Saturday, November 30, 2013

Agama Lizards, Tanzania

At our security gate which takes us out of town to the main road, there is a rather imposing wall running the length of the street between the boom gate and a second motor gate. Yesterday three of us ladies left town at 9am and when we passed the wall we noticed a multitude of agama lizards basking in the sun against the wall.
Agama lizard male (right) with a female a little higher up on the wall

Most of the time agama lizards are pretty inconspicuous creatures that are brown or gray in color. However, when mating season rolls around, the males turn brilliant shades of red and blue to catch the attention of their female counterparts. This unique quality has earned them many nicknames from “Rainbow Lizards” to “Spider man Lizards.”

As I took photos, I noticed one brightly colored male bobbing his head and swaying towards a female in front of him. 
 An agama lizard male doing a mating dance for the female in front of him
 The male noticed me and glared at me, while the female slid over the edge of the wall

If you get the chance to see an agama up close, you may notice it has scars or a broken tail — males are very aggressive and often get into fights. Their tails are their primary weapons. But they also use scare tactics such as the bob-and-weave movements you might see in a boxing match and opening their jaws wide to frighten their opponents. They are relatively small, averaging about 12 to 18 inches in length. 

These reptiles, active during the day, can withstand the high temperatures found under the African sun, but they prefer to find shade or other shelter when the thermostat approaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
 A young agama male peeks out from a crevice where it hides during the hottest part of the day

In fact, they typically only emerge from their hiding places to scavenge for food. Insects are the food of choice for the agamas, but you might catch them munching on fruit, grass, seeds and the eggs of other small reptiles.

I hope you're all having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. 



Friday, November 29, 2013

Rainy Skies

The mango rains have arrived! At last the Tanzanian people have sustenance; their crops should grow now. The animals have green shorts to nibble on and dams to wallow in. Oh, and the birds are having a feast on the swarms of flying ants.
The grey skies seen through the trees in my garden
When it rains in Africa, it really pours

I'm linking my post to Skywatch Friday which you can access by clicking here

I hope you're all having a wonderful Friday.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Meet Jez

As fellow bloggers and especially like-minded birders may remember from my post, I often refer to Jez who identified this or that bird for me. We met him when he came to tender for the catering job at the Guest House in August.

Ever since then, I've sent him photos of birds which we're not sure of or which we cannot identify at all. Jez belongs to a Tanzanian Bird Club and if he's not too sure about the bird, he sends it onto friends of his who peruse it and send the verdict back to him.

Apart from helping me with bird ID's, Jez has also become a good friend of ours. Whenever we fly out of or into Dar Es Salaam, we meet him at the George and Dragon for a quick catch-up. Apart from enjoying his company (he's been in East Africa since 1998 and has many hilarious and interesting stories about running camps all over the continent), we also enjoy the ambiance of this English expat pub and grill. 

On our last trip in, when we met Jez, he had another expat with him. Greg has a vast store of fantastic stories about his life as an exploration driller in Africa. He's told us fascinating stories of how he and his wife socialized with the first president of independent Tanzania, Julius Nyerer. He also remembers visiting with people whose children were then still young and who subsequently became cabinet ministers of this country. In between my mouth hanging open at this man's anecdotes, I actually remembered to take a photo of the the men as they chatted together in the courtyard of the George and Dragon. 
 Greg, left, Jez in the middle and Grant to the right of the photo

I hope you're all having a wonderful week.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Birds, birds and more birds

Due to work commitments and visiting managers, Grant and I didn't get out birding last weekend. This wasn't a problem though because over the past month I have taken so many photos that I've not posted about them all yet!

So although I had a lonely Sunday morning at home, I managed to sort through my files and choose a several photos to write about. 

The first bird I photographed a week ago, was a raptor. As usual the lighting and upward distance was challenging and although I took quite a number of photos, this was the only one worth posting. Once downloaded, Grant and I thought it might be an immature Bateleur. We weren't at all sure, so we sent it off to Jez for identification. He came back with a definite and positive ID.
Brown Snake-Eagle

Just around the next corner, I spotted a bird high up in a tree and Grant stopped for me to take photos.

Black-shouldered Kite

At the dam, we naturally saw many different waterbirds which I've posted about. However, while we sat in the vehicle we suddenly noticed a small flock of doves pecking in the clay near us.  As I panned in on them, I noticed an African Jacana also feeding in the same manner. As I've always only photographed this bird wading knee-deep in the water, I was thrilled to get photos of its feet exposed. In Afrikaans this bird is known as a Langtoon = Long toe. These photos below show how long the African Jacana's toes actually are!
African Jacana with its ultra long toes

Although the left food is blurred in movement, you can see the length of the African Jacana's toes. These are used for lily-hopping.

