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Tsavo West, Amboseli, Meru & Samburu — January, 2015


Tom Kellie

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Peter Connan

@@Tom Kellie, what a wonderful TR! Your genuine love and enjoyment shines through so eloquently!

 

That muddy buffalo is quintessential Dagga Boy (definately with capital letters)! And thank you for my Buffalo weaver! As for Giraffe and thorns, those that I have watched usually strip the leaves off the branches by wrapping their tongues around the branch and dragging it toward themselves. The thorns stay behind, but the tongue must be seriously tough to handle this abuse.

 

Thank you, I already know I will enjoy the rest of this report, every word.

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Quenching And then there were elephants...by the dozen! We rounded a tight bend to head onward to the lodge when Loxodonta africana in force appeared. They were hustling along, as if urgency co

Madoqua kirkii Pair ~ Just the two of them. Nothing else in sight. Small. Wary. Yet not so anxious. Madoqua kirkii, Kirk's Dikdik in the tall grass beside a Tsavo West track. Nothing fancy, yet

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Tom Kellie

@@Tom Kellie, what a wonderful TR! Your genuine love and enjoyment shines through so eloquently!

 

That muddy buffalo is quintessential Dagga Boy (definately with capital letters)! And thank you for my Buffalo weaver! As for Giraffe and thorns, those that I have watched usually strip the leaves off the branches by wrapping their tongues around the branch and dragging it toward themselves. The thorns stay behind, but the tongue must be seriously tough to handle this abuse.

 

Thank you, I already know I will enjoy the rest of this report, every word.

 

~ Thank you so much, @@Peter Connan!

 

At last the mechanism of giraffe encounters with acacia spines is known. I'm much obliged to you for that.

I'll be sure to pass along that explanation to the Chinese student who was with me.

As it stands, all three Buffalo-Weaver species now appear within Safaritalk.

Seems like yours truly needs to get down to work to spot the other three of the ‘Little Five’.

That you've enjoyed the trip report thus far is gratifying to know.

Tonight I attempted to upload many other images and comments, but failed.

Heavy Internet interference on this side adds substantial frustration to the process of uploading or downloading to “foreign” servers.

Nevertheless I'll persist, in large measure due to the stalwart encouragement of several Safaritalkers, including you!

With Appreciation,

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

post-49296-0-06808900-1428422795_thumb.jpg



Quenching




And then there were elephants...by the dozen! We rounded a tight bend to head onward to the lodge when Loxodonta africana in force appeared. They were hustling along, as if urgency compelled jogging rather than striding. Many paused to quench their thirst in small puddles. They were aware of us but generally indifferent, as other matters circled through their thoughts.


post-49296-0-60722700-1428422824_thumb.jpg


Protectors


The infant carefully tucked between protective females, the grass blowing in the foreground, the blurred background, the immediacy of being protected in that environment — this image captures an aspect of that early evening game drive which I like as much now as when it was happening.


post-49296-0-91654800-1428422853_thumb.jpg


Elephant Panorama


A glimpse of the world as seen from the vantage point of a baby elephant. The lens was brought down as low as possible to capture this moment. What must it be like to travel with one's mama and attentive aunties, tightly belonging yet curious about the scenes through which one passes. Any anthropomorphic conjecture would fall far off-target, thus this panorama must suffice.


post-49296-0-19356800-1428422889_thumb.jpg


Ein Elefant




The image's three-dimensional quality serves to emphasize the solidity and corporeality of this elephant. Through the blurred bokeh background, the subject stands out, thereby bringing out its distinctive characteristics.



post-49296-0-23116500-1428423108_thumb.jpg



Maturity



Old tusks, the epitome of the color ivory. Old skin, that's been exposed to the elements for years. Old eyes, which have seen and continue to watch. Seniors rock!



post-49296-0-30396800-1428423421_thumb.jpg



Proximity



She walked up to us without any ceremony, seemingly curious, definitely looking us over. Just as abruptly she turned and left. Her visit was sufficiently long to make this portrait. Elephants don't pose. They're not on the clock and thus aren't paid to strut any catwalk.



post-49296-0-96872600-1428423613_thumb.jpg



Retreat



And then they were gone...




