Thursday, June 30, 2011

End of June 2011, and all's well!

It's been raining hard for the past seven weeks. This week we've had huge thunderstorms and downpours every night.  The days are sunny and warm. The river is up, the world is green and man and  nature is thriving.

Last night's downpour

Walking down the lane on Tuesday morning to meet Sue at the security gate (we were off the to the market and to do some birding afterwards), I heard a grating sound. I looked up and spotted a Double-toothed barbet. It's not my first sighting of this magnificent bird, but I've only seen it since living here in Kenya and I still get excited when one crosses my path. The Double-toothed Barbet is a large, red-breasted bird with a large yellow bill.
Double-toothed barbet - This is one of a pair I spotted in the lane leading into my garden

Earlier this week I posted that the company carpenters would come and fit my screen doors. They arrived on Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday midday, they'd completed one of the three doors. Today they will finish fitting one at the kitchen entrance. Finally, the lounge door will also have a screen door.
Jonathan and Philip fitting my first screen door

With the abundant rains, my new, wild garden (which covers almost my entire garden now) is thriving.  Soon I'll post about how Stanley and I have changed from the garden from exotic to about 80% indigenous. For now I've posted just two of my favourites...
Dietes grandiflora - large wild iris - a perennial, evergreen plant which produces these magnificent blooms

The "discovery" of this plant in my garden, is one my two best finds while changing from an exotic garden to a primarily indigenous garden: Bulbine bulbosa.Bulbine is named for the bulb-shaped tuber shown by many of the species. Bulbine is found chiefly in Southern Africa, with few species extending into tropical Africa and a few species in Australia 

In between writing articles and sending out queries to magazines, I've also been watching Wimbledon. Today I watched the Australian youngster, Bernard Tomic vs  Novak Djokovic on court 1. Meanwhile Federer was playing Tsonga on Centre Court which didn't show on my sport channel so it was only this evening that I heard about the major upset of Tsonga beating Federer in five sets.

I hope you're all having a wonderful week and an even better year!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another Successful Sunday Birding in Kenya

 Sunday morning Grant and I took a slightly different route to start our birding excursion for the day. Instead of heading for the dam and beyond, we drove west up the mountain to where Grant's men have a field service workshop under a group of acacia trees. We were off to see some active Cordon-bleu, Purple Grenadier and Superb Starlings' nest in these trees.

However, as we travelled slowly up the mine road, we looked out for birds. Up ahead I spotted a Greater Blue-eared Starling chasing a bird from a tree but, instead of this bird taking flight, it flitted around the trunk disappearing from our view.  We stopped and waited. Within a few seconds, the starling had retreated to a branch higher up and the other bird crept around the tree trunk. A woodpecker - a Bearded Woodpecker! It obviously had a nest somewhere nearby and was looking for food on this tree trunk.

The Bearded Woodpecker is a large woodpecker with a diagnostic bold black-and-white face pattern. It has barred (not plain) back, wings and tail. Both sexes have dark underparts which are finely barred white. The male has a red hindcrown, black in female. (No prizes for guessing which gender the bird below is!)

The Bearded Woodpecker (female)
Another image showing the diagnostic markings of the female Bearded Woodpecker

While we sat watching this busy little female, another woodpecker landed on the branch above and began pecking at the wood. This one (also a female) was a Grey Woodpecker, a lifer for me and Grant.

The Grey Woodpecker is a medium-sized plain woodpecker with a grey head (red hindcrown in male), golden-olive upperparts and red rump. Belly patch is red, orange or yellow or sometimes - as in my photo below - indistinct.

Grey Woodpecker, female

By the time we arrived at the field service workshop, the Grenadiers and Cordon Bleus had left their nests. The Superb Starlings (both parents) landed on their nest and fed their young, but the sun was so high that I could't get a decent photo.

On the way back down the road, when we reached the trees where we'd seen the woodpeckers, I saw the starling land on the trunk and disappear. We stopped the vehicle, got out, walked around the tree and saw a nest hole about two meters up.  While we watched a bill appeared, then a head and a starling flew out of the nest hole. Now we knew why the starling was chasing the woodpeckers from this tree. It has a nest here!

