Part 5…Extraordinary Kruger National Park experience…Safari luck prevails…Fascinating birds…

This is a Martial Eagle with his catch of the day. Zoom in for details. See more about this bird below…

We were excited to have spotted so many interesting birds while in Kruger last Thursday. It’s tricky for us to identify them using the bird book we have on hand. I don’t like to pester our bird watching friends when I can find a particular bird in the book or online.

But, when I do find one on my own, I am thrilled. It was easy to find the bird in today’s main photo and to share the details of this species here from this excellent site:

“Martial  Eagle

Latin Name

Polemaetus bellicosus.

Appearance

Martial Eagles are the largest of the African eagles and incredibly powerful, capable of knocking an adult man off his feet. They reputedly have enough power in one foot to break a man’s arm. The largest eagle in Africa, the Martial eagle weighs in at almost 14 pounds (6.5 Kg.) and has a wingspan of about 6 feet 4 inches. It is 32 inches long. The upperparts are dark brown with a white belly with black streaks, the legs are white and has very large talons. The immature bird looks quite different from the adult.

Diet

In some areas birds form an important part of the diet, including guineafowl, francolins, bustards, and poultry. Birds as large as a European Stork are recorded to have fallen prey to the Martial Eagle. In other areas the diet is largely mammalian, especially hyrax and small antelopes.

Animals as large as an Impala calf are taken, and some monkeys, also occasionally young domestic goats, and lambs. Carnivores like mongoose are sometimes taken, even occasionally Serval Cat and Jackal; also a few snakes and large lizards. It will evidently eat whatever is available, with a preference for game-birds, hyrax, and poultry. It is not known to eat carrion at all except possibly dead lambs.

Breeding

Martial Eagle nests are built invariably in trees, at any height from 20 to 80 feet above ground, but often in the largest tree in the area, growing on a steep hillside or in a gorge, where the bird has a clear sweep off the nest. Pairs have one or two nests, which are used in alternate years if more than one, but for successive breeding attempts if only one.

They are huge structures about four to six feet across and up to four feet thick, and often basin-shaped when new – much broader than they are deep. They are made of large sticks up to one-and-a-half inches in diameter, lined with green leaves. They may be used by a succession of birds for many years.

The Martial Eagle breeding season may thus begin in various parts of the range in a wet season, the early dry season, or late in the dry season, and some part of the cycle must extend through rainy periods. Incubation is normally done by the female, but a male has been known to sit. The female leaves the nest to feed and is not usually fed by the male at the nest. The incubation period is probably about 45 days. The young is very weak and feeble when first hatched, but becomes more active after about twenty days.

At 32 days feathers show through the down, and completely cover the bird at 70 days. The young Martial Eagle is fed by its parent till it is about 60 days old, and well feathered, when it starts to tear up its prey itself. During the early fledging period the female remains near or on the nest, and the male hunts and brings prey.

The female Martial Eagle remains in the area and receives prey from the male for about 50 days. After that she hunts or brings prey to the nest herself and the male seldom appears. The young one is closely brooded in its first few days, but after fourteen days the female does not brood it except at night.

The young bird, after making its first flight (at about 100 days), may return to roost in the nest for some days, and thereafter moves away from it. It remains loosely attached to the nest site for some time, and may be seen not far from it for up to six months.

Behaviour

The Martial Eagle is the largest eagle in Africa – this is a bird of the uninhabited stretches of thornbush and savannah found over much of Africa, occurring also in open plains and semi-desert country. Martial Eagles spend on average 85% of their time perched and take to the wing predominantly in the late morning (10am). This behaviour drops off sharply from around 3pm and is largely driven by thermal availability. Martial Eagles are thus also predominantly opportunistic perch and ambush hunters.

Martial Eagles will soar for hours on updraughts without hunting, and with a full crop, but it does most of its hunting from the soar also, killing or attacking by a long slanting stoop at great speed, or a gentle descent into an opening in the bush, the speed of the descent being controlled by the angle at which the wings are held above the back. It may kill from a perch, but does so seldom, and most of its kills are surprised in the open by the speed of the eagle’s attack from a distance.

A pair of Martial Eagles may have a home range of anything up to 50 square miles, and they wander about over most of it. They often hunt for several days in one area and then move on to another, since complaints of kills are often voiced for several days in succession in the same area. It is much shier than the other big eagles of Africa, and generally keeps away from man.

Although not migratory in the strict sense it makes local movements involving flights of several hundred miles, and a pair may not habitually be found near their breeding locality. It is by habit a hunter of game-birds and small mammals out in the open, but also preys upon man’s domestic animals, though it certainly kills much less than it is often accused of killing. Probably on balance it is a beneficial bird to man.

Where To Find Martial Eagles?

The Martial Eagle is found in the savannah and thornbush areas of Africa south of the Sahara, from Senegal to Somalia and south to the Cape. It is also found in open plains and semi-desert country, but not frequenting forest, although it occasionally breeds in forests on the edge of open country. The best place to see Martial Eagles in Kruger National Park is in the Lower Sabie area.”

This is a Fish Eagle. See details below.

Here is information on the African Fish Eagle also from this site:

“African Fish Eagle

Appearance

The African Fish Eagle is a fairly large eagle. It has a distinctive black, brown, and white plumage.

Diet

Although, as its name suggests, it feeds extensively on fish, in some areas it preys on flamingoes and other water birds. It is also known to eat carrion and is classified as a kleptoparasite (it steals prey from other birds). Goliath Herons are known to lose a percentage of their catch to Fish Eagles. Their main diet is fish, sometimes dead, but mostly caught live. Catfish and lungfish are caught most frequently. Larger prey are eaten on the ground next to the water.

Behaviour

The African Fish Eagle has two distinct calls. In flight or perched, the sound is something like the American Bald Eagle. When near the nest its call is more of a ‘quock’ sound – the female is a little shriller and less mellow than the male. So well known and clear is the call of this bird that it is often known as ‘the voice of Africa’. The African Fish Eagle is usually seen in pairs inside and outside the breeding season, even sharing kills made by either of them. They spend more time perched than flying, and usually settle for the day by 10am, having made their kill, although they will kill at any time of the day.

