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Africa’s Extravagant-Colored Saddle Billed Stork

August 3, 2011 by  



I am sure most of you have heard of the saying, ‘patience is a virtue’. Well in the wonder that we call the African bush, this is definitely the case! We spend our days in search of the perfect sighting, and sometimes forget about the natural beauty which is around us. Nature has so much to offer, from sounds to smells, and has the ability to touch us all on a deeper, subconscious level! Let us hope that we never lose that, and next time you are in this breathtaking environment, remind yourselves to take it all in!

In saying all that, I recently had an American couple as guests. Very keen photographers, so they decided to take a private vehicle for their stay. We had a fantastic few days, with some amazing sightings. But the reason for this was patience and perseverance. They loved seeing all that nature had to offer, and enjoyed learning about our amazing surroundings! Everything from the exquisite Nyala, to the playful dwarf mongoose, not to mention the elephant and one or two of the other Big 5 members!

One particular sighting, however, we would not have been rewarded with if it weren’t for our patience – that of the wise old Maxabene 2:2 female. We had seen an impala carcass in a tree that morning but were unable to find the leopard responsible for the kill. So on the warm winters afternoon, we set out on our game drive. We had a team discussion about what we should do, and my partner and tracker, Judas suggested we return to the site where the carcass was. Perhaps the leopard had returned. We took a slow drive into the area, stopping at a water hole to appreciate a pair of beautifully coloured saddle billed storks. We had seen a few herds of Impala, a stunning dazzle of Zebra, and a few other birds displaying their dramatic feathers in the afternoon sunlight.

Saddle Billed Stork by Byron Serrao 

Saddle Billed Stork by Byron Serrao

Eventually we returned to a marula tree where the Impala carcass had been hoisted. It was really high up and we had all commented on the amazing ability of this leopard to hoist such a large kill so high into the branches of the tree. We drove around the area for a few minutes, and there she was! The female leopard, who the carcass belonged to, was lying up in the long dry grass. We were ecstatic to have found her. Her golden coat made it very difficult to see her in the dry yellow grass, and she blended in perfectly. That was when we made the most important decision of the afternoon, and that was to wait!

After ten minutes or so, she moved around a little and lay down again. We managed to get a better view and some lovely pictures. She then moved to the base of the Marula tree where she lay looking up at the carcass. We could then sense what was about to happen, so we moved the vehicle around to a better position. The afternoon sunlight was perfect to say the least. Even though we couldn’t see the female from our position, I told everyone that if she climbed into the tree this would be the best place to see it! It wasn’t five minutes later, and she was up. Took one glance up into the tree, eyed out her meal, and leapt into the marula tree.

Maxabeni 2:2 Female Running up Marula Tree 

Maxabeni 2:2 Female Running up Marula Tree by Byron Serrao

Her elegance and gracefulness in which she did it was breathtaking. Soon she was all the way up, and began to feed on the carcass. At this time we had been there for around 45 minutes, but it had all become worth it! We watched her scramble about on the flimsy branches, trying to get into a comfortable position to feed. After a few minutes of balancing that rivalled even the best of trapeze artists, she settled down to feed! We watched in awe for over half an hour, as the setting sun faded behind us. This beautiful animal feeding high up in the branches of a stunning tree with the setting sunset as a backlight!

Maxabeni 2:2 Female Climbing to Hoisted Impala Kill 

Maxabeni 2:2 Female Climbing to Hoisted Impala Kill by Byron Serrao

Maxabeni 2:2 Female Eating Impala Carcass by Byron Serrao 

Maxabeni 2:2 Female Eating Impala Carcass by Byron Serrao

We were all fortunate to have witnessed this purely due to our patience, and our appreciation of what was really going on! Let this be a lesson to us all, that in our search for great sightings, don’t forget the little things and the other amazing sightings will unfold for you!