Fair of Face

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Ok, so this photo may or may not have been taken over a year ago. In my defence: #TBT. Or #TBM. Whatever.

Still, this remains one of my most treasured moments from our trip to Kenya.

Continue reading “Fair of Face”

Dwarfish

Dwarf Mongoose

There are two species of mongoose regularly seen on the Maasai Mara. The more common is the banded mongoose, but the dwarf mongoose – a small African carnivore found in groups of 15 or less – is also spotted, though less frequently. I expected to leave Kenya with that added to my list of ‘what I’d wished I seen’, places the secretary bird and martial eagle then seemed destined to live.

But a curious combination of fate and luck conspired to the ends of preventing disappointment. When at the checkpoint between the Mara Triangle Wilderness Zone and the Maasai Mara National Reserve, I got out the jeep – with my camera, of course – to stretch my legs.

This proved to be a very good decision.

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Not only did I spot a new species of weaver (which *hint hint cough cough* I have still not identified and therefore has not been added to the Grand Bird List yet), I also saw a small group of mongooses heading off into the shrubbery. One particularly curious individual had perched himself on a rock to observe the surroundings before they all disappeared.

I held my breath, and crept closer very, very slowly. I could see the mongoose tensing, getting ready to run. Luckily, he delayed his flight till the last moment.

Dwarf-size mongoose, maybe. Dwarf-size experience? Definitely not.

Bustard

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One of the most endangered birds in the world is the Great Indian Bustard, which also happens to be one of the heaviest flying birds. Found in India and Pakistan, it is critically endangered on the IUCN Red List with a population that could be as low as 250 individuals. Its counterpart in Africa is the Kori Bustard, which is possibly – amongst the males, at least – the heaviest living animal in the world capable of flight. Its only competition is the Great Bustard, a species found mainly in Europe with (again, possibly) the most sexual dimorphism between the male and female. While the Kori is not as endangered as the Great Indian, it is near threatened due to hunting and habitat loss.

Little in Green

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A Little Bee-eater (Merops pusillus) perches on a branch on the banks of the Mara River. Little Bee-eaters should not be confused with Little Green Bee-eaters (Merops orientalis); they are both two very distinct species – the Little Bee-eater is largely restricted to Sub-Saharan Africa with the more common Little Green Bee-eaterm found in areas ranging from Ethiopia to Vietnam.

Three Lines, Three Photographs, Three Days: Necks

Today is a fairly loose interpretation of the challenge. (Then again, so was yesterday’s.) In my defense, it’s exam week; I don’t have the time to go out and take new photographs, so I’m stuck with my archives. For this one I went all the way back to Kenya – not geographically, of course, though that would have been lovely. 😛

This was the biggest journey, i.e. group, of giraffes we saw the whole trip. While most usually contain about five or six animals, this one had almost twenty. A mixture of juveniles, young uns, and adults, they barely shifted position and we had numerous opportunities to observe going to and fro from our camp. Unlike most wildlife photographs I took during the trip, this was made with a wide-angle lens.

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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!

A (Slightly Late) Hyena Halloween

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In honor of Halloween (and no, it is NOT a day old), here’s a hyena, the actual scariest predator on the African savannah. These guys will literally steal food from lions. They’re highly efficient killers, and are most definitely not scavengers – though they will take opportunities when they see them and forage on kills, they can take down wildebeest and gazelle easily with teamwork so cohesive it’s brutal.

(This one wasn’t trying to scare us, though. It was yawning.)

The Unusual Universal Phenomena of Altered Consciousness, Relatively Inhibited Sensory Functions, and Inhibition of All Voluntary Muscles

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…otherwise known as sleep. Because, strangely enough, that’s something the most fearsome predator of the African savannah experiences as well. Who would’ve thought?

(Actually, lions are amongst the laziest creatures on the planet, and not just the males – they sleep for up to 20 hours a day, being largely nocturnal creatures. Most of us don’t even get a fraction of that. This lioness has no right to yawn.)

And with that, I’m off to bed. This undeserving mammal may be expressing her annoyance at having woken up – I, instead, am going to do the opposite, and happily embrace the state of altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory functions, and inhbition of all voluntary muscles.

Journal Journeys: The Balloon Ride – End

The sequel to the balloon ride. Aerial views of a place always provide a completely different perspective.

Monday, 21st of July, 2014

‘The sun is just above the ruler-straight horizon, an orange flower blooming into a brilliant blue sky, and beneath it, the grass glows gold. Up here, you can see first hand the sparseness of the acacias that, as large green-brown umbrellas, speck the plains. They cast long shadows that stripe the ground.

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A river meanders through it all: glistening like a stream of silver in the morning light, it is clustered in greenery, packed thick and tight in the brightest shades of lime, olive, and emerald.

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From above, you can see the harsh white rectangles in the center of the grove—a hotel.

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The rolling grass is gashed and scarred with roads that rip brown strips through it, neatly segregating the Mara into shapeless heaps.

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Everything is spread below us, a vast dinner plate for our eyes: the iridescent lily pads just peeking through the water, the glowing hyena silently trotting through waist-high grass, the still yellow heap of a dozing lion and the assorted vehicles gathered around it, the vast single-file of wildebeest slicing across the savannah that arbitrarily breaks into joyful gallop and spirals round and round in complex formations below us.

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Journal Journeys: Lion Pride

When one thinks of Africa, it is inarguable that the first image that comes to mind is that of the ‘king of the savannah’, the African lion– the classic Panthera leo. Adjectives used to define them encapsulate confident, proud, arrogant– but not vulnerable, or threatened. But that they are. Of the 100,000 in Africa in the 1960s, only 32,000 remain. With the growing human encroachment of their habitat, they hold a tentative future.

Sunday, 20th of July, 2014

The grass is golden, and so are the lions. They glow in the newly-risen sun, their stride confident, their head held high. The jeeps eagerly watching them are not even spared a disdanful glance.

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Image courtesy of Sarath Champati (sarathchampati.com).

The male that heads the pride, scraggly-maned and arched-back, walks with single-minded pupose; the lioness that accompanies him is his equal, if not superior, in style, poise, and grace.

Image courtesy of Sarath Champati (sarathchampati.com).
Image courtesy of Sarath Champati (sarathchampati.com).

She pauses not three feet from a jeep that resounds with the delighted clicks of at least ten animated shutters without a sideways glance. A small cub dogs her footsteps diligently, and following it are two more females and two more young ones. The cubs are ecstatic from their meal, now abandoned in a handy depression for the vultures that are already gathering. They burst into random sprints and stop abruptly, their full bellies wobbling precariously below them. One lioness, till then watching it serenly, mock-pounces the small lion.

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Its delight is obvious; it immediately rolls over onto its back.

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She licks its face, pretending to bite its neck– their play continues till the cub gets too boisterous and is silenced with a quick swipe of paw. Then they sit together, content, and survey their domain with a self-assured ease. The sun, behind them, is fresh and new in the sky.

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