Of Paintings and Project Noah

Some of you may recall my recent post of a lilac-breasted roller we spotted in Kenya. If you don’t, refresh your memory. This bird was at the top of my to-see list in Kenya, not despite and in fact because it was so common there. Satisfaction guaranteed. (I also had a second, non-official list, which essentially consisted of the entire Birds of East Africa field guide.)

In addition to the blog post, I also posted the photograph on Project Noah. In case I haven’t fangirled about it before, this site is the best thing ever. (It’s also what got me started on this craziness. In case you can’t tell.) It’s essentially a social media for wildlife spottings. Think Instagram, animal-style. Through it I’ve met so many fellow ‘crazy nature people’ and learned so much about – well, everything. It was a distinct high point for me last year when my spotting of a black rhinoceros received Spotting of the Day, something I’ve been wanting ever since I got started. (Also, on the main page, in the header where all the spottings are featured, click on the fungi icon and scroll a little to the right. You might spot a familiar photograph. STILL NOT OVER IT.) If you love wildlife, and photography, Project Noah is the thing.

I’m not paid by them. Promise.

Anyways, back to the roller. I got a comment on my spotting from Karen Lockyear, a biologist-turned artist, asking if she could paint the photograph, and possibly sell prints of it.

My first reaction: what.

Seriously, I consider my photography to be mediocre at best. I enjoy it, yes, but someone wanting to paint it?

…woah.

So, yesterday I get an email from Karen with the completed painting. And I’m still in a little shock of how beautiful the thing is.

Lilac-breasted roller, Jan 20, 2

I MEAN, LOOK AT IT. She has taken my photograph and transformed into something way, way beyond. All things bad about it have disappeared. I do not know this witchcraft.

She hasn’t yet set up her Etsy store, but when that’s up I will definitely link that here. Because. I mean. The above.

So: thank you, Karen. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

If you want to read about snakes instead of paintings, check out my recent post on my other blog, Saving MacRitchie, and learn about some of the fantastic wildlife in the Central Catchment Reserve.

The Lilac Saga, Part 2

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This adult lilac-breasted roller landed so close to our jeep I had to zoom out to show its entire body. Lilac-breasted rollers are endemic to the East African region and are easily spotted in open country with sparse trees. They cannot be found in treeless environments.

The Lilac Saga, Part 1 (Also, Caption Contest!)

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I came to Africa with one bird, and one bird in mind only: the Lilac-breasted Roller.

Not for I were the innumerable Kenyan endemics, nor the plethora of endangered species in the area. Experience of birding failures had taught me to aim low and land high. I would be best, I decided, with an achievable goal that would make me happy, rather than a too-ambitious one that would leave me disappointed and unable to appreciate the rest. (I modified this strategy for my Kullu trip with three birds I ranked from achievable, definitely not achievable, and never in my wildest dreams. Needless to say, only the former got fulfilled.)

So the fact I’d seen this bird three times before we even stepped foot on the Mara went a long way towards my general enjoyment of our trip. This sighting in particular was of a juvenile, who surprised us by landing right next to our jeep. This prompted, of course, a storm of photographs of the fluffed-up thing from yours truly. But I still wasn’t satisfied. The colors of the juvenile – while spectacular by most birds’ standards – are only lackluster for this variegated avian. Without the long tail feathers of their older counterparts, they aren’t as appealing as the multi-hued sight we saw just disappearing from telephone wires and the tops of trees countless times.

Did I photograph the adult? Did I almost photograph it? Was it another disappointment? Find out in ‘The Lilac Saga, Part 2’, coming soon to a blog near you.

(Hey, that rhymes!)

Whether or not you’re interested in hearing about the adult roller, have you got a caption for the above photograph? What do you think it’d say if it could speak? Comment and tell me!