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Everything posted by offshorebirder

  1. "Recently, scientists carried out the first large-scale study of what climate change may do to the world’s much-loathed parasites. The team came to a startling conclusion: as many as one in three parasite species may face extinction in the next century. As global warming raises the planet’s temperature, the researchers found, many species will lose territory in which to survive. Some of their hosts will be lost, too. “It still absolutely blows me away,” said Colin J. Carlson, lead author of the study and a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. He knows many people may react to the news with a round of applause. “Parasites are obviously a hard sell,” Mr. Carlson said. But as much as a tapeworm or a blood fluke may disgust us, parasites are crucial to the world’s ecosystems. Their extinction may effect entire food webs, perhaps even harming human health. Parasites deserve some of the respect that top predators have earned in recent decades. Wolves were once considered vermin, for example — but as they disappeared, ecosystems changed. Scientists realized that as top predators, wolves kept populations of prey in check, which allowed plants to thrive. When wolves were restored to places like Yellowstone, local ecosystems revived, as well."
  2. This video of a male Jaguar was taken in the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona - one of the most diverse habitats in North America: I was very happy to learn this, as I will be visiting there next May, as I guide Ben Mugambi from Kenya on his trip to the USA. I don't expect any Jaguar sightings, but maybe we will get lucky and see a track.
  3. So sad - I DESPISE dams!
  4. I agree with @ice - in reading their blog entry, I took the move to be primarily motivated by the Rock Python's welfare. Constant disturbance at its lair would definitely degrade its ability to hunt, bask, etc. - which would not be good for the snake's welfare over the long term. I can see a responsible camp feeling guilty about that and I expect Kaingo followed any applicable laws or regulations.
  5. Enjoying this TR very much @Geoff - thanks for taking the time to prepare it. Have fun on your upcoming safari - making up for lost time last year?
  6. Thanks for this very informative and enjoyable trip report @Alexander33! I am taking notes for when I make it to Costa Rica. Question for you: in general, how safe for gringos is the tap water in Costa Rica?
  7. Yikes! I guess I will have to give up chocolate until a framework for assuring responsibly-sourced chocolate is in place. Thanks for bringing this to our attention @COSMIC RHINO.
  8. Great start @vikramghanekar. I am really looking forward to the rest of your report and photos!
  9. Thanks for the info @johnweir. I bought Werner Glenn's book shortly after it came out - amazing pre-digital photos he acquired in a turbulent situation. Did you know the Glenn family was the subject of a recent reality TV show? I appreciate the info on Jack Child's book - am I correct in thinking he is part of the Borderlands coalition trying to establish a migration corridor for Jaguars between Mexico and the "Sky Islands" in Arizona? I celebrate each male Jaguar in the USA in recent years - El Jefe, Macho B, etc. - but I really would like a female to appear! I share your trepidation regarding the border wall. The sections that are already up in parts of Arizona are already causing terrible ecological damage - particularly the section across the San Pedro River / Riparian National Conservation Area. One hand of the US Federal Government destroying the efforts of other hands...
  10. A friend said he had trouble accessing the Facebook video, so here is the Youtube version:
  11. Back in 2015, @fictionauthor started a topic encouraging Safaritalkers to sign a petition to ban Bobcat trapping in California. Several of us did so, and petitions and other public outcry helped convince the California legislature to band Bobcat trapping. Now conservation groups are suing the state to observe state law and make the fees for trapping licenses high enough to cover the costs of the state regulating the fur trapping trade. Given the low number of trappers compared to the past, this would make the cost of trapping licenses prohibitive and thus end the industry in California. An article on the subject is here:
  12. @Peter Connan - I see your Malachite Kingfisher (great pix by the way), and raise you a Pygmy Kingfisher. Photographed at Tumbili Cliff Lodge, Lake Baringo, Kenya.
  13. My comment was to dispute irksome and exaggerated claims by a gushing reporter. That claim was "No man alive has amassed more in depth knowledge of African elephants than Mike Chase". It was not "whose thoughts are more relevant to refugee elephants" or "who has a better continent-wide macro understanding of the African elephant".
