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