I recently had an opportunity to photograph the interaction of a lion and a Cape buffalo in Tanzania, East Africa. Since the photo below was published, I’ve had several requests for the backstory, and for more images from the series, too.
So here’s the short story:
This male lion had a girl in the rocks that you can’t see in the first image. The pair of lions started out that morning at first light, very close to the Rover I was in. I was lucky to get some close-up mating images, and I can tell you now that lion mating is a noisy, snarly affair.
Gradually the lions worked their way over a small rise, heading towards a rocky outcrop next to a river. The lioness leading the way, of course, and he followed her closely. They mated occasionally on the trek, as lions often do.
Eventually they reached the rocks and the two lions were having a smoke, metaphorically speaking, when a large herd of cape buffalo started milling around the scene. There were probably 300 or so buffalo in the the herd. Most of the buff continued on across the river, but a few didn’t want to leave the lions alone.
The lions were completely ignoring the buff, right up until a particularly voyeuristic bull decided to test the male lion’s resolve. The old bull slowly got closer and closer to the big cat until the lion actually took a swipe at him. At one point they were less than two feet apart. You can see the lion’s displeasure in the photos. The roaring was constant and intense.
Coitus Interruptus Syncerus
The buffalo, satisfied that he had ruined the party, stood his ground. Eventually the lioness got tired of all the testosterone and left the rocks. The lion followed, as they often do, and they both wandered out of view.
Wish you could’ve been there.
All images are copyrighted and available in hi-res for licensing.
It’s time once again for an annual “best of” post. Again this year I have limited the gallery to a dozen of my favorite images and I added a few comments about each shot for some backstory. I hope you enjoy them.
They’re arranged roughly chronologically and clicking on a photo will take you to the full gallery with many other favorites from 2016 that didn’t quite make it into this post.
I spent much of last week cruising the Boreal forests and lakes in far northern Minnesota, in places that just beg for a canoe and a paddle. I took a kayak and a paddle instead.
Mostly I went there to fish and ruminate – election years do that to me – but I can’t go anywhere without a camera, just in case.
While I didn’t catch a lot of fish, there were enough. And there were critters I don’t get to see very often in my home country of scrub oak barrens and white pine.
I camped next to beautiful little lake with no one else around and one morning I woke up to see a moose swimming out to a little island in the lake. When she got out of the water I could see she was wearing a radio telemetry collar, and she appeared very pregnant.
I suppose she swam to that island to give birth. Islands are just a little bit safer for newborns in this land of hungry black bears and gray wolves. Anyway, that why I think she was there. Minnesota moose are having a tough time right now, so I hope she is successful in raising a calf or two this year.
I also saw three Pine martens in a 24 hour period, but none paused long enough to have their photo taken. I stumbled along through the spruce bogs trying to keep up with them, but that’s an impossibly tall order for this old man.
I did photograph a couple of Spruce grouse, one male and one female, but the lighting wasn’t very good for the male, I’m afraid.
There were lots of Snowshoe hares, all wearing their summer coats of brown.
Just their feet kept the white fur of winter. I found part of one unlucky hare that had been a recent meal for a… I don’t know… the romantic in me wants it to be a Lynx. It could be, they live there with the hares.
There were too many ruffed grouse to count, the males all busy proving why they’re called “ruffed grouse.”
I also came across a Sharp-shinned hawk that was busy consuming a very long-tailed rodent of some kind. He gulped it down in a hurry when I arrived, and flew off to parts unknown. I know how he felt. I’ve gulped down too many meals in a hurry – very few of them were rodent though… so far as I know.
Since, in the past, I have steadfastly and openly refused to bait owls for photographic purposes, (see Of Mice and Owls), I’m feeling a little guilty about this.
Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t feel guilty at all, since:
I didn’t know the owl was there.
I wasn’t carrying a camera at the time.
The “bait” was a stainless steel hex nut.
So here’s the story, winnowed down to the barest details, since it’s really not that interesting.
I was trying to fix a fishing reel that hasn’t worked quite right in about two years.
After I generally made things worse by attempting a repair which involved many tiny parts and lots of profanity, I figured I should test the reel.
