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


Tom Kellie

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Tom Kellie

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Vidua fischeri



A prize sighting during the morning game drive was Vidua fischeri, Straw-tailed Whydah. I'd only seen it illustrated in field guides, thus when one perched atop a bush, it was a pleasure to make this portrait. Despite the numbers of birds in this section I'm not in any sense a committed or skilled birder. The birds were what we observed during the earlier part of the game drive. Larger animals will be featured later, in the order that they were observed.




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Beijing to Nairobi Lights Out on EY 889 ~ After my safari partner, Peking University medical student and researcher, XU Ni, 徐铌, rendezvoused at my Beijing campus apartment, we r

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

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Whydahs, Queleas and a Superb Starling



~ The mix of avian species in this single image reflects what we noticed in Tsavo West's Rhino Valley. There were typically 3 to 5 species in any given stretch of tall bushes. Fortuitously, they weren't skittish, thus photography was possible.



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Immature Polemaetus bellicosus in Flight



This immature Polemaetus bellicosus, Martial Eagle, was resting in a bare-branched tree. We stopped to better appreciate it which afforded us a front-row seat when it flew off, out fingers clicking shutters. Such beauty slicing through the morning air!



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Circus aeruginosus



When we first noticed this Circus aeruginosus, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, it was self-evidently scouring the ground in search of prey. Through watching it for a couple of minutes, we eventually saw it land in tall grass to make a kill.



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Nearing a Target



In this photo Circus aeruginosus, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, may be seen swooping down to its intended prey. I like its plumage colors and upward curved wing pinions.



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madaboutcheetah

What a brilliant report this is .......... Thank You for posting, Tom. Lookforward to updates.........

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Safaridude

Lovely colors on those leopard shots. I think high ISO photos add character sometimes.

 

Tsavo's birdlife is amazing in the "wet" season. Thanks for this terrific report.

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Tom Kellie

@ 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.

 

 

~ @graceland:

 

Who knew?

Music is a uniter. So pleased to know that both your brother and husband are blessed with the gift of music.

For those of us who do little more than listen, smile, admire, and hum along a bit, the birds out on safari pick up the slack.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

What a brilliant report this is .......... Thank You for posting, Tom. Lookforward to updates.........

 

~ @madaboutcheetah:

 

Your generous encouragement is what motivates me to persist.

As I write, I have no sense of how the posts might be accepted by those who read them.

This is an uncharacteristic venture into social media by a bashful older professor who isn't at all sure of his steps, writing-wise.

Your considerable experience in Safaritalk exceeds anything that this newbie might write or upload.

Thus your encouragement is like a basket of rubies when I sit in front of the screen after a long day of teaching, asking myself: “What next?”

With Much Appreciation,

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

Lovely colors on those leopard shots. I think high ISO photos add character sometimes.

 

Tsavo's birdlife is amazing in the "wet" season. Thanks for this terrific report.

 

~ @@Safaridude:

 

Thank you for saying that about the high ISO leopard shots. I hemmed and hawed about whether or not to upload them, both because of my unsettled feelings about the lodge-supplied goat — the ultimate scapegoat — but also because of the graininess and intensified colors.

I'm pure greenhorn at Safaritalk as social media, never before having attempted anything comparable, in part due to employment responsibilities and in part due to stringent Internet access restrictions in Beijing, where I live.

@@Safaridude, I've literally read through every one of your trip postings and comments on conservation issues on Safaritalk. Your images, as posted, hit the sweet spot for me more than any others. I felt considerable hesitation in actively participating in Safaritalk, especially in uploading photos, because it seemed ludicrous to be sharing in the same space where your outstanding safari photos appear. That's from the heart.

Your work with the Africa advisory board for the Nature Conservancy, your right-on-the-money astute assessments of conservation issues, and your depth of experience are my notion of the gold standard for outstanding safari and conservation work, all over years.

Yet what stands out above all — which may stem from my having served as a faculty member in Asia for decades — is your mentions of your family. Yours sons are fortunate to have been raised in such a family, wherein opportunity to grasp life as it really is has been theirs for the taking. No other Safarista has more movingly mentioned children, who after all are the ones to eventually inherent the remaining pockets of relatively unsullied nature which we spoiled safari-goers so enjoy.

Your endorsement of the bird photos is a boon. While in the classroom all day, I'd been having a tennis match in my mind, going back and forth as to whether or not to skip the other Tsavo West birds and head straight to the animals. After reading your encouragement, a few more birds it is, before a few pleasant surprises are uploaded.

With Respect and Appreciation,

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

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Ardea cinerea in Tsavo West



~ Here's an old friend. In what sense? Ardea cinerea, Grey Heron, lives throughout eastern China and in Hong Kong's wetland areas around Maipo and in the estimable Hong Kong Wetland Park. It's graceful stature adds elegance to any waterway where it's observed, in this case a slender stream in an obscure corner of Tsavo West.



