A Photo a Week: Happiness Is…

Happiness is an attitude more than anything else. You can choose happiness, or not…

Happiness is a state of mind, not a destination. - Imgur

…which is why I find happiness in many things!

For Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week challenge, the theme is happiness is… so here are some things that happiness is to me.

Flowers…

…especially the ones I grow myself.

Fresh tomatoes in the summer (again, especially those I grow myself, although these aren’t mine).

Animals, especially cats…

my sweet tortie Hazel

…and my grandcats…

…but also dogs – we have one granddog!

Lydia, our new granddog

…and dogs I see everyday on campus.

One of my dog friends, “Iffi” (short for Iphigenia)

Happiness is animal families, near…

…and far.

Elephant family group, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Cheetah mom & cub, Serengeti, Tanzania

Happiness is traveling to fascinating lands…

Karnak, Egypt

…with my (crazy) husband!

“King” Dale in Abu Simbel, Egypt
In front of the kissing statue, Scharding, Austria

Happiness is our new home!

In back of our house – we now have a small garden here and we love to read and have our meals on our screened porch!

Life Captured: Animal Support

Basil Rene has introduced a new photo challenge called Life Captured Photo Prompt, which debuted last Saturday. Each week there will be a new prompt and the challenge runs from Saturday to Friday of the next week.  This week’s challenge is Giving Support.

Like humans, many animals are social animals. The first one that comes to mind is the elephant. Elephants are highly intelligent and live in extended family groups consisting of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and their offspring. Male elephants stay with the group until old enough to find a mate.

There are many ways elephants give support to each other. Living in groups is one way – they care for one another and mourn when one of their members dies.

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Living in family groups gives elephants the security of supporting each other.

Often there are several generations living together.
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A mother or aunt helps a calf trying to get up as it lies on the bank of a river.
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Other animals stay in groups of siblings until they establish a family unit. This is particularly true with big cats.

A cheetah cub feels secure with its mother. He imitates his mother’s hunting techniques and they engage in play.
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Lions hang out with their same sex siblings until they go off to mate. Meanwhile, brothers or sisters help each other hunt and defend their territory, and often show affection to each other.

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Two young males, probably brothers, hang out together.

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Sisters nuzzle and groom each other.

A female baboon carries her baby on her back.
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Zebras accompany wildebeests on their annual great migration, because the zebras know the way and the wildebeests can smell water. They mutually support each other.
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All photos taken in Tanzania in February 2018.

SYW: Majestic Animals, Potato Chips, Scammers, and a Sun of Gratitude

Monday means Melanie’s Share Your World.
Questions:

In your opinion what animal is the most majestic?
Since I love all animals, it’s hard to pick one. Perhaps the elephant. Elephants are so large, yet gentle. However, they can be formidable foes when threatened. They are intelligent and experience happiness, sadness, grief, joy. The females are excellent mothers.
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What seemingly innocent question makes you think “It’s a trap!”?
A telemarketer that asks a question that invites the answer “yes.” I have heard that some scammers record people saying “yes” on the phone and splice it onto an offer or commitment for something.
Telemarketer ma obowiązek poinformować, że na pokazie odbędzie ...

What weird potato chip flavor that doesn’t exist would you like to try? (NOTE: Potato chips are called ‘crisps’ over the pond in the UK and Europe, I think. Thanks to Sandmanjazz for reminding me we all don’t speak the same English! )
Peppermint chocolate chip.

Gratitude Section (optional)
Share some gratitude with people if you like. Images are certainly appropriate!
I like this one, done in the form of a sun, and I am grateful for most of these things too. (Except Kira – since I don’t know her, I would substitute my own siblings: Julia, Mary and Allen. We have lost our other sister, Alix, which makes me appreciate them even more.)
 Seven Ways to Cultivate Gratitude — Mindsoother Therapy Center

October Squares: Animals of Tanzania

For,  Becky’s October Squares challenge: Squares & Lines, here is a rear view of a zebra in Tanzania…DSC03835 (2).JPG
the lines that ring a genet’s tail,
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lines on a lizard,
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lines that encircle an owl’s face,
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wrinkled lines on elephant trunks and bodies,
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ridge lines on impala horns and black markings on their rears and tails,
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markings and horns of a male gazelle,
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and stripes and fringe on the necks of wildebeest.
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And all these photos are square!

