Monthly Archives: June 2010

THE Ugliest Creature & Odds and Ends

I have a few photos I want to post but they are a bit random.

Click on the picture to see it larger with all the disgusting details.

Ugliest Creature: I have come across God’s ugliest creation to date. This is the Marabou Stork, or as Jon says it’s commonly called, the “undertaker bird” because of it’s black feathers, the cartoon-like way it carries itself, and penchant for carrion.  It’s a scavenger bird like the vulture, and to say it’s ugly is being kind.  In truth this bird is hideous to look at, and to make matters worse, it’s huge – one of the largest land birds with a wing-span comparable to the condor. The skin on its face looks

A while back, Jon found a dead Marabou Stork at the airstrip. This shows the wingspan.

like rotting flesh, the back of its head

and neck looks bald with fuzzy thin hair growing off it, and down the side of the neck are little clumps of black hair, like an old man with hair growing out of a wart. At the bottom of the long neck is a big red…something…that looks like an internal organ is growing on the outside of its body. It has an inflatable pouch under its neck to hold food, which only adds to the grotesque image when it’s full.  And finally, to top it all off, it has the bad manners of crapping on it’s legs, leaving a white-washed color, to keep it cool. Click on the pictures for an enlargement that will show you the details.

The bird has an inflatable pouch to carry food in. Compare to the first picture where there is no food in the pouch. It expands tremendously.

Yellow Leg Bird with the Funny Name: This bird is small and apart from its bright yellow legs and matching beak, it would blend in well in its environment.  It’s called an “African Wattled Lapwing” (or in some parts, a “Plover”).

The African Wattled Lapwing bird with the bright yellow legs.

Buffalo, Cattle Egrets, and Piapiacs: These three usually live in harmony. The birds sit on top of the Buffalo waiting for the animal to disturb small insects in the grass that the birds can grab. I caught two Cattle Egrets fighting for space on a Buffalo.

Cattle Egrets, Piapiacs, and Buffalo

Tea Plantation: On the drive from Nairobi to Uganda, we drove past an area where tea is grown.  Not only is it good climate in Kenya for tea, but it’s a former British colony, which explains why there are vast tea plantations.  Up close, tea just looks like a thick bush with shiny, waxy green leaves, but when you put thousands of these together, the hillsides look like one massive green hedge with narrow paths cut through them in straight lines.

One of the many tea plantations in Kenya.

Traveling Salesman: All over Uganda and Congo, people transport their goods on bicycles, usually pushing the bike rather than riding it, and loaded as high and wide as it’s possible to get. They carry everything from jerry cans, to pineapples.

A bicyle is loaded down with goods to sell.

A man pushes his bicyle full of pineapples on the long road to market.

Kenyan Coast

Although I have many more photos of animals in Tsavo, I think it’s time I post some of the beach trip photos.  I have more animal shots from our road trip back to Congo through a Ugandan national park and will post those later.

The house at the beach is called Jinchini, south of Mombasa near Tanzania, and it’s owned by a British family who rent it out when they are not around.  It sleeps nine, and comes with a staff of three (plus gardener and guards) who cleaned and cooked whatever we requested. If we wanted locally caught fish, prawns, or lobster for dinner, then we simply put in the order in the morning, and dinner would be fixed and ready for us by 7 pm. They made a killer coconut rice every night that we couldn’t get enough of.  The breakfast table was set and food prepared in the mornings.  Patrick, Omari, and Kasim took great care of us – wonderful guys. We felt pampered, but with a privacy you don’t get in a hotel.

From the house, you could walk across a lawn to the beach.  At high tide, the waves were great for riding (as long as you didn’t mind getting ground into the sand every so often, which I did).  Jon and Josh took a beating every day in the surf.

Jon and I played a game of pool pirates with Gabe and Raeleigh (age 5 and 8 ) in the lovely pool on the hill above the house, complete with pirate names (the “Scurvy Wenches”), ships (the floaties), oars (the flippers), and a host of other pirate language. It was girls against boys, and the girls won, no question, after stealing the boys ship and oars. Good fun.

Here are a few photos…

Jinchini House on the Kenyan Coast. It had four bedrooms with nine beds, a living room, big lawn, and a pool, all right on the beach.

Jon and Gabe sip their morning coffee and hot chocolate drinks on the house patio.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all served at the outdoor dining table on the patio. The lawn leading down to the beach can be seen in the background.

A local fishing boat sits on the beach near the Jinchini house.

Raeleigh and Lu plot their attack on the pirate boys in the house pool.

The Scurvy Wenches take a beating from the pirate boys.

Cher celebrated her 60th birthday at the beach.

Josh and Jon play in the ocean waves, which are bigger and scarier than they look.

Walking home after playing in the ocean.

While house staff Kasim, Omari, and Patrick look on, Jon examines a parrot fish brought to the house by a local fisherman for our dinner. Although this doesn't look like most rainbow colored parrot fish, it has the hard parrot-like beak used to eat coral.

