Monday, March 31, 2014

Last weekend of March 2014

It's unbelievable that today is the last day of the THIRD month this year already. How time flies when you're having fun!

On Friday evening,  Wessel arrived to help me with my laptop which had become very, very slow. Apparently he removed the updates and installed an antivirus in the place of the one I've had been using. This last one had been stalling my computer because I wouldn't sign up for the expensive new version. 

While he worked on  my computer, he asked if I had many photos. Er, I had zillions. He suggested I remove them as they take up hard drive space on your computer.  So on Saturday I moved every photo and file - that I've added since January 2011 until the end of February 2014 when I bought my new Canon - to my external hard drive. 

On Saturday morning Grant and I went out on our birding trip around the mine and into the bush. The weather was overcast and Grant warned me not to expect too much. 


On Wednesday I will post about the "not too much" that we saw on this specific morning. We even saw a lifer!
Overcast skies over our town and the surrounding bush this weekend

It rained very hard on Saturday afternoon. The sun appeared again at about 5pm and as usual we went to the club to watch the rugby with the other expats. 

Sunday morning dawned sunny and clear and I'd hardly swallowed my oats porridge when Grant arrived to collect me for our birding excursion.

From the get-go we spotted birds: just before the boom gate; on the mine haul road; on the airstrip; and of course at the explosives magazine and in the bush beyond. 

When I downloaded the photos onto my computer afterwards, I thought that was it for a weekend's birding. 

Not at all...

At 3pm the heavens opened up and the rain came down in buckets. It thundered and lightning flashed and still the rain came down. The power dipped and grew brighter. A few minuted later it dipped and went off completely!  

The rain stopped and a weak sunshine appeared over the bush. We waited for the lights to come and I watched as my DH's glaze become fixed on the now black television screen, (he'd been watching the replay of Formula 1!)   I collected my birding bag and picked up my camera from my desk;  Grant's face lit up and within minutes we were on the mine and driving towards the bush.

The air was fresh and the bush and trees were sparklingly clean! We didn't see many birds around although we could hear them making a great deal of noise in the bush beside the road. We eventually saw a number of birds and of course, stopped so that I could photograph them! 
 The mine haul road after the heavy rains on Sunday with the sun setting in the distance

So all in all we managed to fit in some really good birding and also had a relaxing and refreshing time meandering through the African bush.

I wish you all a wonderful week ahead.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Shadow, Ginger and Ambrose

Hi Bozo, Lindy and mum's blog readers. It's Ambrose here and once again I have mum's computer to myself. Mum took photos of we three kitties last week and while she snapped away, she kept saying to dad that she cannot believe that Unca Shadow and Dad Ginger are sleeping together on the sofa!

She was so amazed that she took a photo of me with my eyes hidden behind the steel bars! 

Dad Ginger and Unca Shadow, with me, Ambrose hidden behind the bars!

For more cute posts about pets around the world, please click here

Shadow[y] and Ginger Shadows

For more Shadow Shot Sunday posts, please click here

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Business Reflections a la Africa

Pedal Power Taxi
Throttle Taxi
And always, building in progress ! 

For more reflections around the world, please click here

Saturday Critters' Party with Eileen

Last week I spotted Ambrose dive for the round openings (covered with wire mesh on the outside) which makes up two walls of the veranda. Following him, I noticed a very small lizard - but fortunately for the lizard - on the outside of the house.

I spent the next ten minutes bent almost double and taking photos of this dapper little lad. Grant thought it was a young Agama Lizard.
Young Agama Lizard
I just love the large feet on this little lizard

While wandering around my garden, I photographed a bird's nest, which I think has been used and abandoned already.
Birds' Nest in an orange tree in my garden

I'm linking my post to Eileen's Saturday Critter's Party which you can visit by clicking here

Here's wishing you all a wonderful weekend ahead.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sunset over the mine

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Happy Birthday Eryn and Bethany!

On 27th March, 2003, Eryn Elizabeth Hedges arrived and turned me and Grant into grandparents. What a beautiful baby she was; what a beautiful and clever toddler she was and what a stunningly beautiful, soft-spoken and intelligent young girl she has become today!