Habitat

It is most frequently seen sitting high in a tall tree from where it has a good view of the stretch of river, lakeshore or coastline, which is its territory. Near a lake with an abundant food supply, a pair may require less than a square mile of water to find enough food, whereas next to a small river, they may require a stretch of 15 miles or more. Some tend to move around to avoid the wettest weather, whereas others stay where they are all year round.

Where African Fish Eagle Are Found

The African Fish Eagle is widespread in Southern Africa. It is particularly common in and around some of the Rift Valley lakes.”

Then Tom captured this Goliath Heron as shown below, partially obscured in the tall grass but a fine sight to see as well.

Although not the most concise photo, it was fun to capture this Goliath Heron while on the bridge in Lower Sabie.

Here’s in formation on the Goliath Heron found on this site:

“Goliath Heron

The Goliath Heron (Latin name Ardea goliath) is described in Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, 7th Edition. This bird has a unique Roberts number of 64 and you will find a full description of this bird on page 590 also a picture of the Goliath Heron on page 592. The Goliath Heron belongs to the family of birds classified as Ardeidae.

The map of the Kruger you see on this page shows the areas (coloured orange) where this bird has been identified. The basic information was provided by the Avian Demographic Unit based at UCT and I created the maps from that information … the green dots show the locations of the various Kruger National Park Rest Camps

The Goliath Heron is neither Endemic or near Endemic to the Kruger National Park. It is however a common resident.

Main diet items for this bird

The Goliath Heron feeds on the ground and in or around water mainly: invertebrates, aquatic life forms

Breeding and nesting habits for this bird

The Goliath Heron is monogamous unless its mate dies. In the event of a partner dying Ardea goliath will seek out a new mate

The nesting habit of Goliath Heron is to create the nest in branches of a tree or shrub or on the ground. The bird lays eggs which are blue in colour and number between 2 to 5

Habitat and flocking behaviour for this bird

The preferred habitats for Goliath Heron are: wetlands and riverine areas

You can see Goliath Heron in flocks. The bird will often also be seen singly.”

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll share the balance of our photos from Kruger National Park. As you can see from our past posts, we had quite a good time in the park, spotting many amazing animals. We look forward to our next outing. We will make a point of avoiding posting repeated info for the wildlife to avoid redundancy.

We had a busy morning when the power went out but only at our house. Danie contacted an electrician who spent several hours making repairs, and now it is back on. What a relief. Now, we’re waiting for the appliance guy to come to fix the washer and main refrigerator. Although we are renting and aren’t responsible for such repairs, it’s excellent that Louise and Danie are so quick to respond when there are issues.

Yesterday afternoon, we had a delightful visit with reader/friends Marilyn and Gary, who were inspired to come to Marloth Park after reading our posts for years. They are experienced travelers, and we had an excellent get-together on our veranda. We’re looking forward to socializing with them again shortly while they spend almost two months in the park.

A special thanks to our friend Lynne, who lives part-time in Marloth Park and on Jersey Island. She and her husband Mick are the first couple we met on our first outing to Jabula in December 2013. They are the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable birders we know!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today,  July 26, 2021:

There was no post one year ago due to a travel day.

Bird watching in the morning!…Delightful first time sighting…

When we spotted the white marks on this bird’s feathers, we wondered about these rectangle-shaped markings on his feathers.

A band of about 40 mongooses arrived as we began today’s post. Last night, we had rib-eye steaks on the braai that proved too fatty for our taste. We ate some of the meat but left lots of meat and fat on the bones. Guess who loves fat and meat besides, South Africans? Mongooses. As carnivores, they love when we offer them meat of any kind. We always make sure the meat is fresh and safe for them to eat. We don’t keep leftover meat for more than a few days.

Zoom in to see detail on this fascinating bird, a green wood hoopoe. It’s called green based on the luminosity when the sun hits it. Due to its red/orange bill and feet, it’s also a red-billed wood hoopoe.

Now at almost noon, we’ve had a busy morning. Lots of animals stopped by, including six zebras. We’d hoped to go to Kruger National Park this morning but decided to go tomorrow instead. We had some tasks we wanted to accomplish today. Also, I prepped dinner for tonight and tomorrow night, so we’ll be good to go first thing in the morning.

Like a woodpecker, he pecked at the tree to find worms and insects. He was successful and found a worm sharing it with his mate.

It’s been a gorgeous day since I started walking today, and I am also doing steps, one flight at a time. It will take about three weeks to get back to my former goal of 8,000 – 10,000 steps a day. Plus, I plan to do ten flights of stairs daily, which will further enhance my stamina.

He was determined to get a snack out of this tree.

Since this property is much larger than the last holiday home, it will be easier to get in the number of steps by walking around the grounds and into the house. Still, I don’t feel comfortable walking on dirt roads with countless potholes and uneven terrain, which could easily result in a fall.

Taking photos was tricky since the movement of any type would send him and his mate on their way.

Sunday morning, while we sat at the table on the veranda, we noticed many birds flying around the garden.. There were the usual oxpeckers, hornbills, and white crested-helmet shrike. Still, we stopped dead in our tracts when we spotted a bird neither of us had ever seen in South Africa or any other African country.

He was intent on finding something in that hole.

Immediately, we started researching online to find the name of the bird which is shown in today’s photos, a green wood hoopoe, also known as the red-billed wood hoopoe, described as follows from this site:

“An elongated, metallic-green-black bird with red feet and a long, decurved, red-orange bill. Juveniles have dark bills but are often in the company of adults. It flies heavily, with the long, floppy, white-tipped tail dangling behind. Pairs and groups of up to 14 birds are highly social, occupying savanna, woodland, riverine forest, and gardens, where they nest and roost in natural cavities. Clambers in trees, probing bark and crevices for insects and small vertebrates. They communicate using a strong cackling chatter that sounds maniacal. The almost identical Grant’s and Violet woodhoopoes (with which it sometimes hybridizes) differ from Green Woodhoopoe only by having a coppery-purple (not glossy greenish) metallic sheen.”

The mating pair, who mate for life, were together on the tree. He fed her a worm.

