Kenya Photo Safari Begins
The next couple weeks were spent bouncing around Kenya exploring the savanna from the window of a Land Rover. I was the only person in our ten photographer group to not print off the correct travel documents for entry into Kenya from Uganda. Fortunately, we had gotten to the airport in time to correct this oversight. More African travel frustrations.
Kenya Photo Safari Blog
The reasons for my delay in posting these blogs from Africa are many. In addition to the iPhone videos and photos, I needed to sort through the 19,996 photos taken with my big boy camera, deleting most and working on a few. Then, determining how to present the selected photos. Should I have one blog on birds and one on big cats, or present them in the order seen?
What struck me when seeing all these wild animals in Africa is how and where they gathered their food. Some animals like the mongoose and warthogs find their food by rooting below the ground. We are all familiar with the giraffe and elephant’s ability to reach the highest branches of the acacia trees. An animal I had never seen before, the gerenuk, fills the gap between the ground feeders, the giraffe and elephant. Then there are the colorful little bee-eaters snatching bees in flight. These are the animals we will look at in this blog.
Boars Rooting for Food
Because the other photographers on this safari had been to Africa before, I was the only one who was interested in photographing the ugly warthogs. When I would request a stop to photograph these highly skittish animals, I would be greeted by sneers and insults. Especially by the leader of our photography group. Who would want such a photo in their portfolio? Often our first glimpse of the wild pigs would be of their stiff, tufted tail sticking straight up above the yellow grass like a flag as they scurried along. We were told they are such stupid animals when being chased by a lion or hyena they would sometimes forget why they were running and stop. I’m guessing they only do this once in their lifetime.
Notice the guy above has a notch taken our of his ear.
I can only guess those bumps on the face provide protection when running through the bush or when tussling with other members of the herd.
Mongoose Digging for Grubs
Whenever we saw the mongoose, they were frantically tossing dirt and dust into the air searching for grubs. It was surprising how often they were successful.
The Long Neck Gerenuk
I was intrigued by the symmetrical markings inside their ears. I shot hundreds of photos trying to get this head-on view. Nobody in our group had any problems stopping for photos of these cute animals. Gerenuk means ‘giraffe neck’ in Somali. This species of antelope is well adapted for scouring the lower, inner branches of the acacia tree in areas where the giraffe and elephant would have difficulty feeding.
Giraffes Also Eat Acacia Trees
It is clear that the giraffes will eat all that they can from the acacia tree as high as they can reach.
What Kind of Giraffes are These?
The most easy to identify is the reticulated giraffe, which was the better looking of the two, in my opinion.
My guess is the other giraffes were the Masai, based on their location and they are also a common variety. Despite these different varieties of giraffe being able to mate with one another, in the wild they do not. That’s why there are theses distinct different species. In captivity, the barriers of drought, migration and the rainy season disappear, so the zoos can end up with hybrids not existing in the wild.
Elephants Eat the Acacia Thorns?
How is this possible? These thorns are sharp enough to pierce and flatten a truck tire. These thorns are not flexible, but seem stiff as nails. I initially was worried to see this poor elephant standing in the spikes of the acacia tree.
Then I saw them eating the thorns! I may be swayed into somehow believing the elephant’s skin and feet are tougher than a six-ply truck tire, but how does their mouth and tongue handle these sharp spikes? Both the gerenuk and giraffe deftly maneuver their tongues around the thorns and plucking tender green leaves, avoiding the thorns. The elephant does not seem to care and eats the entire branch, thorns and all. I don’t get it.
Elephant Skin Close-up and Abstract
So the elephant skin does indeed look very tough, but that does not explain them being able to eat the thorns.
Elephants are indeed tough ol’ birds.
The Skillful Little Bee-Eater
The beautiful bee-eater spends the day perched out in the open with an eye toward the sky, looking for…. wait for it… wait for it… bees.
Once a bee is spotted, off they go, to pluck a bee in mid air. I never witnessed the bee capture, but the bee-eater would return to the same perch in less than a minute.
The bee-eater would seem to play with his catch for a while, tossing it up in the air and catching it again and again. I’m guessing the bee-eaters are making certain the bee is dead. Hundreds of photos were taken to capture these four stages of bee catching. This is also one of the reasons nature photographers get cameras which can shoot 20 frames a second.
Advanced Mirrorless Nikon Cameras
The Nikon Z9 mirrorless camera has a special feature that is a real game changer for nature photographers. Nikon calls it a pre-release burst feature. This mode buffers images in the camera memory while the shutter button is partially depressed. When you fully depress the shutter, up to one second of images is recorded before the shutter is was actually released. It is like going back in time. Instead of missing those quick action bee-eater jumping into flight photos, you can now easily capture them with pre-release. Not so with my Sony. I had to depend upon fast reflexes, 20 frames per second and lots of photo cards. However, should you choose, this high-tech Nikon camera can be yours for only $5,500 at B&H Photo.
To keep my audience riveted, my next Kenya blog will feature some disgusting birds, some ugly birds, very dirty birds and some hungry birds.