Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Namibian Creatures Without Feathers....




The birding in Namibia was super amazing, but the mammal-ing wasn't too shabby either.... Oryx. Can also be found on many local menus.




Black backed Jackal. Actually, not 1/2 as scary as Wild Kingdom led me to believe.





He looks innocent, right?




This is the guy that gave us the evil eye. He did not remind me of Dumbo.





He looks innocent. Nope. He would gladly climb up your pant leg.














Brown faced Impala. Super beautiful.




5 Lions.


Springbok. Unfortunately, pretty low on the food chain.


Banded Moogoose. I don't remember anything specific about them that scared me silly.






This was taken at 6AM.
Mr. Piggy!
All pictures courtesy of Cute Husband. Great work, Babe..... Maybe a career in photo-journalism?











Monday, May 28, 2007

Birds of Namibia

From May 13-May 26, 2007, BirdCouple saw and identified 114 species in Namibia and South Africa (where we had a brief layover).
Our next post will feature the amazing animals of Namibia!
Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Etosha National Park




Cape Sparrow, Johannesburg, South Africa








Red-Crested Koorhan, near Okonjima Lodge





Crimson-Breasted Shrike, Okonjima Lodge





Immature Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk
Okonjima Lodge






Grey Go-Away-Bird (Lourie), Okonjima Lodge






Scaly-feathered Finches, with Southern Masked Weaver
Okonjima Lodge





Southern Yellow-Billed Hornbill





Kori Bustard, Etosha National Park





Helmeted Guineafowl, Etosha National Park





Sociable Weavers nest, Etosha National Park






Cape Crow, Etosha National Park





Ostrich, Etosha National Park



Marabou Stork, with dead Elephant, Etosha National Park





Red-Eyed Bulbul, Vingerklip Lodge





Great White Pelicans, Swakopmund





Dusky Sunbird, Swakopmund





Greater Flamingo, Swakopmund




Cape Sparrows, near Sossusvlei

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Swakopmund

Try saying that three times fast!

Actually, Swakopmund is a *lovely* city on Namibia's Atlantic coast, the country's second largest city, after the capital in Windhoek, and a prime vacation spot for Namibians, black and white.

It's easy to see why. This city - really a large town - looks like a piece of Germany that has been plucked out of Europe and set down amid palm trees and seashore. Germany's influence (it was the colonial power until the end of WW I) is evident in the architecture and the food - especially crazy yummy pastries in shop windows.

To get here, yesterday we drove through some of the most barren desert on earth. That was after visiting an amazing region of Namibia known as Damaraland, which is sometimes called the Arizona of Namibia. It DOES look like something out of a Western movie - with vast valleys, broad mesas and crazy-cool colors in the rocks. We spent the night at an amazing oasis, a lodge called Vingerklip, named after the Rock Finger that stands a kilometer away, and then went to see some 5,000-year-old rock paintings that you can visit after hiking under the hot sun up a dry riverbed.

Every day has been amazing. And of course, Birdcouple has been birding all the way along. We have identified 101 species since arriving in southern Africa. Here in Swakop, as locals call it, we saw Pied Avocet, which has a crazy upturned bill; Greater and Lesser Flamingo; Common Waxbill; Orange River White-Eye; and the massive Great (Eastern) White Pelican...

Lisa says....

You can tell Cute Husband has acclimated to Namibia.... he is talking kilometers, rather than miles! Speaking of kilometers.... it was incredible fun driving across the barren moonscape yesterday via a dirt road going about 120 kilometers or 75 miles per hour. The fridge in the back of our new home was rocking along with our cool hut on top. Pictures .... soon.

Tomorrow, we head to the REAL desert! The Namib Desert has some of the most beautiful dunes in the world and we hope to ID each of the types along with some dry climate-loving birds. Looking forward to the star gazing.....

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Etosha!

wow. Wow. WOW. WOW WOW!!!!!

We are posting from Etosha National Park in northern Namibia. This place is like being air-dropped into the middle of a Wild Kingdom episode (for those of you old enough to remember Marlin Perkins and Mutual of Omaha)...

We have seen (or rather, identified) 71 species of birds since we arrived in southern Africa, everything from the wild-looking Crimson-Breasted Shrike to the rather freakish Marabou Stork. There are Rollers, Sunbirds, Robin-Chats, Coursers, Koorhans and other stuff that we never knew existed.

And then there are the ANIMALS. Zillions of Zebra, Wildebeest, Springbok, Giraffe, Jackals, and Lions! And more..

Last night, at the flood-lit watering-hole here at Okaukuejo camp, we watched seven Black Rhino come down to drink. Very impressive. Then, a Verreaux's Giant Eagle-Owl (hope we have that spelled right) flew over and looked like it tried to grab a stray jackal. Needless to say, this is a BIG owl. That was only the beginning, however. A lone, feckless-looking springbok was drinking from the water at about 10pm when we spotted a massive female lion come out of the brush. She went from left to right, away from the springbok, and then tracked back, stalking the small antelope. The crowd of (mostly German) tourists fell in a dead hush. Would we see a kill? About 20 yards away from its dinner, the lion broke into a run and the springbok bounded away into the night, surviving ... for now.

Today was even cooler, if that's possible. Lisa will explain. Oh, and our luggage caught up with us here in the middle of nowhere yesterday. Pix soon!

We have clean underwear!

Today was outrageous. Amazing. Unbeliveable.

