Friday, December 30, 2011

Last Sunrise over Africa for 2011

Well, technically it's not the last sunrise for 2011 - that will happen tomorrow morning - nor did I take these photos today. The images are from two weeks ago on the first leg of safari through four National Parks in Kenya.


For more beautiful skies around the world, click here

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kenya Safari Part I

On Saturday 17 December Grant and I left the camp at 4.30am. (See tomorrow's post for stunning sunrise photos!) By the time we reached and passed Nakuru, the sun was high in the sky and I managed one photo of a crater along the way.

Not sure which crater this is, but I enjoyed taking the photo through the window of a fast-moving vehicle!

We spent the night in Nairobi, and early the next morning we started out on the first leg of our safari.


We stopped at the turnoff to the Masaai Mara Game Reserve to take photos of the many signs, We were booked into Fig Tree Camp situated on the Talek River. (More about this fantastic camp later). While I was focussing on the signs a man ran up to Grant and warned him not to take the road ahead due to recent heavy rains. He convinced Grant to get out while he drew a map leaning on the vehicle bonnet. He had a selection of coloured pens with which he drew an elaborate map mostly with secondary roads leading off the main route and notes saying: "don't take this road" ! Ten minutes later he handed Grant the map and asked for KSH1000/US$13!

We continued on the normal route, ignoring the con-man's map completely. The road was tarred which made it much worse as the tar is almost non-existent. The distance between the turnoff where I took the photos of the signs and the entrance to Masaai Mara is 101km. It took us almost three hours to cover this!
The main road to Masaai Mara Game Reserve was a challenge in anyone's language!

At last we arrived at the entrance but more about this later.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

African Wattled Lapwing (Plover)

As it's World Bird Wednesday, I posted the first of the many birds I photographed while on safari recently.

Below is a very interesting bird: the African Wattled Lapwing (previously known as African Wattled Plover) It's a large grey-brown bird (the largest African plover) with distinctive
yellow wattles hanging from the front of the eyes. There are smaller red wattles above the yellow ones. The forehead is white, the centre of the chin is black and the face and neck are streaked with black.

A thin black line seperates the brown chest and upper belly.  The legs and feet are yellow
The bill is yellow with a black tip and the bird has a distinctive upright stance

I photographed this bird in the Masaai Mara Game reserve.

For more beautiful birds around the world, click here

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas everyone!

We're back home after a ten-day safari across Kenya and wondering if the cats missed us... Mmm?

Shadow

Ambrose

Ginger

This was the first Christmas, since I started blogging in October 2008, that we didn't spend at home. I hope you all had a wonderfully blessed time with friends and family. I'll be back to blogging and visiting soon . (And sharing our safari with you)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kitties are staying home

Shadow and Ginger enjoy a nap on the old veranda chair

While Ambrose mans the office in his mum's absence!


For more pet posts around the world, click here

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Off to see Kenya

Today as this post is aired, we'll be on our way to the Masaai Mara Game Reserve. The Masaai Mara also known as Masai Mara or The Mara, is a large game reserve in soutwestern Kenya. As it's on the border of northern Tanzania, it's effectively a continuation of the Serengeti National Park. The claim to fame for both these parks in neighbouring countries, is the Great Migration of hundreds of thousands (in fact, about 2 million) of wildebeest, Thompson's gazelle and zebra which migrate from one park to another at a certain time of the year. We're probably not going to witness this phenomenal occurance, known as one of the new seven wonders of the world, while we're in the park. But as a world famous game reserve, Masaai Mara offers viewing the large cats, many different antelope, giraffe and of course, BIRDS.
An aerial view of some of the 1.5million wildebeest migration in Masaai Mara

A herd of wildebeest in the foreground with zebra behind them

Masaai giraffe: these sport jagged patches and a tuft at the end of the tail

Ballooning over the Masaai Mara: we won't be partaking of this activity. It is exhorbitantly expensive! (All photo credits: Courtesy of Google)

After spending three days in The Mara, we'll drive northwards to Baringo. As it's too long a journey to do comfortably in one day, we'll overnight at Lake Elementaita. (famous for its Lesser Flamingoes and other birds and variety of  game). From there we drive to Baringo, are collected by boat and taken to Island Camp for one day and night. We've stayed there on two occasions and loved it.

From there we return to Nakuru National Park which is apparently a birders' paradise. (Say no more!) Christmas Eve, -Day and -Night is spent in this park and then it home to the valley.

To every one of my blog readers and followers: Have a wonderfully blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

I will be back online by the 27th.

