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

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Quality Time

 I recently took a break from a long on-going  project here at home to spend time with birds.

On the drive to where I knew I'd find birds, I passed Tern Lake and found a large number of the community out skating.

It appeared a pick up hockey game was about to ensue, along with the recreational skating.

Right across from the skaters was a bald eagle, perched on a cottonwood limb over a small patch of open water.   No doubt it was watching the water for a late-spawning salmon to appear, but I have to wonder if it wasn't also entertained by the laughing humans zipping around on the ice.

A little farther along the highway, several more eagles were perched above Dave's Creek, the tributary of Kenai River that is the waterway the salmon swim up to spawn in the lake.

There there were several juveniles, too.   I photographed a few eagles that were not in the thick of branches and limbs.

After taking a few photos, I turned around and pulled into the Dave's Creek parking area.  From the highway, I had seen five or six eagles gathered in a few trees right where I wanted to see if I could find one of my favorite birds--the amazing American Dipper, formerly known as a water ouzel, which is a far cooler name than dipper.

I walked down the path along the creek and approached the eagles.

Note to the neophyte photographers:   keep your mouth shut when standing under eagles or any other birds.

A close-up of a juvenile.

By this time, I'd reached the extent of the path without seeing a dipper.   As I stood there, I said, "Where are you dipper?"

Just then a dipper flew over and landed in the water quite near me.

"Not a good spot, Dipper," I said.   "There's no contrast.   You blend in with the dark water."

Dipper accommodated by flying to a small log in the water than had a bit of snow on it.   It was all the contrast I needed.

Any day spent with birds is a good day.

Friday, November 13, 2020

The 2020 Africa Journals, Ch. 26


Chapter Twentysix

The Cheetah and the Hyena


Our bags are packed

We’re ready to go….*

No, we aren’t.  Not by even a millimeter.  However, if we don’t go, we won’t have a place to sleep tonight.

So, our bags ARE packed and in the foyer, ready to be loaded and transferred to the airstrip where we will catch our flight from the Maasai Mara to Nairobi.


In the meantime, we have a short safari early this morning with breakfast back at camp, rather than in the field.  Six of us are leaving and three of the larger group are staying for another week.  Also, recent rains have made the river crossings impossible so we will have to take a long drive around to reach the airstrip.

We set out on our last drive from Entim Private Camp as dawn starts to break.   We won’t be going far from camp today.

The sky becomes ever more dramatic when we reach the top of a ridge.





We move down to a gentle plain and our guide Tinka is watching the topi carefully.   Suddenly, he stops, grabs his binoculars, and looks at the nearby ridge.  And away we go.   By watching the behavior of the topi, Tinka knows a predator is near.

He leads us to a cheetah, belly bulging from a recent meal.  How he managed to spot the cat in the long grass from more than a quarter mile away is beyond me.



The cheetah strolls along, pausing occasionally to lie down and rest.

Suddenly, I see a hyena approaching.




Hyenas frequently steal prey that cheetah’s have caught, leaving an exhausted cheetah without a meal.    They also kill cheetah cubs.




The hyena isn’t interested in the cheetah.   It is smelling the ground to find evidence of prey.   But, the cheetah is a long way from where it devoured it.


The hyena continues to watch the cheetah, thinking that the cat will eventually return to its kill.  The cheetah, however, does not. When we leave to return to camp, the cheetah is again resting in the long grass while the hyena lingers nearby.


The hyena is still watching the cheetah when we return to camp for breakfast and last-minute packing.



*Lyrics from  Leaving on a Jet Place by John Denver



Sunday, November 8, 2020

The 2020 Africa Journals, Chapter 25


The Lion known as Scar


The first time I heard of the lion called Scarface was on a 2017 trip to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, where the lion roams. 

A large vertical wound along the lion’s right eye, one that severed the eyelid and left sight in that eye in doubt, was the mark that made him immediately identifiable.   As to how that occurred, there were a couple explanations.

The wound, said one popular story, occurred when Scar was stalking a herder’s cattle and the herder threw a machete at the lion.   The second story had a herder throwing a spear.

Today the guides tell a story that sounds like the truth:   fighting with another lion.   However, Scar did have a spear encounter with a herder but that was not the cause of his eye injury.

Whichever cause you choose to believe, he is unquestionably a magnificent lion.    His dark mane is easily recognizable. This is Scar in 2017.

I had heard that Scar was in the vicinity of our camp in Kenya, and I hoped we would come across him.  

We set out on a late safari, heading in a direction we hadn’t been before.     Quite near to camp, we found this solitary giraffe who was quite willing to pose for our cameras.



A little farther on, we reached a river and could see lions in the tall grass.

Our driver drove over the edge of the eroded bank and positioned us in a perfect spot opposite the lion.

And there I was, eye to eye with the Legend of the Mara:   Scarface!   Well, I would have been eye to eye about twenty-five feet from his if his eyes had been open.

For his part, he could not have cared less.   He was flat on his back, paws in the air, and sound asleep.

Even legends have to sleep sometime.


A couple days later, on our last evening drive, we came across Scar and his brother Sikio.   Again, Scar was asleep.   We parked with several other safari vehicles and waited.  A rain squall blew through, soaking the lions and everything else.   A breeze blew the rain into the back of our vehicle and while we were able to keep the cameras dry, the same could not be said for us.

 Finally, as we sat getting colder and colder, I asked the driver if there was a way he could lower the clear plastic curtain and thus protect us from the chilly wind.  Braving sleeping lions, he did that.   I had hoped he could do it from the inside and not place himself in danger, but after looking around, he jumped out and quickly untied the rolled-up canvas.

Finally, a soaking wet Scar awoke and limped toward the Cape buffalo carcass that was all but gone.   Scar had a leg injury when I saw him in 2017.   Time has not been kind and now his entire right hind-quarter is atrophied.   His muzzle is crisscrossed with many marks of fights gone by.


Soon, he is joined by his brother Sikio.   Another brother, Morani, is sleeping some distance away.

They are known as the Three Musketeers, but were once the Four Musketeers when Hunter was still alive.    They have done battle many times, taking over various prides, scrapping for breeding rights.   Then, they lost the Marsh Pride in another battle.  



The Legend


Scar has fathered many litters.   Now, in his old age, which some say is more than twelve years, he can no longer hunt.   He relies on his two remaining brothers or the females in the pride to keep him supplied with food.

Tens of thousands of people around the globe try to keep track of Scar.   He even has his own Facebook page.



There was a lot of growling going on as the two pulled on parts of the carcass, but it never came to a fight.



Sikio seems to be claiming what’s left of the carcass.  Eventually the two moved into the grass and went back to sleep.


Even warriors have to sleep sometimes.