Birds & Birding, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Wisdom and Beauty

Maun Owl.jpg

Janet Humphrey got this magic pic of a young Giant Eagle Owl and a Paradise Flycatcher in her old garden on the banks of the Tamalakhane river in the suburbs of Maun in Botswana.

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BTW – Owl wisdom? Not so much

owl-brain

Owls are “eyes and ears on wings”. That brain cavity above is about the size of a large peanut. Two-thirds of the owl brain is devoted to sight and hearing. Of the one-third that is left, about 75% of it is devoted to hard-wired instinct and lower functions. That leaves a tiny little sliver for learning which is mostly taken up by remembering good hunting grounds and hunting strategies that work.

Owls are not social creatures like parrots or crows, so they don’t need a lot of cerebral cortex. Think of them as the sharks of the sky. Very good at what they do (hunt, see, hear and reproduce). Mediocre at everything else. (Thanks Mercedes R. Lackey on quora.com).

Geoffey Widdison, also a quoran, asks why we associate owls with intelligence and wisdom and decides “the most likely reason is that they have large depressions around their eyes (which, ironically, are apparently there to direct sound more than to help vision), and that makes them look ‘intelligent and deliberative’ to humans. In other words, not only are we judging by appearance, we’re judging another species on something that has no connection to the quality we attribute to it. (We’re ‘anthropomorphising’).

Which suggests that, while owls aren’t especially bright, neither are we”.

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Here he is a few months later in a neighbour’s garden:

Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Hwange Camp Invasion

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Somalisa interior

Sister-in-law Janet in Maun sent this:

As you know, Duncan is project manager for Beks Ndlovu’s company African Bush Camps. He is currently refurbishing the camp we stayed at in Jan 2010 (Somalisa in SE Hwange). This week Duncan wrote to Beks:

“FYI…Jurassic is causing a nuisance in camp. Broke into the new storeroom to get cabbages and potatoes. Then did the same to the new Acacia kitchen on Monday night. I believe quite a lot of damage and refused to be chased away”.

Beks wrote:
Our project manager who has spent many years in the bush building safari camps sent me a message tonight whilst I was on vacation in Australia.

Jurassic by the way is an elephant that has a seriously warped sense of humor at Somalisa. He eats guests’ soap and toothpaste and refuses to go by our general ground rules . . . He has a mind of his own!

I can’t help but reflect that today we have these encounters with wildlife and here is what I sent back to our projects manager:

“What fun and games… You are amongst very few people in this world that can tell that kind of story?
Do you think your grandchildren might have the same stories in years to come?
Please kindly ask Jurassic to understand we have a new camp to open in less than a week and since he is family he needs to understand FHB ( family holds back)!”
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See Somalisa camp here:
http://www.africanbushcamps.com/camps-safaris/zimbabwe/somalisa-camp/

Africa, Aitch, Birds & Birding, Travel, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Hwow! Hwange is Hwonderful!

One of Aitch’s list of ‘things to do’ once we knew she had cancer, was to visit her twin sis in Botswana. Janet quickly mustered her network and arranged a trip to Hwange, Zimababwe’s world-class national park. Her friends Beks and Sarah Ndlovu of African Bush Camps own a concession and run a very special camp at Somalisa in the eastern area, Linkwasha I think they call it.

Beks calls it his Hemingway-style camp. We called it bliss. Unpretentious tents from the outside, luxury inside.

Hwange, Somalisa Camp

The weather was amazing! Bright sunshine, then huge gathering clouds, then pouring rain and back to sunshine in a few hours. Enough rain to bring out the bullfrogs – the first time I have seen them, not for lack of looking. They were out for their annual month of ribaldry: Bawdy songs, lewd & lascivious pixicephallic behaviour. Also gluttony. Then back underground for 11 months of regrets.

HwangeSomalisa2010 (70) Hwange Cloudburst &  Nightdrive (20) Hwange Cloudburst &  Nightdrive (36)

The rain was spectacular!

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After the rain, sunshine and new spoor on the bush telegraph page-wiped-clean: Aha! The lions have cubs!

There are cubs about . . HwangeSomalisa2010 (40)

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After a good soaking the animals would have to drip-dry. We could get under cover and have hot showers, hot drinks and warm dry clothing.

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Hwange, Somalisa Camp

Hwange has become my favourite of all Africa’s big parks. It is simply fantastic.

Hwange Somalisa Camp

Those sand roads are very special, as were the breakfasts out on the pan.

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Prologue:

I had dashed off an email to Aitch in Feb 2009:

Hi Aitch – As ‘they’ so crudely put it, we need to ‘sh*t or get off the pot’ as far as a decision to get to Okavango (and Beks Ndlovu’s camps) this year. Either soonish (March), or September / October (very hot). We must decide yes or no, and if yes, who could we leave the kids with? Dilemma – K

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So glad we didn’t get off the pot! The kids were fine; We got there in Jan 2010 for Aitch’s last – great, unforgettable – Botswana trip. We’d been once before in 1997.

Africa, Aitch, Family & Kids, Nostalgia

Xmastime Hedge Mail

Jess was 12 and Tom was 8 and even though they would (sort of) believe me when I would say: “Err on the side of spoiling your Mom n Dad, and listening to your Mom n Dad if you want Xmas gifts”, they felt they would hedge their bets and write to Santa as well.

Off they toddled up the road to the PnP centre with their aunt Janet, visiting from Botswana, to post their petitions in the big red letter box.

Jess had given me a copy of hers. It said “Please may I have . . “ before each and every separate request. Extreme politeness was evident.

Tom’s envelope was addressed to Father C. Jess thought it would be better to address hers to Santa C – more formal. Janet had helped with the spelling.

All together now they shoved them through the slot and turned to go.
After two paces, Tom swung round, looked hard at the slot and said sternly:  “Read them, OK?”

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Below an earlier – 2007 – letter:

Jessie Dec2007 Age 10
Africa, Aitch, Family & Kids, Life, Nostalgia

I found Neil!

Every garden should have a resident gnome. Especially if a friend of yours edited the well-known magazine Garden Gnome. Or was that Garden n Home, Lesley?
My gnome lives in a hanging pot on the cottage wall and yesterday morning having breakfast I glanced up and spotted him. Next to him was a packet. One of those paper sacks fancy shops use to put gifts in. String handles and a tag you can write happy birthday on.

Ah, I thought, Annerien has left us a gift as a thank you for staying in the cottage.

Inside was a green box with Mr NWH Humphrey on it. And Oakleigh Funeral Home.

I found Neil!

I had lost his ashes, forgetting I had put them in such a clever place where the gnome could look after him.

Luckily Janet had said she’s not up to it yet, when I suggested she gooi  his ashes where Bella is buried and where we  – well, some of us  –  OK, me –  had put Aitch’s ashes. So I didn’t have to confess at the time that I’d lost Neil. I just mumbled vaguely that I had put him “somewhere, I think in the garage”.

Now he can stay right there in the gnome hanging pot till Janet gets back from Maun and when she’s ready she can go down the special path Tobias cut to the site where, in the middle of me clearing my throat to say “OK, we’re going to put Mom’s ashes here” the kids stomped their feet, slapped their knees, jumped up & down, shouted ANTS! and ran off, leaving me to bury the box on my own.

I found Neil! captions