All photos taken in Tanzania in February 2018. Check my archives for more photos and stories of these and other marvelous animals!

 

Serengeti NP: Topis, Kopjes and Hippos, Oh My!

Feb. 12, 2018

Our last day at Serengeti National Park, and our last safari day, was spent looking for kopjes and spotting some new animals. We also spend some time observing hippos.

Once again, we were up at dawn.
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Our first animal of the day joined us during our breakfast – a praying mantis!
2-12 praying mantis-Ang'ata Camp in SerengetiThe tall grass in this area of the Serengeti at times made it difficult at times to spot animals or observe their behavior on our first game drive. We came upon a troop of baboons, and saw this male possibly mating with the baboon underneath him, but she was barely visible so we couldn’t be sure.  He could just be grooming his companion, male or female.
1141We also saw mongoose roaming through the grass. I was lucky to get this shot before they were completely hidden in the grass.SONY DSC
We spotted several species of birds that we had not seen before, including the martial eagle,SONY DSC
a barn swallow,
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and a grey-breasted spurfowl.
SONY DSCIn this area of tall grass, we saw many herbivores, including elephants, DSC04670.JPGbuffalo, DSC04553.JPGostriches, DSC04694.JPG
impalas and species of antelope we hadn’t seen before, including the topi. Topis have a very distinctive coloring, with large gray areas on their thighs and black faces.

Their calves are hard to distinguish from the calves of other species, because they are light brown at birth and when they are very young.1202.JPG
Both males and females have ribbed, gently curved horns.
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Another antelope we saw for the first time was the hartebeest.
SONY DSCDavid (our guide) had told us we were going to find kopjes today – a Dutch word referring to outcrops of rocks scattered over a section of the Serengeti. DSC04695.JPGThese rocky piles constitute a different ecosystem and one can spot different species there, as well as leopards and lizards, that bask on the rocks. Most prevalent is the hyrax, a small mammal that looks something like a guinea pig, but with a more pointed face and that is in fact related to the elephant!  They can be hard to see at first, because they hide between the rock layers and their fur camouflages against the rocks.

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There are two hyraxes in this picture. Can you spot them?

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Even if you don’t spot them right away, you can tell the presence of hyraxes by long white streaks on some of the rocks. Their urine is very acidic and causes these white streaks to form on the rock!SONY DSC
We saw no leopards at the kopjes, but did spot interesting birds hidden among the acacia branches.

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Usambiro barbets

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Long-crested eagle

 

Nearby, a giraffe family was grazing.DSC04682.JPGIn addition, there are some adaptable plant species found growing in the kopjes.

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Candelabra cactus

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Fig tree

We then spent quite a long time observing hippos at a pond where they gather. There must have been 40 or more of them submerged in the water there!

 

A sign informs us about the pool and its inhabitants.
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Which are hippos and which are rocks?SONY DSC
A nearby crocodile co-exists with the hippos – they present no danger to each other.
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Hippos spend as much of their time as possible submerged in water. However, they must go ashore to forage. Notice their feet which seem a little webbed.
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On land, they seem unwieldy and clumsy, but they can be formidable opponents.1169
One hippo was hesitant to go back into the pool, because another hippo was giving him the evil eye.
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When he finally ventured in, the aggressor lunged at him.
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Soon things settled down.
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A baby swam contentedly alongside its mother.
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Meanwhile, a black-headed heron stood vigilant at the water’s edge.
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A family of geese played in the water.
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SONY DSCThroughout this safari, I’ve noticed this is a good time to see animals with their young. On our way back to Ang’ata Camp, we spotted a mother baboon with a baby on her back.SONY DSC
Another baboon came up behind and looked as though it was going to grab the baby off her back! I don’t know why, and our baboon expert was in the other vehicle! The consensus in our vehicle was that it was a playful gesture.SONY DSCThat evening, being our last night in Tanzania, we had a little celebration and the staff surprised us with a special cake, which they brought out – including the chef! – singing! We also played charades (strict rule: NO PHOTOS!) and recited haiku poetry about the animals of Tanzania.

Asante sana, Ang’ata Camp staff!

