If I were better organized I would only upload pictures I was actually going to use in a blog post, but I am too often compiling posts on the fly and consequently I wind up making last-minute decisions of what to use and never going back to delete the unused, or “unattached” photos.
Black Vulture 4-26-14
So this is a photo essay with no particular subject, only some previously unattached, unrelated blasts from the past.
Bewick’s Wren, 4-26-14
Northern Cardinal, Lake Shore East Park, 4-23-14
Lincoln’s Sparrow, Songbird Meadows, 4-26-14
White-Winged Crow, Daley Bicentennial Plaza Tennis Court
Also in Tanzania I was forturnate enough to see Amur Falcons which migrate from Siberia to the African continent. They have recently been rescued from indiscriminate slaughter, which I did not know about when I saw them. Read all about it at the link to this blog on National Geographic’s page.
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.
Leopards are never easy to spot, often sleeping in trees during the day, but we got very lucky with this one.
And then after our quest for this exceptional predator, not far away we found two great land-bound birds, Kori and White-Bellied 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.
The White-Bellied Bustard is considerably smaller.
This bird appears to be an immature male.
More pictures await me from that day in the Serengeti, but none will be more emblematic than those of the Leopard.
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.
First, there were the Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse in the middle of the road.
And then Yellow-Throated Sandgrouse appeared. Fancy little birds.
Chestnut-Bellied and Yellow-Throated Sandgrouse
The attraction was water.
They tend to blend right in with the sand, but were still out in the open.
At first it bothered me that it was going to take “forever” to go through all the pictures from my trip but now that the omnipresence of a nasty winter has taken hold, escaping virtually to the tropics has even more allure. If it takes me ten or fifteen minutes to figure out a bird identification, so be it.
On the very same day we encountered the last Magic Tree, we must have happened upon another one or two. Whichever tree contained Blue-Cheeked Cordonbleus and canaries was magic for me. I’ve always been mildly curious about Cordonbleus, which are royalty, I suppose, in the caged bird world. I am happy not to “own” them in any other way than to have some pictures of them in the wild.
I think the Red-Faced Crombec above was in the original Magic Tree by the look of the acacia he’s sitting in. The Crombecs are fairly plain-looking and hardly have tails. But I think he’s still kinda cute.
There are several species of canaries, and although they’re yellow, they have distinguishing characteristics from the caged variety. I don’t recall hearing them sing, but I may have.
Citrils are similar to canaries, but from a separate genus.
African Citril and Blue-Capped Cordonbleu
I think there might be more Cordonbleu pictures from later on in the trip…if I ever get there!
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
The challenge in this situation is trying to decide which bird to focus on first since it’s impossible to photograph them all.
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.
Also beautiful, if more frequently seen, is the 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
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
Hope you enjoy the short break from snowy scenes. 🙂
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.
For a moment, I’ve decided to look forward again by looking back at some more photos from the East Africa trip.
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!
Maybe they do start to blend in a bit when the landscape is grey. But their crowns definitely contribute to their regal appearance.
Although the weather has dominated my thoughts and a lot of my actions all day (I spent probably a couple hours trying to dig out the vehicle, just because I know I will have to move it tomorrow – if it starts), I tried to make the best of the weekend yesterday by swimming before it became impossible to travel to the pool, stocking up on soup ingredients, and cooking comfort food.
Sleep overtook me while going through pictures on the futon, but I managed to find these few whimsical images for a post. Maybe it was the images of sleeping hippos that did me in. I sometimes have zebra finches pecking at me instead of oxpeckers.
Those of you in the path of the arctic blast, stay safe and warm and think warm thoughts.
I’m finally starting to go through all my pictures from the East African safari and instead of feeling overwhelmed, I’m enjoying the process. I’m also surprised at how many species I still remember. Two weeks in Central Standard Time has not totally wiped away the experience.
Allopreening in birds has always fascinated me. I’m sure it’s related to grooming in primates, which I think some propose led to the human behaviors of smiling, laughing and talking. It’s definitely a social, bonding function.
For instance I have two surviving healthy budgies who would never have had anything to do with each other until it became apparent to both of them that they were It, and in addition to keeping each other company, they now engage in allopreening more and more, and it’s lovely to see.
On the second day in Tanzania when we stopped to look at some shorebirds, spoonbills, ibises and herons, I could not help but notice an unusual instance of interspecies allopreening, namely a Sacred Ibis preening a bent-over African Spoonbill. I don’t know if I pay more attention to this kind of behavior because I live with birds, but I suspect that might be why it came up on my radar.
Sacred Ibis Preening African Spoonbill
This is an extraordinary amount of cooperation, and I only have to wonder what precipitated it…that silent, unspoken world of communication that birds are so much better at than we are.
It then occurred to me that I could also get a video clip, and so there is a short one below.
It’s obvious that the bird being preened is getting a lot out of this, but there has to be something in it for the preener too. It seems almost more enjoyable for the bird doing the preening. Maybe in another life he was a hair stylist. “You have such beautiful white feathers. Let me straighten them out for you.”
The East African landscape is breathtaking by itself, and when an incredible creature penetrates the space, it’s beyond the imagination. At least that’s how I felt whenever I saw this dramatic-looking raptor, the Bateleur.
According to Wikipedia, Bateleur means “Street Performer” in French, its closest relatives are the snake-eagles, and it’s the national emblem of Zimbabwe. You can read more about it at the link.
We were fortunate to encounter members of this species daily when we were in Tanzania. Then, shortly before we left, during our afternoon exploration of Tarangire National Park, we were treated to close views of a juvenile and its parent.
They tolerated our inquisitive presence. But I’m sure they were far less enchanted with us than we were with them.
I imagine when we stopped photographing them they could get on with their business, probably one of those long lessons about looking for and catching prey.
It’s hard to look at these pictures and not want to go right back.
Between returning to work and not having replaced the laptop computer yet, it’s taking longer than I’d like to go through the pictures, but I hope to accomplish more this weekend.
One more view of this very whimsical-looking bird.