On 27th March, 2009, Eryn and Joshua were staying with gran while their mum and dad went to the hospital in Bethlehem. Their baby sister was due to arrive that day and as Eryn celebrated her 6th birthday at the Pre-primary School in Marquard, little Bethany Grace Hedges made her welcome appearance in the world.

Bethany is the cutest and prettiest little girl in the whole world. Typical of the third child in a family, Bethany has an answer for almost everything and now as the older sister of her two younger brothers, Bethany can hold a conversation (and win any argument)  with an of her siblings or any one of us adults. 
Eryn, our first grandchild, a granddaughter, is eleven years old today
Bethany, five years old today and as cute as a button

The last time we saw Debbie and the children was at the end of January this year. We're looking forward to seeing them again when we go out on leave to South Africa again in April. 

 Granddad with his pride and joy: Joshua (almost seven); Elijah (almost three); Eryn (11 today) holding Israel (almost two) and Bethany (five today)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Weekend Birding Mwadui

As promised earlier this week, I'm putting up the birds we saw this weekend. Although there were no lifers, I managed to get a really clear photo for the first time of a cuckoo that's been eluding me for months here in Mwadui. 

We saw several sunbirds (different ones co-existing and flitting between the Wild Dagga blooms together) and I photographed a pair of LBJ's but these are all pending the kind identification by birder friend, Jez who hasn't sent replies yet.

Meanwhile, I asked Grant to stop just into the bush where we saw a Little Bee-Eater. Although I have posted about this bird before today, I was just so thrilled at the clear photo I'd taken that I wanted to post it  here.
Little Bee - Eater

Another common bird which we come across regularly on our bird outings, is the Fork-tailed Drongo. Last week I focused on one sitting on a branch with its characteristic feature, a forked tail, beautifully displayed.
Fork-tailed Drongo

Although I've posted about this cuckoo before here as well, this day, I zoomed in on one sitting quite a fair distance away on the top of a tree.

 Diderick Cuckoo

We spotted a largish bird on the top of a tree, also quite a fair distance from the road. Thinking it might be a raptor (they have the habit of being F A R away when you want to photograph them) I zoomed in and saw that it was a Red-eyed Dove. I took the photo but when I downloaded it, I was thrilled to see that I had captured it in full cry. 

A Red-eyed Dove with its pouting breast which shows that it is calling

When I bought my new camera in South Africa in January, it came with a Canon rechargeable battery. The retailer didn't have stock of genuine batteries and as I don't like to use generic parts in my camera, I didn't buy a spare. We'd already turned around to come home, when I noticed the red warning light for the battery beginning to flicker on my LED screen. I turned the camera off quickly and quipped that I hoped I would not see a "special" on the way home. 

As we rode along the haul road, Grant's phone rang and he stopped to answer it. As I always do when he is busy with office business, I wound down the window and stared into the bush nearby. While doing this,  I noticed a largish black-and-white bird sitting in a shrub. We have many crows here, but because they're often seen on tree tops or on power lines, I gingerly turned on my camera and zoomed in on the subject.  I was greatly excited to see that I was focusing on a cuckoo that I'd been trying to photograph this whole summer in Tanzania. Every time I did, the bird was too far away and the images were fuzzy. Today I snapped away quickly, praying that my battery would hold out just for me to get these images. Fortunately it did and I got them.


 Jacobin Cuckoo

So this was technically a lifer which I'd seen before but not managed to record! 

For more beautiful bird posts around the world, please click here

I hope you're all having a wonderful week.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sad World News

It was a very sad evening last night when Grant and I watched SkyNews Breaking News. The Malaysian Airline, MH370, which has been missing for more than two weeks has, according to new satellite data, crashed in a remote area in the South Indian Ocean. There is doubt of any survivors. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all the passengers aboard this flight.

Back here in Mwadui, I wrote about our Sunday outing to nearby Shinyanga on Sunday. While the men waited at the Butiama, our driver, William took me around town where I did a little shopping. We also stopped at Amazing Grace shop which sells household appliances and many kitchen items such as crockery, cutlery, plasticware, ornaments, bathroom and kitchen linen and much more. 

It's also at this shop where I adopted a cat in April 2012. I named the cat Joy.  I've been taking (or sending with Chef Paulo) canned food and kitty kibbles once a week for the past two years and will continue to do this for as long as we live in Mwadui. Grant and I also arranged for our vet from Mwanza to administer the necessary annual inoculations and of course, my kind husband foots the bill. 

