Tom Kellie

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Everything posted by Tom Kellie

  1. Trigonoceps occipitalis in Flight Photographed at 3:11 pm on 7 February, 2014 in Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, using an EOS 1D X camera and an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto lens. ISO 100, 1/4000 sec., f/2.8, 400mm focal length, handheld Manual exposure. ***************************************************************************************************** Flying along the course of the Mara River was a solitary bird with a broad wingspan. Watching its powerful wingstrokes I wondered what species flew with such grace. It was Trigonoceps occipitalis, White-headed Vulture. The wingtip feathers riffled ever so slightly, enabling the great bird to make a gentle turn towards the direction from which it had come.
  2. Bostrychia hagedash at Lake Navaisha Photographed at 2:41 pm on 8 February, 2014 at Lake Navaisha, Kenya, using an EOS 1D X camera and an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto lens. ISO 100, 1/320 sec., f/2.8, 400mm focal length, handheld Manual exposure. ***************************************************************************************************** On the second visit to Lake Navaisha, Kenya, the flat-bottomed boat was sufficiently low to the water that the lens looked straight over at waterbirds. This adult Bostrychia hagedash, Hadada Ibis, was actively probing for nutrients less than three meters away from the boat, its plumage iridescent in the sunlight.
  3. ~ This June, 2017 news article published in the Bangalore Mirror tells that a team of conservationists and researchers intended to document the distribution of leopards around Bangalore, India, but additionally had other wildlife sightings of interest. The Nature Conservation Foundation and the Karnataka Forest Department expressed elation at documenting the unexpected presence of honey badgers, chinkara and smooth-coated otters.
  4. ~ This June, 2017 book excerpt published in India's Swarajya is from the book: “The Vanishing, India's Wildlife Crisis” by Prerna Singh Bindra, published by Penguin Random House India. The excerpt describes being in Panna Tiger Reserve where a proposed dam and river link threatens to submerge the area's forests, which are prime tiger habitat.
  5. ~ These June, 2017 articles from The Hindu explain the dilemma between the steady increase in the tiger population in Karnataka and the Western Ghats, and the reality of insufficient habitat to accommodate the increase. Tiger numbers in such areas as Nagarahole and Bandipur have reached their ecological carrying capacity without any corresponding increase in protected areas for both tiger and prey populations.
  6. ~ In the interest of diversity, the above links are provided with information about Ictonyx striatus, Zorilla, or Striped Polecat. They include assertions that Zorillas are the “world's smelliest animal” and reactions to a Zorilla appearing as a guest on a U.S. television talk show. Most surprisingly, a developer of on-line learn-to-read material for children has released “Zoey the Zorilla” telling of the cross-African travels of a displaced Zorilla with friends Lenny the Lycaon and Germain the Giraffe. Who knew? Tom K.
  7. ~ This June, 2017 article in the U.K. Guardian explains how high fee trophy hunting in Zimbabwe's Sango Wildlife Conservancy is partially funding the transfer of 6,000 animals to Mozambique's Zinave National Park. German entrepreneur Wilfried Pabst is donating the animals from Sango, which is located within the Savé Valley Conservancy in eastern Zimbabwe.
  8. ~ This June, 2017 article from the American Bird Conservancy explains how the eBird Web site from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers a flexible format for “understanding the fluid nature of bird movement and migration.” The real-time nature of eBird facilitates greater depth of understanding avian dynamics over wide ranges. Another benefit of eBird is understanding bird population shifts so as to better direct conservation resources.
  9. Gazella granti at Rest in Amboseli Photographed at 9:47 am on 11 February, 2014 in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, using an EOS 1D X camera and an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto lens. ISO 800, 1/2000 sec., f/5.6, 400mm focal length, handheld Manual exposure. ***************************************************************************************************** One surprise for me on the initial safari to Kenya in August, 2011 was observing various species resting on the ground. While understandable, it was seldom depicted in guidebooks. While on a morning game drive in Amboseli National Park, this Gazella granti, Grant's Gazelle, was placidly resting near the track, seemingly unruffled by our arrival.
  10. ~ From BBC: “Kenya Cholera Outbreak Hits Dozens at Health Conference”
  11. ~ This pair of articles from the U.K. Guardian discuss the ancient lineage of elephants, incluging pygmy elephants on Mediterranean islands and 4-tusked elephants on the Arabian Peninsula. As mega-herbivores and keystone species, elephant survival is critical, despite the ongoing threats of habitat loss and poaching for ivory.