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Atilax paludinosus



After a bevy of Tsavo West birds, an animal! At any rate, a glimpse of Atilax paludinosus, Marsh Mongoose. We were on the downward glide of a little-used track, drawn by steady loud bird sounds. Before we saw the source of the noise, a trio of Atilax paludinosus was spotted, with scarcely enough time for a few quick shots. They too seemed a trifle discombobulated by the adjacent cacaphony.



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Re-establishing Equilibrium



Another local inhabitant was stirred by the raucous calls. This heron flew up from the as-yet hidden pool in front of us, landing on a bush to get away from the noise. Had I been the heron, I might have flown farther away, having less tolerance of such an unneighborly din.



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Aerial Display



Anthony drove forward a few meters to a break in the rocks and grass. The boisterous offenders were a flock of Scopus umbretta, Hamerkop. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it's characteristic behavior of Scopus umbretta to gather for what ornithologists describe as social rituals. Clearly making a hullabaloo is part and parcel of said social rituals.



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Scopus umbretta False Mounting



At least half a dozen times during several minutes of observation we saw hamerkops jump on the backs of one another, tolerated by the lower bird, yet without any signs of attempted mating. I've since learned that Scopus umbretta regularly does “False Mounting”, which has yet to be definitively explained by avian ethologists. There's a worthy topic for those seeking a meaningful graduate thesis project which is also an excuse to hang out for months in an African national park.



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Scopus umbretta on a Rock Outcropping



The spare look of this setting appeals to me. The grass, rock and the improbably plumaged Scopus umbretta are quintessentially African. Part of me loves seeing lifeforms which are endemic to Africa, as they were seen by our long, long ago ancestors.




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Tom Kellie

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Pterocles decoratus Beneath Arched Grass



~ This sighting of Pterocles decoratus, Black-faced Sandgrouse, was a first for me. I'd been interested in all smaller grass-dwelling birds since the initial safari, feeling that they were an essential component of local biomes. This image was framed so as to include the arched grass over the birds.



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Pterocles decoratus



The plumage markings are classic avian cryptic coloration. In my academic specialty my students consider what intermediate forms must have occurred throughout the drawn-out process of natural selection, in order to arrive at colors and patterns so well-suited to concealment in a grassy, arid habitat?


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Tom Kellie

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT



This trip report is briefly interrupted to acknowledge


the conferral of the Order of the Pith on


@@graceland


She's mightily encouraged me with humor,


honesty, insight and genuine wisdom.




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Peter Connan

Congratulations @@graceland! You deserve it!

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Tom Kellie

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Vigilant Female Taurotragus oryx



At last we spotted larger game. On a low hillside a male, female and juvenile Taurotragus oryx, Eland, walked along, browsing as they went. The vigilant mother was hyper-aware of our distant presence, repeatedly turning to give us ‘the look’. Their movement was in unison, with unhurried grace.



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The Neighbors — Equus quagga



They weren't alone, as several Equus quagga were moving along at the same pace. We sat in silence, taking in the scene, sensing the pristine quality of such a moment, devoid of all pretension or commercialization. We Safaritalk members truly are a fortunate bunch, to frequently observe such loveliness.



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Taurotragus oryx Family Group



This long distance portrait was cropped from a larger image in order to show their similar stance. The Eland bull is massive, such an impressive bovine. The three of them grazing together needs no anthropomorphic interpretation, yet one can't help but admire the warm family bonds in evidence. I admit it. Both Eland and Greater Kudu are dear to my heart. There's nothing comparable in the hinterlands of Beijing...


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Tom Kellie

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Tsavo West Seasonal Visitor



The field guides explain that Coracias garrulus, European Roller, is a bird of passage, i.e. a migrant visitor, to Tsavo West during the season in which we visited. As previously mentioned, Coracias garrulus was numerous, with a sighting every minute or two. Nonetheless I'd struggled to make a satisfactory portrait, chiefly due to lighting issues. Finally, this bird with several loose feathers graciously obliged my camera lens.



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Rolling Away



And then it flew away, Roller-style...


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Tom Kellie

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Oena capensis



~ Pity doves of all sorts. When do they ever receive much respect on safaris, whether of birders or generalists? Dozens are the times I've excitedly yelled to Anthony that I'd sighted this or that elusive species, only to discover that it was “just a dove”. What's all this “just a dove” mishmash in my thinking? Is there a hierarchy of avian species value pegged to rarity? Shame on me! I mean that. To atone, here's an image of Oena capensis, Namaqua Dove, which is an unassuming small species which I rather like. Doves deserve love, too.


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Tom Kellie

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Grazing Aepyceros melampus



~ Does posting this image of a grazing male Aepyceros melampus certify that I'm one of those safari-goers who insist on halting the vehicle for every blessed impala? No. What it may reflect is that I haven't yet become inured to the beauty of their annulated horns or the sensitivity of their doe-like eyes.



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Aepyceros melampus with Mother



This is an image which achieved what I'd sought. The colors, the blurred background, the expression, the lighting — it's life as seen at the level of an impala fawn. It may be that Aepyceros melampus amounts to no more than a bento box on four legs for predators. Nonetheless, I like their unique taxonomy, unlike other antelope species.