 

2-12 sunset behind our lodgings at Ang'ata Camp Serengeti
Sunset at Ang’ata Serengeti Safari Camp

 

This is what a hippopotamus sounds like!

 

 

 

 

Day 1 at Serengeti National Park: Awesome Day!

Feb. 11, 2018

Although we’ve been on the Serengeti Plain since we arrived in Ndutu, we were officially in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Today we would enter Serengeti National Park. A song has been going through my head since we got to Tanzania, one that I like from several years ago. The “one hit wonder” band, Toto made no. 1 on the charts with their song Africa. It has this line: “I miss the rains down in Africa.” It also says, “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.” I’m a bit disappointed in the song now because Kilimanjaro DOESN’T rise above the Serengeti. You can’t see the mountain from anywhere in the Serengeti. Have those guys ever even been in Africa?? (On the other hand, maybe if you are on Kilimanjaro, you CAN see the Serengeti, even if the reverse is not the case.)

Today was special, however, for a couple of reasons. First, we had the opportunity to go on a hike with an (armed) guide, just like at Arusha. This walk, however, was shorter and more leisurely. It gave us the opportunity to notice little things, like a giraffe footprint,
1063flowers close up,
2-11 hibiscus flowers-on hike
bones,

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Buffalo skull

birds,

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Lilac breasted roller

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A superb starling staring down at me!

 

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Stork in a tree

SONY DSCand dung beetles busily carrying out the amazing feat of rolling balls of dung much larger than themselves to holes they have dug, where they lay their eggs in them. SONY DSC

We also got to examine weavers’ nests close up.
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We stopped for gas and paperwork shortly after entering the national park. 2-11 entrance to Serengeti NPApparently it’s also a bus stop, because there were a couple of buses there loading and unloading passengers, and there were many local people milling around. 1083

 

 

 

1080There was also a café and well-kept toilets. I headed for the latter, carrying my camera case, which had become like a purse – I used it every day and keep a lot of things in it. There was a slab of cement to create a bit of a ramp for the step up to the sidewalk that led to the bathroom. I don’t know why – I didn’t trip on anything, even my own feet – but suddenly I lost my equilibrium and fell backward onto the cement of the parking lot – on my tailbone! My camera case also hit the ground, but fortunately due to the padding around the camera and the extra lens, there was no damage.

I was mentally checking myself for injuries when finally two people from our group came over and reached out hands to help me up. I stood, with their help, but with difficulty and tremendous pain in my buttocks. I figured there would be a huge bruise but it didn’t seem as though I had any fractures.  They asked me how I was and I lied, saying, “Fine” – I didn’t want anyone else to worry about me. I felt like a klutz and an idiot.

We continued on, along bumpy roads and I was in pain – I’d fallen on my tailbone. I was not about to complain, however, even though I winced at every major jolt and when I stood up or sat down.

However, I wasn’t going to let this spoil the day for me.  I nearly forgot my pain when we spotted animals close to our vehicle.

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Male and female ostriches

 

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Grant’s gazelle

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Male baboon with group of female impalas behind

 

 

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Male impala

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Mongooses

 

But the most special animal that we saw today was the elusive leopard! Actually, we saw two! The safari drivers communicate with each other in Swahili, but also in code. They call a leopard “spots above” (because it’s usually spotted in trees).

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Leopard #1

Not much later, we saw Leopard #2.
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After the people in our vehicle had spent all the time we needed taking photos and looking through binoculars, Elias started the engine again and we went on searching for other wildlife.

Not long after that, Elias got a message over his radio:  “Spots above” (Leopard #2) had come down from the tree! He turned the vehicle around and we went back to the tree where we had first spotted the second leopard. There must have been 10 or more vehicles, including Livingstone’s with the rest of our group, stopped there! Some drivers were rude: One began to honk at another truck and then wormed its way in between two others, obstructing the view of those who’d been there first.

The leopard was sitting at the base of the tree, a little intimidated by so many vehicles around her. We were told that as soon as she came down from the tree, she urinated around it to claim it as her territory. Now she sat looking around and waiting. In spite of so many people watching her, everyone was totally quiet.
SONY DSCFinally she chose her safest path. She got up and started walking toward us, DSC04450.JPGpassing within five feet of our vehicle! SONY DSC
It was quiet enough to hear the sound of camera shutters clicking like at a politician’s press conference. It was amazing how close that leopard was to us – not more than a few feet from where we were leaning out of the top of our Land Cruiser!SONY DSC
In addition, we saw lots of impalas as well as vervet monkeys in a tree. SONY DSCSome of them scampered down the tree trunk to have a look at the impalas. SONY DSC

 

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SONY DSCOne young impala had a tête-a-tête with a monkey perched on a mound of twigs next to a small tree!  When they were practically nose to nose, the monkey jumped up and scampered away, but was soon back again. I think both of them were ready to play together!

In this area of the Serengeti, for the first time since Arusha, there were palm trees scattered here and there. The grass here is tall, good for hiding. We saw herds of elephants (including very small babies),SONY DSC

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an African hare (the first one we’d seen),
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One of the hippos seemed to be giving me the evil eye.
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We watched the hippos for quite awhile, then headed back to our camp, Ang’ata Safari Camp, where we had already checked in earlier. Ang’ata was our last lodgings on the safari.

On the way back, we saw beautiful sunsets and animals in trees silhouetted against the sky.SONY DSC
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Ang’ata was not only our last lodgings, but also the smallest. There was only one other guest there besides us, a Danish man from Copenhagen, and the camp was full!

At dinner, we had a long table (actually, several tables pushed together to make one, including a round table at the end), while at the only other table, set for two, was the Danish man, Lars, and his driver. Our drivers also sat with us at our table. Our group occupied all the tents except two – one for Lars and the other for the drivers, I suppose. We were truly out in the middle of nowhere!

That night, I heard animals passing by our tent. At least one was a hyena – the first sound he made I didn’t recognize and thought was a monkey, but then he made a series of other sounds including the “laughing” sound hyenas make. It creeped me out. I’m not fond of hyenas.

 

 

 

 

 

Tanzania Safari: Out at Sunrise on a Windy, Dusty Day

Feb. 10, 2018

We had an early morning departure on our game drive this morning – 6:30 with no breakfast. We’d take boxed breakfasts to eat during the drive. Because we were up before dawn, we saw a lovely sunrise.1024.JPG

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Vehicle tracks crisscrossing an open area with Lake Ndutu in the distance, as the sun rises.

We were with Livingstone again and only five passengers. Three members of our group had left even earlier to go ballooning over the Serengeti (cost: $616 each!). This morning’s drive was somewhat disappointing. I guess I shouldn’t complain about seeing 2 male lions, …

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This lion didn’t seem to mind the dust stirred up by wind and a vehicle driving by.

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Although Lake Ndutu wasn’t far off, the injured lion decided to stop for a drink at a muddy waterhole.

…several zebras, …

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A group of zebras, consisting of a female with two foals, were standing near the watering hole – they seemed thirsty but didn’t dare approach while the lion was there.

… 4 female lions,

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This lioness satisfied her thirst and then walked over to a field to join her sisters.

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Three lioness sisters

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One of the lionesses rolled over in the grass to scratch her back.

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Aaahhh! That feels good!

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sisterly love

SONY DSC…a cheetah running away in the distance, wildebeest, and several birds.

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Mother zebra (who appears to be pregnant) and her foal

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lovebirds

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Common drango

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Marabou storks

It was quite windy and therefore quite dusty on the roads. David remarked that the weather resembled the dry season. Besides the lions, zebras and wildebeest herds, we saw a gouged out dead zebra (even the vultures had left). SONY DSCThen David received over the radio a report that the balloon trip had been cancelled because it was too windy. We turned back toward the lodge to pick up the three who had returned to the lodge. Only one of the three ended up coming with us, and out we went again.  The wind continued strong, and we kept the windows closed most of the time, although the top was open.

We rendezvoused with the others and had our breakfast in a field free of predators. 2-10 picnic breakfast
A few female elephants with young calves crossed our path.

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The elephants like to stir up the dust. Sometimes they spray dust on themselves, possibly to get rid of insects.

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Foraging elephant calf

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This calf tries to catch up with mama.

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He found her!