As we entered the security gate into town, I spotted a bird on the overhead power lines. 
 Striped Kingfisher

Back at home, I crept out into my back garden after I'd put out bird seed. (the cats were asleep in the house)  Although the Grey-headed Sparrows and Red-eyed Doves flew up into the branches above, a pretty little seed eater remained and continued to peck at the seeds.

Blue-capped Cordon-bleu
He was totally unfazed by my proximity so I managed quite a number of photos

A bird which makes the first call in the morning (as early as 4.30am) and the last to call at night, is the Spotted Palm Thrush.  It has the most beautifully melodious song and a variety of strident calls. It is also known as a great mimic!

Spotted Morning-Thrush ...

...perched on my garden fence

Then from the comfort of my office chair I regularly get a close-up of the Marico sunbirds (only one pair) who come to our nectar feeders. If I move slowly and there isn't a reflection on the glass, I normally get a photo. Last week however, I managed my best photo this year. Take a look and let me know what you think of my piece de resistance.
Marico Sunbird (Male) at our nectar feeder

I'm linking my post today to Wild Bird Wednesday which is hosted by Stewart in Australia. Do click on the link here

I hope you're all having a wonderful week.

Abominable load?

I'm linking today's post to Wordless Wednesday which you can access by clicking here

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mining and game viewing at night!

Recently we drove out onto the mine after dark. While Grant liaises with the pit supervisors on his cell, I snap away at whatever is nearby. At one point he stopped for quite a while and I managed to get several good photos of mining process in action.
The trucks pour the material from the top of the scalp (on the right of this photo) by which smaller rocks  then fed onto the conveyor (left)
Being non-technical (no room for two in our family) I was more interested in the different lighting effects I could get

After Grant completed his call, he took me up to the tailings (ridge) where I could get a panoramic view of the whole operation below.

The view from the top

As we continued along the mine road through the bush, I began to look out for night-life. And sure enough; we spotted eyes in the dark.  Grant stopped and when he pointed the torch in that direction, we saw two small buck.  

With the Customs feature on my camera, I'm able to focus better at night, but in often I capture sci-fi eyes on the animals!  

As I clicked away at these little animals, the one buck moved forward and off my screen. At the same time, I noticed glinting eyes near the ground just below the buck. 
A hare appeared in front of the remaining buck 

The African Hare has been hunted for years (here)

Another special effect gleaned from my shaking hand while I took this photo
  An unlikely pair co-habiting quite peacefully in the African bush

For more of other people's worlds, please click here

Monday, November 25, 2013

Grandchildren update

This weekend John sent me photos of the family. They're all at "home" in the Drakensberg at the moment.They have four horses at their home and seem to be enjoying this exercise enormously.  
 Eryn leading a mare with little Bethany riding bareback

Debbie (ahead) leading a gelding carrying young Elijah

17 month-old Israel being lifted onto his dad's horse

Note: Not one of these little ones get their horse-riding ability from their paternal grandmother. Although in my forties, I took part in a charity out-ride over a distance of 43km, I had never before been on a horse (and boy, did my nether regions let me know this) and never again got onto one.  It's a strange phenomena: I love all animals but am petrified of a horse. I cannot even keep my hand open to offer a horse sugar cubes! 

Over the weekend, John took Eryn (10 1/2) and Joshua on a serious hike up Cathedral Peak. Now here I can relate: I have hiked quite a number of the Drakensberg Passes with and without Grant over periods ranging from one to four days. New Year 1999, Grant and I joined Debbie's parents and all the young people (now our adult, married children who've produced these beautiful grandchildren) on a week-long hike from George to Knysna across the Outeniqua Mountains - distance 110km. 

Cathedral Peak * is a free standing mountain3004m high,  in the Drakensberg range. As a family we first climbed it in the mid-eighties when the then 14 year-old John introduced us to hiking in the mountains. When I see the gully below which is almost at the top of the ridge, I can remember arriving at this point at midday (we'd been hiking since before sunrise)  and the utter exhaustion  but also the exhilaration the first time we ever did it! 
*Do please click on the link to see a view of the mountain. 
Eryn, front and Joshua up ahead in the gully leading up to Cathedral Peak

Intrepid hikers since a young age
Joshua enjoy a cuppa at Bell Cave. Eryn is already in the tent! 

