I had to scroll through hundreds of Botswana bird photos to identify this white-crested helmetshrike, that I took a picture of long ago. (Googling ‘White bird with orange-ringed eye’ and several other similar attempts, did not do it).
We call a shrike laksman (say ‘la- ks-mon’) in Afrikaans: literally, executioner. The crimson-breasted shrikes in our garden in South Africa would find frogs or big insects, and impale them on the thorns of a bush before devouring them!
White-crested helmetshrike (Prionops plumatus), Tuli Block, Botswana, Jul. 1988.
June 16, 1976, is a day that saw fierce police brutality in South Africa. Several thousand high school students in Johannesburg’s poor township of Soweto demonstrated against the minority South African government. (In 1974, a decree had been issued that had forced all township schools to use Afrikaans and English in a 50–50 mix as languages of instruction).
The march had been peaceful, but then a police convoy arrived. Not long after that, the protestors were fired upon with live ammunition, causing the deaths of several young students. There was more bloodshed the next day. The number of young people who died is usually given as 176, but other estimates put it at hundreds more.
Many white South Africans were outraged at the government’s actions in Soweto. It would be another 14 years before Nelson Mandela would be let out of jail, but at no point after 1976, was the government able to restore the relative peace and social stability of the early 1970s.
South Africa is under national lockdown orders, as is much of the world.
This pride of lions is enjoying the warmth of the quiet tar road just outside of Orpen Rest Camp. These ones are resident on neighboring Kempiana Contractual Park, and wandered over to Kruger National Park.
Pictures were taken by Section Ranger Richard Sowry, and tweeted from Kruger National Park@SANParksKNP.
Here’s a scanned 35mm photo negative, from my newest Google Photos album called ‘1990 Otter Hiking Trail’. (Yes, that’s me in 1990, striking an ‘otter’ pose for the camera. The water from the mountain stream is perfectly fine for drinking. The brown color comes from tannins leaching into the water from tree roots and decaying vegetation).
The Otter Hiking Trail is a five-day hiking trail along the Garden Route coast of South Africa and is named for the Cape clawless otter which occurs in this region.
My bundle of mail held by the post office arrived on Saturday.
One of them was a package of books & magazines I had shipped to myself from South Africa in October. The package was plastered with stamps of fabulous diamonds and ‘big five’ animals.
My friend and I went on a second-hand bookstore treasure hunt on Saturday.
I am looking for a few out-of-print Afrikaans books from my childhood.
It looks like I will have better luck scouring the offerings of local online booksellers – but it is still fun to browse through the shelf inventory of second-hand booksellers!
I caught several beautiful birds on camera while roaming the gardens during my visit at Kirstenbosch.
The most striking ones were sunbirds and sugarbirds.
Sunbirds (family Nectariniidae) are not hummingbirds (family Trochilidae) — even though both have sharp, curved bills and iridescent feathers.
Hummingbirds are native to the Americas and are related to swifts.
Sunbirds are native to Africa, Asia and Australia and are related to swallows.
I spent a little time in the Cape Town branch of the National Library of South Africa today.
I was hunting down some of my favorite childhood books and magazines copies, but it turned out to be harder than I thought it would be.
I had all the information handy, gleaned from their online catalog. The public is not allowed in that section of the library, though – so the librarian had to retrieve the books for me.
Alas, the book I wanted most, could not be found immediately. They will let me know if they have it.
Here is a mousebird that I spotted in a tree across from my second-floor Airbnb apartment.
Per Wikipedia: Mousebirds are slender greyish or brown birds with soft, hairlike body feathers. They are arboreal (live in trees) and scurry through the leaves like rodents, in search of berries, fruit and buds. This habit, and their legs, gave rise to the group’s English name. They have strong claws and reversible outer toes (pamprodactyl feet). They also have crests and stubby bills.
The mousebirds are Coliiformes (their order). They could be considered ‘living fossils’, as the 6 species existing today are merely the survivors of a lineage that was massively more diverse in the early Paleogene period (up to 23 million yrs ago) and Miocene period (up to 5 million years ago).