Tony Beck - Photography, Nature and Birding Tours, Local Birding Excursions

Archive for December, 2010

Happy Holidays

A Very Festive Black-capped Chickadee

A Very Festive Black-capped Chickadee

Gray skies block the warmth of the sun. A parade of large white flakes gently drift to the ground. A soft blanket of fresh snow reveal our steps through the trail. Loud, abrupt calls of curious Northern Ravens interrupt the tranquil silence – their wings whistle as they pass overhead. From the darkness of the forest thickets comes the chatter of resilient & hardy Black-capped Chickadees. A White-tailed Deer snorts a strong breath, alarmed by our approach. We’re cold, tired and all alone. Yet, we can’t imagine a more beautiful place to be – a forest trail in St. Lawrence lowlands of Eastern Ontario. All is well, and life is good. We wish you all Joy, Peace, Love and Happiness in the New Year. Happy Holidays!

Tony & Nina

KENYA SAFARI – NOV 2010

Golden-breasted Starling

Golden-breasted Starling

Whew… I’ve just returned from a most successful 25-day “familiarization” tour of Kenya! A long flight home provided ample time to reflect on the experience. And, I can happily report that this ranks as one of the most awesome tours I’ve ever participated in.
Filled with joy, colour, animation, drama – the natural wonders were endless, and the diversity was astonishing.

We tallied 658 species of birds and 72 species of mammals.
The wildlife photo-opportunities were many, often under ideal light conditions (I’m going to be very busy editing for a while).

Sadly, there’s not enough room in this blog-entry to list all the highlights. However, a few stand out, include the following:
* Witnessing an adult Peregrine Falcon, with lightning speed & power, pluck a Yellow-necked Spurfowl off our dusty open trail.
* Studying a lanky Cheetah as it patiently stalked a herd of Thomson’s Gazelle feeding in the Amboseli grasslands.
* Making eye contact with a huge Savannah Elephant as it slowly waltzed by us through the Mara Grasslands. We had a similar close-encounter later in the Tsavo Scrublands.
* Watching two muscular  Savannah Monitor Lizards wrestling each other like athletes in a tournament Рthe event was likely the result of a territorial dispute.
* Spying on a Hartlaub’s Bustard as it emitted a bittern-like sound – expanding it’s thin neck like a balloon, then after a couple of pops releasing a long, drawn-out moaning sound.
* Counting more than 120,000 Lesser Flamingos in scattered concentrations around Lake Bogoria and Lake Nakuru. On one occasion, being awestruck by the flurry of pink wings as a flock escapes a marauding Spotted Hyena.
* Enjoying the candid views of a beautiful Lilac-breasted Roller playfully spoil its colour with a lengthy dust bath in the red sands of the Tsavo Plains.
* Noting a pair of aptly named Black-backed Puffbirds “puffing” out their back feathers during a territorial display – they looked like large cotton balls with wings.
* Relaxing to the melodic dawn chorus of the African wilderness – the symphony of sounds sometimes included the accomplished voices of Eastern Black-headed Orioles and White-browed Scrub-Robins – so wonderfully tropical.
* Watching a pair of Green Wood-hoopoes rush around the periphery of the forest, making comical nasal sounds as they engage in a hurried, yet amorous courtship duet.
* Thrilling at the elaborate courtship dance of three Grey-crowned Cranes – wings fanned out, bouncing like giant butterflies with occasional great bounding leaps into the sky.
* Being inspired by graceful white morph African Paradise Flycatchers – their long flag-like tails flapping behind them as they float, dart and pirouette through the trees, trying to catch insects.
* Sharing breakfast with a young male Vervet Monkey – it looked at me with big puppy dog eyes while it pulled bread from my tight grip using its tiny, gentle yet dextrous fingers.
* Observing a total of 61 different species of raptors (including Pearl-spotted Owlet, Imperial Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle and Pygmy Falcon) – all majestic and cool.
* Seeing 44 different species of shorebird (including Heuglin’s Courser, Blacksmith Lapwing, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper and Bar-tailed Godwit). Some were long-distance migrants, many in subtle winter plumage – with my bare feet submerged in the warm estuary mud, I could study this group for days on end.
* Some of the most attractive birds of the trip include Great Blue Turaco, Malachite Kingfisher, Lialac-breasted Roller, Peter’s Twinspot and Northern Carmine Bee-eater – no illustration will ever do them justice.
* And, I now have a new all-time favourite bird, a new champion of champions Рthe extremely showy Golden-breasted Starling Рcomplete with a long tail, bright white eyes and a kaleidoscope of iridescent colours.

We were blessed with great weather, enjoying perfectly comfortable conditions. Although coastal regions were hot, they were managed well.
The people of Kenya are friendly. And, we felt completely safe during all parts of our itinerary.
Accommodations were excellent throughout.
The food was well-prepared and delicious.
Our local guide, Ben Mugambi, took excellent care of us. He is sensitive to customer needs, and has an uncanny awareness of all forms of East African wildlife.

There were plenty more amazing experiences on this Kenyan adventure.
Stay tuned for more in future blogs.

Northern Carmine Bee-eater

Northern Carmine Bee-eater

Imperial Eagle

Imperial Eagle

Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyena

Hartlaub's Bustard

Hartlaub's Bustard

Tsavo Savannah Elephant

Tsavo Savannah Elephant