Friday, December 26, 2014

From Kenn's Drawing Table: African Fish Eagle

Kenn Writes: 

Work in progress: African Fish Eagle
Related to the Bald Eagle of North America; somewhat different in structure and notably different in voice, with loud, ringing cries. Last month in Kruger we saw these eagles almost every day, but I had only a few good opportunities to study and sketch them at close range.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

From Kenn's Drawing Table: Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill

Kenn Writes: 

Work in progress: Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
In Kruger last month, I took several opportunities to study and sketch this bird because I was intrigued by its facial expression. Its odd bill shape and garish pink and yellow touches are certainly distinctive, but "beautiful" isn't the first word that comes to mind. "Interesting," though, that definitely fits. (Actually, "in progress" is the wrong term also; this painting has reached the point where I'll ditch it and start over, because some details of structure are wrong and some of the colors are irretrievably muddy. Still adjusting to these new oil paints. But I thought I'd share it anyway.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

From Kenn's Sketchbook: African Harrier-Hawk

Kenn Writes: 

Random sketchbook: African Harrier-Hawk

The name "Harrier-Hawk" is unfortunate; this broad-winged, big-headed, loose-feathered raptor isn't remotely similar to a harrier. But it's so structurally interesting that I couldn't resist sketching it. We had several good studies of this species in Kruger National Park, including this adult near Pafuri.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

South Africa Trip, Day 19: Heading for Home

Kimberly Writes: We're carefully planning our last precious hours in South Africa. So with thoughts of home streaming in around the edges of a dream trip, we're going outside.
We're going outside to bask in the South African sun - 
like this Laughing Dove.

We're going to keep our eyes and ears open to the world 
of possibilities - like this tiny new elephant.
And we're going to enjoy being together -
like these lovely Blue Cranes.

I am deeply, powerfully, and immensely grateful to Kenn for planning a stunningly flawless trip for us. It has been absolute perfection every single day, and I will cherish the memories of the gift of this trip for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

South Africa Trip, Day 18. Cape Town Area: Blue Cranes and Black Harriers

Kimberly Writes: Today, we had the distinct pleasure of birding with Callan Cohen, owner of Birding Africa Tours, and one of the authors of the Southern Africa Birdfinder guide! Our dear friend Ethan Kistler works for Callan, and together with Ethan's girlfriend Billi Krochuk, we spent the day in some really superb birding spots. If you're interested in a trip to Africa focused on birds, I highly recommend this company!

When we started out this morning, I mentioned three species we really hoped to see: Black Harrier, Blue Crane, and Verreaux's Eagle. And with impressive precision, Ethan and Callan found us all three, plus so many more amazing birds (and some mind-blowing insects, too)!

Blue Cranes are among the most elegant birds I've ever seen. With soft, curving lines, elongated wing feathers that flow behind the bird like jet-black ribbons, dancing and swaying in the breeze, and movements graceful enough for the finest ballet, it isn't hard to understand why this is the national bird of South Africa!

After enjoying great views of several Blue Cranes, we made a very special discovery. 
Look closely at the bird's feet. What do you see?!?!

Just when you thought you'd seen every cute baby animal in South Africa...
BOOM, a Blue Cranelet!  It's hard to imagine that this adorable little bundle of fluff will grow up to be one of the loveliest birds in the world!

Here's a short video I shot of the crane family.
You can hear the adults calling those supremely wild, haunting notes.

Black Harrier
Photographed from a long distance, but even so, you can see what a dramatic and impressive figure they cut as they power through the air.

It was a long distance view, but there are two Verreaux's Eagles perched at the base of this green bush. Verreaux's Eagles are birds of mountains, where they feed mainly on Rock Hyrax, which are a bit like huge Guinea Pigs.

This stunning European Bee-eater posed for us  in the most scrumptious 
light and in the perfect setting on a strand of barbed-wire.

I just had to include this image of the extraordinary Koppie Foam Grasshopper that Callan found for us! Not only is this thing colored like a mad entomological fantasy, it's also HUGE! These grasshoppers are highly toxic, able to ooze a noxious foam when threatened, and apprently their venom can kill something as large as a small dog, EGADS! But, oh boy, what a gorgeous grasshopper!

This was our last full day in South Africa, and I can't think of a better way to spend this precious time than seeing wonderful birds with great friends. Our flight doesn't leave until early evening, so we're going to try and spend our last few precious hours outside tomorrow, so we might have a few bonus photos to share!  

Monday, December 1, 2014

From Kenn's Sketchbok: African Penguin

Kenn Writes: 

Random sketchbook: African Penguin

This bird has a limited range, and I'd never seen it before -- this was my 14th penguin species. I had done field sketches of other penguins in the past; they often sit still (which is good) but they're often in very cold places (not so good). When I was sketching Chinstrap Penguins in the Antarctic, for example, my hands were so cold that I couldn't feel the pencil, with or without gloves on. So it was a pleasure to watch these African Penguins in shirtsleeve weather at Boulders Beach, south of Cape Town, when Kimberly and I went there as part of our anniversary celebration.

South Africa Trip, Day 17: Anniversay on the Cape of Good Hope

Kimberly Writes: Today is our anniversary, and it was the kind of day that dreams are made of. We had perfect weather, perfect scenery, and perfect birds. And I had the perfect company! 

It's been just the two of us this entire trip, which has made this trip very special for me. But today, we spent some time hanging out with a few other couples who were also celebrating love and romance!

This handsome pair of African Black Oystercatchers was resting on the edge of the ocean. We thought they made a beautiful couple.

This Glossy Ibis couple was looking particularly fetching as they stood close to one another in the morning sunlight -- on the edge of the sewage ponds!

A Greater Flamingo couple that we hung out with this morning!

Water Thick-knees (sometimes called Water Dikkop), are such cool birds! Aptly named for the fact that they have thicker knee joints than most birds their size, they're usually most active at night, so we felt certain that this couple came out today just to help us celebrate love on our special day!

An African Penguin couple celebrating love and romance!

We drove down the coast today to visit the Cape of Good Hope, which is just as lovely as it sounds! The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, and, as if the crashing waves, cloud-draped mountains, rocky outcrops, and wind-swept fields weren't enough, there were Cape Sugarbirds! (I'm not making that name up!)
Sugarbirds feed on nectar, and the marvelous male has a glorious streamer for a tail!
A closer, cripser image of the Cape Sugarbird
(You just can't see all of its fabulous tail.)
A close-up view of the protea flower that the sugarbirds were going for.

On our way down the coast, we stopped to visit the African Penguin colony on Boulders Beach near Simon's Town. (What a thrill to see flamingos and penguins in the same day!) 

One small portion of the African Penguin colony against the gorgeous ocean backdrop! 

The African Penguin is the only penguin species that breeds in Africa. The colony on Boulders Beach was established in the 1980s, and it's become quite a popular tourist attraction.

My sweetheart sketching the penguins

Thanks so much to all of our friends for sharing such sweet and kind anniversary wishes! It was a beautiful day, and we're feeling very blessed to have each other, and to have so many wonderful friends! ♥