reflections on a quiet river

A mangrove among raffia palms reflects in the waters of the Moambi River.

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forest sprites

Floating down from high in the canopy on a barely perceptible updraft, Cymothoe beckeri rests on a leaf overhead.

A light mist drifted through the forest, the leaves reflecting the gray sky as if waxed and polished. Far off in the forest, a flock of dwarf hornbills whined and whistled their odd, intertwined melodies, punctuated by chirps and twitters of birds high in the towering trees. No doubt they are alert to my progress.

Aterica galene (left) and Bebearia chilonis dry their wings in the diffuse sunlight of the forest understory.

An opening in the canopy cast a glowing light across the trail ahead. Butterflies are drawn to this light, bouncing through the understory to alight on a glistening leaf, golden wings spread as if offering a feast of color to the heavens. Some never sit still, others attempt to hide in plain sight. Cymothoe, Euphaedra, Aterica, Graphium, names as exotic as their painted wings. I am learning the names of these fleeting forest sprites, hoping maybe they will linger when called. So far, this remains doubtful.

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gorillas of Vera Plaines

A young silverback gorilla with family crosses a forest track, early afternoon.

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skull, Yellow-backed Duiker

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just monkeying around…

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one day in the forest

Elephant feeding along a forest track in the afternoon.

Partly hidden under vegetation, a duiker browses across the forest track.

7:36 in the morning of Sunday, January 18. The forest is quiet, bathed in the soft light of an overcast day. Seventy-one degrees Fahrenheit. It will warm throughout the day until it reaches 77 degrees under a moonless night sky. A duiker of medium build, perhaps a Bay duiker, browses across the overgrown forest track, where a camera trap has been installed. The duiker pauses to look for danger before crossing the trail. As it feeds, its head disappears below stalks of wild ginger and other vegetation crowding the track.

Thirty minutes later, a gorilla family enters the scene. A mother with newborn in the distance, silverback in the foreground, and juvenile, mostly obscured in the undergrowth, arrive at the forest track from the East. They are possibly out for breakfast having left their roost from the previous night. The female pauses, positioning her tiny infant on her forearm after it slides from her back. The silverback glances left toward camera before shifting his attention to the mother with infant on his right.  Looking uncannily human, the female kneels on one leg, resting an elbow on her knee, her right arm cradling her baby. She then boosts the infant to her shoulder under the watchful eye of the silverback before continuing into forest. A second juvenile follows the female, and beyond, another female with infant ambles through the vegetation. The juvenile following the silverback appears to study the camera for a moment before crossing the track. Finally, in the distance, the last female crosses the track continuing into forest. Seven gorillas, their destination left to imagination.

Later, after nightfall, a family of four elephants make their way up the track. The family, possibly two sisters, a baby of a few months, and a juvenile, stop to feed on fallen Ntom fruits in the forest litter. They circle for a quarter of an hour beneath the slender but tall Ntom on the track before wandering off into the night.
The forest is lively here. This is where the giant pouched rat has a den under a fallen tree. Yesterday, Saturday morning, another chimpanzee passed through, and elephants have been coming every day to feed on the forest fruits.
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butterfly collection

It is becoming hard to keep up with all of the butterflies appearing in the forests. I keep finding new ones not seen before, plus butterflies that are becoming old friends. I think I will have to make a poster of favorites soon.

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return visit of the cuckoos

Seems the pair of cuckoos find enjoyment in luring me out into the garden. They are getting bolder. I think it is only a matter of time and I will have them eating caterpillars out of my hand.

Emerald Cuckoo prowling the branches of a Nauclea tree, hunting for caterpillars.

Giving me the eye, a cuckoo sits for a portrait in the garden.

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early morning on Vera Plaine

An early morning fog drifts out of the forests and across the savannas of Vera Plaines.

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a jewel among the leaves

African emerald cuckoo. In the past four years, I have never seen more than a glimpse of this elusive bird, often hearing its melody in the tree canopies. They blend in perfectly with the greens and yellows of leaves. If by chance I spot one, it is in flight from its perch, the metallic blue-green of wings vibrating in the sunlight, contrasting sharply with a deep citron-yellow breast.

And so, it was a rewarding morning when a pair of brilliant males flew into the garden, announcing their arrival with a piercing yodel-like melody. I have heard this before, so I was out of doors in a flash. They stayed in the garden for several hours, sometimes soaring directly above my head, other times leading me to a mimosa bush, or nauclea tree, as though waiting for me to catch up; hopping into view, giving me a look, then off to the next tree. Our gardener found my obsession to photograph them amusing, and when I lost track of the pair, he took pride in searching them out. Without doubt, one of the most enjoyable (and long awaited) photographic experiences I have had here in Yenzi.

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