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Peter Connan

Aye, that's a problem here as well (although doubtless for different reasons), which is why I tend to break my TR into smaller chunks. I also typically do the narative, then edit the post to insert the images, as I find that a lot less troublesome.

 

Thanks for your continued efforts!

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Tom Kellie

@FlyTraveler:

 

Many thanks for your encouragement of my trip report-in-progress.

I've enjoyed reading your posts scattered here and there, thus it's an unexpected honor to receive your support.

That serves to motivate me to stick with the task, despite technical problems with the Internet here.

That you love being out in nature makes me happy, as I feel likewise.

Any technical photography discussion is for students who perchance are seeking inspiration for their creative growth.

Feeling the clean air, hear the birds and insects and knowing that what I'm experiencing is as real as it gets is more than enough.

All else is confetti...

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

post-49296-0-67253900-1428427249_thumb.jpg



Acryllium vulturinum



The close of the day doesn't mean that all photographic possibilities are foreclosed. Three Acryllium vulturinum, Vulturine Guineafowl, were standing on a raised berm beside the track. As I associated them with Samburu and Meru, away off to the north, I told Anthony that I was surprised to see them in Tsavo West. He replied: “No, no, they have them here”.



post-49296-0-48336300-1428427503_thumb.jpg



Acryllium vulturinum in Tsavo West



The striking red eyes set in blue skin, all above day-glo bright plumage, marks Acryllium vulturinum apart from avian species having cryptic coloration. Were this image projected in a classroom full of life science students, a standard question might be: “What possible evolutionary advantages are conferred by such plumage in an arid environment?” I'd enjoy hearing the answers.



post-49296-0-11765000-1428427826_thumb.jpg



Dicrurus adsimilis in Tsavo West



Having a weakness for Dicrurus adsimilis, Fork-tailed Drongo, wherever they appear, I was content with their apparently high density throughout Tsavo West. They represent stability, as they only remain in fairly heathy functioning ecosystems. Whenever possible, I enjoy observing them, despite their propensity for vamoosing at the first sign of change.



post-49296-0-07481900-1428428119_thumb.jpg



Tsavo West Landscape



The classic Tsavo West view towards the Ngulia Hills. Throughout succeeding game drives, the Ngulia Hills served as a visual point of reference. The laterite earth in Tsavo West is richly red in many locations, despite which, it didn't adhere to the safari van or our clothing. Were we no more than lucky?



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Sunset Tones



The final light of day was tinged with peach, as if Rubens brushwork had been borrowed by the clouds.



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Ngulia Safari Lodge



Entirely unexpectedly, our destination shifted toward the Ngulia Safari Lodge, the structures shown in this photo. As I seldom ask advance details about lodgings or meals, I knew nothing about it, but from the fast way we drove, sensed that something was afoot.




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michael-ibk

Fantastic report, Tom, I really like your very distinct, evocative writing style, an intriguing mixture of scientific accuracy and poetry somehow. And fabulous pictures, especially like the Golden Weaver and the muddy Buffalo so far. Looking forward to more!

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graceland

@graceland:

 

As this process continues, it becomes like an awakening baby that there is SO MUCH that I don't know.

You who've written other trip reports know what it's like to seek for images and words to convey the essence to others.

Not at all easy. Yet fulfilling.

Tom K.

 

 

You might notice @@Tom K that my approach to a trip report is a bit different from most others. Mine is quick. I don't think too far ahead; and I write as I remember the day - or perhaps a snippet of the future - or even the past. I dive in as a memoir for I don't want to be burdened with the complexities of "complete structure" in a sentence, or a correct this or that that I've forgotten from English class.

 

I like to write as though the reader (you of course!) is sitting with me and I am just conversing, telling a tale of a place I've been-- which i'd hope others would eventually want to go - or if have been - are enjoying the ride with me as I retell my story.

 

I don't think of my writings as a report per se; rather just a chat with friends on what went on when I visited the most wondrous continent in the world. I know purists probably don't care for it, but that's just the way I am. If I had to log in the number of sightings - at what time - and how many - what species - flying, sitting, standing, lying- crying, swearing, running, swimming (jesting on the lying and crying :rolleyes:) though I imagine they swear to themselves, esp with a missed kill --I'd NEVER get around to it. I want to dive in as soon as I return. I also don't mess around with photos....I can crop; and I can hit "enhance" on iphoto. Thats it. Thats what I show but they are my memories and I enjoy every little "whoops bad one" as well as good ones!