This bird is not endangered, but after all of the time we’ve been in Africa, we were surprised we hadn’t seen it in the past. It was exciting to watch it pecking at the inside of the tree, as shown in the photos, and finding a worm he fed to his mate, who joined him on the tree. We couldn’t get the camera since we knew if we did so, they would fly away, so we missed that special photo op.

However, once we grabbed the camera off the dining room table and sat back down at the veranda table, we were thrilled to get the shots we were sharing today. What a fantastic sighting this was for us both. Immediately, we put out bird seeds which the woophoe and the hornbills seemed content to share.

This is a hanging bird feeder on a pulley line used to prevent monkeys from getting the seed. But it’s not foolproof, as we observed last week when a monkey made its way across the line and ate all the seeds.

No, we don’t have a Frank here, which is disappointing. But, perhaps we’ll “build relationships” with other birds visiting. Every creature, big and small, has a special meaning to us, whether it’s an insect, a rodent, or a massive beast. They all are unique and exciting.

We’ve always enjoyed watching hornbills, widespread birds in Africa, but they are somewhat entertaining.

We’re cooking lamb for me and bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin for Tom, with rice for him, avocado slices for me, and salad for us both. Since Tom’s weight is holding and he’s feeling well, I used up the remainder of the bananas to make him coconut banana bread, a recipe from our old lives. It’s slowly baking in the oven now in a springform pan I found in the back of the cupboard.

All is well here. Gradually, we’re regaining our strength and stamina and are grateful to be feeling better.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today,  June 13, 2021:

Our friends, Rita and Gerhard, with their new “bakkie.” It was a very smooth ride! We look forward to their return to Marloth Park in months. Last New Year’s Eve, they surprised us and showed up at a party we attended. For more photos, please click here.

Adorable little visitors……Three days and counting…

It appears these chicks are blue waxbills, common to this area. Right now, they are no larger than a pinky finger.

Some of today’s photos were taken through the screen door to the veranda, the only screened door or window we can use. There are a few screens on windows in the house, but most are not tightly fitted and would allow mozzies and other insects to enter.

Nothing like getting inside the container of seeds!

The screen door to the veranda also doesn’t fit tight and has no latch of any kind to close it tightly, allowing insects, Frank, and mongooses to enter the house from time to time.  For security reasons, we lock that screen if we take a short nap and keep the keys in the bedroom with us during the day. We lock the screen door and the sliding glass door at night and set the alarm, again keeping the keys on the nightstand if we need to hit the red button in an emergency.

In total, we saw seven of these little birds.

The screen has metal bars running vertically to prevent potential entry by unwelcomed humans or animals. When we first arrived at the house, the first time we saw Little, he had torn a massive hole in the screen to get indoors. Within days, Louise arranged for Vusi and Zef to repair it. They did an excellent job, as always.

I was listening to Frank squawking in the background.

Thank goodness, Little never tore the screen again, especially now that he knows it’s easy to get our attention, even when we’re indoors like we are now. The current temperature is 61F, 16C, and there’s a bit of a breeze. The humidity is high, and with an occasional drizzle, we’re sitting indoors on the sofa, preferring to avoid getting moisture on our laptops.

Some flew off, but others stayed behind to partake of the seeds.

Sitting on the sofa provides a clear view of the veranda to ensure we don’t miss any visitors that may stop by. Only minutes ago, Tom jumped up to feed Broken Horn pellets and has done the same for several hours when nine bushbucks, four kudus, and two warthogs stopped by.

Through the screen, it appeared that mom and dad showed them that it was safe to eat the seeds.

Yesterday. When I took photos of the little birds that stopped by with their parents to eat Frank’s seeds, I knew if I stood up, they’d fly away Gingerly. I picked up the camera and took a few shots through the screen door.

Mom stayed around for a while to make sure the coast was clear.

Of course, I was disappointed with the poor shots through the screen door and was thrilled to see they’d returned this morning. After eating a little, this time without the parents, I decided to open the door wide and see if I could get any shots while quietly sitting on the sofa.

In only a matter of one minute, I got these shots without the obstruction of the screen. But a moment later, the door slammed due to the winds, and they flew off. It was such a delight to get these few shots, although not perfect, when I had so little time to focus on the camera.

Dad took a turn ensuring the chick’s safety.

What made the experience all the more enjoyable was, when Frank had just finished eating seeds, the mom, dad, and babies flew in and started working on the seeds. Frank stood no less than a meter away, screeching the entire time. He was mad! We couldn’t stop laughing!

We have no doubt we’ll be able to watch the chicks grow over the next several months. Frank won’t be happy, but we’ll keep the container well stocked this week and then after we return from Zambia on October 26th.

A simple joy, six or seven tiny birds, and one bigger francolin, Frank, made the day special yesterday and then today when they returned. Nature is such a gift. We only need to stop what we’re doing for a few minutes and take a moment to observe, to put a smile on our faces, and brighten our spirits.

Have a bright and fulfilling day.

                                       Photo from one year ago today, October 18, 2020:

A final view of the King of Jungle as we left Kenya. This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #209. We were never disappointed, continually offering an opportunity for a close-up and the chance to observe their playful antics and instinctual behaviors. Thank you, lions. For more photos, please click here.

Wow!…An adventure in the bush!..

    Our photo of the black sparrowhawk when it took a break from devouring its kill.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 1 warthog
  • 8 bushbuck
  • 8 kudus
  • 1 impala

(Based on the fact that most holiday homes in Marloth Park are occupied this weekend and the guests feeding the animals (hopefully appropriate pellets, not dangerous human leftovers), less wildlife is visiting us this morning. In a few days, things will go back to normal.

Yesterday morning, as I was wrapping up the post, a situation occurred in our garden that was a first for us and left us reeling in awe and wonder about nature. Even here is relatively safe Marloth Park, where wildly few apex predators roam the bush for food, we witnessed a kill right before our eyes.

We were seated at the table on the veranda with nary a care in the world, with dozens of mongoose, 40 or more helmeted guinea-fowl, two warthogs, and no less than four bushbucks, hovering in expectation of other treats from us, of which we’d already offered many.

