I learned on my trip that South Africa has no deer, only antelope. I had never been curious enough to find out what the really is the difference between deer and antelope; they look mostly the same. I learned that deer, as well as elk and moose, have antlers made of bone and are shed and regrown every year. Antelope have horns which have a bony core covered by keratin. Horns are not shed and regrown. I did know that there were different varieties of antelope but, though I only saw a sample, I was really surprised at how many varieties there are.
A few weeks ago I published pictures of the beautiful kudu. Today I am rounding out my collection with the tiny duiker and steenbok, the klipspringer (rock jumper), the ubiquitous impala, the bontebok, the hartebeest and the big, beautiful waterbuck.
The African Fish Eagle was the most common large raptor we saw on our trip to South Africa. It is a beautiful bird that is a cousin to our American Bald Eagle. I learned from my friend Kevin that both the African Fish Eagle and the Bald Eagle belong to the family of fish eagles. They are distinguished from the family of booted or true eagles by their legs. True eagles have feathers on their lower legs. I am a novice birder and never realized there were different types of eagles. By the way, our Golden Eagle is a snake eagle; yet another type.
Our most interesting encounter was watching a fish eagle being chased by a Blacksmith Lapwing. I guess the eagle was too close to a nest. It was fun watching it fend off numerous attacks.
I hope you enjoy these images of these magnificent birds,
Note: These and other images are available for sale on my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting me.
Everybody gets excited about the big cats, the elephants, the hippos and other big game. But there is a lot more out there and I will be sharing it over the next few weeks. Today, I’ll share my images of the wildebeest, also known as the Gnu, the cape buffalo and the warthog.
The wildebeest and cape buffalo are grazers, eating the grass that grow in the savannahs. The warthog grazes on the grass and digs for roots. Their place in the ecosystem is controlling the plant life so it doesn’t take over and serving as food for the larger prey animals. Though not as exciting as the big cats, they are each beautiful in their own way.
Note: Click on images to view in larger size
Wildebeest – Perspective 4, Kruger National Park, South Africa, AUG 2016
These and other images are available for purchase at my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A highlight of our visit was the Elephant Plains Game Lodge tour guided by Tusk Photo. Elephant Plains is a private game lodge and is the “go to” place for leopards. It sets on the edge of Kruger National Park and it shares its wildlife with the park. So, aside from the leopards we saw a lot of other wildlife on that part of our adventure.
We did an early morning and a late/afternoon game drive each day. We traversed the bush in open 4-wheel drive vehicles on rutted dirt roads. We had a tracker who sat on a jump seat attached to the front bumper who, along with our driver, looked for tracks and other signs of animal life. When leopard tracks were spotted or another tour group reported a sighting, we went off road with the vehicle to find them. It was fun and exciting.
It’s hard to describe the awe of our first wild leopard sighting and the wonder of seeing 14 month old Tiyani walk to within 5 feet of our car while her mother looked on. The wildlife is acclimated to humans and their tour groups. They went about their business as if we weren’t there. But, if the guides sensed that the animal was disturbed, we’d back off and leave them in peace.
It was an amazing adventure. I’d go back in a heartbeat. I hope you enjoy these images.
Sometimes you are lucky and are at the right place and right time. We spent one night at Mboyti River Lodge, Lusikisiki, South Africa; a lovely place along the Indian Ocean coast. I got up early in the morning hoping to get a nice sunrise shot. I did and will share it later. I found a nice spot, on a small embankment overlooking the ocean. As I scanned the ocean, I saw a few dolphins. Over the next few minutes a whole pod showed up – probably 30 of them. I have wanted a shot of the dolphins in the surf line for a long time. This morning, they put on a great show for me. I hope you enjoy this image.
I was very surprised by the number of hippopotamus we saw on our visit to South Africa. I expected to see some but their numbers really surprised me. As we travelled and spoke with guides/rangers we learned that despite what we saw this year has been devastating for the hippo population. Drought has dried up rivers and significantly impacted the amount of grass available for foraging. Typical hippo behavior is to spend the daytime hours in the water and forage at night. They also spend time on the shore sunbathing in the warm sun. Drought has forced them to travel further distances to find food and, in some cases, they just aren’t finding enough.
With water in short supply, maintaining a place to drink and soak during the day is important. In the game lodges, as well as in Kruger, we saw many man made water holes filled by pumping groundwater. Many were filled with pumps driven by windmills. These water holes are a win-win. They provide water for animals and a place for tourists to visit and watch them. Part of me rails against such an unnatural arrangement, but in the end, I am alright with it. It’s part of the vicious cycle: tourists come to see animals in the wild, animals need habitat and protection, habitat and protection costs money, tourists bring money.
There is an older hippo who claims the water hole at Elephant Plains Game Lodge as his own. While were there, the hippo returned from foraging to find another male had moved in. A fight ensued. Hippo fights are noisy affairs accompanied by wide stretched jaws and attacks with sharp teeth. They fight until one backs down or is killed.
One of the iconic pictures of hippos and rhinos shows them with the oxpecker bird on their backs. The relationship is symbiotic but benefits the bird more than the hippo or rhino. The oxpecker eats ticks on the beast but also eats fly larvae that grow in the wounds incurred by these animals.
I hope you enjoy these hippo images. Please look closely at the battle pictures. These beasts can be very scary and aggressive.
Note: The images can be seen in larger size by clicking on the image or by visiting the Hippos Gallery on my website: https://larryklink.smugmug.com/South-African-Adventure-2016/Hippos/
I had an amazing experience; five days rafting through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. Many thanks to Gary Hart (http://www.garyhartphotography.com/), who organized the trip, and to Western River Outfitters (http://www.westernriver.com/), who conducted it. Their professionalism, efficiency, and energy made the trip great fun, great adventure, and an unforgettable experience.
