2019-08-18: Birds – The ones that are hard to get

Everyone that enjoys watching birds and photographing them knows that there are some species that are harder than others to get images of.  I love the challenge of trying to capture that elusive clear image of a bird that tends to hide in the densest part of the treetops.

Locally, we have beautiful birds like the Western Tanager; a bird that I have only seen a handful of times, and photographed only on a rare occasion.  The incredible yellow plumage on the males makes them targets for predatory birds, so sticking to dense areas makes a lot of sense.  I admired the beautiful song of the Hermit Thrush for years before I finally saw a small brown and white bird singing, and had my first clue to discover the identity I had wondered about for so long.

While traveling, I kept up with trying to ID and photograph birds hiding in treetops and thickets.  Some were deep amongst the leafy trees foraging for fruits, some were naturally shy and trying hard to stay out of sight, and sometimes, it was just unlucky positioning of the vehicle, and having to shoot through branches and grasses, before the bird flew away.

Here are a few of my shots of some of the more challenging birds spotted on my last trip.

DSCF1698
I’ve had success with images of African Hoopoes in the past, but this trip, I seemed to spot them only when they were behind a bunch of branches, or as they were flying away.
DSCF1668 copy-Edit
A Purple-crested Turaco.  Such a stunning bird, which I was fortunate enough to see at two different camps, but only high in the treetops, feasting on tiny fruits.  This was the best shot I managed over a couple of days trying!
DSCF1171
A green pigeon devouring figs.  There were so many birds in this giant tree, and I had to stand underneath to take pictures.  It was a dangerous place to be, and I nearly got pooped on more than once.
DSCF1658 copy-Edit
Another glimpse of a Purple-crested Turaco.
DSCF1650 copy-Edit
A green pigeon pausing from its afternoon meal.
XT3X3406
A white-crested helmet shrike.  Sadly, I only saw this species once, and this is the best of the images I could get.  At least you can make out the yellow, wattled eye ring.
XT3X4124 copy-Edit
A chinspot batis that I spotted outside of my room at Chitwa Chitwa.  I went out on the patio and was lucky to get this shot before the bird flew deeper into the trees.
XT3X4130 copy-Edit
A black-backed puffback, also spotted from the deck at Chitwa Chitwa.  The late morning and early afternoon hours between game drives are great times for bird watching from the comfort of your room 🙂
XT3X4233 copy-Edit
My views of adult bateleur eagles are usually of them flying away, and not managing any shots.  This is as good as it gets, so far.  There’s always next time!
XT3X4352 copy-Edit
A different hoopoe, in a different tree, but still obscured by branches.

2019-08-12: World Elephant Day 2019

Instead of my weekly monochrome Monday post, I decided to share some of my favourite elephant images, in honour of World Elephant Day.

May these beautiful animals roam in peace 🙂

Elephants are my favourite animal to spend time with on safari, so feel free to search my site for elephants to find other posts about these majestic giants, or take a look at the gallery.

2019-08-11: Birds in the dark

Last week, I featured hornbills for my topic of the month, and this week, it is birds in the dark.  I had started typing out birds at night, but one of the images was taken at daybreak, and I thought it best to try and be accurate 🙂

I was very fortunate to have several different owl sightings during my travels, as well as two nightjar sightings.  The nightjars were by far the easiest to photograph, as they tend to lay in the road after dark, and if you are lucky you can drive the vehicle fairly close to them and use a spotlight.  Owls are a more challenging one, unless you are lucky enough to find them very close to the road, and not spook them when driving up.

This past trip, the first owl sighting I had was on my first evening game drive, and it was rather exciting.  I spotted this owl far away on a tree, and as we watched for a few moments, we realized it had a kill it was working on.  The terrain made it impossible to drive any closer, so I had to do the best I could with a 400mm lens and a bit of cropping; the quality isn’t fantastic, but the moment was definitely memorable.

DSCF0321 copy-1-Edit
A Verreaux’s eagle-owl on a scrub hare kill.  Lion Sands River Lodge, May, 2019

DSCF0328 copy-1-EditDSCF0315 copy-1-Edit

I had one eagle sighting while in the Timbavati, of a pearl-spotted owlet, but unfortunately by the time I got the attention of our ranger to stop, the owl was in flight and all I got was a butt shot as it flew away.  And not even a decent butt shot; it’s completely blurry and not worth sharing.  There’s always next time though 🙂

The rest of the sightings of birds in the dark all came while staying at Chitwa Chitwa with Harley as our guide.  Harley really seemed to enjoy pointing out birds, and identifying the ones that I would randomly point at (generally small raptors which I still have a terrible time identifying).