I put new fishing line on the reel, strung the line through the guides on the rod, and tied a stainless steel hex nut to the line so I could test my surgical skills. The nut was handy and weighed about 1/4 ounce, near as I could figure – just the right weight to simulate a small fishing lure.
I heaved the nut down the driveway and it bounced in the sand. I began retrieving the surrogate lure and all was well. Damn reel worked like a champ.
Then a barred owl pounced on the nut and wouldn’t let go. I swear this is true.
I had no idea their was an owl nearby, although to be fair I should have; they’re here every year.
Anyway, she hung on, but thankfully didn’t try to fly away with the nut. That would have gotten sporty real quick. Instead she just sat there holding on until I scolded her like you would a naughty puppy. “No, no, no…”
The owl eventually let go and flew up to a perch about 20 feet away, and she stayed there long enough for me to grab my camera.
That’s her in the photo, still trying to figure out what the hell that was all about.
Posting my personal favorites from the past twelve months is a new tradition I look forward to at the end of each year.
For one thing, it reminds me of all the fascinating places I’ve been and wonderful wild things I’ve seen in the past twelve months. For another, it gives me a chance to share some backstories, and to explain why certain images are special to me.
I’ve cut back the selection this year to thirteen images. But if you do want to see further highlights from the year, including additional foxes, wolves, grizzlies, owls, albino deer, (and even a couple of landscapes!) please check out the full “Best of 2015” gallery by clickinghere.I’m proud of all 48 images in that gallery, so please take a look.
And, of course, I would truly appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends and families.
Among those of us who spend our lives looking for wildlife to photograph, there is something called a “Three Dog Day” – that means finding, and with any luck photographing, red foxes, coyotes, and wolves all in the same day.
In a place like Yellowstone National Park, where the animals are more accustomed to people, three dog days are noteworthy, but not that unusual.
What is unusual is having that same experience in Wisconsin.
Much of the northwest part of the state is heavily forested; most of the rest is rolling scrub oak and pine barrens. In both terrain types you’re lucky if you can see 50 yards. And predators are much more skittish.
But one day last week the wildlife gods looked down on me and smiled.
It began with a lovely male Red fox prowling around the house early in the morning. He was undoubtedly searching for one of the many deer mice perpetually trying to find a way in.
Personally, I have nothing against the mice, but I hope the fox succeeded anyway.
After a few minutes of watching, I left the fox to his business while I poked around to see what else I might see on that cool August morning.
The local badgers have been busy lately and I thought I might find a family group to photograph.
That’s when the unusual happened.
Gray wolves are ever-present here in this part of the state, but they are rarely seen for more than a moment.
Rarely seen does not equate to rare, though. There are lots of wolves around here.
In fact, I’ve caught glimpses of five wolves in the past month; long enough to ID them, but far too brief to photograph them.
But for some reason, on this day a pair from a local pack decided to do a territorial perimeter check in broad daylight.
I watched them for about a mile. Each time they would come out to the road, urinate on everything in sight, and then melt back into the roadside cover. With one eye on me, and the other on the road, they performed this scent marking six times while I watched.
In August, Wisconsin wolves are not at their prettiest; with thin coats, thin bodies, and gangly legs like only the wolf has.
But still, wild wolves are fascinating, and they’re really hard to photograph in the middle of a Wisconsin summer. It’s much easier to find them in the winter.
Based on their urination techniques, one was male and the other female, and the male was a head taller. As tall as he was, and in his summer coat, he almost looked like he was on stilts.
Eventually they left the road altogether and I went on my way.
That wonderful, unexpected photo op sent me on a mission to complete a wild dog trifecta.
A gray fox den about thirty miles away has been relatively inactive since the vixen started letting her three kits tag along on her hunts, but I had to check it anyway.
But another adult Gray fox has been seen recently in the same area, so I staked out the most likely place to see it.
15 minutes later the gray came up out of a ditch and stood looking at me.
Unbelievable! A three dog day in Wisconsin – in August.
Of course I immediately started making plans to accomplish the impossible; a four dog day.
All I needed was a coyote, the most common of all the wild canids in the state. But try as I might, I never found one.
Not a bad day, though, considering I started out looking for badgers.
Keith R. Crowley is a writer and photographer who splits his time between the Upper Midwest, the Central Plains, and the Rocky Mountain West.