Whether it was seeds for the birds, meat for the mongoose, or pellets for bushbucks, they all hovered in the garden in eager anticipation of what was yet to come. Suddenly, in a race for safety, like none other we’d seen in the bush, in a matter of a few seconds, they all ran to the right in a mad flurry of squawks, squeals, snorts, and chirps, including the bushbucks, all looking as if they were experiencing sheer terror.

What could it be, we wondered aloud? And there it was, swooping through the garden, in plain view, in a wild frenzy for a “kill” was a black sparrowhawk, eyeballing all the small creatures in our garden, particularly the guinea-fowl and mongoose, all appropriate fodder for the hawk’s desires and diet.

If you enlarge the photo and look carefully at the middle left of this photo, inside the garden fence, you can see the young guinea fowl hovering in sheer terror. With the feathers we had seen in this area, we knew that the hawk would soon capture him, and they did it in the blink of an eye.

Without a doubt, it was a stampede. Many of the guinea-fowls took to the air while many ran as they often do. The mongoose followed suit, chirping in a pitch we’d never heard before. The bushbucks, certainly too large to be fodder for the hawk, followed in the mad dash for safety.

We opened the front door to see his chosen catch, a young guinea-fowl, perhaps only months old, crouching near a tiny bush as shown in the above photo, feathers everywhere, indicating it had already been attacked. We heard screaming sounds from the guinea-fowl and watched as the hawk headed toward the front of the house. The hawk swooped in to capture the bird from the enclosed garden in the front of the house so quickly, but Tom saw it. It was impossible to take a photo and not scare off the hawk.

The hawk must have dragged the bird to the rear side bush area as we saw it flying up into the air intermittently as it devoured its prey. We were able to quickly snap the above main photo when the hawk paused for seconds on a branch during that period.

The guinea-fowls have yet to return to our garden and may not do so for a while. As for the mongoose, we have no doubt we’ll see them again soon when they know there are tidbits of meat always awaiting their arrival. Of course, the bushbucks returned shortly after the incident and showed up on our trail cam photos throughout the night, leaving us with over 250 photos to go through this morning with nary a sighting of any other species.

Black Goshawk
A black sparrowhawk in flight.  (Not our photo)

Yes, it’s sad to see them kill the young bird, but it’s all a part of the life cycle of animals in the wild. Over the years, when visiting Africa and then India, we conditioned ourselves to be less emotional when witnessing a kill. Although we both cringed when Tom reminded me it could have been Frank and The Misses. This would have been a massive loss for us when they so easily are a vital part of our everyday life and enjoyment in the bush.

Here is some information about the black sparrowhawk from this site:

“Typically, both sexes of the black sparrowhawk have predominantly black plumage with a white throat, breast, and belly. These white-breasted individuals are known as “white morphs,” which are in the majority over most of the birds’ range. The “black morph” variety is generally rare, except along the coastal regions of South Africa, including the Cape Peninsula, where they constitute 80% of the population. (Black sparrowhawks do not occur more than 200–300 km north of Cape Town along the South African west coast, where there are almost no trees.) These “black (or dark) morphs,” when seen perched, can be black all over but more commonly have a few white spots on the breast or a white throat of variable size. In flight, both morphs show white and black barring on the underside of the wings and tail. The black morphs are not melanistic, as commonly alleged, as their plumage is not entirely black, nor are they black as chicks or juveniles.

There is no noticeable difference between the plumage of mature females and males, which can only be distinguished by size. The tails are cross-barred with about three or four paler stripes, and the undersides of the wings with perhaps four or five. The legs are yellow, with large feet and talons.

Not our photo.

Size

The black sparrowhawk is one of the world’s largest Accipiters, only the Henst’sMeyer’s, and northern goshawk can match or exceed its size. As is common in the genus Accipiter, black male sparrowhawks are smaller than females. Typically the weights of males lie between 450 and 650 g (0.99 and 1.43 lbs) while females’ weights lie in the 750 to 1,020 g (1.65 to 2.25 lb) range. The typical total length is about 50 cm (20 in) and wingspan about 1 m (39 in). As in most Accipiters, the tails are long (about 25 cm (9.8 in)), as are the tarsi (about 8 cm (3.1 in). The features of the black sparrowhawk (and Accipiters in general) are reflective of the necessity to fly through dense arboreal habitats. However, this species does most of its hunting in open areas (usually from a concealed perch in a tree).”

Later today, Rita and Gerhard will arrive and meet us at Jabula for dinner, which is unknown. We’ll arrive at 5:00 pm (1700 hours) and wait for them to arrive. How exciting!

That’s it for today, dear readers. Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 16, 2020:

This banded albatross in Kauai, Hawaii, in 2015, appeared to be a parent when they were hovering near a chick. For more photos, please click here.

Day #107 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Birds over mammals?…

This adorable kookaburra posed for me in the yard in Trinity Beach, Australia, while sitting on the fence next to the rain gauge. These birds are much larger than they appear in this photo.

Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click the “View web version” tab under the word “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 

Today’s photos are from July 8, 2015, while in Trinity Beach, Queensland, Australia. See the link here for more details.


Yesterday’s post included a remembrance of our time spent in Kauai, Hawaii, in 2015 and a little about the story of our exciting experiences with the Laysan Albatross on the Garden Island, as shown here

After a while, they relocated to the roof, looking down for a possible morsel of food.  They are known to snatch food off of plates when cooking on the “barbie.” More on kookaburras will be coming in a few days with our wildlife posts.

As I pursued past posts for today’s photos, I stumbled across photos of the ever-so-fascinating bird, the kookaburra, while spending time in Trinity Beach, Australia, in 2015. 

Contrary to our usual distaste for zoos, although we appreciate their existence as an opportunity for humans to learn about animals, while in Trinity Beach, we visited a local zoo when we didn’t see many animals in the wild, except for kangaroos and wombats.

These common Yellow Allamanda were growing like crazy in the garden of our holiday home.

It was hard to resist when we were welcomed to “do a story” on the Cairns Tropical Zoo, avoiding an entry fee and providing us with a personal tour with one of the zoo biologists.

Having an opportunity to learn about the indigenous animals the zoo housed exclusively certainly opened our eyes to possible future sightings of the birds and mammals we learned about on that particular day.