Sunday I was thrilled to see that Joy, who only lives indoors, never venturing out, looking very healthy. Of course, she always hears my voice as I greet the proprietor, Jackson and his staff at the front of the shop. Joy comes running from the back of the shop and rubs against my ankles until I walk to the back to feed her. On Sunday I added a worm tablet to her food so she'll be fine for another while. 

The funniest thing is that because I always refer to Amazing Grace as the Paka Shop, every expat and every driver calls this shop by that name! 
   Joy looks up and meows as I call her for a photo
 Joy digs in and unknowingly ingests the deworming meds I  mixed into her food
 Jackson, prorietor of the Paka Shop (aka Amazing Grace) poses proudly with his daughter who has just joined his company

I always leave extra cat food and kibbles which last for the week until Paulo or I return.

I'm linking my post to Our World Tuesday which you can access by clicking here

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weekend 22 23 March 2014

As usual on Saturday morning we went out for an hour's birding. More about this late this week.

On Saturday night we watched rugby at the club with the other South Africans. It was the Vodacom Super Rugby with the South African Lions versus the Queensland Reds. After a nail biting and exciting second half, the Lions managed to beat the Reds 23 - 20.

On Sunday morning Grant and I popped out for a quick birding trip. At 11 we collected Steve, the British workshop foreman and drove to Shinyanga. We were going out to Butiama Hotel for delicious Indian bitings.
Grant, Steve and Minas, owner of Butiama Hotel

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Shadows and Reflections in Africa

Bird Feeder Shadows

Entering Shadows

Opening to Shadows

I'm linking the above photos to Shadow Shot Sunday which you can visit by clicking here

Reflections of a fisherman

Please visit this beautiful post of Weekend Reflections by clicking here

I hope you're all having a really wonderful Sunday. We're off to have Indian Bitings/Snacks at Butiama Hotel in Shinyanga. Always a great outing and a treat to boot!

It's hot and guess...

... what the Hedges Kitties have been doing this week?

 I, Ambrose, guest blogger of our mum's blog every Sunday! 

My dad, Ginger who has his own chair next to mum's desk!
Unca Shadow, who can be very innocent while resting with our yoomen dad

Hi Bozo, Lindy and all mum's blog readers. It has been a very warm week and we kitties have done what cats do best.

For more cute pet posts around the world, please click here

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wild at night in the bush!

On Monday 10th March, Grant and I went on a night drive for the first time again this year. It was great and although we didn't see a great deal of animals or night birds, we saw enough. 

With a new camera whose settings I still haven't mastered 100%, I struggled to get clear photos of the night jars. Of course, we also struggled to identify these nocturnal aerial feeders once I'd downloaded the photos onto my computer. 

The first birds we came across were a pair of Three-banded (Heuglin's) coursers.
Three-Banded (Heuglin's) Courser, our first birds spotted on our first night drive this year! 

As we rounded the explosives magazine, the first night jar flew up in front of the vehicle. Grant crept along slowly and soon our headlights picked up a huddle in the road ahead. He shone the large torch we use, and I managed several photos. 
 Square-tailed (Mozambique) Night Jar
 Riding through the African bush at night, on the lookout for night birds and other creatures: nothing to beat it! 

In the grass running alongside the road, I spotted a pair of red eyes. Grant stopped and shone his torch while I focused and clicked away. We took a few photos and then left this soft-looking little guy in peace! 
African Hare

Last year, at the edge of this haul road,  we'd followed the progress of a family of Spotted Thick-knee: Mom, Dad and youngster. We were interested to see if we'd see Thick-knee here again this night.
The haul road lit by the vehicle's headlights

But although we saw birds crouching in the sand ahead, by the time we got nearer, they flew up into the dark sky. Then just around the corner on the bush road, Grant stopped when I pointed to eyes in the grass. 
Spotted Thick-knee

And I was thrilled when I saw (don't want to say "spotted" LOL) a second Spotted Thick-knee much further up on a bushy bank and managed to get these clear images of it! 

I'm linking to Eileen's Saturday Critter's Party which you can access by clicking here

I hope you're all having a great Saturday.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Full Worm Moon

March is the month of the Full Worm Moon. 