 

If not,

I'd still be a lurker :D

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graceland

@graceland:

 

As this process continues, it becomes like an awakening baby that there is SO MUCH that I don't know.

You who've written other trip reports know what it's like to seek for images and words to convey the essence to others.

Not at all easy. Yet fulfilling.

Tom K.

 

 

You might notice @@Tom K that my approach to a trip report is a bit different from most others. Mine is quick. I don't think too far ahead; and I write as I remember the day - or perhaps a snippet of the future - or even the past. I dive in as a memoir for I don't want to be burdened with the complexities of "complete structure" in a sentence, or a correct this or that that I've forgotten from English class.

 

I like to write as though the reader (you of course!) is sitting with me and I am just conversing, telling a tale of a place I've been-- which i'd hope others would eventually want to go - or if have been - are enjoying the ride with me as I retell my story.

 

I don't think of my writings as a report per se; rather just a chat with friends on what went on when I visited the most wondrous continent in the world. I know purists probably don't care for it, but that's just the way I am. If I had to log in the number of sightings - at what time - and how many - what species - flying, sitting, standing, lying- crying, swearing, running, swimming (jesting on the lying and crying :rolleyes:) though I imagine they swear to themselves, esp with a missed kill --I'd NEVER get around to it. I want to dive in as soon as I return. I also don't mess around with photos....I can crop; and I can hit "enhance" on iphoto. Thats it. Thats what I show but they are my memories and I enjoy every little "whoops bad one" as well as good ones!

 

If not,

I'd still be a lurker :D

 

However, I do devour every report no matter how they are formatted!

Edited by graceland
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graceland

 

attachicon.gifQuenching.JPG

Quenching

And then there were elephants...by the dozen! We rounded a tight bend to head onward to the lodge when Loxodonta africana in force appeared. They were hustling along, as if urgency compelled jogging rather than striding. Many paused to quench their thirst in small puddles. They were aware of us but generally indifferent, as other matters circled through their thoughts.
Protectors
The infant carefully tucked between protective females, the grass blowing in the foreground, the blurred background, the immediacy of being protected in that environment — this image captures an aspect of that early evening game drive which I like as much now as when it was happening.
Elephant Panorama
A glimpse of the world as seen from the vantage point of a baby elephant. The lens was brought down as low as possible to capture this moment. What must it be like to travel with one's mama and attentive aunties, tightly belonging yet curious about the scenes through which one passes. Any anthropomorphic conjecture would fall far off-target, thus this panorama must suffice.
Ein Elefant

The image's three-dimensional quality serves to emphasize the solidity and corporeality of this elephant. Through the blurred bokeh background, the subject stands out, thereby bringing out its distinctive characteristics.

attachicon.gifMaturity.JPG

Maturity

Old tusks, the epitome of the color ivory. Old skin, that's been exposed to the elements for years. Old eyes, which have seen and continue to watch. Seniors rock!

attachicon.gifProximity.JPG

Proximity

She walked up to us without any ceremony, seemingly curious, definitely looking us over. Just as abruptly she turned and left. Her visit was sufficiently long to make this portrait. Elephants don't pose. They're not on the clock and thus aren't paid to strut any catwalk.

attachicon.gifRetreat.JPG

Retreat

And then they were gone...

 

Love this series Tom!! How can one harm these magnificent creatures.

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FlyTraveler

 

• There's one more essential on a safari which isn't visible. Music. The sound of birds, animals and wind is all that I hear on game drives, yet something else occurs. In my mind is a horde of western classical music and jazz, which plays along with changing scenery. I don't bring music with me nor do I own any headphones. While flying along through the African savannah and bushland, strains of Beethoven, Mozart, J.S. Bach, or Schubert mingle with the deftly composed melodies of Gershwin, Kern, Jobim, Ellington and Berlin. When my heart soars, there's inevitably an elegant soundtrack, but none other hears it but the angels.

