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hannahcat last won the day on September 26 2016

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About hannahcat

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  1. Thanks so much to everyone for this thread! It's incredibly helpful. I regret not participating more in SafariTalk over the past few months -- things have just been really crazy -- but I'm definitely counting down to Kenya in June 2018. I had just realized that we'll probably land the night before we can get out to the Mara when I discovered this discussion. SafariTalk: providing answers before I even knew I had the question.
  2. I should have chimed in well before this to say how much I'm enjoying this trip report -- so let me go ahead and do so now, while you are on hiatus! I suspect that I would not be a big fan of migration watching, so I am loving hearing your pro & con thoughts on the matter. Your excellent photographs really help to tell the story as well, and the shot of all the plains game together really is magnificent. I also really appreciate that you included a map of the area -- I'm very fond of maps myself. And I'm very exited about the idea of more spotted animals to come ...
  3. I turn 40 in 2018, and a few months ago, Michael turned to me and said "you want to go on safari for your 40th, don't you?" And of course I said I did, and that seemed to be it. And then, a couple of days later, he said, "wouldn't it be nice if friends and family were there too?" And so I sent out an email message asking if anyone else wanted to join us (each paying their own way) and lo and behold, they did. Probably about nine of them, but maybe up to eighteen of them. So that sent me off into a frenzy of research, but I think we now have a plan. With a group this size, simplicity is best, I feel. So, Kenya, Serian Mara North, seven nights, June 2018. (And then Michael and I will likely go on to Sarara for another four nights on our own.) I'll be putting down the deposit in the next week for the main camp (late comers will have to go to Ngare if there's room). I am so glad there are Kenya trip reports, I don't know how I could possibly bide my time otherwise.
  4. Great job on making a plan! I remember growing to love that phrase -- let's make a plan -- on my first safari in South Africa, and also growing to understand that the making of the plan is itself part of the Safari process. So, in a sense, maybe your plan-making meant your Safari had already started? At any rate, I am so glad it all worked out. I can't wait to hear more, for selfish reasons among others -- I'm starting to look into the Serian camps myself and will be very curious to hear what you thought on your second round.
  5. I know this trip report was finished a while ago, but I just wanted to say how entertaining, inspiring, and non-pretentious I found it. And the photography! Wow! The tsunami wave-cloud! The wildebeest in a perfect parabola! The two wildebeest jumping in symmetry! The lions on kopji! Just amazing! This remains a very helpful and, again, inspirational resource.
  6. I am so glad you finally got to make this trip, @@optig, and that you're looking hale and healthy. I'm particularly glad for a selfish reason: I'm beginning to think about Kenya for 2018, and your trip to the Namunyak Conservancy in particular is very inspiring. I feel like it would be amazing paired with a visit to the Mara for a first time visitor, as the two ecosystems look so completely different. Also, I love the pictures of you with the orphaned gerenuk, and would like to learn more about the elephant orphanage. That's a great tip about the new lodge being built! Thanks again for sharing.
  7. Holy moly @@madaboutcheetah, these are spectacular! Can't wait to see what delights Mara Plains brought you as well.
  8. @@elefromoz I do feel incredibly lucky about the jungle cat spotting. He was so well camouflaged, it was 99 to one that we would just drive right past him. Spending hours and days watching Eurasian griffons in Spain sounds wonderful. They may not be the most gorgeous birds feather-wise, but they are absolutely majestic in flight. Also, I meant to emphasize this more in my post -- there seemed to be lots of interesting things going on at the Gamla reserve that we weren't able to spend time with. I think I saw several species of sun birds, for instance, though as you can tell I'm not a very trustworthy ID-er of birds. Anyway, my point is that this stop was added on at the last minute when Eitan saw how much I loved the animals at Hula Valley, and so we didn't have much time, but if I were to do it again, I could easily see wanting to spend a day there. If one were to spend a day there, the locals might think you're nuts -- it's not a tourist spot at all, it seems mainly used by folks hiking to the nearby waterfalls -- but it might be worth it anyway, particularly if you hit it in nice flying weather for the birds.
  9. Thank you so much, @@inyathi! I was sitting down with the Book of Middle Eastern birds this morning and definitely feeling a little lost. How is it that the birds never look quite like even the most detailed drawings? I think it must take a certain level of expertise to be able to really get bird books. At any rate, I really appreciate your help. I would love to see the Nubian ibex! I'll have to put the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve on my list for next time. I'm also a sucker for rock hyrax -- they're just irresistible to me. One thing I liked was that the nature reserves seemed relatively undiscovered, at least as tourist destinations, which is kind of nice. Thanks again!
  10. As a final note, on our way out of the Golan Heights the next morning, we stopped by the Gamla Nature Reserve, which has a vulture conservation project as well as spectacular scenery and archaeological ruins. I wish we had had more time there -- I could have photographed, and just watched, those vultures gracefully swooping through the valleys for hours and hours. Here are a few pictures of that. I think the vultures we saw were all goliath vultures, though they do have other species there.