We traveled to the furthest edge of Etosha and only passed one car on our journey to the M'bari watering hole. It is dry season here and this is one of the permanent sources of water for all mammals and birds. We passed a group of 4 elephant and waited for them at the hole. The sight was unforgettable as we watched them marching toward us across the plain.

As they reached our camper, we could sense our mistake. Apparently, we had parked directly in their usual walkway to the water. The group crossed in front of us and one large female stopped. She turned and faced us and looked directly through our windshield. Ears flapping.

With all honesty, I don't think I have ever been so scared in my entire life....

She finally drifted on. We think she was just giving us the message of who really owned the watering hole. Yes, we understood.

Warren put his hand over my heart after the whole experience. It was pounding out of my breast.... I still can not believe we got to experience something so primal.

So, wonder what's going to happen when we go back to the watering hole here at Okaukuejo tonight?

- W and L

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Namibia - The Safari begins

Lisa and I are in Namibia.
Our luggage is not in Namibia. Or maybe even in Africa at all. Who knows?


This is disappointing, but BirdCouple is undaunted. We begin our Safari today, after having spent our first night in Namibia at the very lovely Olive Grove lodge. ... We woke up early and did some birding, adding a half-dozen more lifers to our list, including:

Grey Lourie
White-backed Mousebird
Monteiro's Hornbill


Wow!
We are off to see cheetahs and stuff.
Will post again whenever we next get an Internet connection ... could be a while.

The BirdCouple

Monday, May 14, 2007

South Africa!

Africa!

Warren and I are in South Africa.
Our luggage is not in South Africa.

Our long flight from Dulles was actually quite nice and we were informed early that 10% of the luggage would not land with us. How is it possible that all of our bags were in the 10%?

This morning we were bumped from our flight into Namibia. Warren schmoozed us into a business class seat 2 hours later. (Actually, Lisa did. - W)

Torture? Nope. We are in Africa! I am with cute husband who always says ... Everyday is a good day when you see a new bird.....

Our birding expedition this morning was in the area around the pool of our hotel in Jo Burg. New birds?... Yes!

Black-Headed Heron (Jo-Burg airport-- seen as plane touched down)

Red-Headed Finch
Cape Sparrow (soon to be a trash bird)
Cape White-Eye
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Robin Chat
Karoo Thrush

Cape Robin Chat - Photo: P. Palmer

Warren Says: They also have House Sparrows here, ugh! Lisa is being an amazing trooper given our, ahem, traveling difficulties... which will soon go away.

Lisa Says: Well...Cute Husband did just buy me a swanky safari outfit at the airport store. I am currently relaxing in the lovely airport lounge reserved for the peeps who get to travel in the front of the plane. And, I am thinking that a nice Windhoek Lager might work for lunch. Yup, I am managing to be a trooper.....ha!

On to Namibia!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Birdcouple is on the road!

Map courtesy of Lonely Planet website




To Namibia!! We'll be posting as often as we can. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Spring Progresses....

Ah, spring!

Yesterday, Warren and I were birding maniacs in search of as many passing warblers and other migrants as possible.

May is the month to catch these travelers in their finest feathers.

We found Bobolinks in their crazy spring outfits:
Photo: Dave Herr!

A Northern Parula singing his buzzy courtship trill:
Photo: John Crookes
A Scarlet Tanager feasting for the next leg of his journey north:
Photo: USFWS


When we returned from a day of watching the color parade of travelers and birded around our love nest, we started noticing the slight changes in our non-migratory yard birds. They are still dressed to the hilt. They are still working on their serenades. And, they are still doing some serious eating.

But our local feathered friends have now progressed to brood raising. We saw a fledgling Titmouse who seemed to lack a tail and looked like a large clump of laundry lint.
He managed to hop about from branch to branch without nose diving to the driveway as Mom/ Dad brought insect treats.

The House Finches returned to their usual nest in the eves and we are now learning just how vocal a hungry finch chick can be.

My pal, Cam, fills me in each day on her house guests. The mother of this brood decided to plant her nest in a fancy wreath on Cam’s front door.
I’m guessing Cardinals. I keep asking Cam what do the parents look like.
Cam, is one really red?
Does one look pink-ish with a crest?

Apparently, the whole photo session is very traumatic. Cam has no idea.
There is just a swooping bird as she stands on tip-toe on a stool peaking inside the wreath.
Cam, you are a brave friend.


Well, assuming they are Northern Cardinals…. Mom and Dad Cardinal would have appeared monogamous, but several studies have proven that Cardinals frequently engage in extra-pair copulations.
Bad Bird Couple!

Northern Cardinals breed between March and September and usually raise two broods a year. The first one in late March and the second in late May to July. The female builds the nest, usually in shrubs or small trees. She lays 1 to 5 white-green eggs.

The male Cardinal has quite a voice, but the female also sings, often from the nest. The female’s songs may give the male information about when to bring food to the nest.

After the chicks hatch, both parents feed the chicks a constant source of insect protein.
Cam, maybe you should start preparing for empty nest syndrome.
The chicks begin leaving the nest 7 to 13 days after hatching.

Our Changing Woods

As we are learning, our woods is full of an amazing array of trees. In between the Oaks, which dominate, we have Ironwood, white Dogwood, Black Walnut, Hickory, Polonius, Beech and maybe even a Birch.

In the depths of the winter, Lisa and I decided to document (well, she decided, I documented!) the changing nature of our "back yard" as spring blossomed. Below are the results, with a freak early April snow thrown in for good measure.

- Warren



March 11
April 3

April 7 (Freak Snow Storm)


April 20



April 24




April 29






May 7