Botswana Birds

Copyright Notice: All photos in this blog are copyrighted by the owner, Jo Ann Creore. All rights reserved.

 

 

Beautiful, fascinating, frustrating. Most birds look best in flight, if you can see them. On land or tree branch, they seldom strike interesting poses, and their expressions seldom change. So unless their plumage was remarkable, or water added a reflection to the picture, I consigned most of my bird photos from this trip to the discard file.

Vultures are not pretty. In fact, with their bald heads, they are downright repulsive until they take flight.

Take off at sunset

Take off at sunset

 

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Working up the colour ladder, some birds just naturally have character, even when they’re not doing anything.

We apologize for interrupting your nap.

We apologize for interrupting your nap.

 

Others just seem to be part of the landscape.

Two eagles

Two eagles

 

We saw a number of hammerkopfs, usually in lighting that made them dark blobs. Water and a bit of sun helped show off this bird’s beautiful head.

Hammerkopf

Hammerkopf

 

You don’t need colour if you’re an ostrich. A nice pose will do.

Back to back dance

Back to back dance

 

And if you can pose like this heron, black and brown are all you need.

I think Rembrandt would be impressed.

I think Rembrandt would be impressed.

 

Black and white work well too.

I have no idea what bird this is, but it has wonderful legs.

I have no idea what bird this is, but it has wonderful legs.

 

Black and white also go well even if they are not on the same bird. These two egrets were frequently found together.

Slaty egret

Slaty egret

White egret

White egret

 

A wacky expression and a bright yellow beak make the hornbill an interesting subject. Our guides called them flying bananas.

Yellow-billed hornbill

Yellow-billed hornbill

 

All this bird has to do is show up.

No ID, but I'd know him anywhere.

No ID, but I’d know him anywhere.

 

Bee eaters made me wish for a very long zoom lens. All I had was a 300mm.

Bee eater

Bee eater

 

And now, my favourite bird, not just in Africa but on any continent. This amazing bundle of colour doesn’t have to do anything.

Lilac-breasted roller

Lilac-breasted roller

 

In flight, it speeds by as a blur of colour. But the burst mode on my camera captured its true glory.

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A little out of focus, but you can't beat the expression.

A little out of focus, but you can’t beat the expression.

Lions: The Faces of a Predator

Copyright notice: All photos on this blog post are copyrighted by Jo Ann Creore. All rights reserved.

 

 

If the leopard is a marvel of grace and beauty from the whiskers on its nose to the white tip of its tail, the same cannot be said of lions. Powerful and majestic? Certainly. The top predator of Africa looks the part, but that powerful, majestic body is not what drew my eye when looking through a viewfinder. I have perhaps a hundred photos of lions on my memory card, and almost all focus on the head. With the cubs, it’s the eyes that grip me. With an adult male, it’s the incredible range of expressions. In fact, the photo below is one of only three that I took of  lions standing up. The other two were taken a few seconds later and are even worse.

Brothers

Brothers

I much prefer the following view of the male.

Here I am at my best.

Here I am at my best.

Okay. Maybe he looks a little like Bert Lahr in The Wizard of Oz, but he’s a lot more impressive lurking quietly in the grass than wandering through the brush.

Sunlight and a sculpted head make beautiful images.

Cub looking for Mom

Cub looking for Mom

She's not there either.

What’s over there?

And then a cub turns his eyes on me.

Do I know you?

Do I know you?

And what eyes!

Through the lens, we share a private moment.

Through the lens, we share a private moment.

We came upon four cubs devouring a baby zebra. After a first glance to confirm that we were irrelevant, they returned to feasting.

This is OUR meal!

This is OUR meal!

It didn’t take long for the zebra to become unrecognizable. And as the pieces got smaller, brotherly love turned to fierce competition.

It's mine!

It’s mine!

We stopped by the scene next morning. The cubs didn’t leave much.

Remains of the feast.

Remains of the feast.

Remains of the feast

Remains of the feast

Remains of the feast.

Remains of the feast.

Where did it all go? It was still there, waiting to be digested twenty-four hours later.

A very full belly.

A very full belly.

