Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tarangire wrap-up

Oops, I uploaded the pictures, then failed to write and post the story. That is, until now. So Tarangire was just the first of several national parks we visited, and all told we spent less than 24 hours there, but an action packed 24 hours it was! After leaving behind the cheetah and wildebeest hunt, we drove up a hill past a pond, and came upon these warthogs (and some zebra and impala, but I've already shown some pictures of those animals...). We rumbled our way back to the entrance gate, where most people took the opportunity to use the toilets, and I just wandered into the garbage dump, which, true to form for garbage dumps, was a good opportunity for bird and rodent watching. Here's another pygmy mongoose, and a baboon which had been checking out the cheetah/wildebeest hunt with us earlier.

For a recap of all the pictures from day two in Tarangire, check out the picasa album here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

run away, run away

Oops, there goes a week. Sorry, I've been busy with life here. I built a sukkah last week (a sukkah is an outside non-permanent shelter which you eat in during the jewish holiday of sukkot). We hosted a small dinner party on Sunday, and a bigger end-of-sukkot party on Monday. I bought a (used) glass kiln on Saturday, and then spent monday re-wiring the power cord so that it could reach the outlet inside the house (it's a 240V/30A line, so you can't just buy an extension cord). Yesterday I turned it on and tried it out for the first time, and it worked! Jaime's got some new earrings now. Then last night I played in my ultimate frisbee league game, and shared some of my homebrew beer after the game -- the beer I just put in the keg last friday. So I've been keeping busy.

I've been taking pictures of many of these things, but I'm further behind on the safari pics, so here are a couple more of those. After we came across the first three cheetah, and their fresh kill, it seemed that many of the animals were skittish. As we drove, we saw lots of things running: ostrich, impala, gazelle, and then these wildebeest, which were charging down an embankment and crossing the road right in front of us. Then they suddenly turned, and started to run the other way. Why? I think it was the appearance of these guys (who are probably different from the first threesome we had seen a couple miles earlier.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Here kitty, kitty

There is a whole pecking order among the carnivores and scavengers. It goes something like this: The hunters -- lions, leopards, cheetah, etc. -- find themselves some breakfast. If it's a good day, they manage to kill it, and eat all the tasty bits. Next, it's a race between the smaller ground based scavengers -- the hyena and jackals -- and the big sharp-beaked birds -- the eagles, buzzards, and vultures. The birds use their excellent eyesight and soaring ability to monitor big swaths of savannah, looking out for animals on the hunt. The jackals and hyena either track the hunters on the ground, and wait for them to make a kill (and have their portion), or they look to the skies, find where the birds are circling, and head in that direction.

There is a third group looking out for the kills, and that is the people in trucks, out on safari -- like us :-). We keep our eye out for animals on the move, birds in the sky, or, most typically, long lines of other trucks stopped on the road. This morning we came upon four or five other trucks, and then saw the cheetah. They had caught a young zebra, and had made a nice breakfast of it, but got spooked when the trucks rolled up, and the cheetah sauntered away. There were three of them who had worked together, and this turned out to be typical each of the cheetah sightings we had.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pretty Bird

Birds swooping around in the sky, birds running around on the ground... what's going on? Maybe there are some kittys running around.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Giraffe, and apparent sizes

Yesterday's post had a picture of a giraffe standing in front of a baobab tree. It gave the impression that giraffes are not particularly large animals. That would be the wrong impression. Hopefully I can correct it here, and make you realize first, that giraffes are quite big, and second, that baobob trees are enormous. In the picture above, compare the size of the zebras, which are donkey or small-horse sized, to the giraffe. Then go back and look at my last post and look at the giraffe compared to the baobab tree. Wow.

Despite their large size, and this was also true for the other big herbivores, the birds don't seem scared away. The fur of the large animals (giraffe, buffalo, etc.) collects all sorts of tasty little fleas bugs which the birds kindly remove free of charge.

These shots are from our second day on safari, starting with an early morning game drive in Tarangire National Park. It was just the tip of the iceberg on what was to be a very exciting day (including our first big cat sightings). Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

End of the weekend, and of the first day

I hope y'all had a good weekend. I woke up super early this morning to join Jaime and a bunch of her youth group kids in doing the Walk for the Cure, a 5K walk in downtown Phoenix to help raise money for breast cancer research. There were 30,000+ people participating in the events, which also included a 5K run, and a shorter walk. It wasn't very grueling exercise, but it was a nice easy follow-up to Saturday's activity: a 42 mile ride down to Mesa and back to check out a little arts festival. I'm slowly ramping up my weekly biking miles. I may start taking another glass fusing class in a couple weeks, and then I'll be riding 40-80 miles a week just to get to class and back, plus whatever rides I do closer to home.

