Wednesday, April 30, 2014

No birds today!

Normally on a Wednesday I post photos of the many birds Grant and I have seen over the previous weekend. Now we're in SA, we seem to be dashing between catching up with our children and grandchildren, shopping and generally doing things we don't do in Tanzania!

Tonight we'll load the bike and be off on our bike tour down the Cape. We'll spend the first night in Graaff Reinet, which is a beautiful town in the Karoo. 

From there it's on to Witsand, where we'll spend the weekend with friends, Derek and Lesley at their holiday home on the Breede River. 

Early next week, we bike down to Knysna and spend a night with friends, Pete and Mart at their beautiful guest house overlooking the Knysna Heads. 

Another night on the coast, and we start to head inland and north where we'll stay overnight in Somerset East (Eastern Cape) and then it's a morning's ride back home to Marquard! 

Until then, I wish you all a wonderful week.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Home in South Africa

Since I was last home in South Africa, I seemed to have added quite a few friends/followers to my blog; 21 to be precise which is SUPER! Thanks to all people who follow, read and comment on my blog from the day I started it way back in October 2008. 

What I find too, is that people have often become confused by my life/lives in two different parts of Africa. Early In 2000, Grant became and expat and went to work on a remote mine site in Northern Guinea, West Africa. I joined him in October of that year and have been an expat since then as well. We've since been in several countries across Africa: Mali, the land which has Timbuktu; Khartoum, Sudan, North Africa; Grant did a spell in Zambia, while I stayed home in South Africa; we spent a wonderful year in a beautiful valley in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya and currently live in Northern Tanzania where we have been for the past two years and three months.  We spent three months "on site" and then have a three-week holiday. We have a home in Marquard, South Africa and always come home for our holiday.

We live just above the little red dot near Bloemfontein!

When we're at work, we live in Tanzania. You can see where it is in relationship to our home which is more-or-less near the bottom green blob near the "H" in SOUTH. This is where we are now! 

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

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hi Everyone! At last we've arrived home safe and sound in South Africa after almost three  days of traveling across the African continent. 

When preparing to leave Mwadui, I mentioned that I would bringing home several pottery pieces in my suitcase. They arrived in one piece, thank goodness!
 A Siamese cat on a large plate for my friend, Mart in Knysna! 

The next item I made to look  like a beach with sandpiper footprints and crab holes and the waves lapping at the sand. After I'd rolled the clay and shaped the bowl in an asymmetrical form (to look natural!),  I rolled a piece of rough sandpaper across the "beach" side of the plate. Then I cut footprints and pricked crab-holes into this part. The other half I left free.  When it had been bisqui-ed, I painted water blue with soft white horses and a foamy edge to the water. I emphasized the footprints and crab holes with black paint. Once it was baked in the final oven, I was quite pleased with the result!  This bowl is for friend, Lesley who has a holiday home on the Breede River Mouth in the Cape.
 The bowl which [hopefully] resembles a beach and waves with bird footprints and crab holes 
The piece d' resistance was something which I made for my home in South Africa! It's a ceramic tray depicting Ambrose and Ginger in blue-framed windows;  Shadow prowls below this! Although it may not be too clear in the photo, each cat has a collar with his initial attached. Ambrose, in the left-hand window has a green collar and there's an "A" hanging from his neck. Ginger's collar is red with his "G" reasonably visible in the photo. Shadow's "S" is the clearest and hangs from a blue collar. As I mentioned last week, when I felt ill over the long-weekend, I spent time in between resting, painting these three little lads; it  turned out to be very therapeutic ! 
 My own ceramic tray portraying the Tanzanian Trio quite well! 

As always we're greeted joyously on the patio by the three dogs when we arrive home. Indoors, we always find dear Chappie, who despite Emily's efforts to put her on a reduction diet (with special kitty kibbles for overweight cats) just seems to be fatter every time we see her!
Chappie our South African cat who, despite every effort to curtail her eating,  never seems to lose weight! (I hope Ambrose doesn't see the photos of this kitty! ) 
Chappie sits close to me when I get home after our long absence!  

