November 16, 2014
I finished my construction safety management project near Chingola, Zambia and spent the night at the Michelangelo Hotel in Ndola, Zambia. The accommodations were impeccable. During my evening swim I noticed thousands of large bats migrating south, they were huge! At first glance I thought they were night-herons. It turns out that millions of these bats migrate through each year. Tomorrow I fly on to Livingstone, Zambia to meet my wife Rebecca, whom I haven’t seen in over 100 days.
November 17, 2014
What a sight for sore eyes! Rebecca! That’s Victoria Falls in the background on the Zambian side. The Zimbabwean portion of the falls is in the distance. Not much water this time of year, it is still the dry season.
My turn for a photo op.
Incredible views. What a gorge!
Here we are on top of the falls.
I saw a large bull elephant here in September, and there is plenty of dung around here, so we are on the lookout.
November 18, 2014
Rebecca and I visited Mosi O Tunya for a White Rhino game walk. We were accompanied by a ranger and a guard â€“ carrying an AK-47.
Very dry here, perhaps 10 kilometers from the Zambezi River, yet hippos roam this far away from the river this time of year! The lower vegetation has been heavily grazed, but is just starting to come back, “greening up” after a few rains.
Two Dung Beetles and their golf ball-sized sphere of dung. When these insects take wing, they are about the size of a hummingbird. It just goes to show, in nature practically anything is possible.
A Southern Red-billed Hornbill. They are about 18 inches tall.
Rebecca and the ranger pause to check out â€œsignsâ€ â€“ aka â€œlarge mammal poopâ€.
Cape Buffalo just a few hundred meters off. This species kills several humans every year, so we give them a wide berth.
Finally a large female White Rhino!
What a strange-looking beast!
Thatâ€™s a young one on the right.
The two hour walk was worth it. However, it turns out the animals were right next to where we parked. The guide simply took us on a long natural history walk, saving the best for lastâ€¦Or so we thought. Actually, the drive back with the guide along the Zambezi River to Livingstone was teaming with large mammals! Here, we’ll show you a few below!
The Zambezi River â€“ perhaps 20 kilometers upstream from Victoria Falls, inside Zambia.
A distant Nile Crocodile. These consume humans every year, primarily natives who visit rivers to bathe and do laundry.
A wart hog or â€œpumbaâ€.
When they kneel down like this, they are at risk of attack from predators.
Zebra wintering habitat, only a few hundred meters away from the Zambezi River.
The animal on the left is pregnant.
Rebeccaâ€™s first wild African Elephant.
November 19, 2014
Today we are crossing the Zambezi River into Botswana. We are headed to Chobe National Park for a morning boat tour, and an afternoon game drive.
The Zambezi River is very wide at this point, not far from Namibia.
We paused on the Botswana side waiting for a few additional passengers. In the meantime I saw this distant roller, which was a life bird or â€œliferâ€ for me. (I have this and the following birds identified and checked off in my African field guide back in Portland, Oregon…Unforutanely I did not take it with me to Kwajalein Atoll where I am working and catching up on my blogs. Today is New Years Day 2015, so I have some time!)
And another lifer to re-identify.
Finally we boarded this small vessel for our morning river tour out to Sedudu Island. Sedudu means herd of hippos.
An Open-billed Stork at our Customs stop.
It appears to be the same individual I photographed two months earlier in this very same location.
A very large Nile Crocodile.
A Cape Buffalo resting on Sedudu Island.
A couple of elephants contemplate crossing the river.
A type of shorebird called a Ruff.
Several Ruff in flight. These are likely Eurasian Birds overwintering here.
A Common Sandpiper â€“ a close relative of North Americaâ€™s Spotted Sandpiper. It is also a tail bobber.
Hippos also take out several humans every year. One assertive bull went after our boat from the water, but we were much too fast for him.
We often paused to comment on the beauty of sky, water, and landscape.
A Yellow-billed Stork at rest.
More hippos (less cowbell).
The same bird. The largest heron on earth, I believe.
A closer view of the same Impala.
A Water Thick-knee.This is a plover-like type of shorebird.
What is this?
The same bird. What is it?