 

 

By the way, It was interesting for me to read about the music part since I've always had music sounding in my ears (in my mind actually, but I would consider bringing some sort of MP3 player with small headphones next time on safari). In most cases it would be Mozart ( I guess this is an influence from the movie "Out of Africa" where the character of Robert Redford played the D-major Divertimento and the Clarinet Concerto to the buffaloes on an vintage style turntalbe), sometimes it would be Bach, but for some reason never anything contemporary. Not that I don't listen to such music, just to me the classical music fits best to the nature and animals.

 

The main thing that I wanted to point out in this post was how much I enjoyed your report, style of writing and photography. I am really glad that you have joined Safaritalk.com and I am sure that all members feel the same way. Looking forward to reading about all of your safaris!

 

P. S. I kind of like your shoes, I always wear high military style boots on safari, but would consider something lighter and easy to take off and put on like your shoes :)

Edited by FlyTraveler
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FlyTraveler

 

The flight from Abu Dhabi was unusual in one respect — it was the clearest weather I'd ever seen when flying over the Rub' al Khali, or Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula. The faint cloud shadows visible in this image were all that we saw. Nary a sandstorm or a stratocumulus cloud in sight. Despite the desert sands devoid of vegetation, compounds such as those shown are present on the margins of the Rub' al Khali.

 

I enjoy very much your aerial photos, Tom! Great shot of Rub' al Khali! I have some aerials taken over this desert, not as close and not as good as yours, though. Those, taken in the desert on the ground (in UAE, close to the Saudi border) are a lot better. Have good ones of the Namib desert (taken on a flight to Cape Town) and many aerials taken from single engine small planes and helicopters while on safari (Okavango Delta helicopter or airplane, Masai Mara, Ruaha NP, the private reserves around Kruger NP etc.)

 

Great night aerials yours of Abu Dhabi and Paris, as well!

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FlyTraveler

 

And then there were elephants...

And then they were gone...

 

 

Beautiful Elephant shots!

Edited by FlyTraveler
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ZaminOz

@@Tom Kellie

Loving the report and images so far! Guineafowl and all!

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Tom Kellie

Fantastic report, Tom, I really like your very distinct, evocative writing style, an intriguing mixture of scientific accuracy and poetry somehow. And fabulous pictures, especially like the Golden Weaver and the muddy Buffalo so far. Looking forward to more!

 

~ @michael-ibk:

 

Thanks so much for your eloquent support!

The writing is me...science is my life but the arts make real for others.

I'm honored that you liked those images. Now I've had it confirmed by @@Peter Connan that the muddy buffalo was indeed a ‘Dagga Boy’.

I'll aim at maintaining reasonably solid quality in writing and photography, as other Safaritalk trip reports have set a rather lofty benchmark.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

 

@graceland:

 

As this process continues, it becomes like an awakening baby that there is SO MUCH that I don't know.

You who've written other trip reports know what it's like to seek for images and words to convey the essence to others.

Not at all easy. Yet fulfilling.

Tom K.

 

 

You might notice @@Tom K that my approach to a trip report is a bit different from most others. Mine is quick. I don't think too far ahead; and I write as I remember the day - or perhaps a snippet of the future - or even the past. I dive in as a memoir for I don't want to be burdened with the complexities of "complete structure" in a sentence, or a correct this or that that I've forgotten from English class.

 

I like to write as though the reader (you of course!) is sitting with me and I am just conversing, telling a tale of a place I've been-- which i'd hope others would eventually want to go - or if have been - are enjoying the ride with me as I retell my story.

 

I don't think of my writings as a report per se; rather just a chat with friends on what went on when I visited the most wondrous continent in the world. I know purists probably don't care for it, but that's just the way I am. If I had to log in the number of sightings - at what time - and how many - what species - flying, sitting, standing, lying- crying, swearing, running, swimming (jesting on the lying and crying :rolleyes:) though I imagine they swear to themselves, esp with a missed kill --I'd NEVER get around to it. I want to dive in as soon as I return. I also don't mess around with photos....I can crop; and I can hit "enhance" on iphoto. Thats it. Thats what I show but they are my memories and I enjoy every little "whoops bad one" as well as good ones!

 

If not,

I'd still be a lurker :D

 

However, I do devour every report no matter how they are formatted!

 

 

~ @graceland:

 

Oddly enough — and I'm entirely serious about this — our trip report approaches are remarkably similar.