The Full Worm Moon was given its name by the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior.

At the time of this spring moon, (this is in the Northern Hemisphere) the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. In some regions, this is also known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins.

Here in East Africa, full moon in March occurred on the of 16th March.  As we left the fishing spot on Sunday evening, my DH drove slowly, stopping at various strategic points so that I could capture this beautiful phenomena.
The full moon over the haul road as we left the mine

 The full moon over the town inside the boom gate

Full moon over the Guest House opposite our house

 Full moon over our house

 Full moon through the fence around our house

Full moon 

For more sky posts, please click here
And as the Full Worm Moon is also known as the Spring Moon, yesterday, 20th March was the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. I with my thin African blood cannot imagine what it's like to endure a long and harsh winter such as you have in parts of North America. So in solidarity with my friend, Lori from the State of Western New York, I have also posted a flower/bloom a day until such time that the snow melts in her area and the warm weather arrives. 

During the year we spent in Kenya, living in a remote valley within the Great Rift Valley, I completely changed my garden from exotic to indigenous. (When I looked around, all the gardeners in our lane had followed suit and changed their Mzungus gardens to user-friendly, maintenance free gardening!) 

Nevertheless, I deviated in one area, and that was to resurrect the old rose garden under our bedroom window. (I later discovered dhalias coming up in between my African plants at the side entrance to our house, but that's another story!)

So today I'm posting a photo of the rose garden and also a close-up of one of the many blooms which rewarded me and my loyal gardener, Stanley with its beauty.
 The resurrected rose garden in front of our house in Kenya

A close-up of one of the many blooms in that rose garden



Thursday, March 20, 2014


Today I'm dedicating my post solely to my bloom which I show here in solidarity with Lori from Western New York State. They've experienced a very severe winter this year (as have many countries in the Northern Hemisphere) and Lori is posting blooms every day until the snow melts and spring arrives. I decided to join her!
 Hollyhock bloom (an exotic plant)  in my South African garden

Hollyhocks, known as Alcia, is a genus of about 60 species of flowering plants in the mallow family Malvacea.  They are native to Asia and Europe. Hollyhocks are annual, biennial, or perennial plants usually taking an erect, un-branched form. Growing in my Marquard garden, I have found these plants to be most rewarding and very forgiving of harsh, dry summers and windy conditions. I just love the way the sun shines through the delicate blooms in the photo above and hope this image helps to hurry on the warmer weather in the States. 

Thanks to everyone for their lovely comments on my bird posts. Grant and I  have been in Mwanza for our three-month check-up with the dentist so I haven't had an opportunity to visit many blogs. I'll get back to Blog-hopping again from today.

I hope you're all having a wonderful week.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Four lifers and many re-visits!

As normal we went out on Saturday morning for our hour's birding into the bush. From the minute we left town via the boom gate, I had my camera ready. And we weren't disappointed.

The first birds we came across were Black-winged Bishops. These birds are in full breeding plumage at the moment and I often manage to capture a male displaying.
Black-winged (Fire-crowned) Bishop displaying

Driving along the bush road, I managed to capture an LBJ sitting quietly on a bush nearby. When we sent it to Jez for identification, he said it could be a Parasitic Weaver (Cuckoo Finch) or a female Bishop. If this was the latter, then perhaps it succumbed to the beautiful displaying of the male above. I like to think so...
Not sure if this is a Parasitic Weaver or a female Bishop! 

As we slowly approached explosives magazine, Grant slammed on brakes. He pointed to a bird on the road directly in front of our vehicle. I opened the door, stood on the running board and snapped away.
Namaqua Dove (Female)

Looking to my left, I noticed a slight movement in between the grass polls. And there was the male!
Namaqua Dove (male)

When I got back into the vehicle, Grant pointed to something in a tree ahead. We drove closer and I zoomed in. While I was snapping away, I thought I was photographing a kestrel. However, once I'd downloaded my photos, Grant identified these as Red-necked Falcon. 
 Red-necked Falcon - a lifer for us! 

Although we drove through to the big dam, and I managed to photograph many more birds, they're all what I've posted about in the past weeks. 

And then our Saturday hour of birding was up and we returned to town. 