I hope you're all having a great week.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mum's gone again!

Hi Bozo, Lindy and mum's blog readers. It's Ambrose here and although mum got better last week, she has gone away to a F A R place for a L O N G time again! However, we're being looked after by Regina and we'll just sleep until mum gets back again. She will come back, I know this...

Mum calls me the Kenyan Cat with a V! (The dark markings on my front legs)
We three Tanzanian Cats at rest!

For more cute pet posts, please click here

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tanzanian Saturday Critters

What with being ill over the past two Saturdays, I've missed joining Eileen's Saturday Critters Party! I've decided to post some of the beautiful and interesting birds and animals we've seen over the past month.
Dwarf Mongoose at its nest hole near the boom gate!

I'm always thankful that I'm able to capture these critters on camera. (I don't seem to see things immediately in the bush, LOL!) Last week we spotted many small groups of dik-dik. At one point, we saw four of these dainty deer bound across the road from one side of the bush into the other. Grant stopped and I focused on where we thought the dik-dik had gone. Nothing. Then suddenly a little female reversed from the left to the right and stopped.  She was soon approached by a buck, coming from the place where she had been!  We watched as the second deer ducked its head towards the first one. And then he (we saw he had horns) turned his head into the bush away from us, pawed the ground and snorted. She moved forward towards him. This happened two more times when suddenly the female darted off into the bush with the male following. When I downloaded the photos, we saw the the second buck's hair on its head was standing up in a tuft. Grant reckoned it was probably a form of courtship that we'd witnessed! Amazing!
The female dik-dik reversing from left to right in our line of vision
The male dik-dik with a tuffted forehead which we think was a form of courtship!

 Along the airstrip on our way back, we stopped to photograph a Monitor Lizard waddling across the road

I would love to be able to post umpteen more photos of critters here, but I'm loading this post before we leave camp on Friday and just have to finish up !

I'm linking my post to Saturday Critters Party by Eileen. 

 Next time I log on, will be from my home in Marquard! 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Full moon over Tanzania last week

For more sky shots around the world, please click here

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Last birding in April - continued

Passionate cat-lover and avid birder! Photo Credit: Michael Askari

Continuing on the "last" birding in April, before the Easter weekend, as we stopped at the explosives magazine, we saw the Dabchick on the dam below. I zoomed in and was very excited to see two chicks on the adult's back. We'd been watching "this space" for the past three weeks and always only saw one Dabchick in front of the reeds. At times I could hear the call of another Dabchick from within the reeds, so obviously their nest was much more concealed than last year when we could see the eggs while the adult had jumped off into the water.

Dabchick (Little Grebe) with two chicks on its back
 Isn't it lovely to hitch a ride on mama or dad's bacK?
We traveled along our normal route and at times I would call to Grant to stop and at others, Kevin would ask him to stop. We'd jump out, Kevin with binoculars in hand and me focusing my camera on some bird in a nearby bush or atop a tree.

At one stage while we were busy, Grant had spotted a large bird on top of an acacia in the middle distance. We jumped back into the vehicle and Grant drove to just below the tree. We were all amply rewarded when a raptor, no less than a Black-chested Snake Eagle posed for ever so long while the men got a good look at it and I managed  several good photos.
 Black-chested Snake Eagle 

As I was focusing on the bird above, I could hear one of the iconic African sounds; the warbling, hollow call of the White-browed Coucal. I swung around on the running board from where I'd been photographing the Snake-eagle and almost fell off my perch. Within a mere arm's length of me was the Coucal. I took several photos of this bird which was not the one making the call. When I downloaded the photos at home, I saw why the bird had been silent. It had its meal firmly clamped in its beak!
A White-browed Coucal with a frog clamped firmly in its beak! 

While I was taking these photos, I noticed the light glare and almost deleted it on the camera. Thank goodness I didn't! 

