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.

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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.
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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!
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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.
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Another glimpse of a Purple-crested Turaco.
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A green pigeon pausing from its afternoon meal.
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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.
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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.
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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 🙂
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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!
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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.

2019-08-05: 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!

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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.
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A stretch and a yawn, then she moved about 5 feet before laying down again.  
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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.

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A family group of 3 southern ground hornbills foraging in the early morning near Lion Sands River Lodge.  South Africa, May 2019.
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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!

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A red-billed hornbill showing off some serious flexibility.  I’m pretty sure there are yoga poses that look like this 🙂
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A yellow-billed hornbill perched against the clear blue sky.
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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.

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

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 🙂

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A bit of follow the leader down on of the roads through the bush.
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If this little face doesn’t make you smile, I don’t think we could be friends 🙂
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Pausing for a quick drink of milk in the middle of the road.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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A pair of youngsters playing while the rest of the herd grazed all around them.
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It’s a special treat to see elephants that are tiny enough to still be taking cover under their Mom’s tummy.

2019-07-21: Babies in the bush – Lion Cubs

Last week I focused on leopard cubs, and this week, it’s the lions.  The lion sightings on this past trip started out very slowly, which was a stark contrast to previous trips to South Africa, but, you just never know what mother nature is going to show you.  The first cub that was spotted was an older cub (a teenager) with her mom and aunt on a buffalo kill at King’s Camp in the Timbavati region.  These weren’t the first lions that I saw, but the first lion that was still young enough to be referred to as a cub by our ranger, rather than a sub-adult.

On my last day at King’s Camp, we found a huge pride of lions, and I actually lost count of the cubs, there were so many of them around.  They were spread out over a fairly large area, so I don’t even have a photo with the whole pride visible to try and recount, but it was around 12-14 individuals, including the two pride males that were spotted nearby.

Both for lions and the leopards, the cubs that I saw on this past trip were quite a bit older than some of the tiny babies I saw on previous trips, but no less wonderful to spend time with.  And, the nice thing about the most of the lion sightings on this past trip is they were a bit active, rather than just snoozing away the day (or night).

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The first lion cub of the trip, seen her with either Mom or her aunt.  Our ranger was able to distinguish Mom and aunt while watching them feed; he was very good at figuring out the dynamics of the body language and posturing that was going on.
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Three of the young cubs spotted on my last day in the Timbavati; there were four lionesses occupying various patches of shade in the area, each with a few cubs in the vicinity.
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Two cubs sharing a meal.
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One alert cub amongst a mass of lion bodies.

I hope you enjoy my selections for the week; wishing you a fantastic week ahead!