Archive for November, 2010

THE BIG ONE

November 30, 2010

When birders get to travel in a distant land, they often take along a mental checklist of the regional birds they REALLLLY want to see.  In Latin America it may be a quetzal or a certain macaw, even an antpitta.  In Eastern Africa, it;s safe to bet nearly every first-time birder in that region has THE BIG ONE on the private checklist.   Well, here’s ours, seen in the Mabamba Swamp on the western shore of Lake Victoria, a short ferryboat ride and rough road away from the Entebbe International Airport.  Feast your eyes on this four-foot tall beastie:

Once we got to the edge of the Mabamba Swamp, we got into canoes.  They sit so low in the water you cannot see over the papyrus wilderness towering over your head on all sides of the narrow, twisting channels of open water.

We paddled out toward the edge of the swamp where it meets open water on the lake.  And there he stood, stolid and solid, next to a narrow channel.  He was watching for any fish foolish enough to pass within beak-scooping distant.  It was a hot and humid day.  Like every day on Lake Victoria in East Africa.  Even a patient Shoebill gets a little botred, as another day of fishing yawns before him.

After the exertion of a full yawn, it;s nice to close your eyes and catch a bird-nap.

Ever wonder whether those featherless bipeds in those silly floating logs might be scaring away lunch?  Guess they’re as little too big to be bite-size, even for me.

The Shoebill was once considered a kind of stork.  DNA evidence a closer tie to pelicans.  He does fly though much of his time is spent standing around, as we saw from close range.  This species is in its own taxonomic family.  They are fish-eaters found only in some papyrus swamps of sub-Saharan Africa.  Even our local guide had never seen a young Shoebill or a nest.  They raise their young in the densest inaccessible parts of papyrus swamps.  When their habitat is protected and the water relatively clean, the Shoebill is well-adapted and seems to be doing well.  Go see for yourself.

Making It Count In Uganda

November 29, 2010

Most of us American birders have never birded in sub-Saharan Africa.  Well, a whole new world of species, genuses, even families await you.

This is a thirty-inch long Great Blue Turaco.  One of the big guys in a small family of birds seen only south of the Sahara.

This is a Finfoot, gleaning bugs from foliage along the edge of Lake Mburo in south central Uganda.  The African Finfoot has a near cousin in southeast Asia and his Sungrebe cousin in Latin America.  That’s the whole family of Heliornithidae.

Rarity can by attractive in a birding target, but a little beauty can be equally pleasing.  When we got up to around 7000′ elevation we started seeing these Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters repeatedly.  Never  got to be a junk bird even when there was a pair in ever other tree along the road.

We saw nearly 400 species in our ten days in Uganda, and three dozen mammals.  There’ll be more pictures and details on places we birded in future blogs right here. To ponder your own trip to Uganda, click here.

GALAPAGOS FOUR-LEGGERS

November 9, 2010

There were lizards.  There were sealions.

There were lizards ON sealions.

Yeah, I know, grasshopper=six legs.  This guy was colorful, named “painted locust.”

Of course, there were those hefty terrapin-types.  Four verrrry big tree trunk legs.

Buff-colored land iguana, a species endangered by loss of habitat and imported predators.  Below the charcoal-colored marine iguana, abundant in years when the ocean currents bring upwelling and plenty of food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winner of the onshore leg count:

ECUADOR: NOT JUST BIRDS

November 9, 2010

Top row: left to right are Brazilian squirrel in palm at San Isidro.  Agouti (a large rodent) scurrying through garden in Coca.  Squirrel monkey on chair in the same garden.