On Sunday morning Grant went off to the office after arranging to collect me at 9 as usual. I had hardly swallowed my oats porridge, when he arrived at about 8.20. He said he knew he was early but he'd seen what he thought was a juvenile African Fish Eagle in a tree near the sewage works (where the men fish on Sundays). I grabbed my basket  containing our binoculars and a few facial tissues, picked up my camera bag and jumped into the vehicle. 

As we approached the tree where Grant had seen the bird, it wasn't there. Just then I saw a bird strutting away from us on the haul road. Along with a couple of Yellow-billed Kites, it was pecking at insects on the ground. This made us think that a Fish Eagle wouldn't be displaying this type of behavior. 

Meanwhile I snapped away...

When we downloaded the photos later on, I identified our raptor as a Palm-Nut Vulture! 
Palm-nut Vulture - another lifer for us! 

We drove along the airstrip and soon we turned onto a side mining road. As we approached the explosives magazine, Grant slowed down. This area contains the small dam which has recently been utterly devoid of the  water birds, Malachite kingfishers and duck we saw here last year. As Grant stopped he spotted a bird on the water. It was a Little Grebe, (Dabchick) which I quickly snapped, just for posterity! Regular readers of this blog may remember how we watched a pair of Dabchicks on a nest and later with their young on this self-same dam! 
 Little Grebe (Dabchick) - the first one spotted this year! 

As we left the mine behind us and entered the bush, Grant's phone rang. He stopped and answered it.  In the corner of my eye, I spotted a small dark bird with a long tail fly across the road. It landed on a bush in the near distance. I jumped out of the vehicle and walking through the grass managed to zoom in on the bird. Even on my small camera screen, I could see that I was photographing a bird that I'd been hoping to see since my friend, Sue showed me one she'd snapped in a Kenyan Game Reserve!
 Eastern Paradise Whydah - a lifer for us!
Eastern-Paradise Whydah is a brood parasite and uses the next bird's nest in which to lay its eggs!
Green-winged Pytilia whose nest is parasitized by the Eastern Paradise Whydah

After this exciting sighting, we continued on our way through the bush. Not long and Grant stopped next to a bird sitting quietly in a bush next to the road.  I took several photos and it was only after we'd sent them off to Jez, that we heard what we'd seen.
 Grey-capped Social Weaver - another lifer for us! 

As we drove along, I heard a beautiful song and asked Grant to stop. It was coming from his side of the vehicle again, and sure enough, there was an LBJ sitting in a tree near the road. 
 Rattling Cisticola in full cry 
 The Rattling Cisticola eyes us before launching into song again!

As we drove on, I spotted what looked like a pigeon on the top of a tree quite a distance into the bush. Because I'm not ever going to be blase about a bird again, I asked Grant to stop. I zoomed in and was thrilled when the bird started to call. I could see its throat moving as I checked the focus on my camera screen. 
 Diderick Cuckoo with its descriptive call of Dee-dee-deed-ereek

On the way back towards the mine, I spotted a small bird in a bush on Grant's side of the vehicle again. He stopped and I leaned across him and took photos.  The first time we ever saw this bird, was on the balcony of our apartment in Khartoum. I do have photos of it here in Tanzania, but none as clear as those I took on Sunday.  
 Cut-throat Finch

As we rode onto the haul road where we'd seen the Palm-Nut Vulture earlier, I spotted a Kestrel on the overhead wires. Although I have many of these photos, and have posted about it before, I just couldn't resist showing it again! 
 Lesser Kestrel (female) 

Continuing in protest against the freezing conditions in my friend, Lori's home state, Western New York, I found some beautiful blooms in the bush while we were birding.
Bell-shaped Flowers in the Mwadui bush

To recap on my post on Tuesday where I said that in a house fire I'd save my cats first, then my laptop and hard-drive, I have to say here that after knowing each other for 45 years, Grant and I think and act alike. So where I was, he'd be as well, or just ahead of me (LOL!)  and hopefully in this case, he'd have to front door open and we'd all get out safely! 

I'm linking my post to Wild Bird Wednesday which is kindly hosted by Stewart Monkton of Australia. Do pop onto his blog and see his beautiful bird images here 

I hope you're all having a really great week.