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


Tom Kellie

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Kitsafari

@@Tom Kellie, finally sparing some time to catch up with many ST reports! what a beautiful portrait of the kirk's dikdik. i've always had a soft spot for the dikdik ever since I spotted and sorta stalked it when it appeared outside my tent in Tarangire on my first ever safari!

 

you are bringing the flora and the insects and the small mammals back to the forefront, and I'm so pleased about it.

 

your pictures are awesome. and I know I never can reach those standards, so i'm happy to sit back and just enjoy and relish yours. I do wish that I was a student again (although I hate examintaions with a vengeance!) and attending your classes and going on field trips!! it would have been so fun to discover so many things.

 

and yes, like you, i would felt very uncomfortable about the goat-leopard episode as well. I wonder if they do it every day?

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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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ZaminOz

To atone, here's an image of Oena capensis, Namaqua Dove, which is an unassuming small species which I rather like.

 

 

I saw your great photo of a Namaqua Dove and thought... "That's not a a Namaqua", coz it doesn't look like the Namaqua that I photographed in August last year in South Luangwa... then I realised that it is because my photo is of a female, and females don't have the black frontage that the males have! Doh!

Nice image though :)

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Peter Connan

The Namaqua, while "merely a dove", is definately not "merely a dove". Along with the African Green Pigeon (a species I have yet to actually see myself), it is one of the prettiest.

 

And along with the Emerald Spotted Wood-dove, it is one of the iconic Safari sounds too!

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Tom Kellie

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

 

~ @@Peter Connan:

 

Many THANKS!

It was an experiment realized as a consequence of a surprisingly cooperative subject.

When the eye was magnified many times, the safari van was unmistakably visible.

I'm honored by your generous words.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

 

@@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!

 

 

~ @graceland:

 

If your husband agrees to a celebratory safari, pith handbag and all, the warthogs will pose, the eles will dance, the hippos with do handstands, the lions will protect the dikdiks, the rhinos will let you ride sidesaddle and the cheetahs will race backwards.

The leopards?

What they always do — show up at the most unexpected but apropos moments.

Thank you for liking the Tsavo birds. They richly merit their moment in the Sun.

Delighted that a safari is brewing in your future!

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

 

 

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.

 

 

~ @graceland:

 

It was one of those ‘now you see 'em, now you don't’ moments.

No sooner was the shutter pressed and it was gone.

Such vanished-in-a-second moments are the norm at Meru National Park, which I'll eventually upload.

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Meru fan!

Coming back as a roller, you won't lack for color! Such vibrant plumage they have.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

Wonderful Dikdid portrait, really love that photo.

 

 

~ @michael-ibk:

 

Thanks so much! I'm glad that you liked it.

It's one of those all-too-rare moments in nature photography when everything seemed to click.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

The Namaqua, while "merely a dove", is definately not "merely a dove". Along with the African Green Pigeon (a species I have yet to actually see myself), it is one of the prettiest.

 

And along with the Emerald Spotted Wood-dove, it is one of the iconic Safari sounds too!

 

~ @@Peter Connan:

 

Very glad to know that, all of which is entirely new to me.

The species you kindly mentioned I've seen in field guides, but never on safari.

As to the sounds, that remains an unknown frontier in my learning. Glad to know about it!

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

 

To atone, here's an image of Oena capensis, Namaqua Dove, which is an unassuming small species which I rather like.

 

 

I saw your great photo of a Namaqua Dove and thought... "That's not a a Namaqua", coz it doesn't look like the Namaqua that I photographed in August last year in South Luangwa... then I realised that it is because my photo is of a female, and females don't have the black frontage that the males have! Doh!

Nice image though :)

 

 

~ @@ZaminOz:

 

Guess who would have failed an exam question about Namaqua Dove sexual dimorphism — ME!

Until reading your post above, I clumsily assumed that the male morph was the species. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

In the guidebooks there's the female shown, yet my slack brain ignored it and supposed what I saw was all.

How often I must do that, carelessly and inadvertently missing out on a more complete perception.

Hence, BIG THANKS, @@ZaminOz, for bringing up the difference.

I'm so pleased hat you liked the image.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

@@Tom Kellie, finally sparing some time to catch up with many ST reports! what a beautiful portrait of the kirk's dikdik. i've always had a soft spot for the dikdik ever since I spotted and sorta stalked it when it appeared outside my tent in Tarangire on my first ever safari!

 

you are bringing the flora and the insects and the small mammals back to the forefront, and I'm so pleased about it.

 

your pictures are awesome. and I know I never can reach those standards, so i'm happy to sit back and just enjoy and relish yours. I do wish that I was a student again (although I hate examintaions with a vengeance!) and attending your classes and going on field trips!! it would have been so fun to discover so many things.

 

and yes, like you, i would felt very uncomfortable about the goat-leopard episode as well. I wonder if they do it every day?

 

~ @Kitsafari:

 

I'm really pleased that you liked the Kirk's Dikdik portrait.

That was the culmination of dozens of failed attempts spread over half a dozen safaris.

I'm grateful for your encouragement about flora, insects and small mammals. When I first started reading Safaritalk, about three weeks ago, I felt conflicted, as the lion's share of images were larger antelopes, bovids and large predators. I therefore wondered if what I'd photographed would be appropriate for the forum or not.

From what I understood, yes, Ngulia Lodge does daily ‘bait the leopard’. I was queasy about the transformation of a wild leopard from a skilled ambush predator into an all-you-can-eat guest with a permanent reservation.

Many thanks for your generous kind comments about the photos. Reading that redoubles my determination to persist in attempting to upload, despite substantial Internet interference here.

Tom K.

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graceland

@@Tom Kellie, finally sparing some time to catch up with many ST reports! what a beautiful portrait of the kirk's dikdik. i've always had a soft spot for the dikdik ever since I spotted and sorta stalked it when it appeared outside my tent in Tarangire on my first ever safari!

 

you are bringing the flora and the insects and the small mammals back to the forefront, and I'm so pleased about it.

 

your pictures are awesome. and I know I never can reach those standards, so i'm happy to sit back and just enjoy and relish yours. I do wish that I was a student again (although I hate examintaions with a vengeance!) and attending your classes and going on field trips!! it would have been so fun to discover so many things.

 

and yes, like you, i would felt very uncomfortable about the goat-leopard episode as well. I wonder if they do it every day?

Thanks @@Kitsafari, Although you will hit 2,000 before I will even think of 3K!!

 

Well on your way, and not taking five years at that...more diligent than I've ever been :) Looks like @@Game Warden better start stocking up on piths in various sizes; I have noted many folks nearing the 2K post mark!

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Tom Kellie

 

Thanks @@Kitsafari, Although you will hit 2,000 before I will even think of 3K!!

 

Well on your way, and not taking five years at that...more diligent than I've ever been :) Looks like @@Game Warden better start stocking up on piths in various sizes; I have noted many folks nearing the 2K post mark!

 

 

~ @@graceland, @Kitsafari:

 

Those who may be crowned with the Pith in the foreseeable future are both @@wilddog and @@Safaridude.

As they both write with verve, adding superb images, we'll all benefit as they continue to upload their impressions.

Pith-worthy.

Is that neologism ready for inclusion in the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary?

What's enjoyable is that those with frequent posts are those with much of value to share. I'm benefitting every day through reading others' perspectives.

Learning without examinations — that's more like it!

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

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What Tsavo West Looks Like



~ After looking through dozens of landscape images, this one seemed to best reflect my impressions of the morning game drive in Tsavo West. The track's gentle curve near trees, with ample grass. A habitat for grazers with options for browsers, both welcomed in the long-term planning of predators.



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Beauty Disdains Superlatives



Doesn't it?



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At Cliff's Edge



There was ample evidence of baboons having recently passed by this rock face. These plants intrigued me, so Anthony stopped so that I might photograph them. What caused them to live so near a precipice? Why did they grow in such an upright fashion? Why were they exclusively observed along the brink? Questions and more questions which might best be resolved by a return visit to Tsavo West. Something inside me gets a kick out of a species which specializes in living precariously.



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Upward and Outward Growth



While making this image I asked myself if anyone would be interested. The colors, shape and botanical exuberance appealed to me. To my surprise, my student safari partner liked it.

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Tom Kellie

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Circaetus cinerascens



The spotting of Circaetus cinerascens, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, in the fruit-filled baobab gave us a thrill. I'd seen a medium-sized raptor flying toward the isolated baobab, but had assumed it wouldn't be visible. Anthony-the-Intrepid rose to the challenge, bringing us close enough to observe and photograph it.



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Fruiting Baobab with Nests & Circaetus cinerascens



An action shot without action. From a biological perspective, this image has a wealth of detail. Nests spaced apart, yellowing foliage, baobab fruit, and a modest-sized Circaetus cinerascens off to the side. This too is life, as observed on safari. Aren't we the lucky ones to see so much, game drive after game drive, bush walk after bush walk, safari after safari?


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Tom Kellie

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Life Colonizes Igneous Rock



Aren't safaris about animals, Tom? Yes, and also about rivers, trees, clouds, sunsets, lakes, valleys, waterholes and waterfalls. Surely there's room for recent evidence of volcanism. Don't we enjoy looking over NASA images of the lunar regolith or of Martian soil. Then why not Tsavo West igneous rock? We're on the life team, so we cheer on colonization by our brothers and sisters in the Plant Kingdom.