With a little water to wash it down. Note that one cub is a lot smaller than the other. We weren’t sure why.

Brothers

Brothers

The cubs are cute, but an adult male is a master of expressions that almost require a human interpretation. The following photos were taken of the same lion over a period of several minutes.

Butter wouldn't melt in my mouth.

Butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth.

Yawn! See what a big tongue I have.

Yawn! See what a big tongue I have.

I am oh so superior.

King of the beasts? Indeed!

The laugh's on you.

The laugh’s on you.

The most memorable encounter with the lions occurred as daylight was failing. Two brothers asleep, wrapped in each other’s arms. As the limits of my ISO were exceeded, they proceeded to wash each other like house cats before finally rising and wandering off for the night’s hunt.

Male bonding.

Male bonding.

 

 

 

Leopards: Poetry in Motion

Copyright Notice: All photos in this blog post are copyrighted by Jo Ann Creore. All rights reserved.

 

On a previous safari in Tanzania, I was fortunate to see a few leopards, but we never lingered long in one place, and our sightings were accidental. In Botswana, however,we actively tracked predators, and once we found them we stayed with them, sometimes for hours. Our first encounter with a leopard came as half of our group was watching four lion cubs feast on a baby zebra. We had originally set out to find the leopard, and when our second vehicle located her, close to the lions, we all drove over to see. She was in a tree, and stayed there for perhaps thirty minutes before dropping to the ground and disappearing in the thick brush.

Female leopard in tree

Female leopard in tree

 

Once in the bush, leopards are so well camouflaged that only well-practiced eyes can spot them. Fortunately, we had an expert tracker in each vehicle.

Disappearing act.

Disappearing act.

 

When the leopard finally appeared, ever so briefly, she was a ghostly figure, slipping through the long grass.

Silent passage

Silent passage

 

To me, there is no more beautiful cat than a leopard, and I must have taken over 100 photos, because almost  every sighting revealed an elegant pose.

Alert

Alert

 

At rest

At rest

 

And when at rest, of course she had to yawn.

Open wide!

Open wide!

 

At Tubu Tree camp, we had our best leopard encounter. Two females had been challenging each other for territory, and one had eaten the other’s cub a couple of nights previously. We were privileged to watch the culmination of the dispute, as one finally triumphed and the other had to slink away, perhaps to return next year.

In the photo below, the light was not right, but the body of the leopard in the midst of the jump is magnificent. If you look carefully, you will see the second leopard lurking in the grass behind.

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We repositioned our vehicle, and with the rapid fire of my camera, I was able to shoot the following sequence of the second leopard.

Ready to jump

Ready to jump

Coiled for launch

Coiled for launch

Launch

Takeoff

In mid air

In flight

Landing

Landing

Now where's my rival?

Now where’s my rival?

 

I’m not certain if this second leopard was the eventual winner or loser, since both looked alike to me. But the grace and beauty of this animal captured my heart.

Deadly grace.

Deadly grace.

 

The two rivals walked in close proximity to each other for a long time.

Rivals

Rivals

 

The final showdown occurred out of sight, behind the small tree, and lasted no more than five seconds. Victory went to the leopard in the rear. The  loser assumed a submissive posture and left the scene.

Battle over.

Battle over.

Botswana Photo Safari: Twelve Best

Copyright Notice: All photos on this blog post are copyrighted by the owner, Jo Ann Creore.  All rights reserved.

 

I’ve taken a long hiatus from blogging but not because I have been inactive. Wonderful trips to a Mexican ranch for horseback riding and to Baja to touch and kiss grey whales, plus a return to my favourite winter backcountry retreat have made for a busy year. Normally I would hasten to write about these trips, but a new passion has taken over my life: writing mysteries. It took a photo safari with Natural Habitat in Botswana to jolt me back onto the blogging path.  In subsequent posts, I’ll share images of various animals, but I want to start with my favourites: the twelve best.

The first six were easy. Here they are, in random order. Click on photos for full-screen view.

