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

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The 2020 Africa Journals

 Chapter Fifteen
Birds on Sticks and Otherwise

(There are not many photos of this short part of our trip, so I will recap all the "lifer" birds I saw in Botswana.   The first time you see and identify a bird, it's called a "lifer."  


We stand outside Pangolin lodge in Kasana, Botswana, to hug and say goodbye to Guts, Janine, and their wonderful staff.  

I don’t want to leave the Chobe River and its plethora of birdlife, but Mary’s patience with “birds on a stick” has sputtered to an end.   “I like birds,” she says, “when they’re doing something.”  

Indeed, she was enthralled with the little yellow masked weavers carefully threading grasses into a nest and even asked to return to them a second time.

 And she fervently hoped the jacana eggs would hatch while we were there so we could get photos of Daddy Jacana carrying his hatchling under his wings with their long legs dangling down.   Alas, that did not happen until two days after we left.

Mary likes cats.   Big cats.  Preferably with little cubs, so we are off to the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Lesser masked weaver

Actually, we aren’t leaving because of Mary. I’m just teasing her because I like the “birds on sticks” description.   New guests are coming to take our rooms so we climb into the van and our driver heads out.

However, before we clear the Kasane limits, a very large, very antsy bull elephant has something to say about our progress.   It seems to be annoyed with the puny internal combustion engine insects buzzing along in its way. 

Law enforcement vehicles are parked fore and aft of the ellie, acting as crossing guards.   Our driver pulls over and shuts off the vehicle.

The elephant walks across the highway right behind our van, then and saunters couple dozen feet where, now content,  it proceeds to rip huge clumps of grass from the ground and stuff them into its mouth.

Ever seen a five-legged elephant before?

Up ahead, we reach the Botswana/Zimbabwe border where Mary and I fork over our $40 for a visa.   Forty dollars just to get to the airport an hour away.

Marg, however, has to ante up $75 as a Canadian citizen but she doesn’t do it without rolling out the charm in a futile effort to get a less costly transit visa.   They don’t exist.  By the time it’s over and she pays her $75, we know all about the passport control officer and his family.   He is a friendly, jovial fellow and I think he enjoyed the charm offensive as much as we did.   Still, he had the line that trumped Marg’s efforts: “It’s reciprocal.”

This photo was taken when we went through the border the first time.  s

We drive off with Marg vowing to never go through Zimbabwe again.

Then there’s the Victoria Falls City airport.  After our checked baggage has disappeared on the conveyor belt, we must weigh our carry-on camera bags.  Marg’s bag is over the allowed weight by a couple pounds and she refuses to check it. 

No photographer in their right mind would check their camera bag and Marg is definitely in her right mind.   Out comes the charm and the contagious smile and she cajoles the ticket agent endlessly.   I stand back and watch a master at work.

Finally, she says, “My bag isn’t that heavy!   Your scale must be wrong.”   Then she lifts the bag with one hand and sets it back on the conveyor belt.   Miraculously, it is a kilo less.

(I saw what you did there, Marg.  )

The ticket agent couldn’t see that her bag now rested partly on the metal flange of the belt and not entirely on the belt, but I can bet he knew.   Nonetheless, he now had a number for the system that was within the regulations and Marg was allowed to carry her precious cameras and lens on board with her.

Squacco heron

Reed cormorant

African harrier hawk

It’s dark and late when we arrive in Nairobi, Kenya.   Marg had the good fortune to be told about $20 transit visas when we passed through here on the way to Botswana, so she’s happy to pay $50 now. 

Mary and I didn’t know about transit visas and paid $50 the first time and now pony up $50 again.   This time, though, we will be staying in Kenya for ten days instead of the eight hours on our way through.

Our way through passport control and customs is greased by my troublesome knee.   In an effort to save wear and tear on it, I requested wheelchair assistance in all the airports and discovered that this took me to the head of the airport lines.  With Marg and Mary following the wheelchair, we were soon outside waiting for our ride to Marg’s favorite hotel in Nairobithe swanky  $erena.


Why does it take so long to get registered in a hotel?

Little did we know this night that these wonderful people would soon wish they had never seen us! 

More lifers:

Rock pratincole


Crested barbet

Pied wagtail

Blue-cheeked bee-eater

Senegal coucal

African darter

Allen's gallinule

Yellow-bellied greenbul

Pygmy geese

Southern red bishop

Long-toed lapwings

Water thick-knee

Broad-billed roller

Seen, identified, but not photographed:

Marsh harrier hawk
Coppery tailed coucal
Lesser jacana
Little egret
Goliath heron


  1. Can fully understand from these photos why you were reluctant to leave the birds! Now, we wait in suspense to learn why the registration desk people at the Serena Hotel would wish they had never seen you . . waiting . . Smiles, Patti and Cap

  2. At the beginning you have a statement that PHOTOS ARE SHOWN IMPROVED IN QUALITY IF YOU CLICK ON THEM! I 'clicked onto' more than a few and was just directed to the mini-photos at the bottom of the post. I noticed no particular improvement. Photos numbered 14 (Pied wagtail), 15, 16 and 18 (Allen's gallinule) are non-image frames. Not sure you know this.

    Love Love LOVE the many and different names of the various birds. Some are a hoot and a holler. It seems like you 'just left' and now the story has been written. THANKS SO MUCH for all of your work. Smiles Cap and Hugs Patti