Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Leshii's Temple

A Leshii is a magical being from Slavic mythology. It is a shapeshifter and a protector of the ancient forest.
It uses a bear or a wolf to be it's companion and guardian. During medieval times, people entered the forest with fear and trepidation. A Leshii was not something to be trifled with. It was blamed for the disappearance of many a hapless traveler.
The dark trees in my latest painting remind me of the straight columns in an ancient Greek temple. The wolf guards the gates of the Leshii's Temple.
The painting is 18x24". I used entirely cold blue colors, but in the end I added some warm tones as an accent. Devil's Club and Fireweed are appropriate plants for the theme of this mystical painting.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Alas, The End is Here

This post is the end of Maggie's South Africa trip, not quite the end of the world; although it will be for me if the current snowstorm does not quit dumping snow here in Anchorage. It is wet, heavy snow and I have a flat roof.
Anyway, before the cats, I'll show this fine photo of a Warthog with a healthy pair of tusks.
And a good shot of a Woodland Kingfisher. Their staccato call is a ubiquitous sound throughout much of the African countryside.
Another Leopard?  No, it's a cat that I missed when I was in South Africa. Gary and Tom also missed seeing Cheetahs on their recently completed South Africa trip. This Cheetah checks out a local waterhole. Picking out a suitable antelope for dinner perhaps.
Another vigilant Cheetah. I love the lithe musculature and bone structure of this creature that was built for speed.
What an intense gaze. It looks like frozen lightning, ready to strike in an instant.
Cheetahs are also more gregarious than Leopards. Their numbers are not doing nearly as well as Leopards because they are diurnal, and they inhabit wide open country. Unfortunately they make easy targets for fools with rifles. They have disappeared from almost all of their former range.
A nice close up of what are undoubtedly siblings. Thank goodness that there are protected areas where Cheetah populations have a chance for survival. Tourism represents the salvation of Cheetahs and many other wild species.  Travel!
The road is being blocked by the other species of big African cat. Lions are another species of large predator whose population is plummeting wherever they occur. In all of the African national parks that I have visited, I only saw one lion. It was missing it's hind leg because of a poacher's snare.
At least in some places, the upcoming generation has a shot at survival. That is not the case in most African countries. Maggie is very fortunate to have gotten such good views of all these cats.
Three large males; or two males and the ghost of a third. It's a quirk of the digital camera that made the lion in the back appear transparent.
Another one for the dentist; or you can imagine a mouth like that being the last thing you ever see.
And so it ends. What a great adventure it was for Maggie, and vicariously for me as well.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Some More Big Critters

Maggie's South African adventure continues with a dentist's perspective of some hippos. People keep saying that hippos are one of the most dangerous species of African animals. I could not say from my own personal experience, but I was never reckless enough to crowd them. No doubt, Maggie also kept a respectful distance.
The last post featured a Black Rhino; these are a mother and calf White Rhino. They are even bigger than Black Rhinos, although generally milder in temperament.
A grazing elephant in good light. When I was in Africa, I feared elephants more than any other animal. They are so big, and easily annoyed.
I bet these are not house cat paw prints. The guide places his hand next to some Leopard spoor. Now things are getting exciting.
Night time is the right time for these big cats. This Leopard is feeding on a kill in a tree. Safe from lions and hyenas. I never got this close to a Leopard on either of my Africa trips. Boo-hoo.
Another good shot of a Leopard, showing the distinctive white patches on the back of it's ears.
This Leopard is so used to people that it acts like a zoo Leopard, as long as you stay in your vehicle.
Another cat displaying it's fine pearly whites for the benefit of the dentist, or maybe it's just hoping that someone will get out of the truck. Dinnertime.
The victim of a Leopard? No it's a Spotted Hyena sleeping outside it's den.
The sun is going down, so it's time to get up.
This hyena has a family.
Sundown in Africa. This is not quite the end of Maggie's journey. There are more felines to come, plus a few odds and ends. I can't wait to see what will come next.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Maggie gets Stomped, Gored, and Finally Eaten

