"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Kenya Journals, Ch. Stripes and Fights on the Masai Mara

Stripes and Fights on the Masai Mara

Long ago, Africa was very hot and all the waterholes but one dried up, which was guarded by a baboon who would not let anyone  drink from it.
One day a zebra and his son came to drink and the baboon barked, “Go away.   I am the Lord of this water.”
The young zebra and the baboon got in a fight, and back and forth they went, raising a huge cloud of dust, until the zebra, with a mighty kick, sent the baboon flying high in the rocks.   The baboon landed on his seat, taking off all the hair.
The tired and battered young zebra, not looking where he was going, staggered backwards into the baboon’s fire which left long black scorch marks all over his white fur.
The baboon to this day holds its tail up high to ease the smarting of their rock-burned bottoms.—African fable

Behold the zebra.  Still wearing the scorch marks of its ancestors.   But it seems to have come to some detante with the baboon, or perhaps the zebra is too busy fighting other zebras to notice the baboons.


The baboon, however, is still an obnoxious and troublesome creature, probably because its bum is bare and that’s rather embarrassing, wouldn’t you think.?

All you have to do is watch a group of zebras and pretty soon a couple of them will start fighting, biting the other’s leg, knocking it off balance, kicking, and rearing.

Apparently the baboon is all over losing the waterhole to the zebra.

And some other zebras.....

You’d think a third zebra would intervene and stop the fight, because after all it is wearing the traditional black and white of a referee.   But, no, ‘tis the zebra’s nature to fight and have some fun.

Some fun, fighting in that heat.   Actually, though, it’s thought that the zebra’s stripes help it stay cool.  Air passing over the black stripes moves faster and air over white stripes slower and the two create a convection of cooling air.  Not quite like a convection oven, but you get the idea.

Zebra foals, however, can steal your heart:

The usual view of zebras--butt first.

Zebras can run really fast, which helps a whole bunch when lions or leopards or hyenas are inviting them to be lunch.   When the guys in stripes bunch up, they appear to be a flickering mass of stripes, confusing the predator who is then unable to pick out a solitary zebra.

When attacked by wild dogs, zebras form a circle around the foals to protect them.

There are times, though, when zebras are quite well behaved and considerate.   For instance, when they find a nice patch of dirt.   They line up and patiently wait their turn to roll in the dust, one after the other, no one butting in line or shoving for a better position.



When a zebra is alone and a predator gives chase, the zebra runs a zigzag pattern to confuse the predator.   It’s all about subterfuge, those stripes, which is something I noticed when Seattle played Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl and Seattle had to play against the zebras, too

Zebras do, however, appreciate my jokes.


Here they go again. 

Enough with the fighting, guys.

Zebras are in tune with their environment.   A log comes in handy as a chin scratcher.

Or a bum scratcher.

Zebras and Cape buffalo, along with other grazing animals, have symbiotic relationships with this bird as well as red-billed oxpeckers.   The birds clean ticks and other insects from the animals.

The red-billed oxpecker subsists entirely on substances found on zebras, Cape buffalo, and other animals.   Everything from mucus to ticks.

Note how the zebra in the background tend to look gray.

With a Thompson's gazelle.

Scratching the chin on the creek bank.

Or the side on the other bank.

Zebras often rest their heads on another zebra.   Kind of a "I'll watch your back, you watch mine."

Not yet, Little Guy.

Pretty soon you'll be big enough.

Sorry, zebra.   Lilac breasted rollers trump everything else.

Zebras get themselves into trouble.   This one has a wire snare around its neck.

Moses promised us the Masai Mara vets would remove it.

The zebras are going to bed now.   Say goodbye.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Kenya Journals, Ch. Guilt-free Birding on the Masai Mara

Guilt-Free Birding on the Masai Mara

There is an unreasonable joy to be had from the observation of small birds going about their bright, oblivious business.―Grant Hutchison, The Complete Lachlan

We’re having a picnic breakfast under the shade of large tree on the Masai Mara.   Usually, safari guests return to camp for breakfast at 9 o'clock.

