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

Tom Kellie

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Your ruminations on the undisturbed, inaccessible outcroppings remind me that there is so much we see but do not see when we're scanning for larger mammals.

Many of your posts have that quality, largely through your attention to detail; they open up windows into many lesser-appreciated wonders.

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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

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Tom Kellie

Three Female Gerenuk

Gerenuk have several distinctive characteristics, including wide-set large ears, a unique cranial shape, a lithe body and a tendency to canter.

Yet it's their occasional tendency to stand on their muscular hind legs to browse high foliage which is best known. We stopped to observe

three female gerenuk, one of whom stood to browse, facilitating photographs of the behavior. They appear to be sufficiently adapted to

bipedal browsing that no noticeable undue strain occurs. One wonders if this might be a mid-step

in an evolutionary process culminating in fully bipedal gerenuk, eons hence.


She's All Ears


Gerenuk in Profile


Classic Gerenuk Pose


Bipedal Evolution?




Top-end Dining


Termite Mound, Acacias and Standing Gerenuk


Female Gerenuk Pair


Cantering Gerenuk


Unconcerned with Follies


The Three Graces


Samburu Sisterhood

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Tom Kellie

Your ruminations on the undisturbed, inaccessible outcroppings remind me that there is so much we see but do not see when we're scanning for larger mammals.

Many of your posts have that quality, largely through your attention to detail; they open up windows into many lesser-appreciated wonders.


~ @@Marks


That's one of the finest comments I've received while writing this trip report.

If the commentary occasionally inspires others to consider the full range of safari experience, it will have been well worth any effort expended.

Game drives in Kenya have ravished me for their sheer plenitude of wonders.

During your recent safari in Zambia, you and your partner must have similarly been bathed in sensory experience.

How to effectively and faithfully convey that to readers who may not yet have been on a safari is the challenge of writing a trip report.

With generous encouragement like yours, I'm able to sustain the effort until the conclusion.

Thank you so much for your most kind words.

With Much Appreciation,

Tom K.

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I love Gerenuks, I love that special pose, and I love these photos! :)

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I am also a big fan of gerenuk - even though I am yet to see one!

Your photos of the 3 females are a delight.

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Tom Kellie

~ @@michael-ibk and @@TonyQ


I'm so pleased that you liked the ‘Three Graces’, as gerenuks are one of Kenya's most charming species.

Their otherworldly look has the air of science fiction. Such a streamlined and elongated body with a cranium unlike any other.

Were we able to see 2 million years hence, would gerenuk have evolved to regularly walk on their hind legs?

Natural selection being what it is, they may be an intermediate form to an altogether novel species far into the unknown future.

They're such peaceful animals, walking with delicacy or sprinting with the alacrity of a secretary bird in a minefield.

I hope that you'll soon observe a gerenuk in person, @@TonyQ, as both @@michael-ibk and I know what a pleasing species they are.

A very warm thanks to both of you for your very kind comments.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

Male Eupodotis gindiana

Throughout this particular safari we'd spotted Eupodotis gindiana, Buff-crested Bustard, in widely separated locations. As it happened,

most of the bustards we spotted were female. This male Eupodotis gindiana was a memorable exception. He walked into the dusty

track near enough to the safari van for fairly clear images to be made. As bustards tend to do, his pace was measured in jerking

motions, none too rapid. His plumage was crisply tucked in, without any feathers out of place. Bustards are one of my favorites.

Their slightly awkward appearance and motion reassures me that one need not need be svelte or smooth to be cool.


Passing Under a Branch










Male Eupodotis gindiana





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Tom Kellie

Circaetus cinereus

Our route turned toward the distant Ewaso Nyiro River, leaving behind the valley where we'd searched in vain for cheetah. Distances

are relatively short in Samburu, thus the trees lining the river course were visible in the far distance. Looking to the right a raptor was

prominently perched on a bush. It was Circaetus cinereus, Brown Snake-Eagle, with unmistakable large yellow eyes. Not wishing to

leave the track or disturb the snake-eagle, we stopped at a distance to observe it. Actively scouting the surrounding area, it

turned its head several times, affording us a clear view of its dark beak and lemon eyes.


