds are originally born with  grey feathers, but the food they eat contains a natural dye which transforms  their plumage into a bright pink one
The algae's dye transforms the grey feathers of young flamingos into the pink they are recognised by once they turn into adults
The algae’s dye transforms the grey feathers of young  flamingos into the pink they are recognized by once they turn into  adults

Travel photographer Michael Poliza, 55, from  Hamburg in Germany travelled to the great lakes of Kenya and Tanzania to take  these extraordinary pictures of Africa from above.

‘These lakes are each an absolute flamingo  paradise,’ he said.

‘Both the greater flamingo and lesser  flamingo can be seen there.

‘Pigment in the flamingos’ food supply is  responsible for creating the distinctive pink colour of their feathers,  beautifully showcased here by this heart-shaped flock.

‘This shallow saline lake in the Rift Valley  is world-famous for its huge numbers of flamingos.

Travel photographer Michael Poliza, 55, from Hamburg in Germany travelled to the great lakes of Kenya and Tanzania to take these extraordinary pictures
Travel photographer Michael Poliza, 55, from Hamburg in  Germany travelled to the great lakes of Kenya and Tanzania to take these  extraordinary pictures

 

A majestic sight: Flamingos mate for life, grow up to five-feet tall and can fly up to 35 miles-per-hour
Flamingos mate for life, grow up to  five-feet tall and can fly up to 35 miles-per-hour

 

The name 'flamingo' is believed to originate from the Spanish word 'flamenco', which means fire in reference to their bright feathers
The name ‘flamingo’ is believed to originate from the  Spanish word ‘flamenco’, which means fire in reference to their bright  feathers

‘At times, the lake hosts up to two-million  of these pink-plumaged birds at once, although it is the nutrition available in  the lake at any given time that determines the number of birds.’

Originally called Lake Rudolf after a 19th  century Austrian count Lake Turkana plays host to hippos, hyenas, crocodiles,  elephants and rhinos, as well as the algae and shell fish that give flamingos  food.

The brightly-hued microbes give the creatures  their distinctive pink colour, as the algae contains canthaxanthin, a natural  dye which transforms the grey feathers of young flamingoes into the pink they  are recognised by once they turn into adults.

Flamingos mate for life, grow up to five-feet  tall and can fly up to 35 miles-per-hour.

The name ‘flamingo’ is believed to originate  from the Spanish word ‘flamenco’, which means fire in reference to their bright  feathers.

‘Every time visit flamingos it’s a whole  different experience,’ said Michael.

‘They are always creating new images for me.

‘And if you fly over them high enough, you  hardly disturb them.’

Lake Turkana plays host to hippos, hyenas, crocodiles, elephants and rhinos, as well as the algae and shell fish that give flamingos food
Lake Turkana plays host to hippos, hyenas, crocodiles,  elephants and rhinos, as well as the algae and shell fish that give flamingos  food
From above the vividly-coloured birds look like the bright pink algae they feed on
 From above the vividly-colored  birds look like the bright pink algae they feed on
Dinner's served: The lake hosts up to two-million of these pink-plumaged birds at once - but the amount of food available determines the number of birds
 The lake hosts up to two-million of  these pink-plumaged birds at once – but the amount of food available determines  the number of birds

Attribution: Leon Watson, Mail Online

Navigating Beetles

How a beetle can use the stars to navigate its way across the vast deserts of  Africa

It might look small and insignificant but the  dung beetle has its sights set firmly on the stars.

The beetle is the first insect proven to use  the light of the Milky Way to help steer its course.

Also known as the scarab, the tiny creatures  feed on animal droppings, which they fashion into a ball and roll away to a safe  spot where it is less likely to be stolen.

Expert navigator: New research has found that scarabs - also known as dung beetles - find their way through their desert habitat by using the stars of the Milky Way as a reference
 New research has found that scarabs –  also known as dung beetles – find their way through their desert habitat by  using the stars of the Milky Way as a reference

Although their eyes are too weak to  distinguish individual constellations, scientists found they used the  glow of  the Milky Way to navigate in a straight line, ensuring they do  not circle back  to the dung-heap and potential competitors.

‘Even on clear, moonless nights, many dung  beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths,’ said Dr Marie Dacke  from Lund University in Sweden.

‘This led us to suspect that the beetles  exploit the starry sky for orientation – a feat that had, to our knowledge,  never before been demonstrated in an insect.’

Field experiments on a South African game  reserve showed that the beetles were able to roll their dung balls along  straight paths under starlit skies, but not in overcast conditions.

The lighter band of the Milky Way's edge: While unable to pick out constellations, the scarabs could detect the light arcing over their heads
The lighter band of the Milky Way’s edge: While unable  to pick out constellations, the scarabs could detect the light arcing over their  heads

For the tests, the beetles were fitted with  tiny cardboard caps to alter their field of vision.

They were placed in a circular arena  surrounded by a meter-high black cloth, making it impossible for them to see  landmarks.

With no moon, it took much less time for the  beetles to roll a dung ball from the center of the arena to the edge when they  were able to see the sky.