The southern white-faced owl and the spotted eagle owl were seen within about 10 minutes of each other while heading back to camp for dinner; and then the pair of Verreaux’s eagle owls were spotted the following morning as we set off from camp.

XT3X3459 copy-Edit
A southern white-faced owl.  I’ve been lucky enough to see this species a couple of times before.  Chitwa Chitwa, South Africa. May, 2019.

Nightjar’s are a common bird to see on game drives at night, but a lot of times they fly away before you have a chance to capture a picture.  This past trip, I was fortunate to have two sightings of different species that I could get decent images of.

XT3X3465 copy-Edit
A fiery-necked nightjar.  I would have struggled to identify this on my bird app if the song hadn’t been described as “Good lord, deliver us” which was the description our ranger Harley used when talking about them.  Chitwa Chitwa, May, 2019.
DSCF4911 copy-Edit
A rufous-cheeked nightjar.  Very similar to the fiery-necked nightjar from beak to wing, but this one has white patches on the end two tail feathers (thank you, Roberts Bird app!)
XT3X3475 copy-Edit
A spotted eagle-owl.
XT3X3494 copy-1-Edit
A group of Verreaux’s eagle-owls, spotted early morning on a drive at Chitwa Chitwa.  There were actually 3 in this group, but I couldn’t fit them all into one frame as one was in another tree, hidden behind the trunk until it took off.

I hope you enjoy my selections for the week.  Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead!

2019-08-05: Monochrome Monday

This week I decided to work on some cheetah images for monochrome Monday.  I only had one cheetah sighting on my last trip, but as we had the opportunity to watch the female cheetah stationary under a tree, and in the beginning stages of a failed hunt, there were lots of opportunities for images.  I’m still waiting for the magic moment of seeing a cheetah moving at something faster than a saunter; but that’s just another reason to go on safari again someday!

I hope you enjoy my selections for the week.  Happy Monday, and wishing you a wonderful week ahead!

XT3X3065
Cheetahs are such slender animals, that when they lay on their sides with their heads on the ground, you can barely see them.  I think we might have driven past this female if she hadn’t lifted her head at an opportune moment.
XT3X3046
A stretch and a yawn, then she moved about 5 feet before laying down again.  
XT3X3101
Disappearing into the tall grass at the start of a failed hunting expedition.  The herd of impala spotted her as she moved through a clearing, ruining any element of surprise.  Here though, you can start to see how these animals become invisible in their environment.  If she had been slinking along through the grass in a more crouched position, she would have been invisible to any impala that glanced in her direction.

 

2019-08-04: Hornbills

As mentioned last week, I am going to focus on birds for my Sunday posts during the month of August.  I had some really interesting bird sightings during my recent travels, and I am looking forward to editing and sharing some of the moments.

I decided to start off with hornbills; the only reason being that a hornbill was the first bird image I took when I got to the bush, so it seemed a logical enough place to start.  I posted a few hornbill images back in June as a wordless Wednesday post; you can find those here.

During my travels, I saw 5 different species of hornbill, including several sightings on two different properties of the endangered southern ground hornbill.  Our rangers shared some fascinating information about these birds; the southern ground hornbill has helpers to raise their chick; these baby-sitters put in several years of assistance duties before they take on the responsibility of mating themselves.

DSCF0740
A family group of 3 southern ground hornbills foraging in the early morning near Lion Sands River Lodge.  South Africa, May 2019.
DSCF2477
This hornbill was also in a group of 3, seen while staying at Kings Camp in the Timbavati.  The group were spread over over several different trees and fallen branches.  May, 2019.

More common to see while out on game drives and the red and yellow billed hornbills (or banana head and chill pepper as they seem to be called quite often :))  Our rangers also explained some interesting facts about the breeding habits of the hornbills; I am not 100% certain if this applies to all the African hornbill species, but during breeding, the female will lay eggs into a tree hollow, and then allow herself to be sealed up inside the tree cavity with only a small opening to allow the male to pass food in to her and the chicks once they hatch.  The female removes all her flight feathers during this time and allows them to regrow while nesting, and as such she is completely reliant on her mate for her survival, as well as the survival of their offspring.  Such trust!

DSCF0959.jpg
A red-billed hornbill showing off some serious flexibility.  I’m pretty sure there are yoga poses that look like this 🙂
XT3X4152
A yellow-billed hornbill perched against the clear blue sky.
DSCF0254
A pair of red-billed hornbills spotted at sunset.