Circaetus cinereus


Brown Snake-Eagle


Perching Snake-Eagle

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Tom Kellie

An Oryx Herd Passes By

About one minute after leaving the Brown Snake-Eagle a small herd of Beisa Oryx was on the track. We stopped to watch what would

happen, savoring the time with one of Kenya's loveliest species, no other safari vehicles in sight. The oryx turned eastward, in no hurry,

shuffling off towards low rock outcroppings. There were no calves with the herd, but several juveniles were curious about us as they

departed with the adults. During such interactions I never hear any sounds from the animals, yet I wonder if there

are low decibel vocalizations which I fail to perceive but to which they're all responding.


Look Who's on the Track


Oryx and Distant Elephants


Oryx Herd Walking Towards Rocks


Not Far from the Ewaso Nyiro River


Four Passing Oryx


Juvenile Oryx with Adult


Passing Parade


Spurfowl Pair and Oryx

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Tom Kellie

Crowned Cranes and Warthogs

As we neared the Ewaso Nyiro River, there were assorted structures under trees, which are accommodations for visitors. A small empty grass field

near them had breakfast visitors — a pair of Crowned Cranes and a Warthog family. Judging by their respective actions, neither species paid much

mind to the other, each going about the business of eating without anxious concerns about others doing likewise. Samburu warthogs consistently

come across as laid-back and calm, relative to their cousins elsewhere. Hence it was possible to pause adequately near to obtain these images.


Samburu Breakfast


Warthogs Near Structures


Crowned Cranes and Warthogs


Peaceful Coexistence


Contrasting Forms

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Tom Kellie

Elephant Mothers with Babies

An elephant family group slowly walked over the grassy plain near the Ewaso Nyiro River.These elephants took on a stately air, even those

mothers with babies, as their progress was so graceful and unhurried. We stopped at quite a distance to watch them sweeping across the

grass with heavy-footed tread. Anthony anticipated their path so repositioned the safari van to maximize camera moments. They were

eating straw-like yellow grass as they walked along. Elephants impress me with their flexible approach to eating. I need to learn

from their example, expanding my diet beyond vegetable soup, fish and honey-cinnamon-lemon tea!


Lololokwe Massif


Rock Outcroppings with Lololokwe


Elephant Family with Doum Palms


Samburu's Clear, Blue Skies


Samburu Mother-love


Samburu Sonata


One Egret, Three Elephants




Tusk Tips Starting to Show


Two Babies in Sunshine

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Tom Kellie

Storks and Spoonbills

Scanning to the left of the vehicle I glimpsed a flash of white moving back and forth in a familiar fashion. I asked Anthony

to drive to a closer and clearer vantage point. Spoonbills! Their distinctive side-to-side sweeping head motion is what

had caught my eye. Alongside them were Marabou Storks and Yellow-billed Storks, all fishing in a rivulet. A Marabou

Stork caught a small silvery fish while we were watching. The spoonbills remained close

together. We'd seen African spoonbills in both Amboseli and Samburu.


Birds Fishing


Marabou Stork with a Catch


Stork with a Fish and Spoonbills


Along a Rivulet


Storks and Spoonbills

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Tom Kellie

Wading Crowned Cranes

There are situations on safari where stopping for extended observation is unequalled pleasure. There's no set guidelines as to what might

be satisfying to watch for many minutes. Time of day, weather, personal vitality, subject matter — they're all salient factors. A pair of

Balearica regulorum, Grey Crowned Crane, was wading in the shallows of the nearly dry Ewaso Nyiro River. A breeze from Buffalo

Springs across the river occasionally ruffled their otherwise neat plumage. We silently watched them wading, looking down into

the water, moving together — two separate individuals yet self-evidently linked. An especially pleasant memory.