Finally I left the coucal in peace to enjoy its hard-won meal 
A few meters along the road, and we spotted the coucal which I had first heard. It was sitting quite prominently displayed on top of a bush and calling! 
 I loved the way the White-browed Coucal puffed its chest when calling

Just around the next corner we spotted another coucal, which was also very visible which allowed me to take photos! 
And as if to give us a full show for the day, we stopped next to bush in which a coucal was sitting quietly. (Coucals are normally elusive and secretive birds and most difficult to photograph!) 
 White-browed Coucal in full view of excited birders! 

Although we'd seen many other birds, we said that this specific bird outing could be dubbed: Coucal Day! 
 Mwadui Birders: Grant and Kevin
Mwadui Birders: Jo and Kevin
I'm linking this post to Wild Bird Wednesday which you can access by clicking here
I'm off to pottery this morning to collect my baked ceramics. Then I need to start packing and preparing for our departure from camp at midday on Friday.  
I hope you're all having a great week.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Last birding for April 2014

In March, we'd heard from Liz and Neil, Dar es Salaam birding club,  who also id my birds when I'm stuck, that a keen birder, Kevin was studying here and would love to go out into the bush with us. 

Grant collected me from home, but as we were driving off, Mataluma, the Guest House gardener came running up to my window. He kept saying I should come and see ndege mtoto/ baby bird. While Grant waited in the car, I got out and walked down the road from our house. When he approached a very densely leafed tree, Mataluma crept under the branch and gesticulated frantically for me to come in as well. I slunk in and looked up to where he was pointing. My heart almost stopped. It was the tiniest owl, sitting there asleep. I asked Mataluma to run up and tell Babu, which is Grant's Tanzanian name, to come down with the vehicle. 

When Grant quietly approached, he also saw the cunningly concealed owl, but said it could be a Pearl Spotted Owlet which is one of or smallest owl. But an owlet doesn't have ear tufts and this owl has prominent ear tufts! 

African Scops Owl 

 I took several photos send to Jez and then left the owl in sleep in peace 

We drove to the student's quarters on the other side of town, and went out into the bush. As we approached the explosives magazine, Kevin called for Grant to stop. In front of us on the road, was a Straw-tailed Whydah. Although it's difficult to get clear photos of birds on the ground, these images came out quite well.
  Straw-tailed Whydah with its glorious tail trailing behind it
The Straw-tailed Whydah is endemic to NE Africa

Just around the corner, Grant stopped for when Kevin spotted a Silverbird. He zoomed in with his binoculars and told me to take a look. I then zoomed in with my camera, and saw that it was a Juvenile Silverbird! 
 Juvenile Silverbird with heavily-marked underparts 

We ultimately spent two hours in the bush and saw many birds (I hope to post the others tomorrow) However, one sighting which was very exciting, was when driving along the bush road near the dam. As we stopped and listened, we heard the bubbling call of a White-browed Coucal. 

Grant stopped as we spotted it and a Bishop in a bush nearby. I got out, stood on the running board with my camera on the roof. I took a photo of the coucal in full cry; then I zoomed out and managed to photograph both birds. While I was still focusing on the birds, the bishop dived in and attacked the Coucal which is a quarter of the size of the larger bird! 

Later we saw the same thing happening as we drove along the mine road while returning to camp! We've concluded that obviously the Coucal robs the Bishop's nests of eggs and babies hence the aggressive behavior of the Bishop when the coucal is nearby! 
The partly concealed White-browed Coucal on the left with the Bishop higher up on the right! 

 The White-browed Coucal in full cry

The much, much smaller Bishop attacks and ultimately chases the White-browed Coucal 

I hope you're all having a great week. I'm linking my post to Wild Bird Wednesday hosted by Stewart Monckton.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Toffee and Princess

As the week hurtles towards Friday and our departure for South Africa, I just had to photograph darling little Princess and her old [adopted] aunt, Toffee. Princess has been with us since the week before Christmas 2013, and I imagine that she is about five months old now. 