The trip began with a flight over the Colorado Plateau to Marble Canyon, AZ where we packed up and entered the river at a spot called Lee’s Ferry. We traveled 180 miles through Marble Canyon and the Grand Canyon. At Whitmore Wash we were helicoptered out to Bar 10 ranch then back to Las Vegas by small plane. After spending time on the river, the return flight gave me an opportunity to connect some dots: I could see the relief of the canyon and view the beds of the feeder rivers as they travelled to the slot canyons and into the Colorado. We travelled on motorized rafts that were 5 heavy duty vinyl pontoons lashed together with ropes. Each of the pontoons was about 25 feet long and 3 feet in diameter. Our food, camping gear, and personal items were piled on, covered, and tied down on 2 platforms lashed to the pontoons. We camped on sandbars along the river; some under the stars, others in tents.
My first impression took me back to adventure stories where a team of intrepid explorers entered an unknown and unexplored area looking for the fabled lost city and its people. The narrow gorge through weathered, high walled canyons, felt imposing. The patterns on the rock reminded me of ancient statuary that weathered away. It left me wondering where the door to the ancient city, the one that is only revealed at sunset on the summer solstice, is located.
The geology was fascinating. Over the course of our trip, our elevation changed by 1,700 feet. When we entered Marble Canyon, we were between walls of the red-orange limestone layer that forms the roof top of the canyons. As we travelled through the canyon, progressively deeper layers were exposed until we came to the basement layer of granite which underlies the canyon. At places, nearly 2 billion years of earth’s history lay exposed for us to see.
To top off all of this beauty we even got to have fun running the rapids. There were many rapids. Most of them were small ripples. Two of them were really wild rides. Several more were big enough to be exciting. As we approached the rapids, you could see choppy white water ahead. The swells that had already broken smoothed out to a jello-like surface and reflected gold on top of the green river. As the driver turned the raft into the swells the swells would lift the raft and drop it down or the raft would nose dive and dig into the swell. Sometimes a wave would hit from the side. Regardless, water sprayed up, soaking us. As we held on, braving the bucking and twisting, we laughed like little kids. I was anxious about this part of the trip, not really knowing what to expect. Having done it, I wouldn’t trade the experience.
Visiting the rim or flying over the canyon will give you an appreciation of its magnificence. But running the river brings it up close and personal. Look up and see cliff walls rising thousands of feet or see the layers set back, one upon the other, rising into the sky. Look at the walls and see swirls of fossilized sand dunes or rock walls that look like layers of stacked stone; some horizontal, some tilted at an angle. Vegetation invaded the weathered red-orange limestone giving the appearance of terraced gardens. In other places cacti and brush dotted hillsides of black and brown in no particular pattern. Still other areas were painted in earth tones of tan, brown, pink and green. We hiked back slot canyons to see running streams and waterfalls that have carved the sidewalls and brought debris to the canyon floor. We were even lucky enough to see some of the wildlife that inhabits the canyon: condors flying high above, big horn sheep climbing canyon walls, swallows swooping over the rapids to catch bugs and even a heron. I have difficulty finding words to describe how it felt to be among those ancient walls. Walls that were created by the deposition of silt and the remains of creatures at the bottom of a great sea, uplifted when plates of the earth’s crust crashed into each other and finally sculpted by the forces of wind and rain into the natural wonder that was presented to me each day of the trip. Wonder and awe aren’t expressive enough.
I hope the images I’ve included give you sense of what I felt as I traveled through the natural wonder that is the Grand Canyon.
Death Valley is an amazing place. Especially for those of us who love the desert. In fact, the only thing missing is the sandworms. Donna and I visited Death Valley last week. We arrived the evening after a deluge – 0.5” of rain in a short period of time; slightly more than 20% of its annual rainfall. Water flowing from the box canyons washed debris over many of the roads closing most of the tourist spots.
Water was left standing in some of the playas, lake beds where water flows in but not out; an unusual site for most visits. Fortunately, 2 of our favorite spots, Zabriske Point and Mesquite Dunes were accessible.
Zabriske Point is the go to place for a sunrise. The sun rises behind you and over your shoulder, casting an alpenglow onto the mountains on the far side of the valley. If you are lucky, there will be a few clouds over the far mountains and you can watch the sky turn from orange and magenta to gold and then white. It was Donna’s birthday. God was smiling upon her that day. The thick cloud cover from the previous day’s storm was breaking up. We got the beautiful color we had hoped for. But, in addition, we got a marvelous rainbow. It was an unforgettable moment.
TV and movies give us a picture of the desert as hot, dry, sandy, flat; sometimes with sand dunes. But, much of the desert, in the Great Basin of the western US, is gravely, gray-brown, clay sediment deposited when run off from glaciers made the basins inland lakes and earlier when it was part of an inland sea. It was supplemented by run-off from the surrounding mountains. It is sparsely populated by vegetation, some fragrant and colorful. Zabriske Point is composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago. The sediment is painted by minerals and is heavily eroded by water washing down from the Black Mountains over untold millennia. This activity left behind a sculptural landscape, badlands, of muted earth tones. On this morning, after the storm, there was water was standing in both the erosion channels and in the normally dry playas in the valley below.
I’ve photographed Mesquite Dunes at sunrise and sunset. Sunset seems to be the better time; especially later in the sunset when the wind carved dunes cast shadows that are deep and long. To me, the shapes created by the light and dark areas provide a texture reminiscent of a cubist painting by Picasso. It’s fun to watch the light play on the dunes as the sun sets. Shapes and textures change; color changes; all in ways that stimulate the imagination.
I hope you enjoy these images from our day in Death Valley. Please share them with your friends.
These and other images are available for sale by contacting me at email@example.com or on my web site: www.earthwatcher.us.