Bottlebrush blooming in the yard.

Three birds particularly caught our attention; cockatoos, pelicans, and kookaburras, of which we’ve included a few shots today. As we continue sharing photos from past posts, we’ll include photos of more of the stunning creatures we were fortunate to see on that tour in a few days.

In 2017, we stayed in Fairlight, Australia, close to Sydney, and were thrilled to have the opportunity to interact with these special birds by hand-feeding visitors to the garden of our holiday home when they stopped by each day. Those photos will follow soon.

We drove up the mountain behind the market to Kuranda. When we began the steep and winding trek, it was sunny. When we arrived at the first overlook, it was cloudy, and rain had started to fall. We turned back with a plan to return to see the village at the top on a sunny day.

When we began our travels, we didn’t realize how significant birds would become in our constant search for wildlife. Not only in Africa and Australia, but we also had many memorable experiences with birds in many other locations, as many of our long-term readers have seen.

No, we aren’t expert bird watchers like our friends, Lynne and Mick from the UK with a home in Marloth Park, Louise in Kauai, Hawaii, and our friends Linda and Ken from the UK and South Africa. But we certainly are bird enthusiasts, spending time learning about those we particularly enjoy. 

We could imagine how beautiful this expansive view would be on a sunny day.

Often, I’ll post a photo of a bird we don’t recognize, and our friends will jump in and help us identify the specimen. Bird watching and savoring the beauty of birds can be quite a hobby and, at times, a lofty obsession, coupled with excellent camera skills. 

For us, we love seeing everything that walks, runs, flies swims, and slithers. If it’s moving, we are curious about it, including a wide array of insects we’ve spotted in our years of world travels. Some of our favorite experiences and photos include close-ups of insects and spiders.

The mountain and ocean view reminds us of Kauai, Hawaii.

Nothing new is on the horizon here at the moment. The hotel continues to be fully occupied. The monsoon season is in full force, with raging rain and floods almost daily. Covid-19 continues to infect more and more each day, and the prospects for leaving anytime soon diminish as the contamination escalates.

We’ve concluded that this is our life now and spend less time searching for travel options than we did in the past few months. We’ll know when we can leave and make decisions from there. All the speculation, expectation, and anticipation won’t change a thing. 

The sections of land always create such an exciting view both from the air and scenic overlooks at higher elevations.

The more we accept this as our fate, for now, the less stressful this scenario may be. It is entirely possible we could be here for a total of a year or even more. Laughter is our best panacea. Hope is our salvation.

Stay safe.

Photo from one year ago today, July 8, 2019:

A repeated photo of a few Gentoo penguins and me on Saunders Island, Antarctica, on January 26, 2018.  What an experience! For more photos from the year-ago post, please click here.

Photos from April 2017 while in Australia…Waiting for refunds…

Here’s a video of rough waters in Sydney Harbor on our way back to Fairlight.

Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click the “View web version” tab under the word “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site in a few months, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you.

We met up with old friends Linda and Ken from South Africa in Sydney, Australia, on March 16, 2017.  It was a perfect day among friends! We had a great lunch and an early happy hour with them that day! Once we get to South Africa, we’ll hopefully see them again along with our mutual friends, Kathy and Don, and many others. Here’s the link for today’s photos.

The photos from Kauai, Hawaii, from five years ago today weren’t suitable for today’s post. Instead, we found a few favorite photos from the time we spent in Australia in 2017. That particular post may be found here.

Again, seeing these photos brought back many beautiful memories of the long period we spent in the South Pacific, which proved to be a total of two years, traveling in and out of Australia due to 90-day visa restrictions.

Our friend, Mr. Magpie, who’d visited us inside the house.

During those two years in the South Pacific, we embarked on eight cruises, which included one back-to-back cruise that circumvented the entire continent of Australia. What a stunning adventure!

Now, we wonder if we’ll ever cruise again. Will it be safe to cruise when already they have been referred to as a petri dish (I wouldn’t say I like that description, but it says it all)? It was no wonder, even then, that we became ill on many cruises, usually with a virus which often included an awful cough, lasting for weeks.

Hand-feeding Kookaburras in the garden. They are carnivores, so I fed them raw, grass-fed ground beef.

The thought of exposing oneself to such illnesses and the recurrence of COVID-19 makes sailing on a cruise very unappealing at this time. Wearing a face mask while cruising would eliminate all the fun for us and others when socializing and dining is often the most significant highlight and a huge source of pleasure.

Speaking of cruises, we’re still waiting for the refund from Viking Cruise Line for their cancellation of the cruise, on which we were supposed to sail on April 3rd from Mumbai. 

The scene is in Manly near the ferry.

Viking contacted us via email on March 12th that the cruise was being canceled due to COVID-19, and we’d have our full payment back within 21 business days. This would have resulted in our receiving the refund of almost INR 1529001, US $20,000, on our credit card on or about April 10, 2020.

When April 10th came and went, we contacted Vacations to Go about why Viking hadn’t returned our full payment for the canceled cruise. After some checking, our rep replied, “Refunds won’t be coming until 90 days,” changing their original commitment for 21 business days.
A Cockatoo visitor in the garden.

This is infuriating. It’s a huge amount of money we could undoubtedly use now, living in a hotel and dining in a restaurant. Our biggest fear is that in the next two months, Viking will go bankrupt, and we’ll lose the money. We’re on pins and needles over this.

Besides this, when Kenya Airways refused to allow us to board our flight to South Africa on March 20th, the day South Africa started refusing international travelers, we tried to get a refund for this flight which was INR 63424, US $830 (for two).  

Giant surf at Manly Beach on a gorgeous day.

In researching the Kenya Airways website, there was a statement explaining that no refunds would be provided for canceled flights or refusing to allow certain foreigners to travel.

Each day I’ve continued to watch their site, and yesterday a form appeared online, enabling us to apply for a credit that can only be used as a credit within 12 months of the original flight date. The 12 months could easily pass by the time we hear something. We’ll see how that goes. 

Luna Park in Sydney Harbour at night, taken from the Manly Ferry.