In February, I brought all the necessary inoculations from South Africa and the local vet injected her. (Toffee's treatments are carried by the company and done regularly as well) Princess and Toffee have also been treated for worms and had their coats de-flea-ed.  Princess has two meals a day from me (one with dog pellets) and in the late afternoon, when Toffee has hers, she has another of ugali which is ground maize meal cooked with a meaty bone. A far cry from what life Princess would be living now if she had remained with the children who discarded her so carelessly! 

Dear old Toffee has been with the company since 2004 and been the guard dog at this (our) house since then. She has a lovely nature and spends most of the day playing with Princess, or lying on the lawn, with her little ward next to her. Toffee is also no slouch when it comes to "guarding" our property and barks at anything which she thinks looks suspicious through the slated reeds surrounding the yard!

During the day, Princess follows Michael - my favorite, trusty askari - around like a shadow. The night askaris have taken a leaf from Michael's book and treat both dogs with kindness and care.This is not normal in Africa, as animals, and especially domestic ones who have almost no use, aren't greatly cared for or respected. However, any man who guards our gate at night can be found cuddling little Princess, calling her to his side when the gate is opened and a vehicle enters or feeding her tidbits from his evening meal! Toffee, who hasn't always had it so good, still remains quite aloof and sleeps a little way from the askari hut. 
  Pretty Princess who is as cute as a button and very intelligent !

Dear old Toffee who has been faithful from her first day here many years ago!

I know that, as I can happily leave our three cats in Regina's capable care, I can also rest easy knowing the two dogs are also well looked after in my absence. 

I'm linking this post to Our World Tuesday which you can access by clicking here

Monday, April 21, 2014

Back on Blogger!

Hello everyone! Thanks for the kind comments on Ambrose' post yesterday. I am much better and determined to stay off that bed from now on! It has been a frustrating 15 days of feeling really weak and helpless. I was on another course of meds which were quite strong and made me feel wobbly, hence the lots of lying around. However,  in between I managed to paint a pottery tray while lying on my side and resting my head on my left hand!  It depicts the three cats; Ambrose and Ginger posing in blue-framed windows (very Provencal, I think LOL!) and Shadow prowling around below next to the wooden fence.  Great fun and quite therapeutic in the face of my illness! 

Meanwhile, every morning Grant took me out for an hour's birding. That was also most relaxing and rewarding!

Two weeks ago we came across a little bird sitting on a v-shaped thick twig which jutted out towards the road. I screamed at Grant to stop!  I thought it was a tinkerbird which we'd last seen in 2012. Just below this branch was an erect branch and when I zoomed in on it, I spotted a nest hole! 
Meanwhile the bird flew away (they're apt to do this!) so that evening we went down the same road after birding in the bush. Grant crawled the vehicle to the spot and stopped. A bird flew away and roosted in the bushes behind this tree. Just then a head appeared in the nest hole. 
 A head appeared from the nest hole! 

To make sure I got good shots to send to Jez for identification, I took many photos! When I'd finished, we saw that a security truck was parked behind us and no less than three Tanzanians with bicycles were standing waiting for the mzungus to finish taking photos of the birds in the tree over the road!

 Isn't it pretty? 

Jez and the rest of the Dar Es Salaam bird club were very excited that we'd seen a Red-fronted Barbet. It's not rare or vulnerable but they're normally not easy to spot. Also you need to know where to look for the nest hole (which looks far clearer and larger in the photo than it actually is) and then stake out patiently nearby and wait for the action! 

The Red-fronted Barbet is endemic to North East Africa which is where we live. It's much larger than the Red-fronted Tinkerbird which I thought it was at first. While we watched the mate arrived and flitted around in the bush behind. It issued the warning call which sounds like a nasal nwhee - nwhee and the bird in the hole replied with 4-6 soft, low hoots of pooop-pooop-pooop-pooop.

Exciting  stuff, and as I said,  most therapeutic! 

I wish you all a wonderful Passover . I trust you had a great weekend with friends and family.


