August 2, 2014
Flying east into nightfall, I dozed off frequently on board the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777. What an aircraft! At nine seats wide and at 50 rows deep, our crowded flight must have carried close to its 450 passenger capacity.
My flight arrived promptly on time at 6:45 am in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As I descended the exit stairs I observed my first African bird species, the Pied Crow, which has a black head, a white breast and upper back, and a black lower back and body. They were quite striking. I now have one species on my Ethiopian life list!
After a three-hour layover, I boarded a smaller Boeing jet headed south for my destination, Ndola, Zambia, with a brief stop in Lubumbashi, DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). As we landed in Lubumbashi the rusty hulks of derelict jets abandoned along the side of the runway were not particularly reassuring, and the small military tank positioned towards the end of the runway was not at all comforting. This brief layover occurred without leaving the parked aircraft, and before I knew it we were back in the air, and descending into Ndola, Zambia.
The final leg of my flight arrived as scheduled at 2:45 pm, remarkably with both pieces of my checked luggage. From the time I left Boston’s Logan airport until my arrival (minus six hours in time zone changes, but including layovers) I had spent approximately 26 hours in transit. And the price was very reasonable, only $1,400, including taxes. (If I had only booked this flight two weeks prior to departure, I could have made it to Ndola for a mere $1,200, plus baggage fees.)
The lobby of the Ndola airport is a no frills affair, with only the basics. I paid my $50 for the maximum 30 days visa and picked up my two pieces of checked baggage. The passenger pickup area behind this small airport seemed more like a commuter airport than an international airport. While waiting outside for my ride to Chingola, I paused to photograph some more Pied Crows and a few House Sparrows.
In Zambia people drive on the left hand side of the road, which is a throwback to former British colonial rule. We drove through Kitwe and on to Chingola on a paved, but potholed asphalt road, recently improved by Chinese convict crews, who work for next to nothing I was told. My driver – a young fellow from Ndola – complained that the Chinese get much of the public works projects, because local Zambians simply cannot complete with the very low Chinese wages.
While cruising along at 110 kilometers per hour (kh) I could not help but notice the speed limit was posted at 60 kh. I was surprised but not shocked to see large stands of pine forest plantations, not dissimilar from what I have observed back in the states, in southern Georgia and northern Louisiana. They appeared to plantations of pine imported from elsewher. At one police check point, we slowed way down and were greeted by dozens of boys attempting sell drive-by bags of carrots, pineapple and onions. One fellow hawked a bag of mice, for what intended purpose I do not know! The police waived us through without checking anything.
The traverse to Chingola took about 90 minutes. Finally I arrived at our hotel at 7 pm, where I met three friends for drinks and dinner. I had the savory rice and massive jumbo prawns, a most excellent meal. We chatted about the project in progress to date, and the project-related challenges ahead. This promises to be a cool project. (Update 12.29.14: No accidents, injuries, or environmental releases, despite the use of heavy equipment – multiple pieces!)
August 3, 2014
As Sundays are the only day off for my company’s team, we slept in and met for lunch at 11:30 am.
Our hotel is a new, well-appointed establishment. It is comparable, if not better than any similarly priced $100/night hotel I have stayed in back in the US. And the food at the restaruant, prepared by Tanzanian and Indian chefs, promises to be far better.
Gina from the hotel drove us out to the Mokorro Game Park, about 25 kilometers out of town, and provided us with a wonderful meal consisting of roasted chicken, baked potatoes and a fresh dinner salad. It was served by a young Zambian man with a broad smile and a great attitude. After lunch I took off on foot to photograph wildlife for about two hours.
My expectations for encountering birds were quite low as this was the middle of the day, under cloudless skies and intense sunlight, with temperatures in the upper 70s. I learned that we were at an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet above sea level, at 12 degrees latitude south of the equator. As I suspected, several species of birds were vocalizing, but they kept low profiles, and proved challenging to approach and photograph. The game animals were another story. Impala, Zebra, Water Buck and Sable wandered through the scrub freely, and were far more approachable; consequently I got much better photographs of these large mammals.