  12. “Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don't need a diploma to plant a tree.” ~ Dr. Wangari Maathai in ‘Unbowed’ Respect for the Land ~ During an eventful safari in August, 2014 there had been ample evidence suggesting that Kenya’s seemingly timeless landscape was, in fact, changing as a consequence of ongoing development, whether in the form of urban expansion or in the form of herding and grazing activities by those squeezed out from the benefits of high technology and advanced education. As a guest in Africa, it wasn’t my place to judge what I saw as the antecedents were far too complex for a casual safari tourist like me to adequately understand. While I cringed when observing large herds in national reserves and national parks, it was clear that the economic pressures involved were far beyond any simplistic understanding which I might have. Added to that were several less than pleasant scenes with safari van overcrowding around plainly harassed predators, sparking questions in my mind about my own presence as part of the telephoto lens and smart phone scrum. Leaving Nairobi for the long journey back to China, there was a malaise which sullied the memories of the wildlife I’d observed. Was Kenya’s verdant land in the process of losing much of the natural charm which had originally attracted me? My very good fortune was having true friends guiding me in farflung areas of Kenya. Safaritalk member @@Anthony Gitau and his wife, Maggie, of Bigmac Africa Safaris,, had been with me on four highly productive safaris, including the August, 2014 visit to Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru. We had developed trust and rapport such that there was unspoken understanding of what made an ideal game drive. Anthony and Maggie are both such intelligent, warmhearted, humorous individuals, representing Kenya’s finest qualities. One week after returning to China, I contacted them to ask about their availability for a safari in the first week of October, when universities have a one-week vacation in connection with China’s National Day on 1 October. The turnaround time to plan the safari, booking accommodations, was brief, little less than one month. With admirable finesse, Maggie Gitau pulled together the elements of an itinerary which matched my interests and limited time schedule. There were no complaints, despite the scant time available for arranging the details, which is typical of Anthony's and Maggie’s graciousness. They implicitly understood that I needed to return to Kenya as soon as possible to restore my enthusiasm by visiting land with minimal human impact, where the songs of birds and the tracks of herds were the primary evidence of life. Anthony had told me several times that his uncle, who now resides in the United States but was once a safari guide ranging throughout East Africa, had taken him to Meru National Park. That initial visit has triggered Anthony’s love of wildlife tourism, and had given him a special appreciation of Meru National Park. In communicating about possible locations for the October, 2014 safari, I stressed that an itinerary with Meru National Park would be especially welcome. After Anthony praised Meru’s charms, my interest inspired me to learn more about it. Having read several of Mrs. Joy Adamson’s books set in and around Meru National Park, I sensed that a visit there might be a special experience, no matter what sorts of wildlife might be observed. Meru National Park is the training base for newly recruited staff for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and therefore is well maintained despite the relative paucity of visitors. I’d visited nearby Samburu National Reserve with Anthony in May, 2014, and was eager for a return visit. With those considerations in mind, Bigmac Africa proposed an itinerary comprising Meru, Samburu and Lake Nakuru, beginning and concluding at the Sirona Hotel in Nairobi. I agreed with gratitude, for I realized that it had been a complex process to arrange a private safari on such short notice. As I enjoy fresh challenges, I decided to take only one camera, the EOS 1D X, with three lenses, the Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2, the Zeiss Apo-Sonnar T* 135mm f/2, and the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto. As it turned out, that trio of lenses was more than adequate for photographing all that was observed during the safari. I’d never used Tv, Shutter Priority shooting mode before, therefore I resolved to use it throughout the safari, with a constant shutter speed of 1/2000 sec. An untested piece of equipment was an iPad Air which I’d purchased somewhat reluctantly, with the hope of being able to share with Anthony any especially satisfactory images from game drives on the previous days. On every safari there’s invariably something forgotten. In this case it was a recharging cord for the iPad Air. In Hamad International Airport, in Doha, Qatar, it was possible to buy a replacement cord. Nothing else was forgotten or broken, such that it was a trouble-free safari from start to finish, with exceptionally lovely weather every day. The Qatar Airways flights were all on-time, with ample connection time in Doha. The in-flight meals were excellent. At my request, we stopped for lunch at the Trout Tree restaurant near Naro Moru, making a pleasant break during the all-day drive from Nairobi to the Murera Springs Eco-Resort near Meru National Park. The off-the-menu trout en papillote at the Trout Tree restaurant is a special joy on any Meru or Samburu safari. Accomodations were respectively at the Murera Springs Eco-Resort, the Samburu Sopa Lodge, and the Kivu Lodge in Nakuru. Making allowances as needed, all were more than adequate for my needs. I’d previously stayed at both the Samburu Sopa and the Kivu in prior safaris, but it was the first visit to the Murera Springs Eco-Resort owned by Safaritalk member @@nhanq. What a terrific experience! The staff was delightful, adding to the pleasure