  14. The article started with: "No man alive has amassed more in depth knowledge of African elephants than Mike Chase, the founder of Elephants Without Borders" -- Iain Douglas-Hamilton might dispute that. And without the gender restriction, so might Cynthia Moss and Joyce Pool.
  15. Very nice trip report @Tulips - thanks for sharing it with us. You did well on your rain-interrupted first game drive - Grevy's Zebra, Oryx, Giraffe and other nice mammals, bustards, sunbirds, etc. I think the sunbird is a Hunter's - the green cap and green malar stripe are good for that species but not Scarlet-chested Sunbird.
  16. This tantalizing quote, if true, could be a game changer for those of us heading to East Africa from the USA. I guess we will hear the final answer on July 25. "Nairobis Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is poised to join category one status to allow for direct flights to the US. Transport Principal Secretary Irungu Nyakera made the revelation in Cape Town, South Africa, during the launch of the Nairobi-Cape Town route by Kenya Airways, via Livingstone in Zambia. He said officials from the Transport Security Organisation (TSA), US agency concerned with air travel, were at JKIA from May 10 to 13 and expressed satisfaction with the progress so far made on the airports security. They were generally happy. We expect a favourable answer in two weeks time, he said adding, We have to achieve it this year. The PS said the process started two years ago with 80 action items to improve on. The items are now down to nine. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) are expected in Nairobi on July 25 to announce if Kenya qualifies, he said. He was optimistic that Parliament would pass the Civil Aviation Bill in a week or so to expedite things."
  17. "A herd of endangered rhinos fleeing the deadly floods sweeping northern India now faces another threat, wildlife officials said on Monday: Poachers are stalking the animals in the few areas of high ground to which they have managed to escape. Severe flooding since June in Assam State has forced half a million people from their homes and left scores of animals in Kaziranga National Park in grave danger, said Pramila Rani Brahma, the state’s forest and environment minister. Some animals, including most of the park’s elephants, have managed to flee the flooding to areas near where park officials say they can provide them protection from poachers, but the rhinos have escaped to areas difficult for the rangers to patrol, said Satyendra Singh, the park’s director."
  18. Here are some more photos - sorry for the delay in posting them @COSMIC RHINO. I am preparing to evacuate tomorrow ahead of Hurricane Irma so I've been rather busy.
  19. @Geoff - I think the lark is a Rufous-naped Lark. It has the very short tail, large bill, wide/tall pale supercilium, and lack of dark line between the eye and the base of the bill that a Rufous-naped Lark would show. Fawn-coloured Larks have less boldly streaked breasts, a thinner pale supercilium, are more heavily streaked above, and have a dark line between the eye and the base of the bill. I think this dark line also extends downward in a chevron pattern in adult birds.
  20. I saw these two butterflies doing habitat maintenance (yard work) this past Saturday. Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) This is a Clouded Skipper (Lerema accius) nectaring at Pickerelweed flowers (in one of the frog-rearing ponds).
  21. @Patty - the bottom ones look like Monarchs. The similar Viceroy would have a diagonal black line cutting across its upperwings.
  22. Wow @Tdgraves - a Badger in the backyard! How wonderful.
  23. This was a lovely young Black Racer I saw while doing habitat maintenance (yard work) this past Sunday. It was prowling in an area favored by Carolina Anole lizards and Green Tree Frogs. It was a bit under a meter I would estimate.
  24. Sorry to hear of your travails @Tulips. I always try and leave JKIA to come home on a weekend (Sundays up to this point) so that traffic is not insane going to the airport. Your passport control experience sounds much longer than the two I have had - perhaps because you're traveling at the high season?