I fretted for over one week, unsure if my style would blend well with other Safaritalkers.

Yet the writing is actually fairly spontaneous, and visual.

Aside from the introduction concerning how I prepare to go on safari, what I do is select photos then type the memories which upwell.

My model for trip report writing is jazz pianist Erroll Garner, who I've mentioned elsewhere.

He was unable to read music thus all came from within. At every performance he'd sit on a telephone book at the keyboard, so as to be able to reach the keys, blow on his hands and say to himself: “Fingers, do your thing”. And so they did.

That's essentially what I do. I browse safari photos, letting instinct pull out a few, which then become the starting point for my recollections.

I chat the way I speak. As I never took English classes after junior high school, what's shaped my language is reading — lots and lots or reading in years past.

Now my own life is the book, so the reading rate has declined, but the residue of those many pages once read is the language at my beck today.

Again we're alike. I take all trip reports as they come.

I'm not in the copyediting business. Anyone may express their safari memories as they see fit.

All I hope is that in addition to educating me about all that I don't yet know, they won't neglect to tickle my funny bone now and again. Hence my love of @@SafariChick's trip report style!

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

 

 

The flight from Abu Dhabi was unusual in one respect — it was the clearest weather I'd ever seen when flying over the Rub' al Khali, or Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula. The faint cloud shadows visible in this image were all that we saw. Nary a sandstorm or a stratocumulus cloud in sight. Despite the desert sands devoid of vegetation, compounds such as those shown are present on the margins of the Rub' al Khali.

 

I enjoy very much your aerial photos, Tom! Great shot of Rub' al Khali! I have some aerials taken over this desert, not as close and not as good as yours, though. Those, taken in the desert on the ground (in UAE, close to the Saudi border) are a lot better. Have good ones of the Namib desert (taken on a flight to Cape Town) and many aerials taken from single engine small planes and helicopters while on safari (Okavango Delta helicopter or airplane, Masai Mara, Ruaha NP, the private reserves around Kruger NP etc.)

 

Great night aerials yours of Abu Dhabi and Paris, as well!

 

 

~ @FlyTraveler:

 

Thanks for explaining that to me.

There are other aerial images from all over, including the Arabian Peninsula.

Thanks to you, I'll be sure to post them whenever appropriate.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

 

 

• There's one more essential on a safari which isn't visible. Music. The sound of birds, animals and wind is all that I hear on game drives, yet something else occurs. In my mind is a horde of western classical music and jazz, which plays along with changing scenery. I don't bring music with me nor do I own any headphones. While flying along through the African savannah and bushland, strains of Beethoven, Mozart, J.S. Bach, or Schubert mingle with the deftly composed melodies of Gershwin, Kern, Jobim, Ellington and Berlin. When my heart soars, there's inevitably an elegant soundtrack, but none other hears it but the angels.

 

 

By the way, It was interesting for me to read about the music part since I've always had music sounding in my ears (in my mind actually, but I would consider bringing some sort of MP3 player with small headphones next time on safari). In most cases it would be Mozart ( I guess this is an influence from the movie "Out of Africa" where the character of Robert Redford played the D-major Divertimento and the Clarinet Concerto to the buffaloes on an vintage style turntalbe), sometimes it would be Bach, but for some reason never anything contemporary. Not that I don't listen to such music, just to me the classical music fits best to the nature and animals.

 

The main thing that I wanted to point out in this post was how much I enjoyed your report, style of writing and photography. I am really glad that you have joined Safaritalk.com and I am sure that all members feel the same way. Looking forward to reading about all of your safaris!

 

P. S. I kind of like your shoes, I always wear high military style boots on safari, but would consider something lighter and easy to take off and put on like your shoes :)

 

 

~ @FlyTraveler:

 

Very appreciate your most generous remarks above. They solidify my confidence as more trip report writing commences.

Piano concerti pop up in my thoughts more than anything else.

I've no theory as to why that might be the case.

Schubert's, Grieg's, Rachmaninov's...their refrains emerge in safari settings.

I'm alone all day in the back of a safari van, briefly talking with Anthony from time to time.

Safaris are an unfolding event, hence a soundtrack enhances the experience.

The Mozart you mention is top drawer — love it!