of visiting Meru for the first time. I had no idea that I would subsequently be a guest at Murera Springs on two later safaris. I’m not especially meal-oriented, but felt that all meals throughout the safari were excellent. As is my custom, when Anthony stopped in Nairobi on the departure morning to fill the fuel tank with petrol and check both tires and suspension, I wandered into the service station convenience shop, strolling back out with a rather large sack filled with small boxes of juice. Apple, black currant, red grape, guava — they sustain me during long drives between destinations, and refresh during lulls between game drive sightings. Whenever the white Toyota safari van stops for refuelling, Anthony’s ritual is to rock it back and forth to assess how the suspension is functioning. That’s a favorite with me, because it signifies “safari” in my mind. Notes about each day on safari were made, as usual, in a mini-notebook from Muji. I’m a devoted Montblanc fountain pen user, therefore two pens were brought along for late-night notes and sketches. The late @@graceland told me that: “a trip report is for you. If others enjoy it, that’s great, but write to express what you feel”. In that spirit this trip report is prepared fully two years after the fact. Life has gone on in Kenya and for me, but the natural beauty I observed during the October, 2014 safari retains its appeal. As will be apparent, this was a “Big Five” safari, the third of eight consecutive “Big Five” safaris. Encountering any species is a treat, whether obscure or “Big Five”. I’m especially drawn to plants, including wildflowers and palm trees. Beauty abounds if one takes time to spot it. Although my profession involves teaching life science students about field ecology, in a trip report I’m far less concerned with precise species identification and far more interested in appreciation of the intense loveliness of the natural world. Simply being outside in Africa’s vibrant scenery is more than enough. There’s a place for carefully reasoned analytical reports about wildlife behavior. That’s not my purpose here, where I prefer to share what I saw, using photographs and poetry to convey cherished memories of a hastily planned safari. A special thanks is in order to @@fictionauthor, @@Peter Connan and @@offshorebirder, all of whom have regularly encoraged me during the past half a year, each being remarkably gifted individuals and loyal friends. Most of all, heartfelt thanks to @@Anthony Gitau and Maggie Gitau, for making this gem of a safari possible.
  13. ~ @JohnR: This has unexpectedly appeared. Tom K.
  14. ~ @AmyT You're spoiling us! Thank you for that sweet image. Makes my night. Tom K.
  15. ~ No problem. It's the same study. In any case, valuable research well worth publicizing. Tom K.
  16. ~ @inyathi Thank you for providing the link to Black Drongo information. I hesitate adding the following, as it may already be widely known, and I'm neither a birder nor an ornithologist. As my professional life is in a university life science department, it's possible to gather background information from colleagues with substantial experience. The bird species resident in southern China, including seasonal visitors, often don't venture north of the Yangtze. China's scale is such that the vegetation shifts and climate belts shift heading northward, such that southern birds have limited overlap with the region where I work. Save for southern Yunnan province, in areas directly bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, the local area here has, by far, China's greatest biodiversity. That's the direct cause of my relocation here last summer, following 17 years in Beijing. Clear skies, no haze of particulate air pollution, clear stream water, virgin forests that have never known a saw blade and a remarkable mix of botanical species set apart this region. It's somewhat inconvenient to visit from the viewpoint of typical domestic tourists, which has been a positive factor limiting development. Were one to look at a map of China, this region is the center, the very heart of China, as it were. The northern and southern climatic zones meet here which is why wild bananas, gingko, fir and spruce grow side by side. ********************************************************************************************************************* This week colleagues kindly filled me in on the status of drongo species in this area. Dicrurus leucophaeus, Ashy Drogo, is a regular Summer visitor. Likewise Dicrurus hottentotus, Hair-crested Drongo, is another summer visitor, although I've yet to knowingly observe one. As to the hapless Dicrurus macrocercus, Black Drongo, in theory and in the distant past it might make it this far north in the summer. However... Once again a ‘culturally sensitive’ reality needs to be noted. Throughout China, careful distinctions between disparate subjects are often absent, such that what might otherwise appear to be self-evidently distinct is treated here as being the same as something else. While university-trained experts are generally aware of fine distinctions, few others care enough or see any point in what they regard as being “Western quibbling over nothing”. In other words, the attitude of “it's all the same” is deeply entrenched here, to the point of obviating disciplined consciousness of distinctions. A Black Drongo's distinctive forked tail and overall non-Corvid appearance is typically ignored here, where it's dismissed as being nothing more than another “crow”. Local cultural practices in regions south of here encourage the assiduous hunting and killing of all “crows”, including Black Drongos, based on various long-standing folk beliefs. Hence very few Black Drongos have made it this far north in recent decades, as the increased human population results in more would-be Nimrods. I'm grateful for your interest, kindness and erudition. If I do ever observe a Black Drongo here, I'll be sure to post news of it. With Appreciation, Tom K.