One final guess?
It is a fledgling African Black Skimmer (left). The adult is on the right.
That does it for the boat tour. Next: Game Drive.
The Game Drive. Passengers are required to stay inside the vehicle. Our companions included folks from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Turkey.
The Chobe River and the tip of Sedudu Island off in the distance, dotted by Cape Buffulo.
Again the sky and landscapes are remarkable!
A newborn Impala.
A mother Impala and a group of newborns.
A Red-billed Oxpecker gleaning pesky insects from an Impala.
A large eagle-like raptor called a Bateleur.
Two baboons are better than one.
I was so happy to find one of these nocturnal Hammerkops out foraging in broad daylight. In German, hammerkopt means â€œhammer headâ€. Well that does it for our day trip with Kalahari Tours.
November 20, 2014
Goliath Beetle. I rescued this beetle from the pool.
Christmas shopping in Livingstone. Time to dicker over prices.
Bec admires a handsome young Zambian boy.
Rebecca with new knee brace, standing just outside the entrance to the Livingstone Museum.
An exhibit of an early African. Very low tech, typical.
The streets are pretty tidy around Livingstone; elsewhere in Zambian cities, litter and garbage seem to be everywhere. Municipal garbage pick up is non-existent; garbage piles up; some is burned in backyards and along roadsides; no one recycles.
A Laughing Dove which I photographed from the swimming of our Protea Hotel.
Below are a few other birds photographed around the hotel grounds.
How do you suppose this bird got its name?
Airborne. On our way to Cape Town!
Coming in for a landing in Cape Town.
November 21, 2014
Lionâ€™s Head, Cape Town. A view from our room in one of Capetownâ€™s Protea Hotels.
Table Mountain as seen from our room.
What is the bird on the apex (highest point) of the building?
It is an Egytian Goose. They are quite common in South Africa. Escapees have established a breeding population in Floridaâ€¦unfortunately!
What are these?
They are gossling Egyptian Geese.
I am guessing it is an Eastern Gray Squirrel imported from the US, with our fast food franchises.
And what might this be? If you guessed Rock Dove, or Rock Pigeon, you are correct. Yet another unwelcome invasive species.
A species of White Eye to be re-identified. My first! However, several hundred more to follow during this trip!
A Hartlaubâ€™s Gull. Again, a lifer!
A close up of the same bird.
The first (of two) Protea Hotel where we stayed in Cape Town.
Cape Town has a great double-decker tour bus system that makes scheduled loops and stops. This service makes it very easy to get around Cape Town. We never rented a vehicle the entire trip!
The World of Birds sanctuary and rehab center.
This and the next six photos were taken inside World of Birds. Some species of hornbill.
A pair of the same hornbills.
A turaco â€“ a type of African lourie.
An African Crested Crane.
Ground Hornbills. These are very large birds. Almost a meter in length.
A Saddlebill Stork.
A close up of the same bird.
A township where the less afluent dwell in informal housing. We could have â€œtouredâ€ this township, but it did not feel right to us.
Bec enjoying a liesurely stroll along the Atlanticâ€™s surf.
A view from where Bec is resting (on the right). The Twelve Apostles on the horizon.
Yet another view from where Bec sits!
The backside of Lionâ€™s Head, I thinkâ€¦
Much warmer here at 33 degrees south lattitude, compared to Portland, Oregon at 46 degrees north!
A Cape Wagtail â€“ my first. Yes they wag their tails.
The famous clock tour on the waterfront is a landmark where people meet. In the late 1800â€™s it was the harbormasterâ€™s building.
The harbor. The sign states â€œSan Francisco, 16,690 kilometers. Thatâ€™s 10,360 miles! So we are probably Â just as far from Portland, Oregon.
Hereâ€™s Greg in front of an elephant sculpture. The structure is metal framed; the entire â€œskinâ€ is made entirely of tiny blue beads.
Dancing to a native drum. They are good and earn tips.
A sub-adult Kelp Gull. Another life bird for me.
This bird has pink legs. Itâ€™s flight feathers are very worn and it will need to molt shortly.
For comparison, an adult Kelp Gull, at least four years old I am guessing.
