ARCHIVE KENYA 96 – BIRDING ON THE ROAD TO MOYALE

 

 

Birding in the Dida Galgalla (or Galgalu) Desert of northern Kenya; June 1978.

This is the main road running northwards from Mt Marsabit in northern Kenya to Ethiopia.  It carries on up through this arid wilderness to the town of Moyale, which is on the border with Ethiopia.

The whole area in this photo is volcanic, and on either side of the road can be seen the large, dark lava boulders that were bulldozed out of the way when the road was made.  Flat, dark lava flows can just be seen on the horizon.

Despite the heat and aridity of this area, faint tinges of green are visible off to the left.  This photo was taken in June, not long after the “long” rains (which are often not long at all), and this area was in the process of rapidly returning to its mixture of brown and maroon surfaces.

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I was much younger and more irresponsible in 1978 – well I suppose we all were! – and I thought this area tremendously exciting.  But it was dangerous and often lawless even then, with periods when all traffic had to be marshalled into convoys with military escort.

Oh, and that’s Bill, a birding friend from long ago >>> wow! we saw a lot of birds in those far off days!

Click onto each image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 94 – SOMETIME EARLIER IN THE WORLD – AGAIN

 

 


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Sunrise at the mouth of the Njoro River at Lake Nakuru, Kenya; Jan 1978.  I showed this scene in colour in an earlier post – and that version is again shown, below.

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The colour version more reflects reality.  The colour is a little “off”, but then this is a decades old colour transparency that spent many years in the tropics, often as a valued part of slide presentations.

The mono version is rougher, grainier.  There is more structure in the mist, which I like.  And rather more detail and contrast in the foreground which, again, does it for me.  But what do you think? 

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.  

Click on each image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Here is the colour post’s text:

Early morning mists rise above the lake and, as the sun appears, everything is flooded by warm, golden light – a scene seemingly from long ago in the world that has always fascinated me.  Here is something primeval, here we are an irrelevance.

The gaunt skeletons of trees out in the lake are Yellow-barked Acacias that were killed as the lake’s soda-rich waters rose up around them.

There are two types of birds here.  Those holding their wings out to dry, and those perching on the dead trees, and those very faintly seen bottom right, are Cormorants – the same species as found in Europe.  The dark scrum of larger birds at the lake’s edge are White Pelicans – one great head and neck can be seen as, preening, a bird reaches deep into its plumage.

Technique: tripod-mounted OM-2 with 400mm Vivitar lens; Agfa CT 18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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GARDEN 73 – A WONDERFUL ENCOUNTER 2

 

 


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Robin in our front garden.  Another image, and the full story of this encounter, are here (opens in a separate window).

The composition here is a little awkward, but I do like those leaves up in the top left corner!

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – certainly recommended.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 3200 ISO; spot metering; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Landscape v2 profile; south Bristol; 22 Sept 2020.
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GARDEN 72 – A WONDERFUL ENCOUNTER

 

 


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Out doing a bit of gardening, cutting our “front lawn” (aka The Dandelion Patch – I like Dandelions!).  And I kept getting the impression out of the corner of my eye of something darting swiftly by – until at last there came a beautifully warm red-orange glow from the bottom of a dense bush, and there was a Robin, a fairly small type of thrush.

And as I raked the grass and so laid bare more and more food items for him, he darted out more and more and dutifully gobbled them all down.  And knowing birds a little, I kept fairly still and started talking to him in much the same way that I talk to cats – quietly, softly and low.  And, looking up at this giant towering over him, he came closer and closer, to within a couple of inches of my feet I suppose, and I did wonder whether he might hop up onto the top of my shoe.

But he hopped away again, though not far away – and I started thinking about a photograph.  So, very quietly and slowly, keeping my eyes on him, I backed away into the house where I knew the Z 6 with a telezoom attached and a charged up battery were ready and waiting.  Creeping back out into the garden again I was sure he’d have disappeared – but no, he was still there, looking me.  So I carefully braced myself against the wall of the house and managed a few pictures.