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Molten Lava Feathers Turned to Stone



What process produced this artifact? When it glowed red-hot, what a hellish broth must have swirled and slushed nearby. Now the home of small lizards, spiders and the occasional dragonfly. It's violent beauty remains as a mute testament to Tsavo West's Pompeii. Clearly, both Kenya and Africa remain very much alive.



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More Centuries Needed



Although the lava flow which deposited this material was centuries ago, more centuries are needed before it sufficiently breaks down to provide a comfortable habitat for the usual suspects. A few colonizing grasses have pioneered the process.



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Limited Post-Lava Flow Colonization



We drove around this small volcanic hill. The lava looks as black as if the eruption had been no more than one year ago. A few early colonizers are growing around the summit. What tough plants they must be. It's become evident why the Mtito Andei Entrance sign referred to Tsavo West as being the ‘Land of Lava’.



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Corythaixoides leucogaster with Lava Hill



A winged visitor to the volcanic landscape! Corythaixoides leucogaster, White-bellied Go-away-bird, flew into a bush at the base of the small volcanic cone. This image provides a sense of scale.



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Trail Wending Upwards on a Volcanic Cone



That's a path which beckons my inner Darwin. Looking at it, I wish that a few friendly KWS rangers were with me to climb upwards, to see whatever we might see.


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Tom Kellie

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Minuet



A few sweet nothings, tête-à-tête.



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Corythaixoides leucogaster



This portrait of Corythaixoides leucogaster, White-bellied Go-away-bird, shows its jaunty air. It was photographed during a nearly eight-minute stop while we enjoyed the antics of a flock of Corythaixoides leucogaster, who were around the safari van on both sides.



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Corythaixoides leucogaster on a Branch



Perched on a branch, this Corythaixoides leucogaster exemplifies the vibrant health of all birds we observed in Tsavo West National Park. As indicators of prevailing local environmental conditions, all bird species were thriving, with healthy plumage and glistening eyes.


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Tom Kellie

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How and Why?



You tell me. What exactly is going on here? This Procavia johnstoni, Rock Hyrax, is taking the notion of ‘getting away from it all’ to extremes, don't you think? Perhaps it felt inspired by Miss Garbo...


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Tom Kellie

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Baobab with a Raptor Nest



~ We dubbed this isolated baobab the ‘Tree of Life’, as it brimmed with fruit, nests, insects, birds, and several small rodents. It was so exceptionally interesting to us that we drove close to it coming and going on our journey to Mzima Springs.



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Baobab in Ecological Context



Funny how one lonely old tree is able to provide so much fun to safari goers. Anthony was as jazzed as I was about the life in and around this baobab. He later deftly maneuvered us up close so as to facilitate better shots of the resident raptor.



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A Sturdy Branch



Somebody's home. We never observed the raptor on the wing. No matter. Watching it from below, tending to domestic nesting chores was fascination enough. Behavior ranks up there with morphological detail and beauty as desirable image attributes.



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Raptor in a Nest in a Baobab



Prima facie evidence concerning the raptor's motivation for remaining in the baobab ‘Tree of Life’.



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Tom Kellie

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Female Tockus deckeni



I'd never before seen either female or male Tockus deckeni, Von der Decken's Hornbill. Therefore when observing this hornbill, I was unaware that I was observing a female. My Chinese student asked if there was an injury on the neck when he noticed the characteristic red throat patch.



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Probing Into a Branch



She abruptly began probing into a decayed branch. While doing so, her wings went up, exposing their inner structure with the long flight pinions. We watched for two minutes, learning how she used her curved bill to excavate the dead wood.



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Euphorbia robecchii



The Maasai call it Dagerai, this hardy, widespread endemic tree. Euphorbia robecchii was sporadically observed during the game drive, yet clearly thrived on remote higher elevations.



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Euphorbia Support



While the upper growth of Euphorbia robecchii included green photosynthetic tissue, the lower trunk was gnarled and grey. The image appeals to me as it shows how life depends on the reliable but undramatic.



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Tom Kellie

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Delonix elata with a Nest



~ As much as anything, the morning game drive will be remembered as the occasion where I first saw and fell in live with Delonix elata, White Poinciana. Another of a long chain of species which were entirely new to me, I asked Anthony for time to enjoy and photograph it. Yet it's beauty was heightened by an arrival.



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Lamprotornis superbus on a flowering branch of Delonix elata



We hadn't seen any Lamprotornis superbus, Superb Starling, for two hours and were in a remote dry area when this single bird flew up and perched on a flowering branch of Delonix elata. The intense yet subtle beauty of the juxtaposition of bird and blooms struck a powerful chord within me. As politely as I could manage, despite inner excitement, I asked Anthony to “please back, back, back up...there!” He hadn't seen, but when I pointed it out he took out his camera to join me in photograph the improbably lovely moment in remote Tsavo West National Park.



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Safari Nirvana



Surely the most refined photographic composition my lens saw during the entire visit in Tsavo West National Park. It expresses an East African safari counterpart to the classical brush paintings of nature made in ancient China and Japan.



• This image is dedicated to the ladies of Safaritalk who've been so gracious, encouraging, helpful, humorous and kindhearted during my first 3+ weeks as a Safaritalk member. The beauty of endemic Delonix elata flowers and Lamprotornis elata plumage is especially for @@twaffle, @@wilddog, @@kittykat23uk, @@Atravelynn, @@graceland, @@Sangeeta, @@Patty, @@ld1, @@SafariChick, @@Kitsafari, @@Tdgraves and @@wenchy. Asante sana and merci beaucoup to each of you.



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Unexpected Delicacy



After drove for a few more minutes I requested another stop to photograph these acacia blooms. Their spare simplicity contrasted well with the dark hillside behind them. Anthony is such a patient guide to put up with such requests.



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Blooms on Stark Branches



We later saw these acacia blooms near the track. Anthony stopped without anything being said, taking out his own camera to record the plain beauty.


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Tom Kellie

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Grazing Kobus ellipsiprymnus



As we neared Mzima Springs, Anthony pointed out this solitary male Kobus ellipsiprymnus, Waterbuck, grazing amidst wildflowers. The russet tail tip and and white ring on the hindquarters are shown.



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Male Common Waterbuck



He looked up at us, which is when this image was made. A common safari species? Of course. Those common species reinforce to me that in a very real sense I'm home in Kenya, among the friends of my ancient forebears.





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Tom Kellie

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Syncerus caffer Skull



At the entrance of Mzima Springs, this Syncerus caffer, African Buffalo, skull was displayed. As it had been a long morning, we were delighted to step out of the safari van's confines. Our host was Roselyne, who was wearing camouflage fatigues, a beret and carrying a large rifle.



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Welcome to Mzima Springs



Business was off, Roselyne told us. Signing a visitor guestbook the dates told the story. External and intrinsic factors were causing would-be international visitors to rethink or defer their visits. We had Mzima Springs completely to ourselves, chaperoned by the armed Roselyne.




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Hippopotamus amphibius Jaws



These Hippopotamus amphibius jaws were propped open to provide visitors a sense of the power in a hippo jaw. I already knew to keep my distance. Seeing these redoubled that determination.



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Visit Maneaters Gift Shop



There must be a convention in the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) that entrance areas are at their best if ample wildlife skulls are prominently displayed. That's fine with me, as the bones have a geometric beauty all their own.



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Tom Kellie

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Bubbling Springs Water



~ This photo shows the water in Mzima Springs bubbling out of one of several outlets from its distant sources in the Chyulu Hills. The small torrent was noisy and refreshing, as a light, cool mist was around the water.



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Mzima Springs Cyperus sp. Sedge Panorama



The camera lens was placed low to capture the flow of fresh spring water by the Cyperus sp. sedges growing there. The long arch of the sedge stem conveys the ongoing flow and ongoing life of the sedges in remote Mzima Springs.



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Beware of Crocodiles



I'd teased my Chinese student about the dangers which were making his mother in Beijing anxious. When I saw this sign, I knew that it was the ideal prop to give her something to think about.


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Tom Kellie

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Hirundo smithii



~ There's a tale behind this Hirundo smithii, Wire-tailed Swallow, portrait. Roselyne had guided us to a short walkway over the pond to a submerged metal tank with underwater viewports. We saw several fish species. However, as I was carrying the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super telephoto lens, using it in such a narrowly confined space was out of the question. After a couple of minutes at water level, I was ready to leave to continue walking around the heavily forested park. I became aware that through a narrow opening for air circulation, I was being watched at remarkably close range. It was this Hirundo smithii, perched on a snag barely rising above the water surface. What to do? I repositioned myself within the crowded metal tank, leaning back as far as possible to place maximum distance between the lens and the swallow. It was at the edge of minimal focal length, yet I wanted to make the portrait. I jammed my portly self as far back as I could go — it focussed! Thus this image and several others were taken at water surface level at the absolute minimum focal length, showing Hirundo smithii at rest at Mzima Springs.



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Hirundo smithii at Mzima Springs



In this portrait, Hirundo smithii eyeball reflects the blue sky above, as well as the metal tank. The confluence of location, structure, timing, camera & lens and bird yielded one of my most satisfactory safari images.


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FlyTraveler

Great photographs and writing @@Tom Kellie! I really love the "Safari Nirvana" image - the Superb starling on the branch, it does look like a Japanese painting, indeed. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the report.

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