August 4, 2014
I got up to a 6 am alarm and did a few exercises. Today is a national holiday â€“ Farmerâ€™s Day â€“ so this should be a relatively quiet day. On the way to breakfast at the hotel I stopped briefly to photograph two African Pied Wagtails. I passed on the Nshima (a corn-based grits-like food) and selected ham and eggs, only, soon to be my paleo diet breakfast staple. Yes, I am going to wean myself off gluten and starches in general while I am in Zambia for the next three months. (Update 12.29.14: I failed miserably at this, but exercised regularly and avoided considerable weight gain.)
My company has strict restrictions on naming clients, project locations, individuals participating on the projects, etc. Â So, I will not be disclosing any such informantion. Thus only very generic descriptions of what I am doing during the day will be mentioned briefly in passing. All I can say is I am doing construction site safety management. Â Work is the primariy purpose and mission of my visit here in Zambia, Â and I am working six days a week and long hours each day. Â I will be mentioning the birds and wildlife I see, and what we do after work, but trust me, my focus is on work here, 110%, it has to be! Â Not birding…not yet…not until the project is over and I can vacation for a couple of weeks with my wife. Â So if it sounds like all I am doing here is birding and having dinner each evening, this is simply not the case.
We arrived at the job site a little before 8 am. Â During break I noticed a diminutive call note overhead, and glanced up to observe my first â€œliferâ€ hornbill â€“ the species to be determined. Shortly afterwards two falcons, which I also could not identify did a brief site fly-by.
After the drive back to the hotel, a shower and short nap followed, then off to dinner. Â My friends and I ordered the special, Impala. I had mine medium rare. To me it tasted like beef, not gamey, not chewy. The Tanzanian chef really knows what he is doing!
August 5, 2014
Another beautiful sunny day is in store. I stuck with my new paleo diet throughout the entire day. We made great progress again today. I noticed a few birds, too distant to identify, including a kite, a heron, and some type of Old World Warbler hanging out in the bamboo by our siteâ€™s main gate.
During lunch I observed a pair of small red-faced birds, called Black-collared Barbets. Â It smells a bit smoky around hereâ€¦I was told it was a combination of field burning, garbage burning, diesel engine exhausts, and emissions from the local copper mine. I imagine these factors contributed to the gorgeous sunset.
August 6, 2014
Today was another perfect, cloudless day, with temperatures in the 70â€™s and low 80â€™s Fahrenheit. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a new friend from England, is also a traditional old time folk music aficionado. He plays the English button concertina, like my former music collaborator and good friend Chris Potter, back in Portland, Oregon.
During lunch today I photographed a large mantis, a juvenile red hemipteran, and several unidentified butterflies. A couple of brazen Pied Crows visited our dumpster, and a pair of unidentified hornbills announced their presence with a distinctive call, as they flew over the site. I enjoyed delicious Nile Perch over dinner tonight with my friends. Â After my mentor departs this weekend, I am going to tone down the considerable volumes I consume at dinner. In the meantime I am picking his brain as much as possible, and quickly learning the routines at the job site.
August 7, 2014
Last evening I reviewed several Google Images of Zambian birds; consequently I was able to identify the kites we see daily on the way to work as Yellow-billed Kites. Today was pretty uneventful at the jobsite, thank goodness. Afterwards an informal soccer match erupted with the kids from across the highway.
After work, I went shopping at the market. A friend kept commenting about the edible caterpillars for sale at the market, so I bought some for the chef back at the hotel to prepare for us. I also selected some ripe bananas. The market is a colorful affair. I will return with a camera for photographs.
After the market, we stopped in at the large, busy Shop Rite to purchase additional provisions. I bought more fruit and two diet Cokes, and consumed both Cokes while waiting for a friend to pass through the checkout line. On the way out a rather short young fellow asked â€œPlease help meâ€, and his cohort chimed in â€œDonâ€™t bother themâ€â€¦a minor distraction, no big deal, really. Some 15 minutes later I commenced to stocking my refrigerator with the goods from Shop Rite and the market. Interestingly, one of the black plastic bags from the market was missing â€“ the one with the dried caterpillars, the empty Coke cans and a bunch of bananas. Apparently I had been duped. Did the pair of teenagers who created the minor distraction pluck one of my six bags? If so, I hope they werenâ€™t disappointed with the caterpillars!