Kelp Gull. Close up head shot.
The adultâ€™s feet and legs are greenish yellow, unlike similar, large, dark-mantled gulls back in North America.
Adult Kelp Gulls have white tails and rumps, and a lot of black on the underside of the wing tips, see?
An adult Hartaubâ€™s Gull. We noticed these birds dining and dashing away with unguarded french fries.
A cormorant and three Hartaubâ€™s Gulls.
A Great Crested Tern in flight. These are large terns, about the same size as a Caspian Tern.
That’s all for the 21st.
November 22, 2014
Our trip up Table Mountain. We are just about to depart the arial tram near the top, at over 3,500 feet elevation above sea level.
Impressive but limited views today because of the clouds rolling in (aka â€œthe table cloth).
Typical habitat and terrain.
We were quickly greeted by this male Red-winged Starling.
â€¦and this female Red-winged Starling.
The same bird with a distinctive orange rump.
A close up.
A Dassie â€“ a type of hyrax, like North Americaâ€™s Pikas/Conies, but 3 or 4 times larger. Itâ€™s closest relative â€“ the elephant! I am not making this up!
A mother Dassie with Pika-sized young.
A close up of a youngster.
They cuddle up to stay warm.
Dassie or Ewok?Â You decide.
A final close up. There were 30 of these creatures next to the outdoors cafeteria, just behind the stone wall.
An male Red-winged Starling hoping for handouts. Do not feed the animals!
An assertive female Red-winged Starling also foraging at the outdoor cafÃ©.
Female Red-winged Starling
This female Red-winged Starling, on my dining tray, posed temporarily for a close up head shot. They are much larger than the more familiar European Starling.
My first Speckled Dove. These turned out to be quite common in Cape Town and in Wilderness.
A male Orange-breasted Sunbird.
A female Orange-breasted Sunbird…At least this is what I presumed, based upon an apparent association with the male.
The same female. Sunbirds have long curved bills adapted for gathering nectar (and presumably insects) from flowers, like hummingbirds. Some folks call them hummingbirds; however, hummingbirds are absent in the Old World (Africa, Eurasia).
The tramâ€™s lift station and finch habitat.
Thatâ€™s Cape Townâ€™s 2010 World Cup Soccer Stadium in the distance.
It is getting very foggy and chilly so we decide to depart.
Spectacular. What more can I say?
Habitat and typical landscape as we desend.
Downtown Cape Town and the harbor in the distance.
Here is the station where we started our ascent and ended our descent.
November 23, 2014
Cape Town harbor.
We are on a boat headed towards Robben Island.
On our way towards Robben Island, we appreciate Table Mountain, shrouded in table cloth, far behind.
We hopped on a tour bus. We made a brief stop here to look for a specific type of bird. Which one? Do you see them?
Now do you see them? What are they?
They are African Penguins, my first! They are also called Jackass Penguins because of their voice.
Robben Island penitentiary, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of his 27 years in prison.
The sign at the prison entrance. â€œWelcomeâ€
Ironically, former prisoners serve as tour guides of the prison, which is now a museum.
An interpretative sign with a photo of a middle-aged Nelson Mandela (left).
A room where the cell mates were allowed to congregate after a dayâ€™s hard labor in the lime pit.
A view from Nelson Mandelaâ€™s cell.
The entrance to his cell.
A typical bed roll. Thanks to the Red Cross and resulting media attention, prisoners eventually received metal beds.
A Hadeda Ibis forages on the lawn just outside the prison gate. Time to meet back at the boat.
While waiting for our boat I had time to photograph a few birds. Here is another Hartlaubâ€™s Gull â€“ one of only three typically expected gull species in South Africa.
An adult Grey-hooded Gull.
Close up head shot of the same bird.
A Cormorant to be re-identified.
For comparison,another cormorant species to re-identify.
Heading back by boat towards Cape Town.
What are these flying low over the water? They are Sacred Ibises.
Again, distant Table Mountain and Lionâ€™s Head covered in clouds with Cape Town harbor, below.
November 24, 2014
Day trip to Cape of Good Hope. A stop along the way south with typical vegetation and scenery.
A species of canary to be re-identified.
The entrance to Cape of Good Hope, part of Table Mountain National Park.
We hiked up this trail, but unfortunately fog limited our views.
Cape of Good Hope, I believe.
A brief lifting of the fog and a better view.
Another sign post reminds us that we are over 10,000 miles from home (Portland, Oregon).
This unidentified female sunbird poked out briefly for this photograph. Itâ€™s bill was laden with pollen from the flowers above.
The clouds rolled in and out. The terrain was rocky grasslands, without trees.
Now here is something you donâ€™t see every day, meandering along the side of the road! Two ostriches. A life bird for me!
A close up head shot.
Great Crested Terns loafing slightly above the pounding surf.
A close up of the distant Cape Gannets. Another life bird! They appear very similar to our Northern Gannents back along the New England coast.
This is about as far south as one can get in the southwest portion of the African continent.
Greg and Rebecca at the Cape of Good Hope.
Greg and Rebecca with our college student transporter and guide, Richie. He is a recent Cape Town U. graduate, but not a birder – yet! Perhaps after this trip he will fine tune his new birding skills?! We spent several hours over many days with Richie. A fine young man with a promising future in finance, for certain!
Time to head back north and then east. But first a brief stop to photograph this unidentifed antelope.
The Indian Ocean (I believe) near a well-known colony of African (Jackass) Penguins at Boulder Beach.
Penguin habitat at Boulder Beach. See the birds?
Here are a few!
Here are several more.
They nest in burrows.
Those holes are their nest sites.
A non-breeding juvnile.
A breeding adult female.
A juvinile head shot
A juvnile starting to molt.
A breeding adult male with pink spot around the eyes.
So long Boulder Beach. So long penguins!
November 25, 2014
Greg and Bec stop briefly on our 5 hour drive east towards Wilderness.
A scenic bay and the Indian Ocean on the far left.
A town along the way.
A river with distant Flamingos on the water.
We stopped by this river because it seemed like good plover habitat.
My hunch paid off! A lifer plover to be re-identified.
An African Blue Crane, the national bird of South Africa.
We stopped briefly at a game ranch. That is a Wildebeest behind the antelope.
A little closer view of the Wildebeest.
African Pied Starlings. A life bird for me.
Wilderness Manor B&B, where we will be staying for several days.
The view from our room.
The board walk along the lagoon. A great way to view grebes, ducks, coots, and rails.
November 26, 2014
Sunrise over the lagoon at Wilderness. I slipped out early to bird. Many lifers are in store, for sure.
The lagoon facing west. Wilderness is part of the Garden Route and a national park.
The beach and the Indian Ocean at Wilderness.
A Yellow-billed Duck, a lifer!
A Cape Sugarbird.
A close up of the Cape Sugarbird.
A Cape Bulbul. Notice the distinct eye ring.
Another Cape Bulbul.
A Sombre Bulbul basking in the morning sun.
A Southern Boubou, I believe.
Another juvenile Cape Robin-Chat, out on its own.
Finally, a nice shot of a Cape Wagtail!
A Ringed Dove.
A type of grebe called a Dabchick.
A juvenile Blacksmith Plover near the lagoon.
An adult Blacksmith Plover attempting to distract my attention away from its offspring.
Adult Blacksmith Plovers have dark red irises that are difficult to capture in a photograph. That does it for early morning birding. Time to fetch Rebecca and go for a stroll along the Indian Ocean!
This time of year â€“ still the dry season â€“ the lagoon does not flow into the ocean; it terminates just a few meters away from the shoreline. During the rainy season the lagoon will become a river again.
Rebecca and surf at the edge of the Indian Ocean.
A fast snail. These burrow into the wet sand and can vanish in seconds.
A beached jellyfish, about the size and shape of a hard hat.
A Streaky-headed Seedeater.
A Speckled Mousebird. They spread their wings out, lean back, and bask in the sun.
Our hosts at the Wilderness Manor place sliced apples out every morning, which draws in a few species.
Head shot of a Speckled Mousebird.