Wading Crowned Cranes


You First


Matched Set


Samburu Grey Crowned Cranes

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Tom Kellie

Doum Palms and Local Landscape

For me, Samburu's landscape is ravishing. In four safaris there, I've never yet seen anything other than lovely weather, akin to Scottsdale,

Arizona where I lived decades ago. The iconic grandeur of Lololokwe and Ol Doinyo Koitogorr provide the signature backdrop of the arid

landscape. Doum Palms branching results in serene trees of exceptional beauty. The lack of water flowing in the Ewaso Nyiro River was

worrisome, yet that didn't detract from the satisfaction of being in one of nature's finest settings. Would that

every Safaritalk member or visitor might enjoy such loveliness on their safaris.


Samburu Landscape with Doum Palms


Ol Doinyo Koitogorr, Doum Palm & Elephant


Fraternal Twins


Doum Palm and Lololokwe


Lololokwe as a Magnificent Backdrop


Sticky Wicket


Where's the Water?

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Tom Kellie

Gypohierax angolensis

I'd never seen and never heard of Gypohierax angolensis, Palm-nut Vulture. Therefore when this particular bird took to the air from its

well-shaded resting place on the Buffalo Springs side of the Ewaso Nyiro River, I didn't know what I was seeing. It initially soared

surprisingly low, before gradually flying not far above the tops of the palm trees beside the river. The nature of its broad wings was

such that it flew in great sweeping strokes. At times it was if it coursed through the air in slow motion, as its wingbeats were

slow and methodical. A memorable sight which added to the birds I'd observed in Samburu.


Gypohierax angolensis


Palm-nut Vulture Soaring


Palms and Palm-nut Vulture

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The pair of crowned cranes make for a lovely set of images. Each feather is visible with remarkable clarity. Also, your thoughtful captions make them endearing as individuals.

Sometimes elephants from afar are as just as nice as elephants close up, as you can appreciate their presence in the context of their environment.

Edited by Marks
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Tom Kellie

The pair of crowned cranes make for a lovely set of images. Each feather is visible with remarkable clarity. Also, your thoughtful captions make them endearing as individuals.

Sometimes elephants from afar are as just as nice as elephants close up, as you can appreciate their presence in the context of their environment.


~ @@Marks


I'm gratified that you enjoyed the wading Crowned Cranes. Their behavior underscored their individuality, with the larger being bolder, more wary and solicitous of the other.

As they're typically seen in a grassy or marshy setting, their wading in the nearly dry Ewaso Nyiro River afforded an opportunity to photograph them with a more neutral background, thereby emphasizing their plumage.

Elephants — and giraffes — are a challenge to portray. To do full justice to their distinctive character and morphology, a clearly defined visual context is essential. I particularly recall a long ago image posted by @@Atravelynn showing a solitary elephant trudging down an otherwise empty track. That image placed the elephant in a much broader context, communicating much about its daily routine.

The next image set I'll post is elephants in and around the river, which affords a certain perspective on their family activities, as the river's size functions as a scale of reference.

Many thanks for visiting and for your welcome comment.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

Elephants Beside the Ewaso Nyiro River

One of the extended family groups of elephants crossed the nearly dry bed of the Ewaso Nyiro River from the Samburu side to the Buffalo Springs side.

Adults were primarily focussed on browsing, with a couple in the river seeking water. Small juveniles and a baby were predictably more interested in

play. Laying down in the dust, stepping together, stroking each other with sensitive trunk tips, their actions developed solidarity which would later

undergird their cooperation as adults. The filtered light under trees along the river sharpened the contrast of shadows from

overhead and in the complex matte of wrinkles draped over their skins.


Meet and Greet


Buffalo Springs Playground


Seeking Limited Water


Playing While Adults Eat


Elephants in Buffalo Springs


Thirsty Elephant, Empty River


Thirst Loves Company


Walking Up the Bank


Elephant Quartet with Weaver Nests


Put Your Left Foot Here


A Baby Resting Flat on the Ground




Available in All Sizes


Going In Its Own Direction


Dribs and Drabs of Muddy Water


When Rainfall Slackens...