  25. Blue-headed Tree Agama This prologue is for a trip report covering a recent Kenya safari I took with my friend Roger, who is a fellow birder-naturalist. Conditions were DRY throughout our travels, which ran from January 14 - 29. Throughout much of Kenya, we learned that the short rains came late or little this year, or almost failed completely - depending on the area in question. After reading @@michael-ibk's recent Kenya trip report, I suspect places like Kakamega Forest (that seemed OK when he visited) had dried out by the time we came through a few weeks later. Our guide Ben Mugambi said it was the driest he had ever seen Kakamega Forest - and also Aranbuko-Sokoke Forest on the coast. The forest trails and forest floor in Kakamega and Arabuko-Sokoke were carpeted with crispy dry leaves - which made moving quietly or stealthily pretty difficult. Dry Kakamega undergrowth - January 18 In the Mara, Musiara Swamp was almost completely dry, with dust devils blowing round. Orange-leafed Croton bushes were either shriveled or bare all around Mara North. Dry and dusty Musiara Marsh with Governor's Camp and the Mara River in the background -- But we still did very well - and the theme of the trip was "quality over quantity". Another theme was "improbable chance meetings". We got almost all our major bird and critter targets and the Mara delivered fabulously again. Some highlights of the safari included: - Three big cat species in 19 minutes in Mara North Conservancy, followed by a sighting of the "Offbeat male Leopard" from the porch of our tent #4 after lunch. Viewing two male Leopards within a couple of hours of each other was a real treat! Leopard stalking Leopard resting Cheetah - 18 Suni in Nairobi National Park! Photos and video obtained. - Black Rhinos parading and sleeping in the open in Nairobi National Park. And the first Verreaux's Eagle sighting in Nairobi NP in over 10 years. And a pair of Crowned Eagles over the forest just west of Nairobi Tented Camp. Black Rhinos - Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. (wait for that day's report for a photo) - Frank and Jesse the Offbeat pride males, are still large and in charge in Mara North. Had good quality time with the Offbeat Pride of Lions with cubs of varying ages. Jesse - A very enjoyable birding over lunch experience at Little Governor's Camp and finally meeting a "nemesis bird" - Schalow's Turaco. Crossing_Mara_River - Great shorebirding and coastal birds at Mida Creek and the Sabaki River Mouth. - A neat boat excursion on Lake Victoria to break up the drive from Kakamega Forest to the Mara. - Stumbling on a great birding spot at a crest in the Tugen Hills and photographing a Narina Trogon. Narina Trogon - Great birding at Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria. Heuglin's Courser Pygmy Kingfisher - Ongoing evolution and improvements at Offbeat Mara camp. They are so flexible and accommodating to guest desires. For example: one day we did a bush breakfast and all-morning game drive, then afternoon game drive, transitioning into a fine bush dinner with some other guests and then straight into a night drive ending up back at camp after a couple of hours. Birding behind Offbeat Mara - down behind the dining tent, beside the Olare Orok River. - Shy and difficult-to-observe birds in Kakamega Forest Spotted Flufftail Dusky-crested Flycatcher -- Before the trip, I had warned Roger that "something will go wrong" and that we would just go with the flow and with Ben and his network's help, things would work out. Sure enough we had a few blips during our time on the coast, but things worked out just fine. Our first issue was before leaving the USA - our Emirates flight was very late departing JFK and we missed our connecting flight from Dubai to Nairobi. But we were met exiting the plane in Dubai with tickets for the next morning's flight to Nairobi, a hotel voucher, and an explanation that we did not need to collect luggage - it would be put on tomorrow's plane for us. So we got a free night in Dubai and had some good birding in the hotel garden that afternoon. The downside was that we would miss our day trip to Nairobi National Park on January 14 but I had a plan to address that. Our itinerary ended up being: January 14 - Arrive at JKIA one day late. Hit the Nakumatt, do some birding along Red Cross Road. Overnight Boma hotel. January 15 - Drive to Lake Baringo for lunch and afternoon birding, Overnight Tumbili Cliff Lodge. January 16 - Lake Baringo + Lake Bogoria. Overnight Tumbili Cliff Lodge. January 17 - Drive to Kakamega Forest by way of Tugen Hills and Kerio Valley. Overnight Rondo Retreat. January 18 - Kakamega Forest, overnight Rondo Retreat. January 19 - Kakamega Forest, overnight Rondo Retreat. January 20 - Drive to Mara North, via Kisumu. overnight Offbeat Mara. January 21 - Mara North Conservancy, overnight Offbeat Mara January 22 - Mara North Conservancy, overnight Offbeat Mara January 23 - All day in the Main