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Tsavo West Male Impala



The grass in the foreground set the stage for this portrait, which leveraged the soft overcast light that morning. Male impala come close to being ubiquitous, but that doesn't diminish their elegance. Such color! I've been drawn to muted shades of blue and earth tones all my life. The same impulse which causes me to smile when seeing an unglazed della Robbia terra-cotta ceramic wreath brings a grin when enjoying this tint of brown.


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Tom Kellie

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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 one of the reasons why I love being on safari in Kenya.



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Kirk's Dikdik



What's not to love? Who doesn't have an awkward or distorted feature or two. I have more than my share. Yet with peepers like those, dikdiks do more than there share of making any safari a jewel among life's memories.



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Closeup of a Male Madoqua kirkii



This is the portrait I'd tried and repeatedly failed to make on all previous safaris. Thanks to this most obliging model, my unrealized hope became a gift from Kenya.



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Fading Into the Savanna



As with elephants, so with dikdiks. When they're done, they're done. Fortunately, the farewell image included grass heads in the foreground which add depth.


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Peter Connan

Tom this portrait is magnificent! Great use of a shallow Depth of field!

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graceland

Congratulations @@graceland! You deserve it!

@@Peter Connan, thank you so much; I ALWAYS appreciate and am in gratitude of remarks you graciously add to my postings.

 

I've been hanging around here for quite a few years, since 2009 I believe; and it wasn't until perhaps two years ago that I felt like I was truly a part of this amazing forum; I feel fortunate to have been taken in and accepted by so many. I feel it an important part of my travels in Africa is to spread the gospel of Safaritalk :D

 

People are quite surprised to hear of a forum dedicated to Africa and Conservation; Worldwide as well... I always see a bit of paper coming out and notes being taken so I do hope those few are here "lurking", and eventually take the step to sign on and get involved. My little bit of a contribution here I hope.

 

@@Tom Kellie, you are making me blush. But I wonder if I get a free safari somewhere for this grit and determination that it takes for one to wear a pith :rolleyes:

 

The birds of Tsavo are lovely; I am sure your students benefit from the beautiful pictures you take on your travels.

Sure wish I had a professor or two like you in school. All I ever wanted to do was get out!

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graceland

 

attachicon.gifTsavo West Seasonal Visitor.JPG

Tsavo West Seasonal Visitor

The field guides explain that Coracias garrulus, European Roller, is a bird of passage, i.e. a migrant visitor, to Tsavo West during the season in which we visited. As previously mentioned, Coracias garrulus was numerous, with a sighting every minute or two. Nonetheless I'd struggled to make a satisfactory portrait, chiefly due to lighting issues. Finally, this bird with several loose feathers graciously obliged my camera lens.

attachicon.gifRolling Away.JPG

Rolling Away

And then it flew away, Roller-style...

 

 

 

When visiting Lake Kariba In Matusadona, Zimbabwe last year I saw my first roller on the lake. I was mesmerized. I won't bother to post my one little pic; but I cherish it as I told my DH then...".when I leave this earth and come back, I am coming back as a roller, and living up in that tree"

 

A beautiful snap you achieved as it rolled on away, Tom.

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michael-ibk

Wonderful Dikdid portrait, really love that photo.

 

And yes, congratulations, @@graceland ! To at least another 2000 charming and energetic posts!

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graceland

Tom this portrait is magnificent! Great use of a shallow Depth of field!

Yes, Listen to @ Peter Connan, he knows what he says....I just know I like the little dik-diks as well and if I could stop as well I would

 

I can't believe you ever thought you were not in the league to post pictures on Safaritalk and write the reports!

 

You are one crazy dude to even suspect that. This is an brilliant report - one I am not skimming to get to the photos (sorry I do SOMETIMES not ALWAYS do that!) because I find your story behind the shot - the names, the history, and the look very intriguing and educational.

 

 

@@michael-ibk, thank you for saying so....You are special..

 

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Tdgraves

 

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

This trip report is briefly interrupted to acknowledge

the conferral of the Order of the Pith on

@@graceland

She's mightily encouraged me with humor,

honesty, insight and genuine wisdom.

attachicon.gifgraceland.png

Congrats @@graceland

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graceland

@@Tdgraves, thank you!

 

I fear this is interrupting @@Tom Kelliie's repo..... OH WAIT, he started it :D

(thank you Tom)

 

But get back to your report. I am an oldie here now....new blood coming in.

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twaffle

 

 

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

This trip report is briefly interrupted to acknowledge

the conferral of the Order of the Pith on

@@graceland

She's mightily encouraged me with humor,

honesty, insight and genuine wisdom.

attachicon.gifgraceland.png

Congrats @@graceland

 

+1 Well done @@graceland, lots of fun in those 2000 posts! ;)

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Kitsafari

 

 

 

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

This trip report is briefly interrupted to acknowledge

the conferral of the Order of the Pith on

@@graceland

She's mightily encouraged me with humor,

honesty, insight and genuine wisdom.

attachicon.gifgraceland.png

Congrats @@graceland

 

+1 Well done @@graceland, lots of fun in those 2000 posts! ;)

 

+1 Congrats @@graceland. next target that 3000th post!

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