Jo

Friday, December 16, 2011

Full moon over the Valley

For more beautiful skies around the world, click here

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Monkeys on Chebutie Camp

Continuing with my post on the monkeys around the camp, yesterday I captured pictures of a female and her very small baby. The sight of a mother with a baby is enough to soften any heart. During the spring and summer months here in the valley, there were lots of monkey mothers with babies clutching their undercarriages. I marvel at how they manage to hold as the mothers swing from tree to tree, scamper up steep banks and along rocky paths. But they do. Yesterday I did what I never do (well, not often, LOL!): I fed this monkey. At first I found two tomatoes in the fridge: one for the other monkeys watching me, and one for mama-monkey. I hurled each tomato onto the roof and before they could rolll off, the mother monkey grabbed hers, ran to the apex of the roof and proceeded to eat it. In the early morning sun, this made a perfect picture. A second monkey  grabbed the second tomato and sat a distance away eating it while watching me!

I came indoors to the pantry. Opening a large container of  Grant's Ginger Nuts, I took out a celophane packet containing four cookies. Outside I broke each piece in half and threw the first one up on the roof.
The blue vervet mother monkey with a tiny baby hanging onto her undercarriage (The older monkey in the bottom photo is always with her; perhaps offspring from last season?)

Mama-monkey  - obviously waiting for me  - grabbed the cookie and brought it to her mouth. The baby, still downy-headed, looked up as if asking for a share.

I just love the way this baby reached up and tried to share mum's tidbit

Isn't it just too cute ?

The babies latch onto a teat while hanging on under mum. Milk-on -tap, as it were!

I'm protected by my mum!

I fed mama- monkey two-and-a half biscuits and the  remaining ones to the other monkeys who'd gathered around on the roof!

So there you have it. It's actually taboo (an unwritten law on camp) to feed these animals but having done this, I wanted to share the beautiful photos with you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Golden Breasted Bunting and Bokeh

A few weeks ago I read about Bokeh on fellow blogger, Lori's post . It's basically describes the "out-of-focus" areas of a photograph making the main subject stand out. She has beautiful samples of her photography here. I have been trying to perfect this technique without much success. On Sunday Grant and I were birding in the valley, when I spotted a bird on the side of the road. I not so much as spotted it as heard it at first. Grant stopped and I saw the bird sitting on a sandy mound uttering a nasal buzzing sound: "zzhhrrr". I took half a dozen photos before it flew off into the bush. Imagine my delight when I downloaded the photos and found that I'd inadvertantly achieved the Bokeh effect in my photo. (you can read more about Bokeh here, if you wish)
Golden-breasted Bunting
Bokeh shows how the out-of-focus area makes the subject stand out (I'm determined to work harder to achieve this from now on!)

For more bird photos around the world, click here

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nanny and kid

As we travel through the mine and even across Kenya, we find many herds of goats, sheep and cattle. These are the people's wealth and often their livelihood. On Sunday we came across this nanny goat and her very tiny kid. This was the smallest kid I have seen on site and I hope it survives. Only time will tell.




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Monday, December 12, 2011

Birding and Christmas Lunch

In response to the many comments on my Thursday post, please be assured that the monkeys in our camp and gardens are very well protected. They aren't harmed in any way by any of the expats living here. We just don't encourage them by feeding them. The monkey sitting in the tree near our tea party last week, had in fact, been raiding the mango tree a few minutes earlier. At that point when I took the photo, his friends were bouncing on the roof and rolling green, half-eaten mangoes down the tiles!
A monkey in our baobab tree outside my bedroom window. I took this photo last week. While enjoying our tea in bed in the morning we watch the antics of the monkeys through the window
Even though the rain seems to have stopped now, the river is still raging

Saturday mid-morning Grant collected me from home and we went out birding. This was the first time in a while. We spotted many birds which I'll post later this week. I have placed a photo of a flycatcher just because I can! This delightfully neat little bird always sits dead still while you click away.
African Grey Flycatcher, a perfect photographic subject

On Sunday we went birding again. I hope to fit in the many birds we saw on our hour-and-a-half drive! On the way home,  Grant stopped in the lane for me to photograph a pair of starlings.

The striking Greater Blue-eared Starling

And another African Grey Flycatcher sitting in a tree above the starling!

At midday we drove up to the Guest House to attend the company Christmas lunch. Sue and the Guest House chefs had set tables under gazebos on the lawn making it a very festive occasion.
Head-teacher, Caroline, Clinical Officer, Jo-Ann and Sue chatting before lunch

Chef Wheatcliffe chatting to some of the guests as they help themselves at the buffet

There were four meats: Christmas ham, roast lamb, peppered steak and three varieties of stuffed chicken

*Sigh* Another tough day in Africa!

On Wednesday the HOD's (who were all present at this dinner) will host a large dinner for the company employees. Sue and I are not involved in this and will probably go birding instead!

I wish you all a wonderful week ahead.

Sunday, December 11, 2011