August 8, 2014
This morning I remained at the hotel to conduct some training. The Mokorro Hotel’s conference room is state-of-the-art, and much nicer than most conference rooms of similar size (back in the states) where I have delivered training and presentations. With an hour off for lunch, I had time for a brief stroll through the neighborhood. I observed and photographed two life birds (i.e., lifers), an African Yellow White-Eye and a Forked-tailed Drongo.
Finally I got better photos of a cooperative African Pied Wagtail. Today was another rather typical day without incident.
Since today was the last scheduled day on site for my mentor, for the foreseeable future, our team met for dinner and drinks to see him off in good form. I asked Emmanual the waiter to turn off Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based television â€œnewsâ€ station which apparently does not seem to acknowledge the existence of South America and Australia. However, the station does graphically report sensational violence, so we refer to it as the â€œdeath channelâ€. Emmanual switched to a movie without sound, which I hadnâ€™t seen and so had no clue what was going on. It turned out to be The Fantastic Four.
I enjoyed a delicious Indian Chicken Chapatti dish, minus the chapatti bread. The Indian chef also knows his business! It was yet another excellent, award-winning meal here at the Mokorro Grill, as far as I am concerned. Â After dinner we met for drinks at the hotelâ€™s bar. Gina stopped by and presented each of us with a nice gift â€“ a Zambian soccer team jersey.
A new friend, Richard Kazala, arrived to party with the guests in full New York City Police uniform and accessory belt, for what occasion I am not certain. I was told Richard purchased the uniform on eBay, why, I did not ask. At any rate, no one was ticketed or arrested; however one fellow below was shaken down (and spent his last night in his hotel room in solitary confinement). It has been terrific working on site with him and he will be missed.
August 9, 2014
Today is the last day of our work week. However, we cut Saturdays off at 3:00 pm.
Arriving back at the hotel, I quickly took advantage of the few hours of remaining sunlight, and went for a long exercise walk in the neighborhood with camera in hand. I was rewarded with decent photographs of several life birds, which I will have to identify later. A quick Google Images search helped me confirm my tentative identification of a Blue Waxbill. I will have to order a field guide to the birds of Africa, and try to have it hand delivered by someone from the company.
After sunset I was invited down to the bar for drinks and complimentary dried caterpillars. These larvae appear to be the same species for sale over at the market. They are called Mopani and are closely associated with Mopane forests. A quick Google Imagine search confirmed my suspicion that the Mopani are a type of large silk moth, much like a Polythemus back home in North America. The dried Mopani caterpillars are quite crunchy and slightly seasoned. How do they taste? They taste like crickets. However, every so often you get one that wasnâ€™t completely purged of it intestinal contents, with a flavor I would describe as funky.
August 10, 2014
I woke up early and went out for a brisk walk in the neighborhood to get some much needed exercise and to photograph birds. I was rewarded with a few lifers (identities to be confirmed once I purchase the Zambian Birds Field Guide), including several African Palm Swifts, Southern Grey-headed Sparrows and three Grey Herons roosting in a pine tree.
I met my friends for breakfast at 8:30 am. At 9:00 am we departed for the Chimpfunshi Chimpanzee rehabilitation and refuge center, about an hour and a half drive. The last seven kilometers of dirt road were extremely rough for our van, but our driver Danny made it through at a snailâ€™s pace. Â (Here,a Â ride on such a rough road is called “An African Massage”.) Â We did not see many birds while en route.
We made the mandatory stop at the office to pay the entry fee, which goes directly to chimp conservation. We then drove off to the first very large enclosure. It was feeding time and the chimps were sounding off, quite loudly. I photographed chimps in trees, chimps on the ground, infant chimp faces, an adult male and female chimp faces. As I walked along the electrified fence the alpha male got assertive. He tossed branches at me and then clapped his hands very loudly. I posed to photograph his aggressive mug.
Chimp conservation is important and the preserve/rehab center is doing a great and much-needed service. We left shortly after consuming our boxed lunches. A few kilometers down the road we stopped for a brush fire under a heavily forested canopy of deciduous hardwoods.