My old shoes work well in every setting. They also earn sympathy from airport staff, immigration and customs officers, although that's an unplanned side effect.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

“Love this series Tom!! How can one harm these magnificent creatures”.

 

~ @graceland:

 

I couldn't agree more!

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

@@Tom Kellie

Loving the report and images so far! Guineafowl and all!

 

~ @ZaminOz:

 

Thank you so much for the encouragement.

 

Now that I know that you share my appreciation for Guineafowl, you may be sure more photos will appear as warranted.

When I'm on the next safari, in a few weeks from now, I'll make a point of looking for fine ‘Guineafowl moments’, as it were, for YOU!

Tom K.

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graceland

@ Tom Kellie,


My model for trip report writing is jazz pianist Erroll Garner, who I've mentioned elsewhere.

He was unable to read music thus all came from within. At every performance he'd sit on a telephone book at the keyboard, so as to be able to reach the keys, blow on his hands and say to himself: “Fingers, do your thing”. And so they did.

A beautiful share, Tom, and interesting as I visit my brother who can pick up a guitar with not a lesson and just work the strings....he did that yesterday in his home, trying to play some cords to go with the

safari photos from through the years I was sharing. He also tried an "Out of Africa" style, though to me came off more

"Spanish Classical"; but even at that, any international style of music played against the African Bush background is,

music to my ears.

My DH plays beautiful Bach and Mozart. Next safari I'll insist he take a keyboard along :D to accompany the viewing! What a sight that would be.

 

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Tom Kellie

How it happened...



My safari style is something like the Japanese restaurant concept of ‘omakase’, or お任せ,


which basically means that the customer leaves it up to the chef to put together the meal.


The idea is based on mutual trust, and faith that the chef will be both innovative and


surprising. I've done likewise in Parisian restaurants with similarly satisfactory results.



On this safari, decisions as to where we'd visit and what we'd see were nearly all made


by Anthony, based on his years of experience. He knows far better than I might what


is in season, where babies have been born, and what might be in lackluster condition.



We drove to the Ngulia Lodge when twilight required the van's lights to be turned on.


I mistakenly supposed that we were going to stay in the seemingly deserted facility.


Immediately upon arrival under the porte-cochère, I was surprised that the lodge staff


hustled my Chinese student and I into the lodge, telling us to “hurry, before its too late”.


I had no idea what was happening, but had been told to bring my camera, which seemed


odd, given the darkness. There were three other guests — Canadians — standing beside


a rock ledge on a flagstone terrace, looking at a floodlit pole about 10 meters away.



There was a young leopard eating the remains of a goat which had been hung there,


ostensibly to attract it. My Chinese friend was understandably delighted, as thereby


he'd observed firsthand four of the Big Five in his first-ever game drive. However,


my own inchoate sense of fair play was rattled, although the leopard wasn't mishandled.



My own feelings were complex. As a child, my family regularly stocked bird


feeders for migrating birds. Yet I hadn't ever seen, or even heard of offering


food to game animals as a visitor attraction. We were told that this was the


first visit of a leopard in three weeks, so the lodge staff were relieved. In my heart


I asked myself what was the most compassionate response. As I'm no


sage or paragon, I opted to take photos, testing the camera's highest ISO


settings, despite feeling like a voyeur. Would I have felt likewise if the leopard


was eating its own kill? Probably not.



In that spirit, I'll include the following images taken at Ngulia Lodge, which


I secretly didn't regard as having seen a leopard, although it was indeed a wild,


free spirit. As it happened, it was not at all the only leopard that we would observe


and photograph. In any case as a study in high ISO, these images may be interesting.


The leopard's innate beauty remains unsullied by the circumstances...



All images — ISO 25,600, 1/320 sec., f/5, 400mm focal length.



post-49296-0-80400800-1428491770_thumb.jpg



Ever Vigilant



~ At such high ISO, the evening darkness comes out as a rich blue, albeit grainy. It was my first experiment with using such a high ISO. My emotions were tumbling, due to the sudden arrival and unexpected situation, yet it seemed best to enjoy the evening and record the leopard's final bites of its goat shank dinner.