I wish you all a wonderful week ahead.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hardworking Hedges Kitties

Hi Bozo and all mum's blog readers. It's Ambrose here. Our yoomens are out again tonight so I have the laptop. I saw that we spent almost all week resting and sleeping.

In the beginning of the week, mum tidied out a cupboard in the dining room. She had empty boxes on the table so I jumped into one and then the other. That was hard work! 

Me, Ambrose checking up in one of the boxes on the table 

When I walked out onto the veranda, I noticed the rolled-up grass mat on the small table. It had to be inspected, so guess who had to do the job?
Inspecting the rolled-up grass mat on the veranda

After all these hard jobs, I joined Unca Shadow and my dad, Ginger already asleep near Mama Tiger on our kitty day bed! 
 My dad, Ginger sleeps with his tongue out. My yoomen dad says I do too! 

Unca Shadow asleep with his eyes open! 

 I snuggled up to the Tiger...

...and was soon fast asleep

For more cute pet posts around the world, please click here

Leafy shadows

For more Shadow Shots, please click here

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Smooth Reflections

Ruff reflections

For more images featured on Weekend Reflections hosted by James, please follow the link by clicking here

Friday, November 22, 2013

Full moon over Mwadui

Full moon over Mwadui last weekend

Somehow I captured a smudgy haze around the moon!

For more skies around the world, please click here

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Meet Nando, the pup

We have a new little dog at the Guest House. Nando is the last of a litter of seven pups which Honey produced before I assisted the vet to spay her and from which she subsequently died. It was my intention that after her operation, Honey would go back to the Guest House property (where she lived for two years as guard dog until she fell pregnant while I wasn't watching!) and guide her last little pup as he grew up. Sadly this was not to be. 
 Honey in a Guest Staff photo (she was staff!) with Michael, now my house askari, gardener and cat-carer petting her

Meanwhile, I and several other Mzungus tried to befriend the little dog with no success. He loves Michael, my second chef, Armani, assistant chef and adores Zacharia who arrives at 6.30 every evening to do his duty as night askari. I know exactly when Zacharia has arrived because I can hear Nand's excited  barks as he greets his friends. Every day when we went over to lunch, Nando might be lying near the driveway; if we looked his way or I bent down and tried to pat him, he'd run off into the garden, yelping hysterically.

One morning I went over to the Guest House to give Paul and his team the days' instructions. When I walked back down the driveway, I spotted Nando lying on his back, tummy exposed to the sun. I crept up to him and gently stroked his forehead. At this he leaped up, moved off into the garden and sat down to look at me. Nando's and the other security dogs' food had been cooked; a pot of boiled meaty bones and a separate pot of cooked maize stood on the ground beside me. I took a lump of maize porridge, dipped it into the meaty juice and walked slowly towards Nando, holding out my hand. He came forward  and took the food from my hand. I repeated this twice more, allowing Nando to lick my fingers;** all the while I spoke softly to him saying his name which encouraged him to look up at me. 

The next day, I dished a small saucer of beef strips from the lunch buffet and went into the garden to look for Nando. There he was sleeping on his back, tummy exposed to the sun! I held a piece steak to his nose, and he opened his mouth and swallowed it. By the second strip of meat, he opened his eyes. Then he rolled over, sat up and ate the rest of the meat from my hand. Once again, I kept talking softly to him and saying his name.

As I walked back in the direction of the Guest House kitchen, I heard a sound behind me. Turning around I saw that the little dog was following me!
Nando stops as he sees me turning to look a him

Although I called him softly by name, he wasn't coming all the way! 

I returned the saucer to the kitchen and chatted a while with the staff, who were all very busy cleaning, washing breakfast dishes, preparing the vegetables and other food for lunch.

As I opened the screen door leading out onto the kitchen steps, guess who was waiting out there for me?
Nando came to the kitchen area for the first time in his short life at the Guest House!

It's now become a daily ritual: I take a saucer of tasty meat treats to the garden, sit down on my haunches, and wave a piece around the nose area of the sleeping Nando. By the second bite, he wakes up, sits and eats the rest from my hand.

Although he allows me to stroke his head while he eats, as yet, any sudden movement still causes him to jump up and run off into the garden. I 'm hoping that the fact that I am feeding him tidbits and speaking to him at the same time, in time he will relate to my voice, begin to trust me fully and be confident enough to come to me without being tempted with a treat.


I hope you're all having a wonderful day.

JO !

** Blogger author's note: I do wash my hands thoroughly after feeding Nando! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More lifers in a weekend

Once again, Grant and I drove out for a spot of birding on the mine, the first time on Saturday morning; the second outing took place on Sunday morning.

As usual we drove slowly along the bush road on the way to the dam. There seem to be many birds on that water body at the moment but keeping our eyes peeled, we weren't disappointed with the birds we spotted on the way there.

The first bird we saw was a raptor quite a way from the road. Grant stopped and I got out, walked a little closer and managed to get a few shots.
 A Tawny Eagle  
The majestic bird takes a closer look at the lady with the camera

On the way back from the dam, we noticed that the same bird was still sitting there and another (it's mate?) sat on a branch lower down. 
 Another Tawny Eagle on a branch below the first one

As we watched (and I took photos) the first bird hopped up onto a branch higher in the tree. Then a Pied Crow flew in and began to taunt the Tawny Eagle. 

A cheeky Pied Crow lands in the tree and taunts the Tawny Eagle

After the Tawny Eagle faced the Pied Crow off, it flew away, but not for long. Soon it was back and landed on the opposite side of the eagle.

 The Pied Crow still taunts the Tawny Eagle

After a final telling off from the eagle, the crow eventually flew off into the distance. We wondered if these two eagles were indeed a pair and had chosen this tree to nest in - eventually. 

After this interesting sighting we meandered on through the bush. With the window open, we can normally hear the bird calls and within minutes we heard the screech of Yellow - collared Lovebirds. Sure enough, when we stopped I managed to get a quick photo of one bird in a small flock before they all flew off. 
 A Yellow-collared Lovebird with an identified weaver behind it! 

As I focused on the Lovebird, Grant pointed out another bird a bit further in the bush. 
 A Namaqua Dove (male) seems to be looking straight at us

We drove on and as we've been trying to photograph Blue-naped Mousebirds (not a lifer, but we love spotting them) I suddenly saw a flock of Speckled Mousebirds flying into a small tree. They flit around very quickly but I eventually managed to get some photos. 
 Speckled Mousebird

Once again we moved off along the dirt road through the bush. (Birding is not something to be rushed!) Suddenly I pointed out a "different" bird in a tree near the road. Grant stopped and I took several photos. When I downloaded the photos, we weren't at all sure what we'd seen so we sent them off to Jez for identification. His answer was exciting for us: A Red-tailed (Isabelline) Shrike. Although we'd seen a Red-Backed Shrike years ago in the Nubian Desert, Sudan, this particular bird was a lifer for us.
A Red-tailed (Isabelline) Shrike

Before we arrived at the dam (only about 4kms from town) we had seen several birds.

 Helmeted Guineafowl

 A pair of Black-headed heron

 Olive Bee-eaters

 Streaky Seed-eater

Striped Kingfisher

Once at the dam, we stopped the vehicle, Grant scanned the water and edges with the binoculars. I got out and crept towards the water (taking care not to sink into the glutinous clay!) and took photos. 

There were African Jacanas, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Long-tailed Comorants, White-faced Whistling Duck, Knob-billed Duck and several waders on the dam. 
African Jacana 

 White-faced Whistling Duck
 Cattle Egret (the one on the right is a breeding adult) 
Yellow-billed (Intermediate)Egret; the tops of its legs are yellow, showing a non-breeding adult

African Spoonbill

Great White Pelican

Pied Kingfisher (Male)
 Pied Kingfisher (Female) 

 Sacred Ibis (Juvenile) 

 Spur-winged Plover 

It was while I was photographing the Plover and Ibis that I noticed a large black storklike bird on my screen. Using the binoculars, I focused on the bird before handing the glasses to Grant to hear what he thought. Meanwhile I snapped away at the bird. When I downloaded the photos at home, we checked on our Birds of Africa South of the Sahara and found that we'd spotted an African Open-billed Stork. A lifer for us! 
 African Open-billed Stork

Like the African Spoonbill, the name speaks for itself

Then it was time to wend our way home. But not before I'd spotted a flock of LBJ's. (Little Brown Jobs) in a thorn bush ahead of the vehicle. Being my favorite birds to try and identify, I took several photos to go and check up at home. LBJ's are also very difficult to id at times, so I eventually gave up and Grant sent the photos on to Jez. His verdict: 
 Cardinal Quelea (Female) : a lifer for us

I'm linking my post to Wild Bird Wednesday, hosted by Stewart which you can access by clicking here
I hope you're all having a great week.