CHASING DREAMS, YEAR THREE: NATURE AT ITS MOST GLORIOUS, PART ONE

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Happy New Year! It is also the third anniversary of this blog and I hope you have been enjoying my posts. I have been so very fortunate to have experienced some of the most life altering, exquisitely beautiful, breathtaking, spiritual, moving, touching, affecting, powerful adventures and to share them with you in this forum.    These adjectives don’t give it proper justice, so let me share some of the top moments (not an easy task, believe me).

ANIMALS

1-BIRDS

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I thought this stellar jay was so beautiful and quite shy – it took a long time tracking his flitting from tree to ground and back to get this shot.  I have been told, however that people who live in the jays’ habitat find them anything but shy – they are known to be quite  raucous and bothersome:

 

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Superb sunbird is indeed superb and this little fellow made it atypically easy to capture his profile by alighting on a branch right near where I was sitting, as it, like other nectar drinkers like hummingbirds usually flit about in a flash.

 

 

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Lilac breasted roller is the national bird of Kenya and it is easy to see why – awash in vibrant colors that change tone depending on the slant of the sun’s rays.

 

 

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My  little neighborhood cardinal made me track his whereabouts for over a year before he deigned to sit still long enough for a photo – his territory turned out to be quite large so tracking him afforded me a bonus cardio workout.

 

 

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I was staying at a friend’s home in upstate New York and had just walked out through my bedroom’s door onto the bank of the lake on a very cold crisp morning. Hearing the tell-tale knock-knock-knock I looked up to see this red-headed woodpecker – of course I had my camera with me, silly).

 

2-MAMMALS, BIG

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There is nothing like a healthy robust lion looking straight into your soul to get the adrenaline running.

 

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This croc looked like he was smiling – perhaps imagining me as his next meal.

 

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We watched this cheetah unsuccessfully hunting for about an hour.  He eventually walked over to a stream for a drink and while he did constantly look up to check his surroundings I still found it unnerving how he looked directly into my camera lens.

 

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There was a large caravan of elephants that walked across the Serengeti savannah right in front of our truck and when this mom and her baby walked in lockstep onto the road I knew I had a perfect moment to capture.

 

 

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We were so fortunate to see many animals with their offspring on my migration safari in Kenya and Tanzania including this baby giraffe shyly leaning on her mom’s butt.

 

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We had a lot of drama on our safari – including this moment when a mother zebra realized her baby was lagging far behind on their migratory crossing of the Mara RIver.  There were crocs in the water waiting for prey (I did catch a far away shot of a wildebeest being taken down).  Screaming, the mom turned around recrossed almost the entire stretch of river and found her baby and guided it to safety.  Junior probably got a time out after that.

 

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There were humorous moments as well – this handsome impala sitting near our tent site at Amboselli Sanctuary seemed to be flirting and saying:  “how you doin’?”  He had quite a large harem of females so I guess he was very successful with this line.

 

 

 

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I was initially not enthused about stopping at a watering hole for hippos as the air was quite pungent with the smell of their poop.  Hippos mark territory by  spinning their tails while defecating to distribute their excrement.  What results is a gag worthy smell.  Still it was not enough to prevent me from hanging in there long enough this photo of a what is called a bloat of hippos. How fitting.

 

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It is quite impossible to describe the enormity of the herds of wildebeests that take a continual migration across Kenya and Tanzania in search of grazing ground – thousands upon thousands.  I tried to get as many as I could in this shot – but it was only a small portion of the herd.

 

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Another harem watcher – this time a stately elk watching his ladies in Yellowstone Park’s Mammoth Hot Springs area who had to constantly shoo away idiotic tourists who wanted to get close to take a selfie – fortunately (or not) none of the “stoopid hoomans” got gored.

 

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Now I almost had a WTDGAP moment when I practically stumbled upon this bison who was sitting scrunched up trying absorb some heat from the ground on a chilly morning.  Since the guide was taking us to the geyser basins in Yellowstone, we were not expecting to see any animals as many of the geysers and springs have scalding highly acidic water.  We turned a corner and came practically face to face with this guy and at first we thought it was a statue – until he turned his head.  Back away slowly.

 

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Rhinoceros are very rare as many have been cruelly killed for their horns which some cultures believe have medicinal powers.  Fact:  the horns which are made of keratin (like our nails) actually grow back and I have read of one farmer who is raising rhinos. While they are protected from poachers the farmer routinely shears off the horns and stores them in the hopes that   rhino horn trade will be legalized.  Sadly many subspecies of rhino are already extinct.

The rhinoceros is an ancient breed with ancestors dating back some 14 million years.  They do look prehistoric so though I rarely take black and photos, I felt it was the best way to portray the ancient-ness of this animal.

 

AND SMALL

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The black backed jackal is a solitary hunter usually at night or very early in the morning so this was a special sighting. In addition, they are very dog-like and they way this jackal cocked his head at me reminded me of my sweet, late Jackson.

 

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I have always thought that I have an extensive knowledge of animal species but I was quite humbled by the sheer number of animals that I knew nothing about until meeting them this year. This is a dik-dik,  the tiniest antelope with the biggest eyes I have ever seen. They mate for life and fiercely protect their territories despite the diminutive size.

 

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The hyrax is my favorite new discovery for a few reasons.  One, their history is fascinating as on the evolutionary tree they are related to elephants!  They are very social and vocal, and it is this last item that got my vote.  Their nocturnal conversations sound more like hair-raising screams of a woman in distress in a monster movie – don’t open that door!

Not to be outdone, the National Parks of the USA have more than their fair share of cute little creatures including this tiny chickadee or Douglas squirrel:

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AND EXOTIC

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I had an online “argument” with someone who insisted that the above picture was photoshopped due to the blue tinge on these two topi.  I have no problem admitting photo enhancement but in this case the colors are real and I just love their woebegone expressions.

 

 

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This is a gerenuk another rare species unknown to be before my African safari.  It is nicknamed  “the giraffe gazelle due to its long neck and the way it grazes.

 

 

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I was aware of the secretary bird but it was still great to see it in person.  It is actually a fierce predator, with snakes, reptiles, amphibians, tortoises, rats and young game birds among its prey.

 

Time for a breather for my readers – I can go on and on.  Join me next week for the wrap up of a few of favorite things of 2016

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

#

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