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Tsavo West Panthera pardus



While taking these photos I found myself hoping that the bright spotlight on the cairn where the goat-pole was situated wasn't too bright in the eyes of Panthera pardus. It looked over towards the lodge several times, but only for a short glance, as removing the remaining sweet goat flesh was the top priority.



post-49296-0-73693100-1428492540_thumb.jpg



Panthera pardus of Tsavo West



When I was scrutinizing these images, after returning home to Beijing, what struck me was the large size of the paws. In this image the relative dimension of the front paws to the face demonstrate what powerful tools they must be for this most versatile and shrewd predator. I read that of all major predators, Panthera pardus has the least illusions, which is why they're not above eating invertebrates or amphibians as the need arises. Hence they survive over a continent-spanning range, wary in their solitude, yet persisting where others fade away.



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Panthera pardus Profile



As it happens, this leopard has achieved what I've failed to do — it's eaten Kenyan goat! Throughout Kenya goat flocks roam, attended by herders of all ages. As a teenager I learned to enjoy roasted goat in Buenos Aires, Argentina, enjoying it's distinctive, mild flavor. Yet it's yet to be on the menu anywhere I've visited in Kenya. This leopard clearly relished the goat flesh, and for that I felt glad. If someday I'm fortunate enough to return to Tsavo West, it would be a delight to re-encounter it, but in the wild, eating game which it has killed, with its own lethal skills and highly intelligent stalking techniques.



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Tom Kellie

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View Below Rhino Valley Lodge
The misty mornings in Tsavo West were heightened by the location. We stayed at Rhino Valley Lodge (http://tsavolodgesandcamps.com/rhino_valley_lodge.php), an older property on a hillside, remote from anything else. There were only two to three other guests, such that a quiet atmosphere prevailed. Good thing. It was noisy with elephant sounds, birds and assorted primates. The vegetation around the road away from the lodge was filled with one of the highest concentration of bird species that I've ever observed anywhere around the globe. Yes, an elephant is barely visible near the center of the image.
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View Below My Room at Rhino Valley Lodge
From my room's porch there was an unobstructed view of a grassy meadow and of one of the waterholes below. That's all to the positive, as one doesn't go on safari to play video games or do crossword puzzles, but rather to SEE! Yet... In the lower left the concrete retaining walls of a water tank are visible. After dark, this became ‘Elephant Central’. Families, and I do mean large families, of elephants trekked to the water tank. How did I know? Their grunts, hoots, trumpeting calls and sharp bleats would've awakened a 17-year cicada. As it is, I was glad. The elephant fecundity in Tsavo West is impressive. And they do eventually quiet down after about 1 am...
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Tree Beside Room #5's Porch
The early mornings on the porch outside my room, #5, began with loud buzzing as immense black bees living in the grass thatch roof flew out to carry out their morning errands. Despite the initial low light, it was pleasant to sit there, listening to morning birds and insects, watching a hamerkop, a heron and a small sandpiper around the waterhole. I was comfortable in the room which had three large beds, one each for me, myself and I.
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Elephant Bones
When walking to the restaurant for breakfast, I photographed these desiccated elephant bones, as I liked the contrast between their bleached calcium whiteness and the dark rocks.
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Aloe Vera Bloom Spike
When Aloe vera bloom spikes are present, I feel gratitude that nature affords such a useful plant. Until I came to Beijing I never realized that Aloe vera is a flavorsome addition to yoghurt. The richness of the red a signal to winged pollinators that rich nectar is on offer.
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Ploceus cucullatus Perched on a Branch
There were about one dozen Ploceus cucullatus, Black-headed Weaver, flying around the breakfast area. They came fairly close, briefly perching in bushes, chirping to one another. This image captured details of its feet.
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Rhino Valley Lodge Restaurant View
Not much of a breakfast crowd. The view into Rhino Valley was restful. Great numbers of birds were evident, including perched raptors. No biting insects to speak of. Elephants lumbered through the bush to and from the waterhole and water tank.
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Rhino Valley Lodge Breakfast
Truth be told, meals are my lowest priority during safaris. Let me have a full 8 hours of deep sleep, supply a steady stream of bottled water or juice, and I'm good to go. Fixation on food was a part of my childhood which evanesced into a desire to minimize meals throughout most wildlife observation situations. Nevertheless, I appreciate the sincere concern and care of those who feel that full meals throughout the day are requisite for a pleasant safari. The breakfast at Rhino Valley Lodge was noteworthy because it was the first time in my life to eat raw passionfruit, with which I immediately fell madly in love, seeking it out in all future lodgings. My faithful plain-faced Timex Indiglo is visible on the table, placed so as to spur us on to begin the day's game drive.

