African Fish Eagle

African Fish Eagle, Botswana

African Fish Eagle, Botswana

I love this bird because it is powerful, self-sustaining, and abundant.  You can find it just about anywhere near a freshwater lake or river in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Haliaeetus vocifer have special structures on their toes called spiricules to enable them to grasp fish.  I have seen many of these majestic eagles perched in tree snags beside a river or marsh, hunting for their namesake prey.  If they catch a fish that is too big to carry, they’ll drag the fish across the water’s surface to shore.  And if the fish is so heavy that it cannot be dragged, the eagle will drop into the water and use its wings to paddle to shore.  

 

I like that resolve!

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

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Reveling in the Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

I do not know which to prefer,

The beauty of inflections

Or the beauty of innuendoes,

The blackbird whistling

Or just after.

 

~~ Wallace Stevens

from “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

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Yellowstone Bison

American Bison, Yellowstone, WY

American Bison, Yellowstone, WY

The most plentiful wild animal we saw in Yellowstone National Park was the American Bison.  Herds graze in the plains and hills, making their way across the vast wilderness.  Sometimes they were black dots in the horizon, pleasantly easy to spot against the blonde grass.  Other times they were casually strolling across the road, only a few feet away.

 

Having just returned from a trip to several of America’s western National Parks, I have many fun tales and photos to share.  I’ll tell you more about bison bison and their thrilling rumbling sounds and loveable habits.  For now you can rest with this big daddy, comfortably knowing you’re safe with a photo.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

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On the Road Again

Moose Cow in Aspen Grove, Alaska

Moose Cow in Aspen Grove, Alaska

I’m off to the mountains, dear friends, for two weeks of wildlife adventures.  See you in mid-September.  Have fun!

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

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Celebrating Pollinators

Grey-headed Flying Fox, Sydney, Australia

Grey-headed Flying Fox, Sydney, Australia

They make our world a better place.

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

 

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Lake Baringo Island Village

Njemps Village, Lake Baringo, Kenya

Njemps Village, Lake Baringo, Kenya

One day in the Rift Valley we took a boat across the lake to a remote island village.  We visited the Njemps village on Lake Baringo in Kenya.  The island was small enough that when you stood at the center you could just about see the entire village.

 

Some sources say that the Njemps tribe are originally part of the Maasai or Samburu clans.  They were once a pastoral group, but they gave up their nomadism to settle down at Lake Baringo. The Lake is fresh water, and about 50 square miles and slightly over 3,000 feet deep.

 

When our motor boat arrived, we stepped out onto their island and a few villagers greeted us, helped us out of the boat.  Their branch-constructed fishing boats dotted the grassy village entranceway.  Apparently, in the Lake community they are well regarded for these boats, in which they fish among the Nile crocodiles and hippopotamus.

 

An English-speaking village representative walked with us along the acacia tree paths and told us of their way of life.  We were shown their mud and dung huts, with clean-swept dirt floors and crowded sleeping quarters.

Fishing boats

Fishing boats

 

The people here eat plenty of fish, and farm goats.  I watched a woman sitting on a five gallon bucket of cooking oil, fry tilapia on an open fire.  Some industrious villagers had polished their handmade gourds and jewelry to sell to us.

 

Young goatherders

Young goatherders

There was a shy hush across this small village as our group of ten respectfully and quietly walked through.  The little children were quiet and hidden behind their parents, and the adolescents and young adults kept their distance, warily watching from the shade of the huts.

 

Lake-Baringo,-Kenya-(shoppi

 

I’d like to say that even without a common language, they welcomed us with the universal language of warmth and kindness.  But that would be overly sentimental and untrue.  Because although they opened their community to us, mostly they just stared at us, and waited for us to leave; and I understood this.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

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Platypus Play

Platypus, Australia

Platypus, Australia

It wasn’t by accident that we spotted this platypus one dark morning in Queensland, Australia.  Over ten years earlier on a trip Down Under we had spent many hours searching after consulting with local rangers, and came up with a fun adventure, but not a “plattie.”

 

So this second trip we budgeted for a guide and asked him where we could find a playtpus, and he led us right to it.  Here’s a link to a post I wrote last year about how we eventually found this delightful monotreme (egg-laying mammal).

 

Ornithorhynchus anatinus lives on the eastern coast of Australia and in Tasmania, and although its conservation status is “Least Concern,” many natives and visitors have never seen one.  They like quiet, cool, and dark conditions, and spend most of their time under water or in riverside burrows.  With their duck-like bill and beaver tail, platypus hunt for freshwater shrimp and insect larvae, utilizing special electrolocation sensors in their bill. 

 

For defense, the males have an ankle spur that releases venom that is strong enough to kill a dog and impair a human.  But that wasn’t a problem for us that day.  I still smile as I think about us trundling alongside that river in the rain and dark dawn, hoping to see the playtpus.  And when we did, it was all I could do to suppress the urge to howl with happiness.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

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