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

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Out and About

 Litter pick up is progressing, but rather slowly as I deal with the challenges of being 80 years old.  

I have cleaned up the four miles of the Sterling Highway that I have done for years.    On the Seward Highway, my main route through the Chugach National Forest, I made it through two miles as well as the pullouts.   Long way to go to Turnagain Pass at Mile 68.

Another in a series I call Duck on a Stump.   The Queen Merganser and her royal consort.

A preening Green-winged Teal.

A female Green-winged Teal.

A pair of American Wigeons.

A pair of Common Mergansers.

A Barrow's Goldeneye drake.

A pair of Red-necked Grebes.

A Least sandpiper.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Where am I?

 I know.   I know.  I've fallen behind on the Africa Journals.

I have a good excuse:




Jerome Lake pullout along the  Seward Highway.



Plus about five miles of highway ditches before the nice weather turned nasty.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

The 2021 Africa Journals, Chapter 34: In Which We See a Wake


Chapter 34:

In Which We See a Wake


Vultures are the most righteous of birds: 

they do not attack even the smallest living creature.
-- Plutarch


Two things:   Plutarch, though meaning well, was mistaken, and although one doubts he knew about darkest Africa and the vultures therein, there were plenty of vultures in Greece.

And two, there are some graphic photos in this post.

Postprandial to breakfast in the field,  our driver rushes us to the site of a cheetah kill.   When we arrive, the mum cheetah has just relinquished her suffocating hold on the neck of a pregnant impala.   Her two cubs have joined her.



The cubs inspect the impala while the mother catches her breath, after which she moves about two hundred feet to the shade of a tree.


The lifting of a leg by the cheetah cub can be interpreted two ways:   One, it might an attempt to drag the prey away to a safer spot, or, two, it is attempting to expose the soft underbelly of the animal in preparation to eating.


For reasons I can only guess at, cheetahs move their prey away from the site of the kill.  Perhaps it's done for shade, to hide the prey from animals that would steal it, or perhaps to get it away from the smells associated with the prey's death--another attempt at hiding.

Whatever the reasons, at least one cub tries to drag the impala.


And tries....

And tries from the other end....

But the second cub was more interested in dining.   Cheetahs prefer only fresh, non-fatty meat.    They will not return to a carcass once it's been deserted and they do not scavenge.

Mum waits in the shade of a tree.   It will take her about a half hour to recover from her exertions.

Then the vultures, the primary part of the clean-up crew, begin to arrive.   We watch and hope no hyenas know of the kill, as they will steal it from the cheetahs.   Cheetahs fight to defend their cubs as much as they can, but the bite of a hyena can crush bones.

Marabou storks fly in, also members of clean-up crews.

Their numbers increase steadily while the cheetahs eat.



The mother cheetah removes the impala fetus from the carcass and carries it to the shade.

I debated with myself for several days before deciding to show these two images.   They are upsetting and disturbing, but this is nature.    Besides, I told myself, there are many more impalas than the critically endangered cheetahs.

The storks and vultures hold back while the cheetahs are on the carcass, but as soon as all the cats move away,   they descend.

This photo depicts a "wake" of vultures, the collective noun for a number of vultures eating.

I have often wondered how the storks keep from having a leg bitten off by a vulture when they are deep in a scrum like this.

Then, the birds turn their attention to the cheetahs in the shade that are devouring the fetus.   I found this to be an intimidating sight, all those razor-shape bills approaching the cheetahs.

Cheetahs, always alert to danger, keep an eye on the approaching birds.

One cub ventures out, whether to have some fun or to chase away the birds, I can't say.

Mum cheetah is the only one left at the remaining carcass.

As soon as she walks away, the mob descends.

A Marabou stork scores some bones.

We head back to camp for lunch and a mid-day break while the sun is at its peak and the light is too for photography.

On the way, we see cattle from one of the local herders at the smelly creek.   Naboisho Conservancy is privately held land  herders have the right to graze their herds on it, unless the Maasai Mara.   There is a debate as to whether their herds over-graze to the detriment of wild grazers.    We saw a number of herders with their herds here.

This water has a strong sulfer smell.

Just below camp, three zebra try to find shade under a small tree.

You need a bigger tree.

After lunch, I'm working at my desk, downloading photos onto an external hard drive, when I notice movement outside.   Carefully, slowly, I grab my camera and take a photo through the tent screen.


It's a rock hyrax, colloquially known as a dassie.   Weighing only four to 12 pounds, these little creatures are not rodents.   Instead, I present this explanation copied from the Internet:

"Rock hyraxes, also called rock dassies or rock rabbits, are small, stub-tailed, rabbit-like animals native to Africa. Though rock hyraxes resemble rodents, their closest living relatives are actually elephants and manatees."  (My emphasis)



I finally figured there were several dassies living under my tent deck, some shy, some not so shy.   This one waited while I unzipped the tent fly, climbed down the rocks and walked to where it was sitting under a bush. 


 When that fun was over, I ate some more of the Hallowe'en candy Laura had brought for all of us.



Next:    Giraffes, baboons, and birds.