The fire must have been displacing insects because several species of birds were actively feeding, including a distant hornbill, and a small flock of iridescent Greater Blue-eared Starling â€“ both lifers. Â A little further down the road we paused briefly to photograph a lifer African Hoopoe.
Halfway down the paved but potholed road we stopped at an open air market. Eventually we arrived back at the hotel and I went for an hour run, my first vigorous exercise in over a week. Zambia is so cool. Probably 95% of the life forms I am seeing and photographing are new to me! This is incredible and it only promises to get better as spring approaches.
The Pied Crows and African Pied Wagtails are gathering nesting materials, even now in the dead of winter at 12 degrees south latitude, 4,000 feet elevation. Every day has been cloudless and warm in the upper 70’s/lower 80’s.
August 11, 2014
Today was another uneventful day at work, with beautiful weather. I have nothing new to report. So I decided to post a collage of trip photographs.
August 12, 2014
A friend exchanged soccer Jerseys with Kalusha Bwalya who is the head of the Zambian Football League and the Zambian National Football Team.
August 13, 2014
We discovered an owl roosting or nesting on a steep wall along the edge of our job site. It appears to be nesting in what is best described as a shallow vertical depression, but not quite a cave. We are making a lot of racket, so I doubt that the bird is roosting here during the day because it is such a quiet and peaceful location. My hypothesis is the owl began nesting here shortly before Â we started working, and it is committed to a clutch of eggs. I was able to get a few decent documentation photos to check against Google Images. I still donâ€™t have a Zambian bird field guide book, but at least I have a checklist. Based upon picture matching my tentative identification is Spotted Eagle Owl.
August 14, 2014
The owl is back, so my hypothesis was correct â€“ this bird is nesting! If it is anything like its distant cousin, the Great Horned Owl (back in the US) it probably uses the same nest site year after year. I installed about a dozen meters of candy cane-striped barrier tape around the vicinity, and we are taking appropriate precautions to avoid disturbing this bird. I observed two new unidentified types of finches or waxbills today: A black and white type (male) and an unmistakable type with red face and vent (with small, white spots on black sides)â€¦I know I have seen this second species in my old book of West African birds.
Update 12.29.14: I checked the nest everyday from a respectable distance. On only one occasion did the mother leave the nest during incubation, and on that day I feared the worst – that perhaps her eggs/fledglings had been predated, and she had left for good. But below is what I found and photographed on 8.27.14. The next day she was back on the nest!
August 15, 2014
I have been noticing women gathering dead wood in the adjacent forest around the perimeter of our job site. They collect large bundles and balance their loads on the tops of their heads. The wood is used to produce charcoal, which is the primary fuel used for cooking in rural areas. Zambia does not have any natural gas, coal or oil resources, and must import such fossil fuels primarily for commercial and industrial purposes.
Back in the states Africans are frequently belittled for using charcoal, which produces carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming. (â€œIf only those Africans would stop making and using charcoal we would have much less deforestation and global warming to worry about.â€) Westerners have been informed that the practice of cutting live trees down for charcoal production has resulted in deforestation in arid regions of Africa. No doubt this is a huge problem with unintended consequences. And it is a problem that is only exacerbated by unsustainable population growth.
Now that I have been here for a couple of weeks I have a different appreciation for this custom and the impact that it appears to be having here in this part of Zambia. From the few wild fires I have observed thus far, I can say that such fires do not burn very hot, and the trees and shrubs in the forest understory appear well-adapted for surviving regular light fires. If the dead wood was left in place, the accumulated fuel would burn much hotter and likely destroy large tracts of forest. What type of landscape would result then, and how much carbon dioxide would be sequestered and/or released? Â Either way, that dead wood eventually IS going to get burned.