 

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Tom Kellie

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Immature Lanius cabanisi



When observing this small bird, I wondered what species of shrike it might be, as I had no recollection of shrikes being so small with such plumage. Turns out that it was an immature Lanius cabanisi, Long-tailed Fiscal, the same species as the bird photographed on the preceding day which had caught a chameleon.



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Francolinus leucoscepus with Raised Foot



We spotted several Francolinus leucoscepus, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, on a stone cairn built to display direction signs. This common species pops out of the undergrowth onto tracks wherever I visit in Kenya. I liked this image as its left foot was raised.



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No Nonsense Roller



This is an immature Coracias garrulus, European Roller. Viewed nearly straight-on, it's visage looks stern, as if exasperated by yet another camera lens pointed in its direction without any compensation offered, let alone an exclusive personal appearance contract.



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Cleome hirta



Wildflowers are a permanent priority on my safaris. Their place in each biome is secure, providing nectar or pollen to pollinators. Cleome hirta is a rugged botanical species, which I respect, yet it offers to the skies a delicate bloom, which I admire. By now Anthony understands that I'm a client who never met a wildflower that he didn't like. Fortunately, he's just the same. Pity those poor students on safari with me, veins pulsing, hearts throbbing in hopes of returning to the lodge as soon as possible in order to rush to the Wi-Fi hot spot in order to exchange pleasantries with distant classmates, only to be stymied by Anthony and Tom stopping for every spindly weed in Kenya!



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Vidua macroura with Sharp Clarity



One avian species which has limited risk of being confused with others, at least as far as the males in breeding plumage are concerned, is Vidua macroura. Seen in this image with Quelea quelea, Red-billed Quelea, Vidua macroura is a showstopper. We observed many throughout our safari, including in remote southern reaches of Meru National Park. The hearts of the female Vidua macroura must be captivated by the showy tail plumage.



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Three Tsavo West Avian Species



The three avian species are: Vidua paradisaea, Eastern Paradise-Whydah, Bubalornis albirostris, White-billed Buffalo-Weaver, and Quelea quelea, Red-billed Quelea.



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Unidentified Arthropods with Bubalornis albirostris



What's a safari without an enduring mystery? Since returning to Beijing from Kenya, I've scoured reference books and the Internet, which is highly restricted where I live, in a fruitless search for is visible on the acacia branches in this image. At the time this photograph was made, we didn't spot this. While post-processing images at home I noticed one, then two curious forms on the branches and in only the one image. As it happens, I remember exactly where the bush is growing. Had we spotted these at the time, we'd have stopped and sought a closer look. Are they beetles? Egg cases? Larvae? With the many long-experienced safaristas, guides, naturalists and camp owners, there may well be an easy and obvious identification, from their viewpoint. Yet for a greenie like me, they remain ‘those two strange beetles with a pair of yellow eyes on their back’. Does anyone recognize them?




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Tom Kellie

(Note: This installment was delayed due to Internet access issues.


As such inability to connect frequently occurs where I live, this trip


report may sometimes be delayed until access is restored.)



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Rhino Valley Baobabs



~ The rich colors of the vegetation in Rhino Valley strongly appealed to me, including these baobabs. As is self-evident, there's a wide variety of foliage, which means that the crawling invertebrates have an ideal habitat, which supports the food chain far above them. Life does begin with plants in so many cases.



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Yellow Foliage is Hard to Resist



This image is included because one feature of Tsavo West which was particularly noticeable around the Ngulia Mountains was the variety of trees. The verdant landscape was both pleasing to the eye and afforded cover for smaller organisms, which in turn are prey for larger organisms seen on safari.



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Helogale parvula



Well, guess who? As we crept down the track, enjoying the spectacle of so many birds — not only hordes of Quelea quelea — several Helogale parvula, Dwarf Mongoose, scampered and leapt across the track. They were in a hurry, thus only time for a couple of shots, including this one, to illustrate the smaller organisms who appear to thrive in the Tsavo West biome.

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