This is no doubt worrisome. We hadn’t written about it since we thought the refund would be coming by April 10th from Viking and that we’d lost the money from Kenya Airways.

COVID-19 has an impact on all of us, in one way or another. Certainly, we are incredibly grateful for a roof over our heads and meals and especially for having air conditioning as the temperature rises each day as summer approaches in India.

The Sydney Opera House at night, taken from the Manly Ferry.

Today, on the news, there was a story about South Africa Airways going out of business. This will result in more incredible difficulty and higher fares to fly to South Africa when other carriers pick up the slack. Also, they were the primary airline that flew into the tiny airport in Mpumalanga/Nelspruit/Kruger, which brought us closer to Marloth Park.

Subsequently, we may have to drive for five hours from Johannesburg to Marloth Park in the future. Here again, we’ll play it by ear.

Beautiful sky at sunset, taken from our veranda.

You may ask, “Why deal with all these hassles? Why not return to the US, rent or buy a condo and settle down for our remaining years?”

To us, it’s no different than us asking you to leave your home for good and do what we do. We each have our own chosen path, and ours, my dear readers, is to continue on our way for as long as we can. We aren’t bored. We are tired of it. But we are anxious to get back to it!

As some restrictions loosen, please continue to stay safe.

Photo from one year ago today, April 20, 2019:

Mongooses on the veranda looking for eggs. For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…Outstanding day in Kruger National Park…Elephants are amazing!…People are too!…A fabulous night at Jabula…

Video #1 – A surprise participant in the background.
 Video #2 – Playful elephants.
 Video #3 – More elephant antics.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A very young impala.

It’s Wednesday morning, a typical day in the bush. Vusi and Zef are cleaning the house. The Mom and Babies (four piglets) are busily munching on pellets at the edge of the veranda. Ms. Kudu left a few minutes ago after she’d had her fill.  

The sky is partly cloudy, and we’re in for another cool day. There are thousands of dead insects on the veranda floor overnight (a daily occurrence). Soon, when the interior of the house is clean, Vusi and Zef will come outside to clean the veranda while we’ll go inside to get out of their way.
The matriarch was watching the youngsters play in the Sabie River.

Once they’re done, we’ll come back outside to spend the balance of the day outdoors, as we always do, busy working on the post and plans for the future. Tom spends some time on Facebook and Ancestry while I work on projects around the house.

Once I’ve uploaded today’s post, I’ll finish doing laundry, preparing tonight’s dinner, and perhaps work on some items to be packed for our departure in 15 days. Today’s project is neatly folding all of our “bugs-away” and safari clothing I’d washed yesterday and have since dried. Safari in Kenya isn’t too far away. 

It was irresistible…she joined them.

Last night we had a fantastic time at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant, celebrating Dawn’s (friend and owner) birthday. It was delightful to see how many loyal fans came to extend our best wishes and gratitude for the beautiful job (along with partner Leon) in making this a memorable establishment with great food, ambiance, and service.

Many brought gifts, hugs, kisses, and warm wishes for Dawn. A table filled with scrumptious-looking appetizers and drinks hosted by Leon added to the festivities. 

They wanted to play with her.

If there ever was a “Cheers” type bar, Jabula fills the bill. The new and the familiar faces, the lively conversation, loud laughter, and the ease with which everyone in attendance feels welcomed and included are unreproachable. 

We met a new couple originally from Germany, living in Marloth Park part-time and soon moving their business to live in Florida, USA. We saw old friends with health challenges possessing upbeat attitudes off to work on the next phase of hopeful recovery.  

Finally, it was time to get out of the river and continue their day.

We chatted with new friends we’ve made this time around, along with old friends from five years ago. Tom and I arrived early to sit at our favorite spots at the bar and eventually ordered delicious dinners, never giving up our barstools.  

It wasn’t the first time we dined at the bar when we were having too much fun to go to a table on the veranda. I can’t recall ever enjoying dining at the bar until Jabula.

The littlest one followed close to the adults as they were on their way.

Leon played the role of DJ, and the music had most of us either dancing in our seats or on our feet to kick up our heels. Women danced with women and men, well, they danced with all of us. It was grand. It was memorable, as were so many nights we’ve spent in this unique establishment over this past year.

When Tom and I danced to a slow song, holding close in each other’s arms, I felt an immense sense of happiness wash over me, coupled with a bit of melancholy. But, the melancholy quickly wafted away when I reminded myself that those arms will still be around me long after we depart Marloth Park, and the memories will always remain in my heart.

Thank you for sharing this special time with us…

Photo from one year ago today, January 30, 2018:

This elephant seal was so relaxed, a bit of drool dripped from her mouth. A bath would be nice. For more stunning scenes from Antarctica, please click here.

Part 2…Outstanding day in Kruger National Park…A heartbreaking sighting…Part of life in the wild?…

 A short video of this gaunt-looking lioness.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A herd of impalas at the side of a dirt road we traveled in Kruger.

We often hear others say, “This is life in the wild.” Hearing this doesn’t lessen the emotions we feel when we see an animal suffering. It’s sad to see a human or an animal in pain, ill, or emotionally distraught for any reason. But, the realities of life don’t diminish the emotions we feel when we observe such a scenario when often there is nothing we can do to help.

A few evenings ago, a little male duiker, a timid member of the antelope family, was trapped inside the chicken wire-fenced garden area within our garden. Somehow he’d managed to find his way inside this lush area of greenery and became trapped when he couldn’t navigate an exit.

It was sad to see the lioness suffering.

We were seated at the big table on the veranda and noticed him ramming his head into the chicken wire, trying to escape. Helping an animal, however small, in a panicked situation such as this could be dangerous.

We’d seen a photo where a bushbuck died trying to extricate its head from being stuck in a fence in Marloth Park. But we weren’t going to let him die before our eyes. If residents feel they need fences they definitely should be a type that prevents wildlife from potential injury or even death.  

One can only guess why this particular lioness hadn’t been hunting and eating.

We often wonder why there are hazardous fences in the park. Don’t people come here to be “one” with nature, not hiding behind fences? None of the Big Five permanently reside in Marloth Park and rarely does a lion, leopard, or cheetah rarely find its way into the park. Surely, a fence of any type wouldn’t necessarily protect a human from such a dangerous encounter.