We spotted many other birds, not least hornbills, cuckoos, barbets, weavers, white-eyes, flycatchers, bee-eaters,  a coucal and robin-chats. I aim to do a post on the hornbills in the near future. For more birds around the world, click here

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A party on Monday morning

On Monday morning, Sue phoned me and asked if I'd like to go to the school with her. Of course I did and she collected me at 9.30. The car was loaded with sweets, ice-cream, sodas and cakes.  We were off to a party on Monday morning! The reason? The children in the first three classes/grades at school had excelled at their target marks in the last exam the company rewarded them with treats.
The three younger classes at school: grade three (front tables) grade two, (middle tables and grade one (far table near the blackboard)

Sue and I started by making ice-cream cones and the two teachers (not visible) and Head Teacher, Caroline above, helped. See the ecstacy on the face of the little boy licking his ice-cream cone!

I soon found Stacey - Naomi's daughter - at the class 2 table. She shyly posed for her mother's "mam" to take a photo!

I broke this little boy's cone while trying to load it with ice-cream;  I gave him a second [whole] ice-cream cone!

Sue zooming in on a lad who had ice-cream on his chin while the others look on!

Happiness is ice-cream all over your chin!

Grade 4 girls outside the window! The Grades 4, 5 and 6 didn't reach their target and couldn't be rewarded like the younger classes

These four boys kept calling for us to photograph them. I called them the Four Muskateers which had their teacher in fits of laughter! When Sue and I packed up and prepared to leave, the Head Teacher asked the little lad on the far right, whom she nick-named Kofi Anann, to thank the company for supplying the treats. He rose to occassion with the same applomb that the former UN Secretary General would have done!

I realise there are thousands of starving children in Africa. However, the children above are being given a chance, through the generosity of the mine owner and present mine management, to make something of their lives. I hope and pray that when these youngsters do achieve greatness, they will have compassion and empathy to do something for their own people. For now they are being educated in the best possible way and rewarded when they excel or improve on previous achievements.

After leaving the primary school, Sue and I popped in at the pre-primary school. Sharda (the other lady on camp) had donated clothes belonging to her teenage daughter for the small children to play "dress-up" with. While chatting to the teacher, Monica, the youngest children marched up the path to have their tea in the recreation house. I just could not resist a photo of these precious children.
Three-year-olds march to have their mid-morning tea

All the school children - from pre-primary to grade 8 - are given a mid-morning meal of ugali (soft maize porridge) and a mug of milk.

Sue and I finally made our way back out of the village and back to the camp. What a lovely way to spend a Monday morning!

For more of other worlds, click here

Monday, June 27, 2011

Another quiet weekend in Kimwarer, Keirio Valley

On Friday morning Grant brought the carpenters to discuss fitting our screen doors. The cats were sleeping on the dining chairs and as they heard the booming male voices, the made for the interior of the house! A few minutes later I found them sleeping on their beds in respective guest rooms!

Pudding asleep and far away from the noise

In the next guest room, I found Shadow burrowed under the duvet. That is a cat under there.You can take my word for it. (these photos are fuzzy as I took them through the mosquito netting)

I'm not coming out until they leave, mum!

BTW, the carpenters left after checking what they need and said they'd be back. They didn't return on Friday, but that's Africa time for you...

