White-Throated Swallow

This little fellow, I think, has the confidence to speak for himself.

Photographed from a hide at Marievale, with the Nikon D500 and Nikon 200 – 500 mm lens. The more I shoot with it, the more I love this combo!

White-throated swallow # 2

Sacred Ibis

On my left, as I drove slowly onto the causeway that crosses the marsh, was an expanse of dry reeds. Amongst the reeds, away in the distance, was an African Sacred Ibis, going about its business.

Some of you may not see the point of this photograph – it’s not the conventional “portrait,” nor does it give you an up-close view of the bird in its environment.

But for me, you see, this is exactly what I wanted to show: not just the bird in its environment, but the ibis as part of the same flat, two-dimensional space. I am also attracted to the grey charcoal dashes of the reeds, licked about with orange tongues of flame.

Sacred Ibis and Reeds

What’s in the can?

Of course there are no longer ‘cans’ but still, you never really know, do you, what you’ve managed to capture on a day out in the field, shooting moving objects – birds, in this case – until you’ve got back home and uploaded your images into Lightroom on your Mac.

I’ve just been scrolling through a ream of photos in my camera, deleting the obvious duds and misfires, and Lightroom is busily ingesting the rest. But I can say, I think, with genuine pleasure, that there are some lovely images from my day in the country, at the Marievale Bird Sanctuary.

Look out for ‘coot’ coot chicks, pied kingfishers hovering, and more.

It will take a while to further sort, select, and process them – and I am, in any case, without wifi, as my fibre ‘supplier’ has decided it has not been paid – when of course it has, and in buckets of gold.

Tomorrow I shall have to spend a happy hour sorting the wifi out. But because I have cellular data on my iPad, I can send you this post, and alert you to what’s coming.

Photographically, I mean.

Spotted Eagle Owl

We were returning from the far side of the Madikwe Game Reserve, after dark, after a long drive to see the wild dogs. As we neared our lodge the ranger shone his light on this owl – a Great Eagle Owl, he said.

I checked the SASOL Birds of South Africa yesterday, after processing this photo, and (bird expert that I am not) thought it was a Spotted Eagle Owl, not a Great – though still great to observe, in the darkness, staring down at us with those huge yellow eyes.

So I posted the image on the BirdLife South Africa FaceBook page, with a request for help with identification.

‘Definitely a Spotty,’ was the birding consensus.

‘A blinded owl,’ said some wag.

Point taken.

Eagle Owl

Kite Stooping

We were out early one morning, in the open Landcruiser, on a game drive in Madikwe, when suddenly I saw this black-shouldered kite stooping, hovering over one spot, then moving away a bit and stopping once more to hover, the rising sun under its wings – a moment of real beauty, edged with menace.

I grabbed the Nikon, with the still somewhat unfamiliar 200-500mm lens, and fired off a series of shots – handheld, from the back of the safari vehicle.

Would like to do better, but ok I hope for a first effort.

Madikwe Magic

It is hard to describe our experience at the Madikwe Game Reserve up near Botswana – Rob and I have been on many other game-viewing trips, in the Kruger Park, the Pilanesberg, Marakele, the St Lucia Wetlands and more, but never anything like this.

Two examples will suffice, at least for now. On one of the afternoons when we did not go on a game drive, we were entertained for hours at the waterhole right in front of our (unfenced) lodge at Mooifontein, by buffalo, giraffe, impala, kudu and – most thrilling of all – a standoff between a rhino and a herd of elephants. The elephants were at the waterhole, drinking, when the rhino emerged from the tree-line, stage right, and headed in their direction. As he saw, or smelled, the elephants, he hesitated, and in a moment the herd took off in a cloud of dust, almost like a flock of birds, if you can imagine elephants as birds, while the largest of the elephants turned to face the rhino, and charged him down. The rhino backed away, and backed, and backed, until finally it turned tail and ran. It was hours before it returned to the waterhole, and then only with extreme caution.

On the last of our morning game drives – this is the second story – we spent maybe two hours waiting and watching as a pair of male cheetahs carefully worked their way around a zebra herd, approaching through the long grass, pausing and moving on, as the herd drew closer and closer. At one point two healthy-looking young zebra came into range and we were sure the cheetahs would make a run at them, but they didn’t, and we feared they had given up. And then, from the left, came a female zebra with a foal – exactly what the cheetahs were waiting for. You could see the sudden stiffening and attention, the sense of sinews coiling, as they watched – as we watched with them – the foal suckling. And you knew, as you watched, that the foal had only minutes to live – and then the mother trotted on, and the foal trotted behind it – and the two cheetahs took off.

Our game ranger, Lucas, yelled at me to sit, and threw the LandCruiser into gear, flinging it at a mad, careening, crashing pace in an arc through the bushes – over thorn trees and logs, bouncing and lurching, until we came, within a matter of minutes, upon the cheetahs with their prey – jaws clamped upon the zebra foal’s throat, paws draped almost lovingly across its neck, pinning it down, holding it fast. It was already dead, but they were taking no chances.

That’s enough, perhaps, at least for now, to give you a sense of Madikwe magic. Except of course for the photos.

There will be more of those, photos I mean, a series of series – an elephant series, a lion series, a cheetah series, a rhino series, a series of images of a black-shouldered kite hovering, poised in the air, over the next weeks, and possibly months, as I find time to work on them. And some text too, perhaps.

Rosy-Faced Lovebirds

Here are two more images – handheld, with the Nikon 70-300mm, of the Rosy-Faced Lovebirds in the trees outside our yard.

The previous image, in my last post, was taken with the Nikon 200-500m lens I have just purchased, using a monopod, and I have to say I am struck, on closer examination, by the superior quality of the bigger lens – its brightness and contrast, as well as its sharpness, which would have been better of course if I hadn’t been so lazy and had set it up on a tripod.

Still, this is just practice and experimentation, until the time comes – i.e., when we go to Madikwe – to get serious.

For the birds

This business of being on my own, here in Johannesburg, is for the birds I think. Fortunately Rob will be winging (eish, that is crushingly bad!) her way back to South Africa from Detroit, via Toronto and London later this week, and I will be picking her up at the airport on Thursday morning. Not a moment too soon, I say.

But staying behind, after I returned two weeks ago, has meant she was able to attend her nephew Kevin’s funeral in Dearborn yesterday, and reconnect with her family, something hugely important to her, especially at a time like this.

But I will be glad to see her.

Ten days after she gets back,  we will be off to Madikwe Game Reserve, with Kath and Gareth and Thomas and a bunch (flock?) of their friends – wildlife, campfires, the smell of the bush veld. I spent a little time this afternoon, trying out the Nikon 200-500mm lens I have invested in, for this and future birding and wildlife occasions – the subject, suitably enough, was a flock of rosy-faced lovebirds, who live in the eaves of the block of townhouses one up from us.

Here is a sample image.

Lovebird # 1.jpg

 

Burchell’s Coucal

Thanks once again to the very helpful and knowledgeable folk in the BirdLife South Africa Facebook Group, who within seconds of my posting let me know that this gorgeous bird is a Burchell’s Coucal.

I can assure you, on my own, I’d never have figured it out.

Burchell's Coucal.jpg