"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa
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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Birding on Sunday

Sunday dawned and brought sunshine, a very rare non-rainy day this summer.  And that presented a dilemma:    Seahawks game or birding???

Okay, birding it was.   While I was getting ready, and waiting for the sun to get in the right position according to where I was going, I did catch the first quarter of a boring game with lame announcers, so I was out the door with no regrets.

First up,  a kayak trip around what has become my favorite part of  Tern Lake.   Few people see the upper reaches of this lake, not unless they can walk on or otherwise voyage on water.   My bright blue kayak was just right for a glassy water paddle.













I visited the area where the kingfishers hang out.   These gorgeous blue and white birds were nowhere to be seen.   In fact, other than a few ducks and a bald eagle that didn't have the courtesy to wait while I fiddled with the settings on my camera, I didn't see anything.   The hawks wasn't around and neither were the magpies.







Common goldeneye

Same duck as above

Wait wait wait wait wait...

C'mon.   Just a few seconds more...  Nope, it flew away.


I'll say one good thing about all the overcast and rain:   our autumn colors usually peak mid-September but with the warmer weather, many of the trees haven't begun to turn color and we haven't had a frost yet either.











I gave up on birding by kayak and drove around the lake to Dave's creek where I'd seen two new (to me) birds.   Birders call them "lifers."   These are photos I took a few days ago when I first saw them:




Juvenile hermit thrush

Rusty blackbird transitioning to non-breeding colors.





Well, I saw the rusty blackbird on the other side of the creek but it wouldn't come into the open where I could get a shot at it.  The hermit thrush wasn't around, not until I turned on my fancy new iPhone,  opened the Sibley's e-Bird app, and played the hermit bird call.


It landed on the logs and brush in the creek opposite me, looked around, flew closer to me on my side of the creek, and approached.






You have to love juvenile birds.   They are so curious.

I wonder what I was "saying" when I played that bird call.   This little thrush seemed to enjoy it.

I waited for the blackbird, then decided that because the sky was clear, I should winterize my little travel trailer in case it froze that night.


About 7 o'clock, I went back to the lake.

One of my favorite sayings is "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take away our breath."   This was one of them for me.

On the side of Tern Lake that's bordered by the Sterling highway, the Tern Lake swans and their cygnet were quite close to the road.    About a dozen cars had pulled over and people were out watching and photographing the swans. 

It is very unusual for the swans to linger when people get out of their vehicles and I was amazed.    I also took full advantage of it.

This is the gray cygnet preening, carefully watched by its mother.   The cob was a short distance away, watching the spectators.











From many hours of watching bird behavior, I knew what happens after a long preening session:













 Now comes the tricky part.   The cygnet has shaken all those feathers into their proper position and has to fold its wings to tuck the feathers away.







The white things on the water are swan feathers.


By this time, there were only a few of us watching and the swans began to swim farther away from the road.

The cygnet, however, was enjoying the company and came closer.







With a quiet honk from a vigilant adult, the cygnet turned away and followed its parents.






I continued on the Dave's Creek where a little American dipper greeted me with a song.







The rusty blackbird emerged from the forest but this was the best look I could get.



That rust color with the blue-black wings and tail are striking!



I hung around the creek until after 8.   By then, I was having to set the ISO on the camera very high to get enough light, so I went back to my truck and started for home.  

The sunset was well under way and it was the perfect moment to leave.




  





Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Kenya Journals, Ch. 27: Final Hours on the Masai Mara






Chapter Twenty-Seven
Final Hours on the Masai Mara

You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.





I’m awakened by the sound of a sliding zipper disengaging and, in a few moments, the click of a table lamp illuminates my tent.  Joseph sets a side table beside my bed.  How decadent is this, this tea and cookies served before the day even sees the first rays of dawn?












Having had the foresight (and the desire to sleep a bit longer), all I have to do is grab the photo gear I’d carefully laid out last evening, and then wave my flashlight through the door flap of my tent.   I see the security guards—the guys who patrol Governor’s Camp all night to keep the wild animals at bay—approaching and I hear the quite chatter of others in the group behind him.








In a minute, we are at the safari vehicles that park in a clearing behind out tents.   I find the right one and climb in.  Marg and Barbara join me and soon Solomon drives the vehicle out the gate.

This is it; this is our final safari drive in the Masai Mara.   Later this morning we will fly in a small plane to Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, where adventures of a different kind await.   Right now, my heartstrings are trying to anchor me to the Mara, much like the Lilliputians tied Gulliver to the ground.

Solomon drives to the marsh and one of the first things we see in the dim light of early dawn in a saddle-billed stork with a catfish in its beak.   The lack of rain for two years has reduced the water level in the various small stream to mere puddles.   We pass one where there is so little water that the fish exceed the amount of water necessary for them to breath and they are jumping and wriggling desperately.





















Bad for the fish, but easy pickings for the saddle-billed stork.  

As successful as the stork is this morning, there’s always a predator around the prefers to steal food rather than seek it on its own.    In this case, it’s a fish eagle that comes in to take the fish.
































Though the stork is many times taller than the eagle, it’s no match for fighting and the stork cedes the fish and returns to the puddles for another.

The scene is repeated several times as we watch.









 



 



By now, it’s light enough to see clearly and a short distance away, two stunning male lions rest on mounds, watching the females come in from the field.






A hot air balloon rises from Governor's camp for an early aerial safari.








My attention turns to the females, just in time to see one hiss and snarl, apparently at one of the males.



















The lions cross the ditch close to where the stork had been harvesting catfish for the fish eagles.







They walk right through the few safari vehicles, and take advantage of the shade cast by them.







It;s been a long night for the little cubs, and when you have to yawn.....


























A male remains awake to watch their approach.







One lioness greets a male with affection, but the other arrives and snarls.  The male wants no part of this grumpy female.























I’m not sure what’s happening because I don’t know these lions.   Is there a long-term problem here?

The lioness is obviously pregnant and, most likely, therein lies the answer to this behavior.   Is she warning him to stay away from her forthcoming cubs?

The first female approached the second lion, as does one of the cubs.













And then, here comes trouble....
















This is the pride featured in the Big Cat Diaries on National Geographic, and these lions are loved by fans around the world.   There is something else at work here.   These lions have names and once you are introduced to an animal with a name, its essence stays with you forever.  


The male goes over to his brother, as if to commiserate with him about the grumpy pregnant female.



"Stay away from her today.   She's really in a bad mood."
  


There's a saying I came across in Australia that fits my feelings exactly:   The earth has music for those who listen.







Grumpy female finds herself alone on the mound.


The sun rises higher and the day becomes warmer.   The lions move about, finding a resting place according to the day’s temperatures.











Grumpy goes to join the lionesses and cubs.









Got milk?


May and Greg photographing the lions.



Far too soon, it’s time to return to camp for breakfast and our impending departure.   As sad day, indeed.



Safari vehicle with Charlie, Greg and Mary arrives back at Governor's Camp.



But, I think, the next couple days in Nairobi will find me checking off an item on my bucket list—one that’s been there since 1985, way before I ever heard about bucket lists.