While I sat at my desk a while later, I heard someone knocking just outside the window. I looked up and there, in the frangipani tree next to the house, was a woodpecker!
The Nubian Woodpecker
The Nubian Woodpecker male has a red moustachial stripe; while the female has a white-spotted black crown with a small red patch on the nape. This bird pecked at different branches for a while, then flew off

On Saturday I dowloaded my e-newsletter from Weigh-less Health and Wellness Club. This missal always arrives on Friday evening to provide motivation, tips and recipes to keep you on track for the weekend and the week ahead!  This week it featured a tasty soup which I quickly made for lunch. Roasted tomato soup (Recipe at end of post)
Roasted Tomato Soup served with freshly-baked homemade bread

Roasted Tomato Soup - Weigh-less

100g onion
20ml olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
900g tomatoes
100g red sweet pepper
200g carrots
600ml vegetable or chicken stock

Peel and chop carrots.
Chop tomatoes, onions, peppers into chunks
Add garlic and oil, toss
Place all in casserole
Season with salt and pepper
Roast in oven at 200C for 40 minutes
Remove from heat, scrape vegetables from bottom of casserole to loosen
Pour over the boiling stock
Spoon into blender and blend until smooth
Serve with crusty homemade bread

On Sunday we went out birding and spent another rewarding three hours prowling around the African bush enjoying the birds and nature.

Another peaceful weekend in the valley.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The First Parsonage

B&B accommodation in a small Karoo town we passed through on our bike ride in May

For more scenes around the world, click here

Shadow reflected

For more pets around the world, click here

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Death is not a victor

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:55

A special Scripture for my young friend in South Africa (and first follower of my blog) who lost her mum suddenly this week.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sunrise this week

A spectacular sunrise in a stormy sky earlier this week

For more beautiful skies, click here

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gloriously Green

A bright green grasshopper, with black patterned wings, in my garden yesterday

I tried to identify above grasshopper via the Internet but was unsuccessful. However, I was thrilled to spot this vivid creature on a sisal plant  under my bedroom window and to practice my super macro photography on it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Black-headed Gonalek

A few weeks ago I posted about a walk outside camp while trying to photograph an elusive but very beautiful bird: a Gonalek. I said I would persevere until I had a photo. Well, this weekend, while out birding on the mine, I finally managed to photograph my a Gonalek!

The first time we saw this beautiful bush-shrike it was hopping about and "hiding" in thickets below the dam wall. On Sunday we heard it calling again and crept around in the same thorn scrub under the same dam wall trying to get a glimpse of it. No success.

Eventually it was time to head back to camp and we made our way - slowly, birders never rush when out in the field - up the road past the mine offices. In a dense thorn bush on the side of the road, I saw a flash of red. Grant noticed it as well and stopped the car. There, perched on a thick branch in full view, was a Black-headed Gonalek!

The Black-headed Gonalek is a bush-shrike with a black back and head and striking crimson underparts. It has yellow eyes and a buffy vent. The male has a strident whistle, "wheeoo" which the females answers with a harsh, grating "quurr".

The Black-headed Gonalek  
A closer image of the Black-headed Gonalek
The bird whistled here:"wheeoo"

An anwering "quurr" and the female landed on the branch beside him

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More than a thousand

I meant to keep tally of my posts last week. I knew I was approaching 1000 posts and put a reminder on my calender for 20th June. However, when I checked up on my posts yesterday, I saw that I'd already reached 1003 posts.

I started this blog on 1 October 2008 so this is not a blogaversary.  This celebrates more than a thousand posts.

Thanks to all my fellow bloggers who follow and/or read my blog and make posting worthwhile and enjoyable.

Above is a small collage of a few of the birds we spotted on Sunday. On Wednesday I'll post more of the birds we saw.

Yesterday also marked the start of Wimbledon. Watching a documentary of Wimbledon down the years, I saw a replay of one of the best matches I've ever watched: Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. In 1980 the fiesty young American entered the scene but the Swede heartthrob, also known as the Iceborg because of his cool, unruffled demeanour beat John McEnroe in a five-set match making it his fifth consecutive win at Wimbledon. This match went down in the annals as the best Wimbledon final. The next year, John McEnroe was back and this time, he beat Borg in four sets. Those years, I watched this final as well.

Since 2005, when we lived on a goldmine camp in Guinea, West Africa, we've not had television - until returning to this camp here in Kenya. I will be following the tournament in the next two weeks, although I'll have to learn most of the new players .