When they could not look up, the time taken  increased from 40 seconds to 124 as they wandered aimlessly around.

The experiment was repeated in a Johannesburg  planetarium, with similar results.

The beetles performed equally well under a  full sky of stars, and when only the glow of the Milky Way was  visible.

Most stars would be too dim for the beetles’ tiny compound eyes to see, said the researchers. While unable to pick out  constellations, the scarabs  could detect the light of the Milky Way arcing over  their heads.

‘This finding represents the first convincing  demonstration for the use of  the starry sky for orientation in insects and  provides the first  documented use of the Milky Way for orientation in the  animal kingdom,’  the researchers wrote in the journal Current  Biology.

Previously only birds, seals and humans were  known to navigate by the stars.

Dung beetles also use the sun and moon as  compass cues, said the scientists.

They added: ‘Although this is the first  description of an insect using the  Milky Way for their orientation, this  ability might turn out to be  widespread in the animal kingdom.’

Attribution: Damien Gayle, Mail Online

 

Watch Your Step

From a stunning close-up of a snarling leopard to an elephant family dusting themselves down in the searing heat, this  series of beautiful photographs shows African wildlife at its most awe-inspiring.

Photographer Anup Shah produced the images using remote camera, which enabled him to share an unrivaled perspective of the continent’s animal kingdom.

In his project, the Serengeti Spy, Mr Shah used hidden cameras, camouflaging them to look like part of the landscape.

Stunning: A group of African elephants dust themselves down in the searing heat of the African wilderness A group of African elephants dust themselves  down in the searing heat of the African wilderness
Close-up: A snarling female leopard shows what she thinks of photographer Anup Shah's camera A snarling female leopard shows what she  thinks of photographer Anup Shah’s camera
What's this? A curious monkey seems to spot the hidden camera and stares inquisitively into the lens as his friends go about their business of playing on a fallen tree A curious monkey seems to spot the hidden camera and stares inquisitively into the lens as his friends go about their  business of playing on a fallen tree
Doe-eyed: A spotted hyena looks intently into the lens and is so close every single one of its whiskers is visible A spotted hyena looks intently into the lens  and is so close every single one of its whiskers is visible

He placed them in various locations across the African savannah in the Serengeti and Massai Mara, and operated them from a distance while sitting in a vehicle, a technique that encouraged a fair amount of curiosity from his subjects.

Many of the animals seem to be staring  directly into the camera or even interacting with it, such as a spotted hyena and, unsurprisingly, some young baboons.

Mr Shah’s wide angle and low level perspectives show the animals in a fascinating light, such as the huge size of an elephant’s trunk and a breathtaking picture of flamingos taking off in the  Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya .

Raw power: A herd of eastern white-bearded wildebeest herd hurtle through the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. A herd of eastern white-bearded wildebeest herd hurtle through the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
Little and large: A herd of zebra head away from the Mara River in Kenya. A baby tries to keep up with its motherA herd of zebra head away from the  Mara River in Kenya. A baby tries to keep up with its mother
Wondrous: This elephant's long trunk is put into perspective with this wide angle shot in the Massai Mara National Reserve in Kenya This elephant’s long trunk is put into perspective with this wide angle shot in the Massai Mara National Reserve in  Kenya
Up, up and away: A flock of flamingos takes off from Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya, with the photographer using a low level perspective to get the impressive shotA flock of flamingos takes off from  Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya, with the photographer using a low level  perspective to get the impressive shot

The power of a herds of wildebeest and zebras running at full pelt is captured in all its glory.

The brutal side of nature is also laid bare in the shots, with an almost apocalyptic shot of a lone flamingo chick tottering on the scorched-looking mud flats of Tanzania and a portrait of vultures gorging on the carcass of a zebra.

The photographs have been published in a  204-page photo book titled Serengeti Spy: Views from a Hidden Camera on the  Plains of East Africa.

Apocalyptic: A lesser flamingo chick wades through mudflats at Lake Natron in Tanzania, with Ol Doniyo Lengai in the background A lesser flamingo chick wades through  mudflats at Lake Natron in Tanzania, with Ol Doniyo Lengai in the  background
Feast: White-backed vultures surround a carcass of a zebra in the Maasai Mara National Reserve White-backed vultures surround a carcass of a zebra in the Maasai Mara National Reserve

Attribution: Mail Online

Lunch Up a Tree

Some people would pay thousands to eat lunch with a spectacular view, but this crafty leopard takes her meals to another level.

These incredible pictures show the big cat having a snack while up a tree in south-western Kenya and were taken by New York-based photographer Cindy Corcoran.

Ms Corcoran had to patiently wait nearly two hours before the female leopard revealed herself and led her safari group to the secret lunch spot.

Feat: With incredible agility and strength, this leopard dragged its kill up a tree to eat With incredible agility and strength, this leopard dragged its kill up a tree to eat

Tasty: The animal made the most of its peaceful vantage point in the tree to have a relaxed bite to eat The animal made the most of its peaceful vantage  point in the tree to have a relaxed bite to eat
Wild and free: The savannah in south-west Kenya is famous for its diverse population The savannah in south-west Kenya is  famous for its diverse populationMs Corcoran said:  ‘We were driving around the Maasai Mara early one morning when we saw about 25  vehicles around some thick scrub.