Trouble was, I’d hardly used the Z 6 since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March – I’ve been almost entirely photographing with the Olympus TG-5 – and so I’d forgotten exactly how the ***** Z 6 works!!! >>>> and so to several failed shots!

But a couple of the frames came out ok – and so to a record of a really wonderful close encounter, just the thing in fact to lift the spirits in these very sad and trying times.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – certainly recommended.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 3200 ISO; spot metering; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Landscape v2 profile; south Bristol; 22 Sept 2020.

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ARCHIVE 569 – FULMAR

 

 


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Fulmar flying along the cliff top at West Bay, Dorset; 23 Apr 2015.

How I love Dorset!  And we’ve just been down there for a few days’ break, renting a cheapo caravan not far behind the beach at the tiny “resort” of West Bay, which is on the coast south of Bridport.  I put resort in quotes because, although it is on Dorset’s absolutely totally beautiful coast and it does have a harbour with a few working fishing boats – mainly for shellfish, crabs and lobster I think – West Bay also has some really ugly holiday apartments (which sell for just under half a million pounds each) and other ugly modern buildings, and it really is a cheap and cheerful place.

BUT, that said, this is coastal Dorset, and so all this money! money! money! ugliness is set amongst just totally wonderful natural beauty.  And the little kiosks  round the harbour serve up good fish and chips, and there’s Dorset Apple Cake, and a brewery nearby that’s been churning out the good stuff since 1794, and some really nice bakeries in nearby Bridport, etc etc.  I suppose the bottom line is that its very hard to dent coastal Dorset’s vast appeal – and thank goodness for that!

Anyway, anyway –  it was the afternoon of the final day of our stay, the blast of the bright sunshine had softened a little, and I took it in my head to climb a steep hill east of the harbour, to explore a bit.  Well, OMG, it was steep, but when The Great Explorer eventually puffed and coughed his way to the top, what did he find?  Beautiful natural wilderness?  Well, no, a golf course actually, but you can’t have everything.  And as I set off regardless along the cliff top path, I caught a glimpse of a seagull coasting along the cliffs – but it didn’t look quite right.

And sure enough it wasn’t quite right, because rather than a gull it was a (Northern) Fulmar – Fulmarus glacialis – a seabird, a real denizen of the open oceans that only comes ashore to breed, on steep inaccessible cliffs like those at West Bay.  So, I watched where these birds were habitually gliding past, wound the D800 up on DX format so that my 70-300 zoom became a 105-450 zoom – and started blasting away.

It was difficult going, even with autofocus, and lots of my attempts are, shall we say, “impressionistic”.  But here is one caught above the glare of the lowering sun on the sea – and it does look like a seagull at first glance, doesn’t it – but there’s a little kink and ridge on the top of its bill that houses nasal passages, something that gulls don’t have.

And two points of interest.  Living out on the open seas as they do, and eating things like squid, fish and shrimps, these birds are up to their ears in salt – some of which they manage to get rid of by excreting it as a strong saline solution through their noses.  And, should one of these beauties feel that you’re approaching it too closely on a cliff, they will vomit their foul smelling stomach oils over you –  as a means of giving you a gentle hint.

And, finally, their plumage is white below.  The warm orange tinge to the underparts that you see in the photo was in fact the reflection of the lowering sunlight on West Bay’s beautiful, honey-coloured cliffs.

Click onto the image to see a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX format to give 450mm; 400 ISO.
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ARCHIVE 568 – NEAR WEST LITTLETON

 

 


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Something Minimal, there’s really not much here, both in terms of content and colour, but straight black and white would lose a little I think.  And the bird – and getting focus on the bird – were fortuitous!

Click onto this image to open it in a separate window.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Classic Chrome film simulation; near West Littleton, South Gloucestershire; 12 Apr 2017.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 84 – SOMETIME EARLIER IN THE WORLD

 

 


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Sunrise at the mouth of the Njoro River at Lake Nakuru, Kenya; Jan 1978.