[a rejuvenated] JO !

Sunday, April 20, 2014

And again!

Hi Bozo, Lindy and mum's blog followers. This is Ambrose with my Sunday post. 

Mum's been ill again. She had a lerapse. I wonder what's a lerapse

Oh what do you say, Unca Shadow? Oh, do you say RELAPSE? And it means she went backwards in her health and got sick again!

She just lay on the bed and she said that Regina was her malaika /angel. I think this is because Regina just keeps caring for her, and  kept the house going AND fed us;  and she does this quietly. I heard her thank Regina for the root ginger (not dad Ginger!) which she had made it into a tea for mum. She drank this and says she feels much better! (She's up today and taking it slow, and says she will be on blogger again soon!)

Meanwhile we kitties just kept our mum company and when she needed space, we slept with Mama Chui/Tiger on our day bed on the veranda. 
 I like to cuddle up to Mama Chui! 

We all have our places on the day bed! Mama Chui even cuddles Teddy!

And oh, she's painting a tray (in her room) with ALL our pictures on it. She kept calling Unca Shadow because he is different to me and Dad Ginger; he has spots and mum had to paint them carefully! 
For more cute pet posts, please click here

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Birding therapy

While I was ill last week, Grant took me out several times for a breath of fresh air. Of course, I always had my camera and binos ready! 
 Little Grebe (Dabchick)
 Speckled Mousebird

d'Arnaud's Barbet
The very shy and difficult to capture Slat-coloured Boubou! 

Spotted Palm Thrush
Woodland Kingfisher

I'm linking my post today to Wild Bird Wednesday, kindly hosted by Stewart Monckton. 

I hope you're all having a wonderful week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mwadui Pottery

A bowl  which I made earlier this year

Over the past month, I seemed to be the only lady at pottery. Amanda and Tilla were out on leave and Linda only arrived one day: the day we were in Mwanza! 

I went every Tuesday and Thursday and rolled out an item or three. I made quite a large tea tray onto which I want to paint my three cats' pictures. I also made a large bowl with scalloped edges (this one is going to be painted with a black Siamese cat; I intend to take it out to SA for my friend, Mart in Knysna). I made a meat platter and a large round bowl with quite a high edge. Not sure what I'm going to paint on these two items. I made a smallish scalloped bowl, which while I was using wire-wool on it to neaten the edges, a WDL chef saw as he walked past. He asked how much I would charge him for the bowl once it was painted and fired. I said I would give it to him as a zawadi/gift. He was thrilled and asked if I would paint a rose on it, which I will do!  I made a large "Africa" which, once I've painted the borders and the 55 countries' names on it, I will hang in my lounge here in Mwadui. A few times I was joined by young Wessie whom I also helped to shape his "Africa" and a "Swartwitpens"/ Sable buck. 

As I posted last week, I bisqued these and many other items just before we had the 18-hour power outage, so the products came out of the oven looking good. Now Tilla has returned from SA but as she will be unpacking today, I will have to work on my own again. That is, unless Wessie and Linda arrive. I hope to paint some of my work, but being sick, I don't think I will take anything home on 25th April. 

I'm linking my post to Our World Tuesday which you can visit by clicking here

Monday, April 14, 2014

A serious seriel killer

Africa at its best!

Sunset over East Africa with a bird (in this case a Marabou Stork) flying across the sinking sun. What could be more beautiful?

I love Africa and feel blessed to be living in beautiful Tanzania for most of the year. The weather is perfect, the people are friendly and helpful and the birds and wildlife make our hobby of wandering through the bush at regular intervals, most enjoyable!

Yet, this summer there has been a dark and sinister lurking and striking out at people right across the board!

Over the past two weeks people in our company have contracted malaria at a rate of knots! First it was Edward Askari's wife; next it was chef Constantine from WDL (not our company, but the Client, yet still close to home). On Friday last week Nestor, a mechanical technician from the Philippines was diagnosed with malaria and had to be hospitalized. That same morning, I 'd seen Dr Leonard and he put me on a course of injections against the disease! 

