Readers’ wildlife photos

January 29, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from a contributor whom we haven’t seen in a while: Richard Bond. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Kenya is rightly famed for the mammal populations in its many wildlife reserves, but the extensive bird life tends to be overlooked. My ancient field guide to the birds of East Africa notes that 1033 species have been seen in Kenya alone, which makes this relatively small country worth the attention of anyone interested in birds. A big problem in photographing birds there is that it is often difficult to get close to them: the reserves (correctly) try to enforce the rule that safari vehicles keep the the tracks, leaving wide open spaces effectively inaccessible. An elephant at 100 metres is obvious; a kestrel at the same distance is a blur. These photos, though not particularly good by WEIT’s usual standards, make that point and perhaps provide some guidance for people other than serious birdwatchers, who already know this stuff, who would like to take photos of birds. They also show a bit more of the birds’ environments than better photos would!

They were taken well over a decade ago with a camera that marked my first step away from film photography. The camera boasted 5 megapixels and a zoom to 410 mm equivalent, but this modest capability replaced all of the functionality of a large briefcase stuffed with camera backs, lenses and motor drives. I think that the important lesson is that one needs a zoom lens at least twice as long and far more pixels. I am much better equipped these days, and have been planning to revisit Kenya, but the long aftermath of a serious illness followed by the pandemic enforced postponement. Anyway, here are the birds, mostly from SE Kenya.

Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Francolinus leucoscepus Very common, at least where I was, but solitary. Apparently they are heavily hunted for food.

Egyptian Goose, Alopochen aegyptiaca. These seem to be much commoner now than indicated by my rather ancient field guide.

Grey Crowned Crane, Balearica regulorum (and Egyptian Goose?). Very handsome birds. Described as endangered; I must have been lucky, or they were locally common, because I have seen them quite frequently. The hippos give the scale. In checking some facts about them, I came across this short video of one facing up to elephants. I think that the bird in the right background of the second photo is an Egyptian Goose.

Kori Bustard, Ardeotis kori. I suppose the best that can be said about this photo is that it demonstrates the effective camouflage of these large birds. The background is quite nice, and typical of large parts of Tsavo East.

Striated Heron, Butorides striatus. The light and shade were not ideal for a good photo of the bird itself, but I like the effect for the photo as a whole. Note the head of a Crowned Crane sneaking into the photo.

Woolly-necked Stork, Ciconia episcopus. Easy to see how this bird got its name! They are widespread in Africa and tropical Asia; I have seen them in Cambodia.

Marabou Stork, Leptoptilos crumeniferus (and Yellow-billed Stork, Mycteria ibis). I am reluctant to describe any bird as ugly, but… The black and white birds in the background of the second photo are Yellow-billed Storks.

African Sacred Ibis, Threskiornis aethiopicus. I often take a group photo first then try to follow up with a portrait of one bird. My attempt at a close-up here came out with camera shake, which only showed up later on my computer screen. Another lesson for safari photography: I realised that in twisting round to get a closer shot of the bird on the left, my left arm was jammed against the door pillar with the car engine still running. The guide/drivers are usually very good about stopping their engines if you ask, but I had forgotten.

Hadada Ibis, Hagedashia hagedash. A few days later I saw a flock of literally hundreds of these handsome birds on an exposed sandbar in a creek on the coast, but too far away to photograph.

Unidentified geese? Domestic?  Despite referring to Mackworth-Praed and Grant’s bible on African birds, I could not identify these, and I suspect that they were some domestic breed. My interested was piqued, however, by the chicks: is that sexual dimorphism straight out of the egg? Perhaps they are merely hybrids, or (even more boringly) a mixed flock of two breeds.

JAC: These may be muscovy ducks.

Unidentified beetle. I could not resist this beautiful beetle as a lagniappe. I have no idea what it is. The wood on which it is perched was about 20 mm thick. Perhaps someone can identify it?

24 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Great photos, despite the limitations of not being able to get closer. “I suppose the best that can be said about this photo is that it demonstrates the effective camouflage of these large birds” made me laugh out loud.

    1. Can’t help myself…those Kori Bustards are real bastards to photograph.😬 Saw lots of them on my trip in the early 70s but didn’t get anywhere near as good shots as you did. Did get a shot of a momma leopard and two cubs on a branch right above up.

    1. Well spotted! I never noticed those horns. I checked with other photos from the same time, and I think that the animal was a common eland Taurotragus oryx. It is deceptive because only the ends of the horns are shown, and the characteristic twisted lower bits are hidden.

  2. Anyway, here are the birds, mostly from SE Kenya.

    Makes me more annoyed that the job I was trying to organise up in the NE corner of Kenya went to another group. Should have been good. Working a coastal muddy lagoonal environment would probably have given a different selection of birds, and being adjacent to a moderate size town a discouragement to going into the water. Oh well, try again.

  3. Haven’t the safari companies cottoned onto the idea of constructing hides, for general wildlife and specifically bird photography? At which point, as long as they’re well-enough constructed to keep the (larger) animals on the outside and the (humanoid) animals on the inside, you should be able to get away from the engine noise and the fumes with reasonable safety.
    There was a BBC series recently on that idea at an artificially constructed “waterhole”. I’d expect it to be seeping out to PBS-like and other channels in due course. (IIRC, the water supply for the waterhole was piped from a newly constructed “deep” borehole, which also provided a drinking water source for the foreseeable future to a local settlement. “Pending sensible aquifer management,” he said, optimistically.

    1. Some lodges have good hides, but the problem is that the spaces are so vast that static hides are limited. To photograph many birds there is really no alternative to a vehicle and a long lens.
      Also, the hides tend to concentrate on mammals.

      1. The Voi Safari Lodge has a fine hide very close to the waterhole. A friend of mine was there once when it was invaded by baboons. He decided to retreat.

      2. That is probably why the wildlife show program added the waterhole element to their cunning plan.

        1. I only have a first degree, albeit from a time and place (UK) when it was worth a bit more than modern degreeees.

  4. just a minor correction, the white and black birds in the background on the Marabou picture are White Storks, not Yellow-billed.

    1. You could well be correct, although I think I can see yellow bills and less black than a White Stork. If so, I was misled because my field does not even mention White Storks. I need to buy a modern guide for my next visit.

  5. “The wood on which it is perched was about 20 mm thick. Perhaps someone can identify it?”

    I think it’s Mahogany……

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

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