 

1. Heron. This bird seemed to be posing for a Rembrandt painting.Heron

 

 

2. Female Leopard. Grace and confidence.

Female Leopard

 

 

3. The light was right, and the lady performed.

Female Leopard

 

 

4. A magic moment, when the impala posed against the light.

Impala

 

 

5.  I have no idea what he was laughing about.

Lion laughing

 

 

6.  Four cubs wondering who we are.

Four cubs dining

 

 

The next six won out over stiff competition.

 

7.  The most beautiful bird in Africa in all its glory: Lilac-breasted Roller.

Lilac-breated Roller

 

 

8.  Killer expression.

Roller

 

 

9.  Vultures are beautiful only when they fly.

Vultures

 

 

10.  I didn’t see the baby in the middle until I started working on the photo.

Elephant family

 

 

11. I didn’t take a lot of landscapes, but I love the peace and calm of this scene.

African calm

 

 

12.  Majestic baobab trees.

Baobabs

So you want to climb Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro from Moshi

Maybe it’s on your bucket list.  Maybe you want to raise money for a good cause. Perhaps you’re a young adult touring the world looking for adventure, or a senior citizen hoping to prove that you’re not over the hill yet.  Whatever your motivation, you have decided to climb Kilimanjaro. Now what?

Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s great mountains; it’s the highest point in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain (not part of a range) on earth.  Happily, its summit is within the reach of anyone in reasonable physical condition; it is technically no more difficult than a rugged mountain hike.  Many people who set out to climb it, however, never reach the summit – I’ve been told that perhaps 50% of attempts fail.

I climbed a lot of mountains in my younger days, went on to gentler pursuits, and then, 20 years later, got to the top of Kilimanjaro at the age of 72, when my knees were shot and my aerobic capacity was limited.  From that perspective, here are a few hints for those who want to attempt this magnificent volcano.

The greatest problem on Kili is acclimatization.  Since most of us don’t live at or above 3000 M, our bodies need to make major adjustments to the rarified atmosphere of the mountain, whose summit is close to 6000 M.  The most popular route on Kili is the Machame route; it’s very scenic but very short, allowing the body little time to acclimatize, but even longer routes, such as Limoshu, push the body to its limits. Acute Mountain Sickness is a deadly condition that can strike without warning and kill quickly.  Make no mistake – this mountain can kill you.

Being physically fit will make the climb more enjoyable, but fitness offers limited protection from altitude sickness.  It can even be a liability if it leads you to push yourself too hard.  The mantra of Kili is “pole, pole” (slowly!).  If you climb with a group, leave your ego behind and aim to be the slowest member of the party.  If your guide or porters are trying to get you to go faster, you have chosen the wrong outfit to lead you (they have your money and they want to get the trip over with).

The ideal way to acclimatize is to climb a neighbouring volcano, Mt Meru, immediately before Kili.  That climb will take you quite high, after which you should be able to waltz up the Machame route with no problems.  If you don’t have time for that, then I advise taking one of the longer routes such as Limoshu.

You are required to climb Kili with a guide and porters. It’s possible to arrive in Moshi or Arusha and hire someone on the spot, but you will have no idea how qualified they are. I strongly advise going with one of the better companies, even though they may be more expensive. The good ones will let you know what percentage of their clients reach the top (it should be more than 90%). There should be a good ratio of guides to clients and the guides should have medical training in high altitude response as well as climbing credentials. I went with Tusker Trail, which is easily one of the best, but there are other good outfits. Do your research on the Internet.

Do not start the climb if you are sick; a common cold will quickly turn into bronchitis under the stress of the climb. Be completely honest with your guide as to how you feel, as hiding symptoms just allows matters to get worse. There are ways to deal with altitude problems, and most people will be able to continue with a little treatment.

Assuming that you cope with the altitude, the main key to success is mental.  How badly do you want to reach the summit? There will be times when the path ahead seems just too daunting, when you are gasping for breath and your legs feel like lead. Those are the times to put your head down and concentrate on just taking the next step.  Don’t look up the mountain – the distance to go will seem impossible.  Instead, look down and take heart from how far you have come.

Kili will cause you to dig deep, perhaps teach you things you did not know about yourself.  The climb may well be the hardest thing you have ever done, but the sense of achievement can be life changing.