Saturday, October 3, 2015

Number Two ...

... of the Ugly Big Five.

The Marabou Stork.

Perhaps the ugliest bird on earth.

They must find each other attractive ...

Because there sure were a lot of them.


Another in the Boat Ride series.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Colorful Ice Crystals

Acting like many tiny prisms in the sky.

Forming a Circumzenithal Arc over Franklin Parker Preserve in the New Jersey Pinelands.

This one lasted quite some time, changing in shape and intensity as the clouds drifted by.

We had spent the morning into late afternoon searching for colorful flowers.

And ended it with colors in the sky as we relaxed before heading home.

Wild Beasts

Hippos were not the only beasts of my childhood dreams that we saw on our boat ride.

There were ...

Masai Giraffes! This one munching on cacti. Yummy!



Zebra! (Which if you are British, rhymes with Debra. Weird, right?)

((But by the end of the trip I was pronouncing it that way too. Thanks Adrian!))

And the first of the "Ugly Big Five", Wildebeest!

(Note also the Fish Eagle on top of the right tree.)

We would get better views of all these and more throughout our stay, but the excitement of seeing them live in the wild for the first time was pure joy. And on my first day!

These animals live on an island in the national park and are the descendants of those brought there for the filming of the movie, Out of Africa. No predators where brought in, so they have it pretty good here.


Here are parts one, two, and three in the Boat Ride in Kenya series.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

River Horses

As our boat tour of Lake Naivasha continued, we came upon a dozen or so Common Hippopotamus napping under a tree.

Several of the beasts briefly opened their eyes, gave us the once over and, perceiving us to be no threat, proceeded to completely ignore us as we drifted by, shutters clicking.

We would see more of these so called 'river horses' during our trip (nerd note: hippos and horses are not closely related). But this was the first big African mammal I saw up close. Very cool to see something in the wild that I'd only previously seen on TV or in zoos.


Long ago I would watch Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom every week (Sunday night, preceding the Wonderful World of Disney). "Why" I would ask, "don't we have animals like that in our back yard? All we have are stupid birds!" And I would dream of being on safari, among the lions, and leopards, and elephants, and giraffes, and hippos, and zebras, and gazelles, and rhinos.

This past August that dream came true.


This is part 3 of the Boat Ride in Kenya series. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here respectively.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Boat Ride in Kenya, Part 2

More from my first full day in Africa.

First we have two cormorants.

The Long-tailed Cormorant is an African native.

While the Great Cormorant can be found right here in New Jersey.

A pair of Little Grebes, a species found throughout much of the old world. But not the new.

Quite similar to our American Coot is this Red-knobbed Coot. The main difference being the red knob at the top of its forehead.

The first of two pelican species we saw, the curiously named Pink-backed Pelican.

And the second is the more aptly named Great White Pelican. Neither species is found in my neck of the woods. Or anywhere I can drive to. Pink-backed is an African species while the Great White is also found in Asia and Europe.

Egyptian Geese. As with the Great Cormorant, I've seen them here in New Jersey. But unlike with the cormorant it was almost certainly an escapee. But I can now include them on my life list.

African Black Ducks. Not to be confused with the American Black Duck. The African variety is not often found on open water, preferring rivers and streams. Our guide was quite excited to find them here.

Hottentot Teal, another native African duck species.

And the last of open water birds, the Yellow-billed Duck. Both of these duck species are African natives.


Part 1 can be found here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

And the Clouds Parted, Again

A total lunar eclipse. Of the super moon.

And the forecast called for clouds. And maybe rain.

But still I kept checking, repeatedly stepping outside on the deck. Each time seeing clouds. Bummer.

Until this.

The moon, with as my friend Russell says, a bite out of it.

But the clouds were not giving up without a fight.

Clouding ...

... clearing ...

... and clouding. A recurring theme throughout the event.

Slowly, with clouds ever looming, the moon continued, oblivious to the desires of those watching, on its path into the earth's shadow.

The sunlit edge becoming thinner and thinner.

Until the inevitable occurred. Totality.

And the stars came out.

Including that one at ~ 3:30 that came out from behind the moon (as always, click on the image to bigafy it).

As the moon slowly drifted by.

And eventually it ends, as the opposite limb beginning to brighten. Not long after this the clouds came back. And I headed off to bed. Happy that for just long enough the clouds parted. And the wonders of the universe showed through.


Here's what I saw the last time the clouds parted.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Boat Ride In Kenya, Part 1

My first full day (Patty had already been there for two weeks!) in Africa we visited Lake Naivasha National Park. And went on a boat ride. A boat like this one.

We saw plenty of birds along with a few mammals.

As we headed out we initially hugged the shore line, scanning for waders. We were not disappointed, finding the African cousins of birds we have back home in the US.

First up was the African Spoonbill, cousin of our Roseate Spoonbill.

Little Egret, who like our Snowy Egret has yellow feet (feet not shown).

Cattle Egret, an African native that has become established in the new world, reaching South American in the 1870's and North in the 1940's. It is now a regular visitor to New Jersey.

Behind the Little Egret above are two Sacred Ibis, and a third is shown in this image. Glossy, White, and White-faced Ibis call the US home.

Hadada Ibis, a bit more colorful than the Sacred. It has a call like Nelson on the Simpson's, "Ha Ha". We heard that call throughout our trip.

A dead ringer for our Great Blue Heron, the Grey Heron.

Not every bird we saw had such an obvious match, and such was case with the Common Squacco Heron. A gorgeous bird.

Some, like this Hammerkop, have no match at all, as they are in a family of but one species.

Then there are others like the Common Moorhen, which until very recently was considered conspecific with our Common Gallinule.

A Black Crake. The first crake species I've ever seen as we have none in our part of the world.

This flashy feathered friend is a Long-toed Lapwing, a member of another group that rarely visits our area.

We'll end with the Yellow-billed Stork. A dapper looking bird. A much handsomer bird than our Wood Stork.