Mystery Safari Photo

Do you know what this is?  To state the obvious, yes, it’s a bird. (I have to include that comment for certain friends of mine who would immediately respond with that answer to the question. Yes, you. You know who are.)

Mystery_Bird

 

But what kind of bird? Hmmmmm……

This photo was taken in Botswana, specifically in a marshy area of the Okavango Delta.

Time for…The Birds!

Well, just one bird tonight, but I think you’ll agree that this little gal (or guy) is spectacular enough to have a blog posting all to itself.

I give you the lilac-breasted roller, one of the more common birds you’ll encounter in southern Africa. (The roller family of birds are so-named because of the acrobatic rolls they perform while flying.) lilac_bird

Isn’t she gorgeous? They’re easy to spot because of their bright plumage and because they like to perch up high in trees like this. I have many photos of these birds from most every location we visited, but this is one of my favorites (even though – if you zoom in – you’ll see the bird is not in perfect focus). There’s a couple of reasons: 1) the soft gray cloudy sky gives it a solid background for contrast and 2) because of the different textures of the two tree branches in front combined with the way they’re blurred because they are not my focal point. I do violate the rule of thirds for photography by having the bird in the center of the photo, but the branches and their textures are in the left third, drawing your eyes that way, so maybe we’ll just think of those photography rules as being more like guidelines anyway.

Lion around

Yes, that title is a terrible pun. But I love puns, so there.

These lovely ladies are obviously very relaxed, and their bellies full, enjoying an afternoon snooze. Our safari jeeps were only parked a few feet away but they paid us little to no attention.

jeepbetweencats

What’s interesting about these scenes, however, is what’s downwind from the lionesses. It’s hard to tell from this picture of our jeeps, but the lions are just to the left out of frame and just to the right out of frame is a large bush. Inside that bush, gnawing on the remains of whatever that rib cage belonged to, is a leopard.  (Yum! Does that come with honey-flavored barbecue sauce?)

According to our guides, Mike and Josh, and our tour leader Andre, the leopard was fully aware that the lionesses were only a couple yards away because the wind was blowing in her direction. But should the wind change, they cautioned, alerting the lionesses to the presence of another predator so close by…well…those sleeping lions wouldn’t have been sleeping any more.

We patiently waited, circling slowly and quietly in our vehicles, but the lionesses snoozed away and the leopard kept chewing. No fighting. No territorial disputes. Just dinner and a long nap. This wonderful close up shot was taken by our leader Andre.

leopardcloseup

 

A leopard doesn’t change its spots…

…and we certainly wouldn’t want them to, would we? Because they are beautiful! This gal certainly is.leopard_drinking1 We encountered her on our last afternoon in the Okavango Delta, drinking from the river. She paused only briefly to check us out (look at that pink tongue!),leopard_tongue2

before sitting down to contemplate her dinner options, or where that handsome male leopard might be, or maybe even the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything [which we all know is 42].

We (our safari jeeps and a couple others) proceeded to follow her for almost a half hour as she leisurely strolled through the bush, apparently with no particular destination in mind or even any concern about us. You can see her pass between jeeps here, stopping only momentarily to look at us and continue on her way. I imagine this happens to this gorgeous gal a lot. (The guides who work the Okavango Delta are very good and know the animals, their habits, and their habitats. They might not be able to find every animal you wish to see, some are too rare or too shy, but they know where the big cats are hanging out!)

She decided she’d had enough of us shortly after this, walking a bit further away (I love this one picture – on the left – because I captured her in the act of lifting her foot and you can see her foot pad). She sat behind a tree for a few minutes and then disappeared into the bush.

It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the Delta.

 

Is there anything cuter than a baby elephant?

Silly question. Of course not.

So here’s a picture of a baby elephant w/mama, nursing.

nursing_baby_elephant

This was one of the local herds. They were there in the mornings, enjoying the watering hole across the road from our camp. (This, by the way, is an example of the differences between dry season safaris and wet season safaris. As the dry season progresses, and the number of watering holes diminish, all the animals congregate closer together. So – in November – on that cusp between dry and wet, the animals came to us. In the wet season, they have more options, so disperse more widely. I’m told there’s a LOT more driving on those safaris.)

The herd seemed somewhat habituated to humans, but that certainly doesn’t mean they trusted all of us, especially when there were babies present. You’ll see in this photo series, a baby who’s separated a bit from the others, but as soon as the herd noticed we were watching, the adults rushed in to keep the little ones closer.

We maintained our distance, of course, as instructed, but still there was at least one elephant who would stand sentry. Given the matriarchal nature of elephant herds, we imagine this is an auntie who’s keeping an eye on us. auntie_watching

There were at least three babies with this herd, but it wasn’t always possible to get good pictures of all of them, so I thought I’d end with this cute little one following mama, finally having had enough of us spectators. mama_and_baby

Nuthin’ but leg

When you have 1700 pictures from a safari, it’s hard to choose what to share and what stories to tell.  Animal tales? People tales? The wind storm? Our sun downers? The leopard gnawing on a rib cage? The lioness with her cubs?

Decisions, decisions… A quick scroll for photos that caught my eye came upon this youngster in the process of standing up, looking a bit like an awkward human teenager. I know a few people who just LOVE giraffes so here she (he?) is:

dsc_0142

dsc_0143

dsc_0144

dsc_0145

 

Things That Go Bump In The Night…

Well, maybe not bump but roar or grunt or snuffle as they skitter and skulk.

Quick, all you amateur trackers, what animal made this print? (Yes, there’s a quiz at the end of this blog.)

hyena_print

Yeah…it’s not the best photo. I couldn’t identify what left this track either. So it’s a good thing we had expert guides at our mobile tented camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

But first we’ll rewind to the night before (our first night on safari). Exhausted, stuffed with the excellent food prepared by the camp chef, we collapsed on our cots inside our tents (I think I hadn’t bothered to undress)…but unable to fall asleep quickly because of the heat (November is late spring in the southern hemisphere). Well, I was unable to fall asleep. My friend, Bobbie, began softly snoring after a bit, almost unheard against the roars and grunts of the lions off in the distance. There were other animal sounds too, being that we were the middle of the African bush with all manner of wildlife surrounding us. But the lions were the loudest.

So it was rather startling, around 1 am, to hear something walk stealthily across our “porch” (the green fabric in front of the tent with chairs and water bucket) – something with four legs. tent_wbobbie

Then it left. I thought. The faintest of noises made me turn my head to the screened window at the head of my cot just as a four-legged shadow darted back around to the front of the tent again. A lion? It was maybe lion-size (a small lion), but I couldn’t tell, so I lay frozen wondering what it was doing, daring myself to turn my head toward the front screen. (Safari-goers are, of course, instructed to never leave their tents after dark for safety reasons.)

And then…”lap, lap, lap, lap, lap” (Ever have a large dog? You know that lapping sound they make as they’re slurping up water from their bowl? Yeah – that noise.) The animal, whatever it was, was drinking water from our bucket! It then slipped away into the night. waterbucket

So we had an interesting tale at breakfast the next morning and the guides came to see the tracks left around our tent.

So the answer to today’s quiz? Hyena! (Did you get the answer right?)

Of course, the real question of the day is: is Bobbie washing her face (in the middle photo) before or after we asked the camp staff if they could replace the water in the bucket?