In Search of Another Continent

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Wildebeest Migration, Serengeti

…if not another planet! We are experiencing rather horrible weather at the moment. I have been almost glad my car is at the shop so I don’t have to deal with it. But the prospect of walking in a deluge of thunder and anything from freezing rain to torrential downpours was not a fun option either. Watching for black ice underfoot, lest I tumble. Add the warning of heavy wind gusts until 3:00 p.m. today to yesterday’s flood warnings.

I saw a beautiful male White-Winged Scoter yesterday morning in the river outside the train station, but could not even bring myself to pull the point-and-shoot, which was all I dared pack in anticipation of the forecast, out of my backpack, because the next moment I was nearly blown over by a gust of wind. This morning when I arrived three WW Scoters flew by with five Red-Breasted Mergansers – nice to see even if they were gone in a split second.

Anyway, I’ve grown tired of the weather – today we are presently, at 34 degrees and whatever the wind, warmer than we will be for the next 6 days as temperatures steadily plummet again. I have retreated to the task of going through the East Africa trip pictures, and here are some from the day we left the Serengeti and traveled to Tarangire National Park.

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Leopard Tortoises

Perhaps no surprises here but a reminder that color does exist somewhere.

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Eastern Double-Collared Sunbird

There are so many species of eagle to worry about, and there are snake eagles and fish eagles and hawk eagles too… This Steppe Eagle was nice enough to pose. Please click on the photos for more detail.

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Steppe Eagle

The Black-Breasted Snake Eagle below flew by close enough to identify later.

Black-Breasted Snake Eagle

Black-Breasted Snake Eagle

So as not to leave out the magnificent mammals that were spectacular to see…never as many elephants to constitute a herd, but small groups nonetheless.

African Elephants

African Elephants

On the same day as the rest of these photographs, we were fortunate enough to see Cheetahs.

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And in my desperation for color, I conclude this post with a Grey-Headed Kingfisher.

Grey-Headed Kingfisher

Grey-Headed Kingfisher

I’ll be back soon, weather (ha!) permitting.

From Leopards to Bustards

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I’ll probably still be going through pictures from Africa all year at this rate, if not for the rest of my life (or, as they say in legalese, “whichever first occurs”). I have two shorter trips coming up very soon and I am looking forward to them! But it’s still nice to go back in time…especially when I have not been able to venture out much through our arctic blast. (It’s official now, this is our coldest winter in 30 years.) I tried to visit the Chicago Portage today but it was closed. Enough said.

Back to the Serengeti.

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Leopards are never easy to spot, often sleeping in trees during the day, but we got very lucky with this one.

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And then after our quest for this exceptional predator, not far away we found two great land-bound birds, Kori and White-Bellied Bustards.

Kori Bustards

Kori Bustards

The long, soft feathery necks of the Kori Bustards must blend in perfectly with the tall dried grasses (click on the photo below to get a better view of the neck feathers). They hunt insects and small vertebrates.

Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard

The White-Bellied Bustard is considerably smaller.

White-Bellied Bustard

White-Bellied Bustard

This bird appears to be an immature male.

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More pictures await me from that day in the Serengeti, but none will be more emblematic than those of the Leopard.

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A Celebration of Sandgrouse

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I don’t know what the collective term is for a flock of Sandgrouse, but “celebration” would be fitting. One day in the Serengeti, we encountered one such celebration. There were flocks of two species present, actually. And I’m thinking I have yet to see one “grouse” of any kind in North America.

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Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

First, there were the Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse in the middle of the road.

Yellow-Throated Sandgrouse

Yellow-Throated Sandgrouse

And then Yellow-Throated Sandgrouse appeared. Fancy little birds.

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Chestnut-Bellied and Yellow-Throated Sandgrouse

The attraction was water.

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Yellow-Throated Sandgrouse

They tend to blend right in with the sand, but were still out in the open.

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Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

More celebrations to come.

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Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrous

Magic Tree

Hildebrandt's Starling

Hildebrandt’s Starling

Every once in a while when out looking for birds, you find a Magic Tree that seems to be a magnet for several species. Such was the case with this acacia our group encountered on the Tanzania part of our trip while traveling from Ngorongoro to the Serengeti. Here are a few pictures of some of the more colorful species that came to this tree.

Vitelline Masked Weavers

Vitelline Masked Weavers

The challenge in this situation is trying to decide which bird to focus on first since it’s impossible to photograph them all.

Beautiful Sunbird

Beautiful Sunbird

I was quite a distance from the Beautiful Sunbird above, and it never emerged from behind the thorns for a good view. But later, the individual below was closer and a bit more visible.

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Also beautiful, if more frequently seen, is the Scarlet-Chested Sunbird.

Scarlet-Chested Sunbird

Scarlet-Chested Sunbird

Perhaps not in the same tree, but on the same day, the White-Browed Scrub Robin below gave me a nice look.

White-Browed Scrub Robin

White-Browed Scrub Robin

And the magic continued yet another yellow weaver with black markings on its face to add to the collection. This is the Lesser Masked Weaver.

Lesser Masked Weaver

Lesser Masked Weaver

Hope you enjoy the short break from snowy scenes. 🙂

Meanwhile, Back at the Mac

Grey-Crowned Cranes

Grey Crowned Cranes

I’ve been struggling to fit in a blog post based on the current weather situation, but it’s the weather that prevents me from doing so, whether it’s train delays or just plain exhaustion from having to deal with it…

At the same time, my heart goes out to those on the other side of the planet who are dealing with the exact opposite – terrifyingly too hot, too dry.

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For a moment, I’ve decided to look forward again by looking back at some more photos from the East Africa trip.

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I came across a day in the Serengeti when we must have seen many Grey Crowned Cranes, and they are a delightful sight. There’s so much more going on with this bird than grey!

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Maybe they do start to blend in a bit when the landscape is grey. But their crowns definitely contribute to their regal appearance.