At Greg’s suggestion, we opt to stay out on the Mara and eat breakfast there mid-morning.   Often we are far from camp, and driving back, eating breakfast, and getting back onto the Mara would consume (that's a  pun) a large amount of time.

(These photos are from picnics on different days.)


Might be a fig tree, but I really don't know.   It's bushy.   A medium-sized bushy tree.

Where to begin?   Yogurt?   Half an orange, apple, hard-boiled egg, baggie with sausage and bacon, juice box, chips, panini
 with something in between that might have been cheese, a bottle of water under the sandwich, and a muffin in the center.

Bet you didn't know that Land Rovers make excellent picnic tables.

Mary, Marg, and Greg.

A picnic on another day.    This might be an acacia.  "I really don't know clouds trees at all...."   [Dennis, our most excellent guide, contacted me and says this is a Desert Date tree.]

Our most excellent guide Jay.
Our most excellent guide Dennis.

So, we’re having a picnic.   An immense picnic.   There is far too much food for any one person to consume (it’s not a pun this time), but apparently the picnic-packers want to provide many options for us to choose from.

I hope it isn’t that they believe we North Americans NEED and REALLY eat that much.

Our guides assure us the extra food does not go to waste.

When we finish eating, Charlie and I get in Dennis’s vehicle and the other four go with Jay to a nearby girl’s school that Greg has “adopted” and to which he takes much-needed school supplies every time he comes to Africa.    Marg, Mary, and Barbara go with him, also taking supplies.

How our guides kept their shirts white and sharp all day is beyond me.

This is Charlie’s first trip to Africa, my first to Kenya, so we opt for a game drive instead, knowing we might never be back.

That means Charlie, who loves to photograph birds, and I are free to stop at every single bird we come across, without feeling twinges of guilt for our fellow travelers.  Thus far, they have humored us and even taken photos, but we know—veteran Africa travelers that they are—they would rather be pointing their cameras at things with four legs. 

Except for lilac-breasted rollers, or LBRs.   Everyone wants to photograph LBRs.   And secretary birds.

After all, this trip is called “The Big Cats of the Masai Mara,” not “Kites, Eagles, Bee Catchers, and Other Birds of the Masai Mara.”

So off we go, chasing birds.   Guilt-free.   Not all these bird photos were taken when Charlie and I went galavanting across the Mara in search of birds.   I include them here because I can't think of any story lines in which they would fit.

And we DID take photos of four-legged creatures, too.

The cheetah known as Rani, with her catch.   Rani might be pregnant.

Black-headed heron.

Sacred ibis.

Ground hornbill

Abdim's stork

Male sand grouse

Three-banded plover

Egyptian goose

Kori bustard
A kori bustard display


Cape buffalo with red-billed oxpecker


Secretary bird

Sandpiper and plover

Little bee eater

Little bee eater

Hammerkopf catching a meal

Black-crowned plover

Secretary bird

Secretary bird.   Note that long tail.

Secretary bird and topi.  For size comparison, the topi is 39 to 51inches at the shoulder.

Maribou stork

Black-headed heron that didn't like photos taken.

I had to hide to get photos.

As long as I was walking, it was okay.

The second I stopped, it took off.

But I finally caught it in flight.

I intentionally didn't crop this photo to get a close-up of the heron in flight.   Why?   Look at the hippo upper right.

Ah, the beautiful Lilac-breasted roller.

Yellow-billed stork


The storks are now in the hammerkopf's favorite fishing spot.

The stork chases the hammerkopf away.

Note the feathers on the back of the hammerkopf's head that give the bird its name.

Woodland kingfisher? 

An Hadada ibis in front; African scared ibis in back.

Saddle-billed stork with fresh catch of the day.

Saddle-billed stork with catfish.

Wattled plover

Grasslands pipit

Female sand grouse

Tropical bou bou

Gray-headed kingfisher.

Black-crowned night heron

Juvenile black-crowned night heron.   Very shy.   Photographed through a lot of vegetation.

Steppe eagle, a long way away

Black-chested snake eagle.

Immature fish eagle coming in to steal the saddle-billed stork's catfish