‘We knew it had to be something exciting so we drove over to find out that there was a leopard in the area.

‘After about 90 minutes, one by one each vehicle left because this leopard was nowhere in sight anymore.’

‘As they were each pulling away my guide spotted this female leopard well hidden in this thick brush.’

‘It finally got down to about three vehicles,  when she finally decided to come out in the open.’

‘She proceeded to walk out into the wide open savannah plains, taking her time, and obviously knew where she wanted to go.’

The leopard and its catch in the tree
The leopard dragging its dinner up the tree
The leopard had left its prey high up the tree earlier in the day to keep it safe
Hungry mouths: Experts believe the leopard was planning to take the gazelle home to share with the family Experts believe the leopard was planning to take the gazelle home to share with the family
Teeth
Neck
 Ms Corcoran said the experience in the Maasai Mara would stay with her for life
Guarded: The female leopard made those following her wait for two hours before leading them to her mealThe female leopard made those following her wait for two hours before leading them to her meal

‘We followed close behind her and she seemed relaxed and disinterested in us driving along with her.’

Ms Corcoran followed the predator for a while before seeing the leopard stop suddenly and look around a lone tree before climbing up at impressive speed.

She said: ‘We were so focused on looking at  her that we did not notice that there was a Thomson’s gazelle body hanging near  the top of this tree.’

‘This was a kill that she must have put up there the night before. She sat with it a few minutes, then came back down the tree.’

‘It was funny because she just kind of  lounged around the tree, sitting in the sun, then the shade, and then taking a  little nap on the ground near the tree.’

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a large reserve named after the Maasai people, the traditional inhabitants of the area.

Fascinating sight: Ms Corcoran noticed the leopard because roughly 25 tourist vehicles were gathered around it Ms Corcoran noticed the leopard  because roughly 25 tourist vehicles were gathered around it
Patience rewarded: One by one, the safari groups departed, until only the few remaining got to see the creature run its intriguing errand One by one, the safari groups  departed, until only the few remaining got to see the creature run its  intriguing errand
Peckish: The female ate some of the gazelle herself before apparently taking it back to her two cubsThe female ate some of the gazelle herself  before apparently taking it back to her two cubs

It is famous for an exceptional population of lions, leopards and cheetahs, game, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti every year from July to October, known as the Great Migration.

Leopards live mainly in grasslands, woodlands, and river forests. They are usually associated with savannah and rainforest, but are exceptionally adaptable – in the Russian far east, they inhabit temperate forests where winter temperatures reach a low of  -25C.

Ms Corcoran believes that the leopard was saving most of the kill  for her cubs.

She said: ‘My guide said he believed that she  had two small cubs in that area and was bringing her kill to share with  them.’

‘This was a morning I will never forget, and  once again proving that you need to sit and be patient, especially when it comes  to seeing a leopard in the wild.’

‘We spent about four hours waiting for her to  come out and watching her on this journey. I could not think of a better way to  spend a morning in the Maasai Mara.’

Attribution: Daily Mail

Giraffe

When this unlikely guest took a dip in a club house swimming pool, he had no trouble keeping his head above the water… which is not surprising since he’s a giraffe.

In fact, three-and-a-half-year-old Monduli is a regular sight at the Kilimanjaro Golf and Wildlife Estate in Tanzania.

The leggy swimmer is the only giraffe at the estate after being rescued as a baby by the anti-poaching unit of the Wildlife Department of the Tanzanian Government.

Workers at the estate said Monduli thinks he’s a cross between a guest and a horse and is often up to mischief trying to play football, polo and taking a dip in the pool.

Monduli is well over 13ft tall (4m) and will reach 18ft when fully grown at around six years old.

Zummi Cardoso, general manager at the estate, said Monduli was quite lonely as the only member of his species there.

He said: ‘He has been with us for about three years and we bottle and bucket-fed him milk for more than a year.

‘He is accompanied by lots of zebra, wildebeest and gazelles but he thinks he is a human being, hence the dip in the pool.

‘Monduli sometimes joins in football games at the polo club and regularly scares visiting polo ponies. He loves to take part in any activities at the club and even if he’s not welcome he cannot be easily dissuaded.’

Zummi said as well as being a lively character around the estate, Monduli also acted as a gardener.

He said: ‘He regularly trims all the plants around the club when he has had enough of the ample acacias we have on the estate.

‘He’s also a bit of a pervert when it comes to cars. One or two seem to get his attention and he has attempted to mount those chosen ones.

‘He got his leg caught between the bumper of our pick-up and dragged it for more than a meter to get dislodged.’

The Kilimanjaro Golf and Wildlife Estate is located near the town of Usa River, approximately 30 minutes’ drive from both Arusha and Kilimanjaro International Airport.

The estate provides spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru to the north and over the vastness of the Maasai Steppe to the south.

Attribution: Mail Online