1981 Wimbledon Mens Singles Final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe

For more other people's worlds, click here

Monday, June 20, 2011

A quiet weekend in the valley

This weekend was the first time since the middle of April (when the summer rains began) that I had a feathered visitor in my garden pond. Our garden is surrounded by African bush and while there is sufficient food and drink in the wild, the birds can be always be heard and but often not seen.
The Dark-capped Bulbul
is always welcome in my garden

While in Nairobi this week, I bought a book called English made Easy for 6-7 year-olds. On Saturday Naomi (who keeps house for me in Kenya) brought her eight-year-old daughter, Stacey to see me. I showed her and Naomi how to go through the book page by page. I believe this will improve Stacey's English. Naomi also brought me Stacey's latest school report. She had improved overall by 57% since her first report earlier this year. Note: even though Stacey turned eight in May, I thought the exercise for a year younger would be of more use while she becomes familiar with the English language.  The next time we go to Nairobi, I'll bring her the book for 7-8 years olds.

On Saturday I baked bread, an apple cake/loaf and banana bread (like I do every week). I also baked a dozen hamburger buns. While Grant and Johan watched Super 15 Rugby that evening, I served hamburgers and chips. I also make my own hamburger patties. Needs must when you live far away and  cannot pop out to the supermarket to buy the pre-packed variety. Quite a good thing, I'd say! (definitely a lot healthier)

Hamburger buns which I served with home-made meat patties (Recipe below)

Hamburger buns
Makes 12 decent sized buns
2 Cups warm milk
1/4 Margarine, melted
1/4Cup warm water
1/4 Cup Sugar
3 tsp dried yeast
2 tsp salt
6 Cup white bread flour
1/4 Cup sesame seeds

Set oven at 375 ◦ F/ 200 ◦C
In a bowl, stir together milk, marge, warm water, yeast and sugar
Allow to stand for 5 minutes
Add flour and salt until a soft, firm dough is formed
Divide into 12 balls, place on baking sheet, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Allow to rise until double in size
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned on top

Blogger friends meet in Kenya: Me and Penny from Canada with whom I've been corresponding for the past eighteen months. You can scroll down to my post on Saturday to read about Penny's work here in Kenya.

It's not often that there is a photo of me on my blog. Today there are TWO! While sitting in the garden with Shadow exploring the rockery beside me, Grant - who never takes photos - picked up my camera and snapped us

While sitting at my computer last night, I noticed the cats were staring at something under the two-seater sofa in the upper-level diningroom. On closer inspection, I saw it was a baby snake. It was about 7cm/3 inches long, thin, black and the thickness of a matchstick. It was definitely a snake as only snakes slither along like this one did. Under the transfixed, almost comical gaze of two cats, I managed to coaxe the little creature onto a piece of paper and took it outside. As soon as I tipped it into the garden, it disappeared into a crack in the rock wall below. This is not the first time I've found a snake in the house. You can read about a similar encounter here.

I've been feeling poorly since returning from Nairobi. Headache and neck pains, perspiring for no reason at all, dizzy spells, aching joints. When I tripped almost fell down a bank while birding at the top dam on Sunday morning,  I asked Grant to take me to the clinic. I've been diagnosed with malaria but with medication, should improve soon. (As you can see by the above photo, I never look sick!)

Have a wonderful week everyone.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

So relaxed...

A pretty river scene

Early settlers saw the river and valley and said it was "mooi" which is Afrikaans for "pretty".

This part of the [Mooi] river flows past our friends' guest house in the Muden Valley. Whenever I visit there, I find I take dozens of photos of this pretty river

The Mooi River is a river in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. It rises in the Mkomazi Nature Reserve in the Drakensberg Mountains, and empties into the Tugela River near Muden. The town of Mooi River lies along this river some distance to the south.
For more beautiful scenes around the world, click here

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trip to Nairobi

On Wednesday Grant and I left the camp before sunrise. He had several business appointments in Nairobi and we'd also do a little private shopping while in civilization.
Driving through sleepy villages as the sun came up
There'd been a lot of rain in this area recently. I loved the reflections in the flooded plains next to the road

Grant has his Kenyan driver's license so instead of using a company driver, he took us all the way to our destination. After Khartoum with its eight million inhabitants, roaring traffic for 20 hours a day, every conceivable mode of transport - including conventional vehicles - in the city streets, donkey carts, rickshas (three-wheel motorcycles with canopies) motor taxis, mini-bus taxis, busses, wheelchair motorcycles, hawkers, beggars, pedestrians, goats, chickens and cows, driving in Nairobi was the proverbial walk in the park.

