Category Archives: hyena

Leaving Aberdares: Vultures, a Hyena Stake Out and a Giant Spider

We left Sungare Ranch later than we hoped. We did not make a road count of raptors on the way as we needed to get a proper method in place. But we did see a migrant Steppe Buzzard and a local Peregrine Falcon above the road.

We were both filthy dirty when we arrived in Nairobi and dumped the car on Bali, my old friend and increasingly angry mechanic. He raised his eyebrows and temperature as we rattled off the various mods (modifications) required on the car. Mods we had so recently learnt from the overlanders the day before.

After getting a lift we arrived at home. On arrival we saw a kettle of vultures swoop and fold out of the sky to a dead cow near “my” windmill. Without stopping from a long day driving we pushed on to get pictures. One of the vultures had a yellow tag on its wing, and may have been one of the vultures that Laila and I captured last year in the Mara. We found a dead calf nearby.

vultures leaving aberdare

Laila insisted we make use of the dead calf by holding a “stake-out” for hyenas. We moved it close to the house, and fixed a remote camera with a cheap, and as it turned out useless, remote control firing system. The idea was to get very close up shots of hyenas as they went about their gruesome business. This malfunction was one of a number of others that ruined the evening, including no headlights on the car, the burning out of the spotlight, failure of the flash camera, rain, insects in their thousands and lack of obliging hyenas.

After our disastrous “stake-out,” we returned to the empty house. Laila sat editing pictures while I wrote on another computer. Our studious work time was interrupted by Laila asking from the next room, “What was that”? I went over to have a look and she turned over my briefcase from the wall. There crouching in the shadows was a huge and hairy spider. The body from head to rear was about 6.5 cm, but the legs were fairly short. It gave me the creeps and we both went for the cameras. Laila asked if I would put my finger next to it to show just how big it was while she took a photo. Swallowing hard, I poked a shaky finger at it, whereupon it leapt into the air and let off a growl. No kidding the thing had a voice! (The sound was more like a harsh buzz). When I ran away I was cruelly called a wimp.

spider at Simon’s house
Big, hairy spider

As Laila sleeps on the floor, she thought it would be best if we removed the spider lest it crawl about her face in the night. My ego bruised, I went and found a huge pan from the kitchen and a sweep. Laila unkindly turned the video camera on us as the battle began. I started scooping it out the door when with a flick, the spider dashed across the floor and vanished. I searched in vain. It occurred to me that it could be nowhere else but climbing up Laila’s leg. This conclusion was crossing Laila’s mind too, and a look of panic crossed her face. I then glanced down and saw it spread large and malignant on her leg, and asked as calmly as I could if I could have the video camera. I guess Laila knew what was coming, but the result was recorded for posterity, with loud shrieks and yells as she bounced about the house. I knocked it off her leg and we did finally get it out the house.

You can see what tough and hardy characters we are from this story … exactly what you need to undertake this trans-African expedition.