It's Sunday night, so this also ends a moderately successful week of posting Africa pictures, the vast majority of which came from the first day of our Safari, in Tarangire National Park. Here's a link to a photo album with all these pictures and more from day one.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fuzzy/Not Fuzzy

Happy Friday y'all. Some more pictures from day one in Tarangire National Park. I was having lots of fun with my new camera (and I still am). The zoom lens is great, and enabled me to get some great shots from far away, even though I didn't have a tripod. The digital camera thing I'm still loving, 6+ years into it, because you can shoot off a whole bunch of pictures to get that one brief instant trapped in the time, as with the picture below of the lizard sticking out his tongue.

So, quick stories behind these shots. First, the
monkeys. As I mentioned in my previous post, we drove up onto a bluff overlooking the riverbed where the elephants were (and also a pack of zebra, wildebeest, and waterbuck), and where there was a picnic area at which we could actually get out of the trucks and walk around a bit. Whenever this is a picnic area, you will find little birds and animals happy to steal your crumbs, and this particular picnic area had these cute monkeys. They were running about, dangling from trees, and checking us out, though not too close.

After we finished on the bluff, we drove back down the hill and crossed a concrete bridge/ford of the river. Just over the edge of the bridge we saw this monitor lizard. I know it's hard to get a sense of scale in the picture, but this lizard is the better part of six feet long!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Elephants and relatives

We continue our journey through Tarangire National Park, still on day one of the safari (only a couple of hours past the entry gate, in fact!). And we come upon two very different looking creatures, who are in fact quite closely related (genetically and evolutionarily, at least): The elephant and the hyrax. I'm hoping I don't need to point out which is which in the above photos.

We saw our first elephants near a riverbed. We had a mediocre view past a herd of zebra (of whom we had a terrific view), but then we drove up onto a bluff overlooking the riverbed, and had a great view of the family of elephants. They were digging around on the side of the river, and sucking up water from the holes.

Later in the day we got to our tent camp (luxury tent camp, really), which was also situated on a rocky bluff, overlooking the forest, and in the distance, a lake. Scurrying around on the rocks, and in the trees, were many of these rock hyrax. They are the size of marmots, or large guinea pigs, and equally skittish. They are quite skilled climbers, though, and it was funny to walk up the trail between our bedroom and the dining hall, and see these small trees (12' tall, maybe?) with several hyrax weighing down the branches.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Identify Your Antelopes

We saw lots of antelopes throughout our journey, and it was sometimes difficult to remember which type was which, so here's a quick primer for you to refer to when viewing all the pictures. Impalas (above, left) have curved lyre shaped horns which bend both right/left and forward/back, while gazelles (above right) have straighter ones. We saw two types of gazelles, the smaller Thomson's Gazelles, and the larger Grant's Gazelle. The picture above shows a Grant's Gazelle, whose horns are curved more than the Thomson's. Thomson's Gazelles have a characteristic black stripe on their sides, which isn't found on the impalas, but is sometimes found on the Grant's Gazelles. The Grant's Gazelles, which don't always have the stripe, have a white rump which extends up beyond the tail. Additionally, female gazelles have horns, while female impala do not. Now, based on what you've just learned, what is this:

Yes, it's a bit confusing, as its got no stripe, but the white on the rump stops at the tail, and the horns are straight. My best guess is that this is a young male impala, whose horns haven't taken on their full adult shape yet. I make this guess from additional knowledge of the pictures taken at the same time, showing a bunch of females without horns, which must be impalas (I think).

Easier to tell apart are the Eland (below right, standing amidst the zebras), the largest antelope, and the Dik-dik (below left), the smallest of the antelopes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Birds

You have all been waiting so patiently, and I know you really want to see the big 5: the elephants, buffalos, lions, leopards, and rhinocerous, as well as the other big mammals: giraffes, hippos, cheetah, etc. I'll get to them all, and somewhat soon, I promise. But today I want to focus on some of the animals we weren't expecting to be so impressed by, the birds. There were lots of them and they were super: super big, super colorful, super funny looking, etc. Here's a sample. Above you have a vulture of some sort (sorry, I am not a birder so I don't know exactly which... if you know, post it in the comments). Below left is an ostrich, and below right is one of many colorful chaps, the lilac breasted roller. We saw all of these within our first hour in Tarangire National Park. It's an amazing place, much less visited than Ngorongoro or Serengeti, though still popular among people with more than 3 days for their safari.
Tomorrow I'll show some of the bigger game we saw.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Oops. Apparently I've let another month slip by without posting anything to the blog. For shame, for shame. Well, I've been keeping myself busy with trips (Santa Fe in early September) and visitors, plus lots and lots and lots of yardwork. I've also been taking some pictures, though certainly not at the rate I was shooting them during the Africa trip. Sometimes I bring the camera out and about the town, other times I do the exceptionally lazy thing of not even getting up from my computer desk to shoot the pictures. I still think the results are interesting. Don't you? I think this one might need to get printed with a nice matte finish.