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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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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.




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She's All Ears



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Gerenuk in Profile



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Classic Gerenuk Pose



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Bipedal Evolution?



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Incongruous



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Top-end Dining



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Termite Mound, Acacias and Standing Gerenuk



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Female Gerenuk Pair



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Cantering Gerenuk



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Unconcerned with Follies



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The Three Graces



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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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michael-ibk

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.




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Passing Under a Branch



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Gradations



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Incisive



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Serpentine



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Balletic



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Male Eupodotis gindiana



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Unruffled



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Innate





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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.




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Circaetus cinereus



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Brown Snake-Eagle



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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.




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Look Who's on the Track



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Oryx and Distant Elephants



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Oryx Herd Walking Towards Rocks



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Not Far from the Ewaso Nyiro River



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Four Passing Oryx



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Juvenile Oryx with Adult



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Passing Parade



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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.




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Samburu Breakfast



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Warthogs Near Structures



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Crowned Cranes and Warthogs



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Peaceful Coexistence



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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!




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Lololokwe Massif



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Rock Outcroppings with Lololokwe



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Elephant Family with Doum Palms



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Samburu's Clear, Blue Skies



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Samburu Mother-love



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Samburu Sonata



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One Egret, Three Elephants



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Stragglers



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Tusk Tips Starting to Show



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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.




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Birds Fishing



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Marabou Stork with a Catch



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Stork with a Fish and Spoonbills



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Along a Rivulet



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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.




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Wading Crowned Cranes



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You First



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Matched Set



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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.




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Samburu Landscape with Doum Palms



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Ol Doinyo Koitogorr, Doum Palm & Elephant



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Fraternal Twins



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Doum Palm and Lololokwe



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Lololokwe as a Magnificent Backdrop



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Sticky Wicket



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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.




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Gypohierax angolensis



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Palm-nut Vulture Soaring



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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.




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Meet and Greet



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Buffalo Springs Playground



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Seeking Limited Water



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Playing While Adults Eat



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Elephants in Buffalo Springs



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Thirsty Elephant, Empty River



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Thirst Loves Company



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Walking Up the Bank



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Elephant Quartet with Weaver Nests



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Put Your Left Foot Here



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A Baby Resting Flat on the Ground



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Togetherness



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Available in All Sizes



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Going In Its Own Direction



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Dribs and Drabs of Muddy Water



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When Rainfall Slackens...





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Earthian

@@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

Riverbank



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.




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User-made Access Ramp



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Fallen Trees, Ewaso Nyiro River and Elephants



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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.




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White-throated Bee-eater on a Dead Palm Frond



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Vigilant Grey-headed Kingfisher



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Banking Turn



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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.




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Mixed Herd Beneath Doum Palms



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Herd Dwarfed by the Doum Palms



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Large Mask, Large Muzzle



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Grant's Gazelle Herd



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Grant's Gazelles in Shade



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Female Gerenuk in Shadow



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Alert Gerenuk



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Oryx and Friends



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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.




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Artful Horn Shadow



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Grateful Thirst-Quenching



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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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