  17. ~ @Geoff There's more. This was the final week of instruction, hence hectic at times. After reading the @graceland thread I felt melancholy, hence haven't posted for several days. On this Tuesday morning I rode the city bus back to the mountain campus, north of the city where I work. Idly looking out the bus's window, facing eastward, I spotted not one but two more Ashy Drongos. They were perched on wires around a field, about 50 meters from one another. Their plumage color and unmistakable cleft tail feathers were identical to the bird I'd seen the previous afternoon. I've since asked an experienced local birder. She laughed, noting that Dicrurus leucophaeus, Ashy Drongo, is an annual visitor “for a few months in deep summer”, as she expressed it. She hadn't yet seen them this year, so surmised that they must have arrived within the past week. Now I know...and feel rewarded in triplicate. Tom K.
  18. ~ @Peter Connan It seems like a useful tool for those with access to it. Where I work and live it remains unavailable in functional form. It's great to know that it's usable with regard to lovely South African birds. Tom K.
  19. ~ @offshorebirder Thank you for spotting that and bringing it to our attention. If that's actually to be the case, what a shift, eh? Tom K.
  20. ~ @AmyT That's a cute shot, with her cub nestled down behind mom. Tom K.
  21. ~ @COSMIC RHINO This research has been posted in a previous thread.
  22. ~ This June, 2017 article in the Wall Street Journal discusses how ecotourism in the Democratic Republic of Congo is centered around field observation of eastern lowland gorillas. The gorillas are seen in Congo's Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
  23. ~ This April, 2017 research article published in Global Ecology and Conservation presents the findings of a comparison study of nations with regard to conservation of megafauna. The primary evaluative criteria were: ecology, extent of protected areas, and percentage of GDP allocated to conservation. African nations were notably strong in protecting both carnivores and herbivores.
  24. ~ @Geoff and @inyathi and @Soukous Against all odds: Dicrurus leucophaeus, Ashy Drongo. The city bus headed north to the mountain campus came to a complete halt two kilometers outside of a village. Intense police roadblock stopped kilometers of long-haul trucks, tankers, buses, and automobiles. The bus driver ordered everyone out, which was stressful as elderly, infirm ladies were aboard. Yours truly hiked approximately six kilometers, in dress shirt and necktie, up the foothills through hamlets, attracting ample gapes. Made it to the first final examination with minutes to spare, my daily exercise quota more than met. At the close of the day walked downhill to catch the city bus home, this time from the university gate. On the back lane a light grey bird with a strikingly forked tail was on an electrical line, swooped down to catch a bug on the concrete and returned upward. It's flight was somewhat like a bee-eater making a circuit to capture then eat. No camera with me today, but a clear sighting. After returning home, less than one hour ago, have sought double verification from local birders. Confirmed! I never even knew that such a species from Southeast Asia and India ever appeared here. It seems that they're summer breeders, then return south in early autumn. Your astute post this morning really touched me. It seems that the angels decided to make good on my comment. BTW: That's the only drongo I've ever observed outside of Africa. Tom K.
  25. ~ From the U.K. Guardian: “Anti-Poaching Drive Brings Siberia's Tigers Back from Brink”

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