Soon I found myself just wanting to return to the lodge. The wind and the dust were too much. Livingstone was driving rather slowly – probably being cautious due to low visibility because of the dust – and it seemed we’d never get back. Was he even on his way back? It was past 11:00.

We got back around noon (we actually got back before Elias’ group) and met up with those who stayed behind in the lounge area, engaged with their electronics. We had lunch at 1:00 pm, during which we had an interesting conversation about haiku, the end of the trip, and American politics. There is not a single Trump supporter in our group. We are all progressive Democrats! Afterwards, we returned to our cabin.

I took a shower, washing off all the dust from my body and my hair. Tonight I’ll wear clean clothes. I decided not to go on the 4:00 pm drive today!

What I did do was finish the drawing I had started the previous afternoon in my Mindful Travel Journal. I sat on the little veranda of our cabin in my purple bathrobe with my colored pencils spilled out on the chair beside me. Dale was off somewhere or taking a nap.Sketch - in front of cabin at Ndutu Safari Lodge

CFFC: Because I’m Happy…

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge theme this week is happy.

This Maasai man is happy he got the fire started.
831 (2)My grand-niece Sylvia is happy eating ice cream!20170708_190555
The baby elephant is happy nursing.
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This mother cheetah and her cub are happy playing.
SONY DSCMy grand-nephew Joshua is happy because he loves his new suit!20171225_183700

Video: HAPPY by Pharrell Williams

 

WPC: Hit the Road!

Feb. 5, 2018 Tarangire National Park, Day 2:

WP Weekly Photo Challenge this week is “I’d Rather Be…” Back in the winter (although admittedly mild) weather in Chicago, I look back on our sojourn to Tanzania with longing, as I do with any trip we take, so I’d Rather Be Traveling.

I’d rather be riding in a bumpy, dusty Land Cruiser…

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Me and Dale in a safari vehicle

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Dale and my cousin Susan (at the door) with one of the vehicles.

and watching creatures great…SONY DSCand small…

2-5 caterpillar of silk moth

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and in between.

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I’d rather watch egrets congregating on the banks of a lake…

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and male impalas grazing.2-5 male impalas
I’d rather be photographing birds, such as this ground hornbill with a snake in its mouth…SONY DSCor this crowned plover looking for bugs next to our vehicle.SONY DSC

I’d rather be spotting animals in the distance, such as a group of oryxes (the only oryxes we saw during our safari)…SONY DSCor a male ostrich….SONY DSC
and a female ostrich.SONY DSCI’d rather be at Tarangire Safari Lodge, watching the sunrise…
20180205_064801or sleeping in our tent cabin.
2-5 Tarangire Safari LodgeSo how soon ’til we hit the road again??!

 

 

Giants of Tarangire

Elephants are fascinating and intelligent animals. We saw many on our safari: in herds, small groups, and alone. They are social animals and usually travel in matriarchal herds, consisting of several females and their offspring of varying ages.
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Male elephants leave the herd when they are adolescents. They are sometimes alone, like this  young bull, or in groups with other young males.
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At maturity, they will find a herd to join. Size matters! The largest male is more likely to be accepted into the herd.
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Elephants enjoy a good mud wallow!
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We see a herd crossing the Tarangire River.
SONY DSCSome stop to drink and spray themselves with water before crossing.SONY DSCOops! A calf seems to have trouble making it up the opposite bank!
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Mom pushes him up the muddy slope.
SONY DSCMaybe he isn’t having trouble – maybe he enjoys lying in the mud next to the river! Meanwhile, he’s causing a traffic jam! Mom’s onto the scheme and tells him to get up! SONY DSC
He still doesn’t get up! Mom pushes harder…
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Finally, “Look, Mom – see? I can get up all by myself!” he seems to be saying with satisfaction!SONY DSC
On the other side of the river, we hear a loud trumpeting sound. A male elephant missing half a tusk has charged one of the other young bulls!SONY DSC
The two tussle.
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The aggressor seems to be in pain! He is finally driven off and he goes off into the forest making loud grunting sounds.
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Later, a more peaceful scene: a young calf suckles from its mother.
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The young do not grow tusks until after their first year.
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All is well in this calf’s life!
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I hope you have enjoyed this “slice of life” of these (mostly) gentle giants of Tarangire!