We stayed at Silver Springs Hotel in the heart of the city

When we returned home on Thursday, we stopped in Nakuru. We were collecting company guest house and private meat orders from a popular butchery in town. I had arranged to meet a fellow blogger from Canada who was visiting in Nakuru and we managed to spend a few minutes in a nearby restaurant. Penny regularly flies out to East Africa where she has a personal ministry amongst the Kenyan people. Penny embodies the Scripture of how faith needs to be accompanied by action. James 2:14-16:  Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can't save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or a sister who needs food or clothing and you say: "well, goodbye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well" but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? Penny ministers to the young and homeless, feeds them, gives them a warm coat and above all, prays with them.  She gives these youngsters hope for the future. She listens to them as they tell her of their worries and fears, (the good ones are threatened and often victims of verbal abuse from their glue-sniffing peers) their dreams and aspirations. Penny reminds me of that special 20th Century lady who dedicated her life to ministering to millions of people in Calcutta. Bless you dearest Penny, it was a pleasure and a privilege to meet you. Travel mercies and God speed on your journey back home.

Dear reader, perhaps your faith is moving you to assist in Penny's work. If so, you can click on her blog here.

Grant and I arrived home in the camp at five on Thursday evening. Ginger and Shadow had been well cared for by Naomi during the day and Johan in the evening. These two spoilt felines immediately tried to climb into our shopping bags! Perhaps they smelled the dried fish we'd bought in the city for them?

Even though it's a treat to go to the city, I love coming home to the valley.

I hope you're all enjoying a blessed weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Early morning in our camp

For more skies around the world, click here

Thursday, June 16, 2011

One minute sermon rap

By Tamara Lowe

I don't know this vivacious young woman, but love her presentation and the reason why you should give your life to God.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Birding in Kimwarer Valley

We went out birding on Sunday morning, a dull and wet day. Although there wasn't the normal abundance of birds in and around the dam, we did see Pied Kingfishers and Malachite Kingfishers, Grey Herons and Common Squacco Herons, Hamerkops, African Jacanas, Cattle Egrets and a flock of Black Crakes.

Two hours later we drove back towards the offices. In a dip in the road with thick bush on the edges, I spotted mousebirds. People don't often stop for or look at mousebirds. They're a common sight and can be a major pest if you have a fruit orchard. However, even though we see them here often, I've never been able to get a good photo. Grant stopped so I could!

 Speckled Mousebird

The Speckled Mousebird is a generally brown bird with a very long tail and a disctinctive head crest. A gregarious species, they occur in woodlands, scrub and cultivated areas.

Sit up dear. The lady's taking a photo

While I watched these birds on my camera screen, I noticed another, stockier and very colourful bird sitting near them. Before I could focus, it flew away. That evening Grant and I drove down to the same area. As we arrived, I spotted the same colourful bird perched on a branch.

The Red-and-yellow Barbet (Female)

This is a very distinctive red and yellow bird with a large red bill and black crown. The wings and tail are black spotted with white and yellow. The underparts are yellow with an orange wash on the chest. There is a black and white spotted chest band and a black streak down the throat. The female is similar but lacks the black throat streak and has a red crown tipped with black.

This morning as my post is aired, Grant and I will be travelling to Nairobi. He has business in the city and we should be motoring home tomorrow. He's thrilled that I've decided to leave my laptop at home. (Must remember to pack my knitting!) I 've arranged to meet up with a blogger friend. More about this later.

Till then, bless you - all!