Africans have been an integral part of the ecology in Africa for millions of years and have shaped the present day landscapes. Â The age-old African custom of regularly gathering fire wood has resulted in the sustainable forests which we observe today in this part of Zambia. Despite the well intentioned criticisms of Westerners, the forests and landscapes around here appear to be doing very well, thank you very much. Update 12.29.14: After having visited the forests around Chobe National Park/Botswana in September, I have more information…Perhaps the only reason there are ANY forests remaining around the copperbelt and Chingola is related to the African Elephant? The folks around the copperbelt exterminated the African Elephant long ago – this species tears down small to medium-sized trees and creates savannah and grasslands habitats (see photos from September and November along the banks of the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers). If the African Elephant were reintroduced, protected, and allowed to roam freely (unlikely) throughout the copperbelt, there would be very little shrubbery and understory left for the Zambians to collect for charcoal production – the forest would likely be more savannah-like and there would be more grasslands. Unfortunately the local Zambians are very poor, and they eat anything wild that moves! Kids and adults routinely fire off vollies at Â birds with their catapults (slingshots) – consequently small mammals are scare, and birds are shy and skittish. I only saw one tiny snake the entire trip, a few lizards, and two species of mammals.
August 16, 2014
Today is the last day of our work week and I am looking forward to a short work day and Sunday off.
Gina has arranged a fishing trip for my friends.Â Normally I do not have the patience to fish, however I may give it a try (but only if it is possible to catch something that weighs as much as I do, with large, nasty, pointed teeth). In any event I plan to do a lot of collateral birding and photographing.
After work I took advantage of the short work day and remaining sunlight, and went for a stroll down the busy market street with my fancy 50X zoom Sony digital camera strapped around my neck.Â As I suspected I was not hassled by anyone.Â I paused by the Shop Rite to photograph what I believe are some sort of swift nests.Â I heard the birds chirping during my morning run at daybreak, and briefly observed a departing bird with a cigar-shaped tail; hence I am guessing â€œswiftâ€ and not â€œswallowâ€.
I turned north and paused to snap a photograph of a colorful street vendor, selling food cooked on a small active charcoal fire.
As I paused, an unidentified accipiter-like raptor flew in and landed nearby on the top of a tree.Â I got a few decent documentation photographs, which should prove adequate to identify the bird later.
As luck would have it, my friend Richard Kazala was driving by and stopped to invite me to attend a rugby game for a few beers only, not the entire game.Â And so I hopped into his car for another mini-adventure.Â Richard introduced me to several men and I had a very good time.Â In addition to being extremely helpful and a terrific host, I find Richard to be very informative.Â We stayed long enough to observe a couple of well-implemented plays and scores.Â Then off to happy hour and dinner with my friends.
August 17, 2014
After breakfast our team departed for the Mindola Dam and reservoir.Â The road under construction was quite bumpy and it proved to be a long haul.Â On the drive down I asked Gina about the extensive tracts of seemingly mature hardwoods.Â She explained that it is illegal to remove tress without a permit and that the law is well respected by most people.
The old tailings dam formed a large clear reservoir. Our driver Danny tried fishing but no luck. I shared the following with Danny and Gina, as they initially nodded their heads: â€œIt could be that you havenâ€™t learned how to fish for the types of fish present in this lake.Â In America we have a saying: Give a man a fish, and he eats for a dayâ€¦Teach a man a fish, and he drinks beer all day.â€Â Danny cracked up.
The park was not a wild area.Â I saw many birds in the landscaped vegetation, and a few species on the lawn, but most birds proved to be wary and difficult to photograph.Â The other day Richard informed me that the local children are often armed with â€œcatapultsâ€ (i.e., sling shots) and regularly hunt birds (illegally I assume). Perhaps this accounts for why so many species here appear to be hyper-aware of humans. But maybe not; the common African Pied Wagtails nest here, and they are possible to photograph; the same goes for the Dark-eyed Bulbul.
The highlights of the park included a Fiscal Shrike and a Richardâ€™s (African Grassveld) Pipit (both lifers for me).
We stopped in Kitwe briefly.Â Afterwards we visited an established hotel with old beautifully-landscaped grounds.Â Here I photographed a very cooperative African Grey Parrot, which is not native to this part of Africa.
August 18, 2015
While checking out of the project site for the day, two large hornbills announced their presence with plaintiff contact calls, right on time, almost like clockwork.Â In the morning when we arrive at the site this pair leaves the forest and heads northeast over the highway.Â Towards the end of our shift they return from the same direction.
