Although the Masai Mara is all about cats, the real reason we were there was to see two million or so white bearded wildebeest. I kept on losing count when I got to three hundred and fifty, which was when I opened the first Tuskers for the day. So sometimes it was easier to take pictures of birds.
The day after we took abstracts of patterns in dry mud instead of the leopard in the nearby bush, we returned to look for the leopard in earnest at the same spot. The Mara is like the Highveld, but nearer the equator. There are huge plateaus of grassland with rivers gently woven into the fabric. Where the leopard was, it was a particularly beautiful piece of mature Acacia woodland. The woodland lies in a basin below two huge plains filled with long Red Grass. The basin had shorter grass, for it was well grazed, and you could easily imagine bumping into Hemingway sitting below a tree with Pops in canvas chairs, with mosquito boots on, talking about the day over a whisky. It’s just that kind of place.
We found some a pair of Little Bee Eaters playing in the low clear branches of the trees. We were quite close and started taking pictures. They would stay still for a while, then fly off, catch a bee and return. I shot off countless pictures and when I was processing later that day I saw a winner: open beak with a bee the little bird had caught and tossed into the air before biting into it again.
After the meal, the bird moved to another branch and was backlit against the bright morning sun. It started preening itself, allowing the light to filter through its feathers creating beautiful patterns and textures. I took a lot more pictures. Come to think of it, at the end of my trip I had taken eleven thousand pictures with two cameras. But I got a great one against the light of Merops pusillus.The genus Merops is specific to Bee eaters, while pusillus is Latin for “tiny”, which it is.
After this bird shoot we sat with Sand Grouse drinking water in a pan. They were further off, and moved much faster than one expected.
We saw squadrons of eagles and many groups of judicial vultures, roosting in trees or fighting over kills. The most impressive sight was when we were flying in a hot air balloon and saw hyena chase lion off a kill and vultures flew off. The resultant lucky shot was well composed and quite abstract: