Tsavo West- wild side

This is my third post on our trip to Tsavo West. Usually we were out at first light but this post starts later in the day.

“A spirituality founded in the pursuit of truth is one that should be able to adapt with changes in knowledge. Better yet, it is one that gains in value with increases in knowledge. As it turns out, the more we learn about the nature of existence, the greater and more impressive its mysteries become”.

~Guy Tal

There were large flocks of queleas flying back and forth across the two waterholes in front of the Kilaguni Lodge. These large flocks make quite a noise en mass when flying down to drink at a waterhole. Certainly enough noise to scare a zebra stallion.

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There was an abundance of bird life in front of the lodge down near the waterholes. There were many Von der Decken’s Hornbills around the lodge.

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We also saw many White-bellied Go-away birds in front of the lodge displaying all the usual antics of go-away birds like chasing each other between and inside trees and bushes.

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“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean”.
~ John Muir

As we started to venture further away from the lodge all sorts of opportunities opened up. On our way out of the lodge we found this Grey-headed Kingfisher who was very intent on its insect hunting.

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Usually the dik-diks move around in thick grass so it is worth stopping when a Kirk’s dik-dik is walking and foraging in the open. These are such small delicate antelope. That big black patch just under its eye is a scent gland which it uses to mark pieces of stems of grass and small bushes. There must have been an interesting scent which caught this Kirk’s dik-dik’s attention.

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Next to the road  we found this Black-faced sandgrouse which had been foraging for seeds in the sand. It was very wary but sat tight.

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This Black-faced sandgrouse walked around but stayed in more or less the same place and gave us an opportunity to get quite a few decent shots. I always marvel at the colouring of sandgrouse. Their backs are cryptically coloured making them very difficult to see from above but their fronts are much more exotic and distinctive. If this bird puts its head down you will never see it.

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“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive”. 

~ Eleonora Duse

Further down the bumpy road into the valley we found this Golden-breasted Starling.  We really tried to get a decent image of this character but it was having none of it.

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This is a stunningly beautiful bird, the Golden-breasted Starling, but like many good looking beings remains aloof.

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This female Bateleur Eagle had not got her full adult dark plumage. I figured it was a female looking at the greyish band of secondary feathers on its wing, unlike the male which has all black secondaries. The male has a thick black trailing edge on the underside of the primaries and the female a thin black trailing edge on the underside of  its primaries.

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 Short maned male Tsavo lion.  This was the young female elephant which had died from an infection from a poachers spear. This big male lion was strong enough to open up the carcass.

“True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing”.

 ~ Jean Cocteau

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Down in the thicker woodland areas were found many Lesser Kudu. These were always special sightings, especially for a southern African resident. These little Kudu cousins are quite different to their larger southern cousins, size wise they are much smaller and it has conspicuous white patches on the upper and lower parts of the neck and does not have a neck fringe.

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Juvenile Eastern Charting Goshawk. We never drive past a sighting like this. Even though it might not be a perfect pose, we wait for it to change position into a better pose. Often waiting for the change of pose is just wishful thinking.

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This Eastern Chanting Goshawk soon got bored with us dominating its view and flew off so it could concentrate on the matter of hunting.

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The Lesser Kudu is quite different to the greater Kudu. It has a broad white stripe down its back and its has distinct whites stripes which run down across its stomach and hand quarters. The Lesser Kudu has white eye rings and no white band between its eyes. It has those distinct large Kudu ears and a ridge of hair along its spine.  

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Sparring giraffe down near the series of waterholes. This became a favourite spot. These youngsters started reasonably gently but got progressively more aggressive, but all ended well. They were just testing each other.

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Down on the valley floor looking west to the volcanic hills

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Most of the buffalo took no notice of us but there was always one which watched us carefully.  The sentry was usually a buffalo cow.

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This was a herd of buffalo which we estimated to have included more than 300 animals.

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At times, sections of the herd got spooked by something we could not see and once the thundering hooves got moving they threw up plenty of red dust and scattered the oxpeckers.

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Impressive vista – an African privilege – space, big skies and abundant wildlife.

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A small family herd of elephant came down to drink at the series of waterholes along the river course

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Black and white treatments provide drama to the otherwise peaceful scene around the waterhole

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In the late afternoon, the colours were saturated. The scene was peaceful and each individual walked quietly to the water’s edge.

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It was warm and not especially hot but this family group of elephants were really enjoying sating their thirst. The light was saturated, the colours rich and the scene peaceful. There was a sense of rich harmony.

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I could not resist taking a few shots of the reflections of the elephants on the surface of the water. It was a quiet time with these large animals sating their thirst and was probably a time of quiet mediation for them too.

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Golden reflections paint colours and shapes of the elephant but reveal nothing of the experiences this elephant has had during the day.

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We were so absorbed watching the elephants and buffaloes down at the waterhole that we did not see this young female leopard had killed, what we think was, a dik-dik.

“Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul”.

~ Alexander Pope

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Not only had she killed the dik-dik without spooking or attracting the attention of the buffaloes but she had almost finished eating it right under their noses. The only way we found out about her was when another game vehicle arrived behind us and radioed to tell us to look around and have a look at this leopard feeding on a kill about thirty metres behind us higher up the slope.

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This young female leopard blended beautifully into the grass. Only when she moved and lifted her head could we see her.

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Having fed well she wandered down to river stopping a ridge of rock to have a look around. I find it very interesting the these animals do not show any haste. They are stealthy and very aware of everything around them. In this state, they stop frequently to look, smell and listen.

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The photography is more difficult in Tsavo West because of the thick woodlands. Nevertheless, the quality of sightings and very different species compared with those in southern Africa make it an intriguing destination. It makes you realise that Africa is a continent with an incredible diversity of wildlife. more than enough to keep you occupied for a lifetime.

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty”.

~ John Muir

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.

Have fun,

Mike

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