I swung by the Shop Rite to purchase a soccer ball, and then met friends for dinner. Â My new friend Paul, from Durham England has travelled the world, climbed many mountains, and has survived a snow avalanche. His favorite countries are New Zealand and Nepal. Â Another friend has also gotten around, having worked on long projects in multiple South American countries and in Spain.
August 19, 2014
Once again I got up early and went for a run to an awesome sunrise.Â Breakfast was routine, as was the ride to the job site.
A dozen or so children were playing soccer in our dirt roadway which leads to the highway, so we had to intervene, and accompany them to their own soccer field accross the highway, perhaps a 15 minute walk from our site.
In Bemba, my counterpart on the project – Dennis – explained to them that we would be back to visit the soccer field at the end of the day from time to time, with gifts, as long as they understood to stay away from our dangerous roadway.Â So, it looks as though I am committed to offer a measure of intermittent positive reinforcement from time to time.
Today was work permit day.Â I filled out some paperwork and handed it to a friend, along with 3,000 Kwatcha (equivalent to $500 US).
Fast forward to 5:00 pm, no children outside our project area.Â The word must have gotten out!
August 20, 2014
The children across the highway did not venture onto our roadway today; instead several were perched on a boulder across the highway keeping an eye on us as we departed for the day.Â After work I swung by Shop Rite and picked up three inexpensive plastic kick balls, so I plan to visit the youngsters briefly and â€œdeliver the goodsâ€ in an act of random, intermittent positive reinforcement.
August 31, 2014
I stepped outside of my hotel room early for breakfast, and noticed this nightjar just outside my door! Â I am not sure which species is it. Perhaps an alert blog viewer would like to weigh in on its identification?
September 7, 2014
You may have noticed that I have not been posting daily as I had originally planned. Â I have been absolutely slammed at work, and unable to take a break for posting, not even a minute! Â However, a major shipment of construction materials has been delayed; consequently, we are having an uplanned shut-down at the project site for up to two weeks. I am staying in country though, as I may have to return to the job site in about a week to conduct inspections and risk assessments, and to issue specific work permits. So, I decided to fly over to Livingstone Zambia to check out Victoria Falls and the famous national parks that are said to be teaming with wildlife.
September 9, 2014
Since I stayed over a week, I got the 8th night free. The place had two cots with mattresses and mosquito netting; concrete floors; and screen windows. The shared bathroom facitilies were in a separate buildings, as were places to dine. This is the place where the symptoms of my Girardia infestation became intense. Girardia, an intestinal protozoan, is very funky.
I signed up for a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana with Kalahari Tours. Â The morning is slated for a water trip to Sedudu Island. Â Sedudu is a term for a group of hippos. Then following a brief lunch, the afternoon is scheduled for a game drive along a river bank and channel of the Chobe River, immediately across from Sedudu Island.
Fortunately I have been studying field guides of birds from all over the world for decades. Â So I recognized my first “lifer” Open-billed Stork immediately.
This bird frequently swims under water, with only its head exposed above the surface, resembling a snake. Â Thus the folk name “Snake Bird”.
As the name suggests this bird eats bees. Â There are many species of bee eaters. Â This individual was photographed near its colony of individual caves excavated into the side of a shoreline termite mound.
Egyptian Geese above, are common on Sedudu, as are Spur-winged Geese, below. Â Pygmy Geese were notably absent, so I will simply have to return to Sedudu!
That’s the Namibian National flag in the background, just across the Chobe River on the shores of Namibia.
The White-faced Duck is a type of whistling duck, which used to be call a “tree duck”. Â Today I am focused on photo-documenting the wildlife. Â In fact, I passed my binoculars on to others, so I am sure I am missing several smaller birds lurking about in the short, grazed grassy areas. Â Again, I will have to return and focus on birding, soon…Perhaps this Thursday?
This was my first encounter with a wild African Elephant. Â I was so pleased to observe this large bull as it swam across a river channel and ascended onto Sedudu Island. Â Each elelphant must consume several hundreds of pounds of daily, and there are over 100,000 of these giants in Chobe National Park. Collectively they go through a lot of vegetable matter.
As hippos muck about, they stir up a lot of insects, which attracts several species of wading birds, represented by four species in the photo above. Â Hippos are dangerous. Â They kill many people each year.