Okay, the really dangerous animals are coming later. Maggie labels this skink as a Blue-tailed Skink. It may be, I would'nt know, but many species of skinks sport blue tails. Typically the really young skinks have neon blue tails that fade as the lizard ages. Many older adults lack any trace of blue on their tails. Some whiptails and other lizards also have bright blue tails.
Another species of skink. I believe that this is called a Rainbow Skink. Instead of a blue tail, this species has an orange tail.
Africa is home to an unusual group of beetles, the infamous dung beetles. This is a great photo of the beetle rolling along, don't you think?
Some locals came to visit Maggie in her bungalow. These Vervet Monkeys are obviously comfortable around people.
Some very elegant, Impala. They are extremely abundant in the protected areas of South Africa.
Two male Impala do a bit of jousting.
I love the warm light and dramatic patterns of this Zebra photo. 
Very impressive animals. These are male, Nyala. Females are very different, and also very beautiful. They are large antelopes.
The quintessential African scene. A Giraffe at sunrise. Way cool!
Wahlberg's Eagles are fairly common in SA. They tend to hunt smaller prey items than larger eagles.
See how big this Black Rhino is in comparison to the truck. Black Rhinos are generally more belligerent than White Rhinos. This one lived up to it's reputation.
Maggie shot this photo moments before the rhino charged.
More horns, tusks, claws, and teeth to come.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

More of Maggie's African Birds

Africa is THE place to see great raptors. There are many different species of eagles, like this Long-crested Eagle in the photo above. Maggie got to see some some really good species; one that made me jealous, African Crowned Eagle.
Although this Little Bee-eater is the least colorful of the South African bee-eaters; it is my personal favorite of Maggie's bird photos.
European Bee-eaters are a species that has to be seen to be believed. Too bad this bird was in harsh light against a busy background. Still a beautiful sight.
Red-billed Hornbills are South Africa's smallest species of hornbill. They are generally not shy. This is another well composed photograph.
From South Africa's smallest hornbill to it's largest; Southern Ground Hornbill. Maggie says that they were nesting in this tree.
Mousebirds are one of the most delightful bird families to observe in my opinion. These Red-faced Mousebirds are far less abundant than Speckled Mousebirds. 
Although they don't have white faces, this is a family of White-faced Whistling Ducks. The parents appear to be very protective of their young. They should be; there are many, many predators that would love to feast upon the young. feast upon the parents too, for that matter.
Even a peaceful fisherman like this Yellow-billed Stork would not hesitate to snatch a baby duck, given half a chance.
Not too colorful, but elegant nevertheless. This is the famous, Grey Go-away Bird. They do tell you to go away, but I'm not sure that they really mean it. They often hang out near human habitation.
Another elegant bird, the Violet-backed Starling; also called, Plum-colored Starling. This is the male. Females are completely different, and strikingly marked with a green back, and heavy black streaks on their immaculate white breast.
 I'll post more photos from Maggie's trip when she sends me more photos, (hint, hint Maggie). In the meantime, Gary and Tom still have a few days left before their South Africa trip ends. Who knows how long it will be before they send me photos of their trip. They got charged by angry elephants three times.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Maggie Returns From Africa

Maggie, Tom, and Gary went to South Africa at the same time. The fact is that Maggie has never met Tom or Gary, and they went to to different parts of the country. I think that Tom and Gary are still there as I write this post. 
Tom, Gary, and Gary's brother Doug rented a car and have been visiting national parks like Kruger etc. Maggie on the other hand has been visiting game reserves like Phindi. I'm guessing that her lodging was more luxerious, and her game drives more structured than Gary & company. All I know is that she saw some amazing wildlife, including several things that really made me envious. She got good photos of this Black-chested Snake Eagle above.
And this great shot of what is usually a shy skulker, African Rail. They normally stay in thick, riparian vegetation.
Swainson's Francolins are basically the most common of the many species of South African Francolins, (grouse-like birds).
African Scops Owls are the equivalent of North American Screech Owls. Scops, and screech, are different names for the same mega-family of birds, although they tend to be placed into either Otus, or Megascops. There are other taxonomic names for oddball members of the same large family of small owls.
Everyone loves to see Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, especially when they are in prime breeding colors. These birds are a little past their breeding time. Incredibly colorful, nevertheless.
Helmeted Guineafowl have been widely domesticated. However, I have never seen a domestic version of this wild, Crested Guineafowl. They have really cool voices.
For some reason, Old World vulture populations have been plummeting. It is no longer so easy to see large numbers of vultures, like this White-backed Vulture. I guess that the world is changing too fast for these pre-historic relics to keep up.
Another pre-historic looking bird, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills are generally more common than vultures in much of South Africa.
Maggie captured this photo of a European Roller that in turn, just captured a large centipede. I posted a nearly identical photo of the same thing from my own trip to South Africa.
As you may have noticed, all of these photos are African birds. There are still more birds to come, as well as mammals and other stuff. I'll end this post with Maggie's shot of the incredible, Lilac-breasted Roller.