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@@Tom Kellie


Portraits and landscapes have been my liking- One end of the pendulum or the other! 600 mm or 14 mm, and mostly nothing in between. But after seeing your photographs, there is so much character and relevance when you compose the photographs with "as your eye sees it" detail. I am now going to use the 24-70 mm also.

Thank you

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Tom Kellie


Over the centuries, or even millennia, as sustained rainfall has saturated the Aberdares region near Mt. Kenya, the overflow has run down through

the Ewaso Nyiro River, eroding a channel with steep sides. In several places animal species have repeatedly descended to the river for water,

gradually wearing the light reddish soil into an access ramp. Elephants in Buffalo Springs watched while we photographed the riverbank,

with tall trees above it. In the absence of river flow and precipitation, the deep taproots of the trees become

more essential as water conduits than as anchors during heavy passing winds.


User-made Access Ramp


Fallen Trees, Ewaso Nyiro River and Elephants


Surviving Despite Limited Precipitation

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Tom Kellie

Several Morning Birds

The morning game drive concentrated on larger mammal species, especially as Anthony felt that he needed to find a cheetah to complete

our safari's sightings. Here and there birds appeared, perched, on the ground or in the air. A White-throated Bee-eater on the snag of a

dead palm frond was a petite bundle of energy and vivid plumage. Observing us from above, on a shaded branch, was a Grey-headed

Kingfisher, its plumage wet from having dived into shallow water. A Tawny Eagle soared past on thermals, altering its powerful

wing pinions so as to maximize aerodynamic life. Birds expand possible sightings during a safari.


White-throated Bee-eater on a Dead Palm Frond


Vigilant Grey-headed Kingfisher


Banking Turn


Wing Feathers Provide Aerodynamic Lift

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Tom Kellie

A Mixed Herd in Shade

With the onset of midday heat, when the Sun's flaming path sears all below, herd animals seek shelter beneath available shade. We encountered

a mixed herd standing beneath long-established Doum Palms. Mostly Grant's Gazelle, there were also Beisa Oryx and Gerenuk. As is typically

the case, each species remained with others of its kind, not noticeably interfering with other species. All the while, a male elephant was on the

other side of bushes, as if surreptitiously observing the goings-on of the mixed herd. Samburu is an especially

rewarding reserve to visit as the sightings are frequent and usually high quality.


Mixed Herd Beneath Doum Palms


Herd Dwarfed by the Doum Palms


Large Mask, Large Muzzle


Grant's Gazelle Herd


Grant's Gazelles in Shade


Female Gerenuk in Shadow


Alert Gerenuk


Oryx and Friends


Somebody's Watching the Herd!

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Tom Kellie

Impala Bachelor Herd Seeking Water

In the dry bed of the Ewaso Nyiro River, animals long accustomed to sating their thirst with free-flowing river water were confronted with desiccating emptiness.

The few remaining pools held but a fraction of normal river flow. An impala bachelor herd gingerly stepped down the steep bank into the lifeless riverbed, in

search of water. They looked around while approaching a pool, aware that predators lived in the area. Nonetheless, their thirst overcame their trepidation.

We observed them, admiring their graceful form and sizable curved horns. Unbeknownst to the impala or to us, we weren't the only eyes fixed on their brief river visit.


Artful Horn Shadow


Grateful Thirst-Quenching


A Most Likable Species!

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There can be few better sights than a group of elephants - adults, youngsters, and young babies just learning to control their trunk. Lovely to look at.

I relly like the Oryx, and of course the gerenuk. They sky is amazing in the "mixed herd in shade shots" - the Doum palms with the sky behind make a beautiful scene.

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Unbeknownst to the impala or to us, we weren't the only eyes fixed on their brief river visit.



Leaving us in suspense, I see?


Beautiful elephants; "When Rainfall Slackens" is an especially well-composed image.

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