Meanwhile Johan, the maintenance manager, put himself to bed in the cottage behind our house. By Sunday Grant convinced him to have tests; he did and was diagnosed positive with malaria and put on a course of injections; he went back to work while have this treatment. 

Every day at 12 noon I reported to the hospital for my injections. On Sunday Grant asked me to pop in and see how Nestor was doing. I did and found him pale and weak but being cared for very well by the hospital staff. He was on a glucose drip to combat the nausea that he was experiencing and a drip which contained quinine. I inquired whether he needed any food or drink but he pointed to the mixed juice and several bottles of water on the bedside cabinet. He also said that he had had a small amount of rice (Filipinos love rice)  the night before so he was OK. After chatting with him for a few minutes, I told him I would pop in again the next day. Grant arranged with Chef Paulo to make up a bowl of sliced watermelon and whole small bananas, cover it with cling film and take it up to Nestor in the hospital. I visited Nestor on Monday again and by Tuesday he had been discharged with a clean bill of health. 

No sooner had this expat returned to camp, when Johan woke with terrible nausea and drove himself to the hospital. He was admitted and placed on a drip of glucose and quinine. While Grant had his lunch in the Guest House dining room, I dished a plate of roast meat, rice, vegetables and gravy for Johan. Grant suggested I make up a dessert bowl of fruit salad and ice-cream as well. After lunch we drove up to the hospital to drop off Johan's meal and also see how he was. 

While there, a little lad was crying piteously in a bed up the ward. Once we'd we'd said goodbye to Johan, we walked back up the ward. I stopped beside the bed where the little boy was crying. I asked the bewildered-looking man standing next to the bed,  what the matter was with the boy. He said he'd had an operation and pointed to his right hip. He looked about 12 years old so I surmised he'd had an appendix operation. Nevertheless, the little guy was crying loudly now and throwing his head from side to side. I gently rubbed his arm and spoke quietly to him in Swahili. He stopped long enough to open his eyes, then turned away and started to cry again. I told the man (whom I thought might be his father) to speak to the child quietly, touch him softly and say his name often. He said he would.

When I got outside the ward, Grant was standing in the corridor talking to Dr Leonard and the WDL safety officer, Sixtus . We all chatted a while longer and Grant and I left. Johan was discharged from hospital the next day and by Saturday he was his old self again. 

As you all heard from Ambrose yesterday, I had a relapse (on Wednesday afternoon) and ended up at the doctor again on Saturday. After several tests which proved negative, Dr Leonard said I still had a slight viral infection and needed to rest and take in fluids until I felt better. 

On Sunday I awoke feeling a little groggy but for the first time in ten days,  not at all feverish. I showered, blow-dried my hair, made up, got dressed and waited for Grant. He collected me for a spot of Sunday morning birding.   While we'd stopped for me to photograph a Little Bee-eater, his phone rang. It was Touro, acting Production Manager while Thys was on leave. I heard him tell Touro, "That's fine, Touro, as long as you have everything in order, please take the time to go off." When he finished the conversation I asked where Touro was going. (I always ask questions!) He said Touro's church minister's little son had died of malaria and Touro was off to the funeral. Then Grant told me that the little boy I had spoken to in the hospital had also died! Obviously even before the child had had the operation, he'd felt ill but everyone thought it was due to the appendicitis. Meanwhile he also had malaria which ultimately killed him. A third child also died this week in hospital.

So, sadly, here in Tanzania, East Africa, at present,  malaria seems to be a far worse enemy than HIV. 

I have only just heard that it's Easter Weekend coming up. (there is no commercial hype here in the backwoods, so I was totally unaware that it's almost Easter) For those of you traveling at this time, please do take care on the roads and be safe.

I  wish you all a wonderful week ahead.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Man and Machine

While we were out in the bush, the plant maintenance manager, Johan stopped alongside for a chat. His sunglasses reflected Grant and the vehicle!

For more Weekend Reflections please click here