Tom grabbed the long, extendable pole he used to chase off baboons and monkeys and attempted to raise the bottom of the fence to allow the duiker an exit. The poor little creature bellowed in total fear while Tom tried to help.

There is a gate to this area, and we immediately opened it hoping the duiker would see the open exit. While Tom tried to help him, I stood at a distance from the door, hoping to see him escape.

We assumed she was ill or injured.

Finally, after several minutes of him running into the impenetrable wire fence in different enclosure locations, he spotted the open gate and escaped. We both sighed in relief. 

He’s a duiker we’ve often fed and wondered what he was after in that area. Perhaps it was a type of vegetation he particularly liked. Once he ran off, leaping through the air, we wondered if we’d ever see him again.  

A few hours later, Alas returned, and we tossed him some pellets, tiny bits of carrots, and apples. (We always cut the veggies into small bite-sized pieces for the duikers and bushbucks. Kudus and warthogs can handle big chunks but not the tiny antelope or babies of most species).

Every step she took appeared to be an effort.

We were relieved to see he was uninjured and back to his shy little self, often appearing with a female he seemed attached to.  But, the lion we spotted in Kruger didn’t have the potential of a good outcome after we’d seen her looking so unwell.

Sure, we can say, “This is life in the wild,” but that harsh reality doesn’t insulate us from feeling sad for a suffering animal in the wild. Nor, in essence, do we ever want to feel less compassionate. It’s that compassion and love for wildlife that brought us to Africa in the first place. We don’t want to become “tougher” and more accepting of the often gruesome realities.

In today’s world, horrifying videos portray atrocities lodged upon wildlife, many too horrific to mention. Is it possible to see these repeatedly can cause us to become immune to appalling scenes that diminish our ability to feel compassion?

She appeared to have made her way under the bridge where we’d no longer be able to see her.

Seeing the lion in such sorrowful condition left us feeling in tune and touch with nature, that even after many such sightings in this past year of living in the bush, we still care, we still feel, and we still treasure the beauty of life in the wild.  We remain untarnished by the harsh realities.

In 16 days, we’ll leave Marloth Park. We’re grateful for this life-enhancing year in the bush while looking forward to what lies ahead of us.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 29, 2018:

At lunch that day in Antarctica, one of the chefs prepared a beef and vegetable stir-fry outdoors. We all partook of the delicious offering but decided to dine indoors. It was a little too cold to eat outside for our liking. For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…Outstanding day in Kruger National Park…A few first time sightings…So exciting!…

This was an exciting sighting for us, the elusive nyala which we’d never seen during this past year in South Africa.  From this site:  The handsome slate-brown shaggy coat is marked with white vertical stripes and spots on the flanks. Rams appear more charcoal-grey in colour. The rams have long inward curved horns 650 mm (26 inches) and a white chevroned face. They have a ridge of long hairs along the underparts, from behind the chin to between the hind legs, they also have a mane of thick, black hair from the head along the spine to the rump. Rams weigh 115 kg (254 pounds) and measures 1.05 m (41 inches) at shoulders. Ewes are much smaller and do not have horns, and weigh 59 kg (130 pounds) and stand 900 mm (35 inches) at shoulders. Ewes are chestnut-coated with even more prominent white stripes on the flanks.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This is a black-shouldered kite.  From this siteThe black-shouldered Kite is a small, graceful raptor and the most voracious eater in the raptor family. It needs to consume up to 25% of its body mass every day – that is the equivalent of about two mice. This means each bird probably kills around 700 mouse-sized animals a year.
Its late in the day, almost 1600 hours (4:30 pm) and I’m anxious to get today’s post uploaded to ensure we can begin wildlife watching on the veranda by our usual 1700 hours (5:00 pm).
At first, when we glimpsed at these three well-hidden animals we thought they were kudus based on the stripes on their bodies.  But, after further inspection, we realized these three antelopes were not kudus but, the elusive nyala.  

Thus, I’m rushing a little and only sharing a few of the highlights of today’s outing in Kruger National Park, leaving the balance of the exciting sightings for tomorrow.

It was a perfect day to enter the park. The weather was a moderate 26C, (79F), the sky was overcast and cloudy but there was no rain in sight.  These were ideal conditions for wildlife to be in plain view. We weren’t disappointed.
Known to be rather shy it was tricky taking a few photos.
On the hottest of days, the animals often stay undercover from the scorching sun or gravitate toward water holes we’re unable to see from the paved or dirt roads.  With the recent rains many formerly dry waterbeds now have some water to attract the animals.  Considerably more rain is desperately needed to have an impact on the river.  
The Crocodile River we cross upon entry into the park is practically bone dry.  Five years ago during this same time period, the river was practically overflowing as opposed to its current sparse sections of water leaving many animals seeking smaller bodies of water for sustenance.  

It was difficult to take a photo of the three of them together but we waited patiently for this shot.

We took off at 9:00 am, leaving the preparation of today’s post for our recent return. Subsequently, we’re breezing through as quickly as possible and will provide a more comprehensive post tomorrow.

I tried sitting outdoors on the veranda while preparing this but the biting black flies were so bad, I had no choice but to come indoors to finish here.  The sofas and chairs in the living room, although comfy for lounging, are not suitable for working on a laptop.
While we waited we were able to finally able to take a few photos of the individual nyalas.
So i apologize for this quick post but promise more for tomorrow especially since we have some stunning sightings to share that we’ve saving exactly for that purpose.
It was a shame they wouldn’t come out from the dense bush but we did the best we could.
Our plan today was to drive on the paved road all the way to Lower Sabie and to stop for breakfast at the popular Mugg & Bean, one of few restaurants in Kruger National Park. The food was hot, fresh and served quickly based on the fact that we were two of only about eight diners in the entire restaurant.  
After breakfast we were back on the road, taking a dirt road off the beaten path.  It was during this diversion that we saw the two bird photos were sharing today.  We’d previously posted photos of the European roller but never of the black-shouldered kite.
A wildebeest mom and her offspring.
As many of our readers are well aware, we aren’t necessarily “birders” in the truest sense of the word.  However, from time to time when we spot something unique we’re excited to share it with our readers.  Of course, we have a special affinity toward our resident francolins, Frank and The Mrs., and the mating hornbills.
The mom kept a watchful eye on us to ensure we were no risk to her young calf.
There were few tourists in Kruger although at a few sightings, four or five vehicles were stacked up making it difficult to get into a good position for easily taking photos.  