According to our guide Huxton, the African Jacana is nicknamed the Jesus Bird as it appears to walk on the water. Â Jacanas have extremely long toes which enable them to trot across water lillies and other floating vegetation with little effort.
The Squacco Heron is similar in size, shape and habits to the Cattle Egret.
The Little Egret appears superficially very similar North America’s Snowy Egret, including black legs with yellow feet. Â However, upon close observation, the skin around the face is noticeably different.
This individual was laying down, relaxed, as our boat approached.
I took little comfort when the buffalo arose and assumed this assertive posture. Â Cape Buffalo kill several people every year.
The Cape Buffalo is one of Africa’s dangerous Big Game Five, or simply “Big Five”. Â The other four include the African Elephant, White Rhino, Lion and Leopard. Â I will be very lucky indeed if I am able to observe all of the Big Five while in the Livingstone area for one week.
Coincidently, as the Cape Buffalo retreated, this large Nile Crocodile climbed ashore to rest where the Cape Buffalo had been. Â Nile Crocodiles also kill several people every year. Â Locals who venture down to the water to wash clothing, bathe, or gather drinking water are at risk of being consumed by a large croc such as this one, and the individual pictured below.
The African Fish Eagle is the national bird of Zambia. Â It is featured prominently on the national currency, the Kwatcha, which I burn through at a rapid rate.
I got the most amazing high resolution close up photos of this Great Kingfisher. Â This unedited, untouched, compressed photograph barely does this bird justice.
There may have been 30 individuals in this “business” of mongoose. Â According to our guide, they can be real troublemakers raising havoc on agricultural interests, such as poultry farms.
Warthogs are fairly common and appear to loosely associate with Impala and other game.
Marabou Stork are scavengers primarily. Like many vultures, Marabou Storks also have relatively bald heads. I was surprised to encounter so few vultures and large birds of prey on this trip.
This baby monitor was a little over a foot long.
An old Monitor Lizard with food. This adult monitor was about four feet in length.
The African Black Skimmer is very similar to the familiar North American Black Skimmer. Â The lower mandible (bill) is much longer than the upper mandible, adapted for skimming along the surface of water, and capturing fish.
Skimmers are a type of tern. Â Like terns and gulls, the skimmer does not construct a nest. Â The eggs are simply deposited in a small depression on the ground.
This beautiful Wire-tailed Swallow landed on our bow, within four feet of my camera’s lens. Â This was a life bird for me (like most of the birds presented in this photo montage).
The Grey Heron superficially resembles North America’s Great Blue Heron.
Likewise, Africa’s Great White Egret appears very similar to North America’s Great Egret.
At last, a species I am familiar with from North America! Â I have heard that a flock of pioneering Cattle Egrets arrived in South America last century, and that they quickly expanded there range north into the United States. Â I will need to verify this…
African Fish Eagle on Sedudu Island
Now we have left the boat and are on dry land for an afternoon game drive. Â Here is our driver from Kalahari Tours…..After a terrific lunch, we jumped into a small shaded land rover and began a terrestrial game drive.
Driving down towards the Chobe River with Sedudu Island in the distance…..
Large herds of mammals are seen from a distance on Sedudu Island….
This species of hornbill appears to be common. Â This one was my third species of hornbill observed since I arrived in Africa on August 2nd.
The Lilac-breasted Roller is the National Bird of Botswana. Â It is a large bird, almost the same size an American Crow, but with a much longer tail. Â I know I can get a better shot of this species, at a better angle, so please stay tuned!
The Water Thick-knee has huge eyes, and appears very similar to plovers.
This is a wild Helmeted Guinea Fowl. Â It is the same species raised for meat, eggs, and decorative feathers in the United States and elsewhere.
Kudu are large antelope with corkscrew-shaped horms. Â They were not very abundant.
The much smaller Impala were much more common. Â Lions relish these small antelope.
We were very lucky to come across five lion cubs resting in the shade, waiting for their mother to return, perhaps will a kill.
In a geniune stroke of beginner’s luck we encountered this sleeping leopard.
What luck! Â I observed four of the African Big Five today! Â I will have to try elsewhere to count No. 5, the White Rhino, because they are not present in Chobe National Park.
