Africa, Part 3.

I was lucky enough to travel with some people who were hard-core ornithology folks, so I learned lots about the various birds I saw. Sometimes the birds were more interesting than any game.

I saw about a million European Rollers. They have a bright turquoise breast and a tan back. However, I only saw two Lilac-Breasted Rollers. They are gorgeous. Also very fast. Here’s the picture I got of one:


What I saw moments before that was this stunning fella (not my pic; found on the internet):


I saw two ring-necked doves having a fight:


A tree full of vultures. I was amused that there were all these trees around with leaves on them, and the vultures chose to hang out in a creepy Addams-family dead tree. Juuuuuuuust waiting for something to die… Any minute now…


The increasingly rare Ground Hornbill. They lay their eggs in the grass without any protection of any kind, and with all this big lumpy beasts tromping around, many of the eggs get crushed. So these birds might go extinct.


Helmeted Guinea Fowl. I love these birds. They are astonishingly stupid. They don’t seem to realize that they’re fancy-lookin’ chickens, so at night they try to roost in trees. And they perpetually fail. They also run around in hysterics for no good reason with this high-stepping gait they have. I gain much mirthiness from them.


A couple of birds of prey. The first one is a goshawk, the second is a fish eagle.

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These are marabou storks. I also love them. They are called “the undertakers” because of how they look and also because they eat carrion. I might be the only person in the world who sort of likes the way they look. Cricket and I had a young girl ranger one morning who was sweetly airheaded, with giant vacant blue eyes. She referred to every animal we passed as “cute”. “Those are some cute impala. Oh, there’s a ground squirrel. Isn’t it cute?” We passed some marabou storks and she said, “These are marabou storks.” Then she paused, and said with a tinge of disgust, “I don’t like them. They are NOT cute.”

(Also, Cricket insists on calling them Malibu storks. Now I have to check myself every time I refer to them to make sure I’m calling them by the right name. Thanks a million, sweetie.)


This was an exciting spot. This is a kory bustard (I don’t name ’em, I just see ’em). This is a big bird, the third biggest in Africa (first, ostrich; second, secretary bird). They’re rare, and this guy was hanging out by the side of the road. That’s the joy of driving through the game reserve, <Forrest Gump> you nevah know what you gonna get </Forrest Gump>.


Weaver nests. Made completely with grass. No mud or spit or anything. Quite impressive.


An egyptian goose couple. They are very pretty, but they make a hell of a racket. Not surprising, them being geese an’ all. Geese are a noisy bunch.


A glossy starling. I know these guys are pretty common, but they are so pretty. And this guy got nice and close to me so I could take a good picture of him.


On the night ride with the leopard, a man sitting in front of me was hit in the face with a bird. Really. It smacked into his face, flapped around a bit and settled down in between my legs. I don’t know anything about African birds, so I didn’t pick it up, you know, just in case this one secretes poison out of its eyes or has barbed feathers or something. The guy had to reach in between my legs and fish this startled nightjar out and fling him out of the vehicle. The nightjar was pigeon-sized and looked like this:


Now here’s the piece de resistance of the whole Kruger experience for me. When we would get together for dinner every night, we could hear a “prrrrrt, prrrrrt” fairly close to us in the trees. One of the bird lovers we were travelling with identified it as a scops owl. Everyone knows how I feel about owls, so I peered in the trees for a while, but saw nothing. On our last night, I was chopping tomatoes in the kitchen when Cricket ran in and told me to get outside right now. And there was the scops owl in a low branch, maybe four feet from my head. I lost my mind like I was seeing Elvis. I almost had to be physically restrained. It’s important to know that this owl is the size of a grown man’s fist. It’s tiny. It doesn’t even eat mice. It eats moths. And without further ado, meet my scops owl.

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OMG Squeeee LOOK at the TEENY TINY OWL He’s so CUTE AHHHHHHHH *explodes*


This shot is great, because as he’s flying off, you can see him blinking his “third eyelid”, or nictitating membrane.


I would like to thank Cricket for taking these pictures while I was busy jumping up and down and squealing and generally embarrassing myself in front of our co-travelers. I… I really like owls.

One Response to “Africa, Part 3.”

  1. […] here’s a building from the Art Deco period with owls (must I remind you of my feelings for owls?), but more importantly, angry sparrows! And the city’s mascot, the […]

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