In these circumstances, our mutual patience and persistence pays off.  We picked a good spot and waited for a better position to open up.  Eventually, other observers lost interest and moved on, enabling us to move into a better location.  
This was the first photo we’d taken of a tree squirrel in Kruger National Park.
That’s what self-driving in a national park is all about, having the flexibility to do what’s necessary to take good photos while maintaining a degree of courteousness and kindness – a winning combination.
This evening we’ll stay in, cook dinner and look forward to darkness when the flies seem to disappear but then, the pesky mozzies appear.  Oh well, TIA (this is Africa) after all, isn’t it?
This a a European roller.  From this site:  The European roller is the only member of the roller family of birds to breed in Europe. Its overall range extends into the Middle East and Central Asia and Morocco. They are migratory, wintering in Africa, mainly in the east and south.           

We hope you have a pleasant evening and that all is well in your world!

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Photo from one year ago today, January 28, 2018:

This elephant seal on Steeple Jason Island didn’t care for our photo taking.  For more photos from Antarctica, please click here.

Kruger never disappoints…It isn’t always about the Big Five or even the Ridiculous Nine…All of it is special to us!…

A pair of elephants affectionately playing in the mud and water at Sunset Dam 
in Kruger National Park.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A pair of barn owls in the rafters at Mugg & Bean restaurant looking down at all the crazy humans trying to take a photo.

Early this morning, we took off for the river when we’d seen lions had been spotted a few hours earlier. We must have missed them when we arrived at least two hours after Tom had seen the Facebook announcement indicating where they could be found.

A Southern Ground Hornbill in the bush.

But, as always, our trip to the Crocodile River, a 10-minute drive on the bumpy dirt roads, wasn’t a bust. We saw so much more, which we’ll share in days to come.

This appears to be a mating pair of vultures tending to their nest.

Afterward, we made a quick trip to the Marlothi shopping center for a few items, and by 11:30 am, we were back home. The boys had come to clean while we were gone, and the house was spotless and even smelled so.  

A hippo near the shore of the Sabie River.

The constant dust was wafting indoors from the garden when “visitors” come to call leaves every surface covered in dust daily. It takes considerable attention to detail to keep the level of dust indoors to a minimum, and Zef and Vusi are masterful at this.

A hippo and an oxpecker.

Before we left this morning, I’d gone through the hundreds of photos I’d taken in Kruger yesterday, narrowing them down to a possible good 50 shots, many of which we’ll share over the next several days along with others we’ve taken at the fence and of course, in the garden.

A giraffe side-face view.  The hair atop the ossicones indicates this is most likely a female.  Males wear off the hair due to fighting for dominance.

Last night, after holidaymakers left the park, all of our favorite animals returned to see us beginning at about 1700 hrs (5:00 pm). We were so busy with them we hardly had time to get our dinner and beverages ready for the evening ahead.

A giraffe was contemplating a drink.

At one point, we counted eight species in the garden simultaneously: kudus, bushbucks, wildebeest, warthog, duikers, mongoose, helmeted guinea fowl, and bushbabies. We hardly stopped for a moment when finally, we managed to get dinner on the table a few hours later. We couldn’t stop smiling.

A little bird was going after a breadcrumb at the Mugg & Bean restaurant in Lower Sabie, where we had lunch.

As for yesterday’s visit to Kruger, although not earth-shattering, we were content with our varied sightings as shown in today’s and future day’s photos. When we don’t readily spot all the animals considered as the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, Cape buffalo, and elephant), we tend to focus our attention on those we do find.

This couple fed the starlings based on how they gathered at their table, staring at them for more.

Yesterday was undoubtedly a busy elephant and hippo day, as evidenced in our photos and included video. We know many of our readers don’t care to watch videos, but we invite you to do so.  

Elephant families on the Sabie River.

We don’t post our videos unless we find something special contained therein. Of course, that’s based on our personal opinion, which may not necessarily appeal to you. Typically, they are only one to three minutes long.

A mom and two offspring from different birth years.

We drove through Kruger on our preferred route, where we’d enjoyed considerable success. But, the sightings weren’t as prevalent along the paved road as we’ve seen in the past.  

It was a hot but gorgeous day, perfect for spotting elephants on the river.

The paved road leads to the Lower Sabie and the Mugg and Bean, where we stopped for lunch to see once again its expansive river views from the restaurant’s veranda.

The little one was enjoying the water too.

As mentioned in an earlier post, recently, I’d accidentally broken a bottle of red wine on one of our two cameras. The SD card was destroyed but ultimately not the camera itself after letting it dry out for a week.

The young elephant was playing in the water.

I hadn’t been able to find another SD card in Komatipoort and didn’t want to wait until we returned to Nelspruit to the immigration office in the next few weeks. I thought the gift shop at the Mugg & Bean might carry them.

They did much to my delight, and I was able to purchase a 16 gig card for ZAR 220 (US $15.43), a reasonable price for such a card. When we returned to the house, I placed the card in the camera, and all is working well.  

Mom elephant fussing over her youngsters.

We’re both relieved that once again, we have two working cameras, especially needed for our upcoming photography tour in Kenya in about three and a half months. I guess I won’t spill red wine on a camera again.

Anyway, the day in Kruger continued with some excellent sightings, some of which we’re sharing here today.  As for the rest of today, we’re hanging out at the house. We’ve had a relatively steady stream of frequent visitors, which we expect to pick up in about four hours for another spectacular evening in the bush!

May your day and evening be spectacular as well!

Photo from one year ago today, November 6, 2017:

We wrote one year ago…”Today’s flowers from the grounds of La Perla in Atenas Costa Rica are a token of our sorrowful expression for the loss of life and injury of the victims in the Texas mass shooting.” For more, please click here.