Early morning mists rise above the lake and, as the sun appears, everything is flooded by warm, golden light – a scene seemingly from long ago in the world that has always fascinated me.  Here is something primeval, here we are an irrelevance.

The gaunt skeletons of trees out in the lake are Yellow-barked Acacias that were killed as the lake’s soda-rich waters rose up around them.

There are two types of birds here.  Those holding their wings out to dry, and those perching on the dead trees, and those very faintly seen bottom right, are Cormorants – the same species as found in Europe.  The dark scrum of larger birds at the lake’s edge are White Pelicans – one great head and neck can be seen as, preening, a bird reaches deep into its plumage.

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.  

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: tripod-mounted OM-2 with 400mm Vivitar; Agfa CT 18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE 566 – LONG-EARED OWL

 

 


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Long-eared Owl, at the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Newent, Gloucestershire; 2 July 2014.

As often happens with living things, I’m close in to the individual both by means of a telephoto and via cropping of the resulting image. 

The eye – to me the really vital, vibrant and living focus of the shot – is in focus, while all of the surrounding patterns and textures are blurring into an “impression of the beast”.

Click onto the image to see a larger version in a separate window – certainly recommended.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 250mm; 3200 ISO; Dfine 2; Color Efex Pro 4.

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ARCHIVE 558 – WOOD PIGEON (MONO)

 

 


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Wood Pigeon at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire;  11 Aug 2010.

A close in portrait, shot against a dark, unobtrusive background.  Once again, close in use of a telephoto throws the background right out of focus.

The largest of Britain’s pigeons and a common and increasing bird – an agricultural pest and one of the few birds that can be legally shot here.  They are in our garden every day, and I love both the slow, deliberate, ponderous manner in which they waddle around – and the way they clap their wings during their soaring display flights.  I ate a couple a decade or more back but was unimpressed with both the taste and quantity of the meat.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; mono conversion via Capture NX2.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 75 – LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY, WITH A VERY, VERY DEAR FRIEND …

 

 

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Out birdwatching in Kenya, on the rift valley floor behind the Ngong Hills, I think; probably late 1970s.

What to see?  Well, the absolutely wonderful VW Beetle that I drove throughout my years in Kenya.  It was so good at negotiating mud (it often had mud tyres on the rear wheels), and also off-road – and it survived more punishment than I’d ever have believed possible.  Luckily, soon after acquiring this wonder, I was put in touch with a specialist VW garage, and however bad a hammering this car took, they fixed it.

Such was my disregard for such things in my younger days, that there was water in the passenger compartment for several weeks during one wet season.  Every time I accelerated it sloshed down to the back and got the passengers’ feet wet, and when I braked the tide came back in up the front … I mean … what was I like in those days? ….  And saying goodbye to this absolutely wonderful car when I left Kenya was one of the great wrenches of my life – the moment remains sharp, and painful, in my mind.

And so to the environment.  Sometime mid-morning I would guess – and look at my shadow, its almost non-existent.  This is just south of the equator, and the blazing sun is almost directly overhead.  Returning to Kenya after my few visits to England, I was always struck by the brightness of the light and the almost unnaturally vivid colours.

And then the accoutrements of an out and out birder.  Around my neck, treasured 10x40B Zeiss Dialyt binoculars, which also took a lot of punishment and which I still have.  Over my shoulder, the binoculars’ case.  And my finger is in the page of a bird guide >>> we’d obviously just seen something interesting and piled out of the car to get a better look at it – and “it” had disappeared, leaving us with the leisure for my (unknown) companion to use my OM-1 to take a picture of me.

And finally, the place.  I mean, only a few miles outside the capital, Nairobi, and just look at it.  Open country, wild, with thornbushes and other scrub, not at all on the tourist track – but with this good dirt road going through it, and with the possibility of exploring off this road, motorised or on foot, wherever we wanted – a naturalist’s dream!

I miss those African days very much, but still find some of the solace of open, rough country below big skies out on the Somerset Levels, especially on the Tadham and Tealham Moors.

Click onto the image to see a larger version in a separate window.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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