The owners of Wilderness B&B maintain several sugar water feeders. Here is a species of white eye to be re-identified.
A female sunbird.
A brilliant male Southern Double-banded Sunbird.
An Olive Thrush, I think.
An unidentified species…perhaps a female or juvenile Sombre Greenbul?
A Knysna Lourie â€“ a type of turaco.
It likes the the apple slice â€“ a regular 7 am visitor.
What a beauty!
A close up head shot.
The lagoon view from our room. Time to go for a hike and work off a bit of the gorme food served here at Wilderness Manor B&B.
Our hosts JD and Gerald recommended a hike up both Kingfisher Trails, starting with Pied Kingfisher Trail.
A Fork-tailed Drongo.
A close up head shot of the drongo. It hawks insects like a flycatcher.
The river and canyon that we are about to hike along towards a waterfall.
We sign the log book at Half Collared Kingfisher Trail and off we go. I did see one of these birds here, another lifer!
Hereâ€™s Bec complete with her knee brace â€“ what a good sport!
We will have to ford the river when we come to it, but no sooner!
See what I mean? No bridge!
To cross we must fetch the pulley-operated pontoon boat and pull, pull, pull.
Here it comes!
And away we go!
Here is the view upriver, from the pontoon.
Much of the trail up the canyon is on board walk. The river is small creek at this point.
It is a strange riparian habitat.
Just a trickle of water through dense short vegetation.
A striped mouse of some sort.
It reminds me of a chipmunk back home.
At last here is the waterfallâ€¦perhaps 15 feet high.
Below the waterfall the stream is as dark as coffee, presumably from tannins and leaf litter.
A Wood Hoopoe. By now we are almost back to the trailhead where we started.
A Streaky-headed Seedeater. We are back on flat ground, hiking home at this point.
Back at Wilderness Manor B&B. Time for a few more bird photos and then a rest! A female Amethyst Sunbird, presumably.
I quickly kick back on the deck for some armchair ornithology. The Knysna Louries are back!
When they take off, brilliant red flight feathers become exposed and are hard to miss.
Knsysna Lourie. What a beautiful bird!
One final close up head shot.
A male Southern Double-banded Sunbird.
And finally this one. When the sun hits them that appear iridescent, like hummingbirds.
An adult Cape Robin-Chat (left) tending a begging juvenile.
November 27, 2014
A brief stop for shorebirds on our way to Knysna. I spotted several Whimbrel here.
What luck! My pre-study of satellite photos tipped me off that this might be a good shorebird pond. My hunch paid off. That is a sleeping Pied Avocet in front, at the left. The larger shorebirds are Greenshanks. The smaller shorebirds are Curlew Sandpipers (lifer!). The Curlew Sandpipers seem very similar to North Americaâ€™s Dunlins. This is the shorebird I was hoping to find today! A few distant Little Stints were present as well (another lifer bird).
Both life birds!
A nesting Black-winged Stilt.
Another Black-winged Stilt.
And another view as the sun peeps out for a few seconds. How do you suppose this bird got its name?
A close up head shot of the same bird.
Rebecca and Greg pose by the headlands of Knysna.
We pose for a bon voyage photo with Gerald and his trusty yellow lab. JD was off in Knysna. Our stay Wilderness and the Wilderness Manor was fantastic!
A brief stop inland through wine country on our way back towards Cape Town. I spotted a lifer.
Here is the lifer â€“ a brilliant male Red Bishop!
November 28, 2014
A steep walk up hill in the morning from our hotel yielded this view of Cape Town and the harbor.
And a nice view of the soccer stadium.
Here is our room in the second Protea Hotel we stayed in at Cape Town.
And another view of Lions Head and Table Mountain from our room.
On our way to the harbor I picked up this lifer.
November 29, 2014
We took it easy today. No photos. Some shopping. Dining out. Resting in the hotel room.
November 30, 2014
Christmas shopping. We always seem to be every vendors’ first customer of the day.
Street musicians performing near the harbor. One final dinner out in Cape Town. We head back for the states tomorrow.
December 1, 2014
See? I wasnâ€™t kidding. We had a wonderful vacation of a lifetime and would return in a heartbeat!