These last two hornbills are less common (at least for me) to see while out in the bush.  I’ve seen the grey hornbill and crowned hornbill each on only one other occasion.  Both of these were spotted while out on game drives from Lion Sands River Lodge.

DSCF0795
A grey hornbill perched in the tree tops.  Lion Sands River Lodge, May 2019.
DSCF0432
A crowned hornbill giving us a backwards glance.

2019-07-31: July in Review

July’s topic of the month

I chose Babies in the Bush as my topic for July.  Elephants definitely topped the list for the most babies seen while traveling, and given they are my favourite, I was absolutely thrilled with that.  Wild animals have such a struggle to survive, and so many young animals healthy and thriving was one of the highlights of the trip.

What’s new this month

Other than taking a few pictures of my dog while he was playing in the yard, I’ve not had my camera out at all this month.  After spending most of May with it not more than a few feet from my side, it has felt strange to go back in the other direction again, and not be taking any images at all.  The search for a happy medium continues!

5 favourites of the month

 

Head on over to my gallery page for more of my favourite images.

What’s coming up next?

For August, I am going to focus on bird photography.  I got a lot of interesting captures while I was away, and perhaps I’ll even have a chance to get out locally and get some bird images before all of my summer birds start heading south again.

2019-07-29: Monochrome Monday

I’ve had the amazing good fortune to see wild dogs on all of my trips to Southern Africa.  I don’t think I could ever tire of spending time with these amazing animals; seeing the interaction between different members of the pack is always an interesting experience.  On this past trip, I had two different sightings; one where the dogs were active and out in the open, and the other, where they were lazing away the morning deep in a thicket.

Here a few of my images from these two sightings.

Enjoy!

DSCF1232
Alert and at the ready.  Lion Sands River Lodge, May 2019.
DSCF1250
Always a good idea to check on who, or what, might be sneaking up on you from behind.
DSCF1268
Two of the pack members greeting each other; the behaviour of our pet dogs at the dog park is so similar.
DSCF1275
Taking the path of least resistance; a pair of dogs set off down the road.
XT3X2631
A pack of wild dogs resting deep in a thicket at mid morning.  This group was seen in the Timbavati, whilst staying at Kings Camp.

2019-07-28: Babies in the bush – Elephants

I saved my favourite for last for my final instalment of July’s topic – Babies in the bush.  I was actually so spoiled for choice with images of baby elephants that it was difficult to select which images to share.  I’m not complaining, it is definitely a good problem to have!

On all of the properties we visited, the elephant sightings were prolific; so much so that a couple of our guides even commented about the volume of elephants sightings that we were having, and how lucky we were.  There were moments that no matter which direction you looked, you were surrounded by elephants.  And when we carried on down a road to see what else we could see, around every bend in the road, there were more.  Being in the presence of these magnificent animals brings me such a feeling of peace and joy, so you’ll never hear me complain about seeing too many elephants while out on safari.

You can’t help but smile while watching baby elephants.  They have so much personality, and are often very precocious and curious.  You’ll often see them mock charging vehicles trying to be big and tough, playing with sticks and branches in the bush, tussling with their little friends, having a temper tantrum when something isn’t going their way, or playing shy, hiding between Mom and other larger, more confident elephants.

I hope you enjoy my selections for the week 🙂

DSCF0568
A bit of follow the leader down on of the roads through the bush.
DSCF1434
If this little face doesn’t make you smile, I don’t think we could be friends 🙂
DSCF1470
Pausing for a quick drink of milk in the middle of the road.
DSCF2249 copy
Some images just beg to be edited in a different way.  For this one, instead of trying to enhance the sharpness, I went the other direction, and worked to highlight the dust, haze and softness of the image.  This is one of my favourite images that I have worked on in the last couple of weeks, and I think I’m going to have to find some wall space and have this one printed.  You can find this image on my gallery page.
DSCF2508 copy-Edit
A herd of elephants digging in the dry riverbed for the water hidden underground.  Look at the tiny baby tucked up against its Mom; still small enough to clear under her belly.
DSCF3708
There were several occasions on this trip where I ended up in the midst of enormous elephants herds; it didn’t matter which direction you looked, there would be many elephants to watch and take pictures of.  Here is one of those moments with elephants as far as the eye could see, with lots of youngsters in the mix.
DSCF3894
A pair of youngsters playing while the rest of the herd grazed all around them.
XT3X4263
It’s a special treat to see elephants that are tiny enough to still be taking cover under their Mom’s tummy.