  11. And then of course there were the cranes (all common cranes that I can tell, though I've read that there can be demoiselle cranes mixed in).
  12. Birding in Agamon was exceptional, even for a total neophyte like me. Here's my attempt to ID my pictures, months after the fact -- please feel free to correct any errors I made: Hen Harrier: Pallid Harrier: White-Throated Kingfisher:
  13. Hula Valley can be a bit confusing, as there are two places that call themselves a nature reserve or park in Hula Valley, and they're right next to each other. First, there's the national park, which is managed by the Israeli government and is, from everything I've read, a very nice place to visit. Second, there is the Agamon Hula Tourism Park,, which is where we visited and which seems to be a public/private partnership. It offers guides and tours, it has a research program that involves banding the birds, etc. Honestly, the Hula Valley has a very odd -- and not very environmentally friendly -- history. In the 1950s, the current state of Israel had recently been established, and the early Jewish settlers were looking for farming land for their kibbutzes. Hula Valley was a swamp at the time, and the early settlers decided to drain the land for farming. While this worked for a little while, over just a few years, it became clear that there was a problem: the cranes. The cranes had always migrated to the Valley for the winter; now that it was filled in, they were still migrating there, and finding the swamp drained, they just ate all of the farmers' crops instead. Eventually, it was decided to try to find a compromise: to remove many of the farmers and fill in a good part of the swamp again, but also to feed the birds the minimum amount so that they wouldn't eat the remaining surrounding crops, but not so much that the birds wouldn't migrate any more. It's definitely a balancing act, and not ideal for anyone, but Agamon does seem to be hitting the sweet spot: they are feeding the birds, they are (with a vigilant crops-watchers program) keeping the birds away from the nearby crops, and the birds are migrating. I've been reading a little concerning the debate on "what is wildness" and "is there any wildness left, or is it all really managed by us?" I can't speak with any authority on the subject, but I do think that this could be an interesting example in that ongoing discussion. At any rate, all of this is preface to explain why we first took a two-hour tour of part of the park with one of the Agamon guides (that's when we saw the boar and wildcat, as well as many other birds), and then we went on what they call a "sunset tour." They only offer these sunset tours in the winter, when the cranes are living there, and they're an opportunity to go out in a vaguely camouflaged truck that the cranes all recognize as their main food source and be besieged by cranes. It's quite something. It's not wild exactly, but it's not not-wild either. I mean, they're not tame cranes, so it's not like you're going out to feed the cattle. And yet, the cranes are obviously responding to food, just as every animal responds to food. It's something in between. A few pictures. The Hula Valley is the farthest north the papyrus plant comes; you can see Mount Hermon, with snow on top, in the background. Our tour with the Agamon guide was mainly a drive around the main lake in a golf cart, with frequent stops to look at interesting things. (Though I think that, since Hula Valley is not a traditional safari stop, the guide was a little surprised by quite how much I wanted to stop and look at things.) Here is a nutria -- unfortunately, an invasive species that you now see all over the place: The wild boar were pretty far away, and thus I didn't get the greatest pictures, but still, it was really neat to see them. First we saw the juvenile wild boar who, the guide said, was picking over the remains of a crane who had died. Then his mother came to make sure he was having a good meal. I had originally asked about jungle cats and had, essentially, been chuckled at (in a very nice way). There was practically no chance of seeing jungle cats, I was told -- they were basically only seen if they had kittens, or maybe at sunrise, and it was neither the season nor the time of day for either condition. Still, I was hoping against hope when our guide who was taking us around Israel in general (Eitan Julius, who was wonderful) said, "hey, isn't that a cat in those grasses over there?" And it was! It was so unusual, in fact, that at first our guide from Agamon was a little worried that the cat might be injured or incapacitated in some way, and thus unable to get away from us, but after sitting for a while, it seemed clear that the cat was just chill where he was, taking a nap in the sunshine and keeping one eye trained on us. There was only one other group out touring Agamon, and our Agamon guide clearly knew them and called them over to see the jungle cat. From the little bits of conversation I grasped between our guide and this other group, I gathered that the guy with the big, big camera was probably Amir Ben Dov, the person I had contacted about visiting! I was too shy to introduce myself though. Anyway, some more pictures of the jungle cat -- they're mostly alike though because we didn't want to disturb the cat and keep moving the golf cart around. I would say that, contrary to the cranes and to many of the cats in more-visited safari areas, cats here are very wild and un-habituated to humans.
  14. Wow, what a loooooong day, but at least it ended well with the dogs. Being able to get down onto ground level actually with the dogs is amazing, and I love the shots you got out of it, maybe particularly the one of the yawning dog. Looking forward to more.
  15. I just wanted to say how much I've been enjoying this trip report and being introduced to areas of Kenya I knew nothing about! (No pressure at all to finish it up -- I'm enjoying the leisurely ride with you.)

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