Reserve, lunch at Little Governor's, overnight Offbeat Mara. January 24 - Morning game drive in Mara North, after lunch bush flight to Malindi, overnight Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu. January 25 - Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. overnight Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu. January 26 - Sabaki River Mouth and Mida Creek. overnight Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu. January 27 - Morning birding at Mida Creek, fly to JKIA in Nairobi. Overnight Boma hotel. January 28 - All day outing in Nairobi National Park. Overnight Boma hotel. January 29 - Morning birding along Magadi Road south of Nairobi. Fly home in the late afternoon. -- I talked to Ben and Roger and we agreed to cut a day off our time at the coast, in order to return to Nairobi a day early and get a full day in Nairobi National Park. For this safari, I had obtained a new camera backpack - Think Tank Photo's Airport Commuter. I love this camera bag! It held my camera, lens, a Swarovski spotting scope, Swarovski binoculars, laptop, iPad, memory cards, batteries, a La Cie portable hard drive, cables, camera cleaning kit, and 1 day's clothing. I checked two bags, including a large duffel bag (Patagonia Black Hole Bag). This was to take my tripod, beanbag, and other bulky gear. When we arrived at JKIA, there was a long line of dozens, maybe hundreds, or people in the e-Visa line. Roger and I walked up to an empty desk for Visa-on-arrival passengers. I see no reason at all to put forth the effort and time (and online credit card activity) for an e-Visa. We spent part of our first afternoon in Nairobi birding Red Cross Road - the road where the Boma hotel and Boma Inn are located. We tracked down the ATM near the gate of the Boma Inn and of course we had our binoculars with us and started birding from the gate and out onto the sidewalk. There is a nice hedge and some trees across the street from the Boma complex - we had close to 30 bird species just standing by the gate. Both young security guards - a gentleman and a lady - were interested in the birds we were seeing. We loaned them our binoculars in turn - they could not both be distracted at once you know. They both relished seeing the birds closer and clearer and the young man in particular looked and looked at birds. He had fun tracking swifts and swallows especially. Boma birding We were guided throughout the trip by the incomparable Ben Mugambi, of Ben's Ecological Safaris. I booked all the accomodations and bush flights through Ben's as well. Ben and his office staff handled everything deftly - including a few unforeseen hurdles. Ben knew people everywhere we went, which came in handy a couple of times. The vehicles: Offbeat Mara won "Best Safari Vehicle" again - closely followed by Ben's Ecological Safaris. Offbeat continues to improve and evolve, and their vehicles are no exception. They seem to have taken @@pault's advice and added flat trays to the armrests of their game drive vehicles. These trays are great platforms for photo beanbags. Offbeat photo tray While at Campi ya Offbeat, we had the same trusty Landcruiser as last time - with the photo tray improvements. This vehicle has pop-top roof hatches over both rows of rear passenger seats, and another pop-top hatch over the driver and spotter's seats. These hatches let you see and photograph birds and other things directly overhead. Or stand on the seat and observe + photograph from above roof level. Or sit on the roof in certain situations. Or close the hatch if you need a break from the sun. Offbeat vehicle We used two of Ben's vehicles during the safari - his large Landcruiser for most of the non-Mara safari, then his pride and joy - a 1980 Toyota Landcruiser VX - in Nairobi National Park and Magadi Road the last two days of the safari. Ben's primary safari vehicle, with Ben and driver Simon parked in front of a Baobab Tree near Mida Creek. Ben's Safari Vehicle Ben's Landcruiser VX Ben's VX Landcruiser is the quietest safari vehicle (and quietest diesel SUV) I have ever seen! It is a 12-cylinder turbo-diesel and Ben has the idle speed turned down low. So it purrs along very quietly through field and forest. Ben has some real war stories about using it to deliver late-arriving clients to the Mara late at night in stormy weather and passing abandoned Landrovers and other Landcruisers stuck deep in the muck. The companions: We were fortunate to have Ben Mugambi with us the entire time. We also had great local guides helping in different areas. Super-sharp Francis Cherutich guided us on his home ground of Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria. We were fortunate to have Josphat and Kapeen at Offbeat Mara. At Arabuko-Sokoke forest we had William (Willie), and on Lake Victoria and adjacent land birding we had Solomon. I hope this teaser post stokes some interest. Maybe a few videos will help:

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