Kenya – More Photos

My brother Jon sees a world of wildlife in the bush when I see only a little.  I’m not talking about just being able to spot elephants, giraffe, zebra, dik dik, klipstringer, ostrich, and so forth better than me (which he can).  He sees elephants in a broken branch, bark torn off a tree, big round footprints in the dirt with a curvy line where the elephant dragged his trunk. He sees lion prints moving across a road into the bush. He sees a life in a small dung beetle rolling a ball of dung with her back legs that has her unborn babies in it. A bird sitting in a tree has a personality to Jon because he knows everything about it. A coucal bird, for instance, isn’t just a large brown bird. He knows that this bird is a lousy flier who crash lands most of the time, smacking into trees or the ground while attempting to land.  We see a tree full of weaver bird’s nests, and Jon points out that these particular weaver birds always make their hanging houses on the west side of trees.  As we drive on, I see that he’s right.  We see a large bird sitting in a tree surrounded by weaver bird’s nests.  Jon tells me that this bird likes to eat the Weaver babies – not the eggs (although they will do this too), but the chicks. All the weavers will go on the attack, both male and female, to try to stop the large bird, but he mostly ignores the attacks of these tiny birds and continues on eating.

Being in the bush with Jon is a treat – like having your own expert guide with you. He learned all that he knows about the bush from his time in Zimbabwe where he got his hunter/guide license – something at the time that was terribly difficult to pass.

Tsavo Giraffe

Audra, Josh, and Gabe watch animals from the back side of the house we rented in Tsavo

Tsavo Ostrich - In most of the animal kingdom, the males are the beautiful ones. This male ostrich has black feathers while the female is a very plain beige type color. This one turned it's back to us, lifted his back brown feathers and showed us his backside which looked a bit horrifying, like he'd just mooned us, penis and all. *For the sake of the children, the X-rated photo is at the end*

Tsavo - Everything in Africa wants to kill you. This tree has 2-3 inch thorns all over the entire tree.

Tsavo Elephants

Tsavo Elephants - Off in the distance, an elephant crosses the road.

Tsavo Zebra - two zebra play with each other near the water hole close to our house.

Tsavo Ostrich - X-rated photo of an Ostrich mooning us.

Photos from Kenya trip

I’m in Kampala, Uganda, having just returned from a trip to Kenya with my brother, his wife, their son and his family. We went to Tsavo West National Park where we rented the former warden’s house for a day, and then rented a house on the south Kenyan coast for a week. All of it was wonderful, but I will never ever get tired of seeing wild animals in their own habitat, and elephants bring me joy. I’ll write about the trip when I get the chance, but for now, I will try to post some photos each day for a few days (except for when we’re on the road driving back to Congo).  More photos tomorrow (if there’s electricity and internet)…

Tsavo Elephants - They saw us, smelled us, ignored us, but then one of the mothers decided to let us know she wasn't pleased with our presence.

Tsavo Elephants

Tsavo Zebra - This is the view from the house we rented.

Tsavo - It's quite cool to turn a corner in the road and have this view. Although most animals stay in their groups, I love seeing the mix of different animals in the same view.

Tsavo Impala - Impala are one of the most common animals you see in game parks, often causing people to say things like, "Oh, it's just impala." But they are incredibly beautiful, and worthy of a good look.

Tsavo - The man-made water hole below the house we rented where animals come regularly to drink.

Tsavo - LuAnne with Gabe Cadd, Josh & Audra Cadd's 5 year old son. This is taken from right off the back porch of the house.

Tsavo - Zebra

After it got dark, a group of four elephants came to the upper tiny water hole, about the size of a small car and very close to the house.

Tsavo - The night life around the house included plenty of lizards, bats, and frogs. Jon caught this lizard, which was unhappy until he turned it over and rubbed its tummy. This quiets lizards down into an almost comatose state.

Chameleons – the small joys of life

A Jackson's Chameleon, found in the garden in Nairobi.

Jackson's Chameleon. Love the eye and hand.

I love chameleons.  Everything about them fascinates me: the changing color of their skin; their scales; those eyes that rotate around in their sockets, independently of each other, like a spotlight searching for something; the curling tail; the little “hands.”  And I think my favorite is the way they move…slowly, as if they can sneak away if they move in slow motion.

Here in Nairobi they have Jackson’s Chameleons, the ones with three horns. Such a wonder.  The gardener at Josh & Audra’s apartment found one for us.

(I also like hedgehogs.)

Me, with my favorite weird creature, the Chameleon.

Jackson's Chameleon

Hedgy, the Hedgehog, another "found" pet. We woke him up from his daytime sleep (he's nocturnal) for pictures, and the poor thing was so tired, he walked for a bit, then just rolled over on his side and fell asleep. Then we put out his favorite treat to wake him up, and he ate it lying down, as you can see.

Hedgy's feet, something you don't see up close very often as they prefer to curl into a tight ball when you touch them.