September 10, 2014: Trip to Victoria Falls (near Livingstone, Zambia)
Victoria Falls. It is the dry season, so not as much water Â is present as during the rainy season.
Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Â Dr. Livingstone was the first European to observe it back in 1858, I believe. Â How Dr. Livingstone ever made it here without dying of Yellow Fever, Malaria and a host of other life-threatening diseases is beyond me. Â I take my prophylatic malaria medication religiously each morning.
Gorge view of Boiling Pot at the mouth of the small stream. Â I walked up and down the lush canyon trail to Boiling Pot. These photos were taken mid-morning on Day No. 2. Â The area was not particularly “birdy” today, at this time of day, which was expected.
The clear stream along the trail to Boiling Pot
A bridge and lush rain forest vegetation
Mist from the falls maintains a small permanent rain forest where I stood taking this photo. Â Across from this mist, I paused in a mini-rainforest and was rewarded by encountering a small mixed flock or “party” of small foraging birds, including, but not limited to the species photographed and posted below.
Victoria Falls. I will have to revisit this place! Perhaps I will ask my wife Rebecca to join me here in November?
September 11, 2014: My second trip to Chobe National Park, Botswana
I took this photo while shuttling across the Zambezi River over to Botswanta. Today is the first overcast day for me here in Africa in five weeks, not great for photography, but hopefully the cloud cover will burn off. Â Today’s mission is to use my binoculars and focus on all the smaller birds on Sedudu Island that our guide is not bothering point out (or even notice?)
Our immigration stop. I do not know why this kiosk seems so popular with the ladies….The label on this kiosk reads “Be smart. Be clean. Get circumsized”. Â I did not stop. Â Been there, done that. Â Not again!
Here we go. Â Much better lighting and photographs of the Lilac-breasted Roller. Â What a beauty!
While waiting for these elephants to finally decide to cross, I took several photos of birds on Sedudu Isand, shown in the sequence of photographs below.
An unidentified species of pipit…possibly a Grassveld Pipit?
Oxpeckers dine on flies attracted to large mammals.
The Common Sandpiper is nearly identical to North America’s Spotted Sandpiper in appearance and habits. Â I noticed that its distress call, given in flight, has a slightly different tone quality, but that was about the only remarkable difference that I could discern from this distance.
Glossy Ibises also inhabit North America
Back on dry land for an afternoon game drive.
Red Lechwe Antelope. Mopane and Teak forests in the background. The Red Lechwe is a water-associated antelope.
No lions, no leopard today…Typical!
September 12, 2011
Today I visited Mosi O Tunya National Park, which is a short drive from Livingstone. I got on a small White Rhino game walk with two others from Denmark. Here are a few photos and comments.
September 16, 2014
Day trip to Zimbabwe and the other side of Victoria Falls.
September 24, 2014
We had a brush fire sweep through our construction site. Since I had wildfire fighting experience, I managed the fire response.
I remained on site over night to conduct fire watch. I saw an adult African Eagle Owl flying around by the owl nest during the fire, and I was concerned about the owlets and their chances for survival.
September 25, 2014
The next morning both owlets were gone. They had vanished without a trace. I feared the worse. Perhaps they had dropped out of the nest because of the fire and were consumed by some predators?
October 6, 2014
Nearly two weeks had passed without any sign of the owls. I happened to look up today and here is what I found!
Today was the last I ever saw of those owls. It was interesting to observe the progression of their development.
October 19, 2014
I had been noticing this bird ourside our site’s gate for months. Finally I slipped out during lunch and got a shot!
October 22, 2014
October 23, 2014
November 9, 2014
Since we are doing construction site work and grading, we have always been worried about the arrival of rainy season, and its potential to shut our job down. However, we dodged the bullet. It rained three times, all after hours. Here is the worst of the storms, photographed from my room at the Mokorro Lodge in Chingola, Zambia.
November 16, 2014
Michelangelo’s in Ndola, Zambia. I spent the night here before travelling on to meet my wife for vacation in Livingstone. The small spots in the evening sky are tens of thousands of large fruit bats migrating south.
That is it for this post. Please continue on to the next post of my vacation, starting November 17, 2014 in Livingstone, Zambia.