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it's a good day when an owl tries to scoot by you on the left

2007-11-09 - 7:32 p.m.

I just climbed up the hill to the picnic area of the hostel to get a view of the sunset, and a raptor came sliding right past me. It was so close to me in this suburban garden that I thought, Black Kite? even though all common sense and the indignant splutter of the local small birds told me that it couldn't be. So I drifted down the stone path in the falling darkness and found myself face to face with a most impressive Spotted Eagle Owl. It flew to several perches around the garden, where it was duly harassed by a smaller bird or two, and then it just as silently glided away. Wow. I don't know the last time I found an owl that close without the help of a guide that wasn't a Barred Owl.

It made a beautiful silhouette with those terrific "horns," but I really wanted to photograph it with a flash. I was close enough but the flash button wouldn't work. Later, I went back into the light and fixed it, but I can't say I like the durability of this camera body. I like the pictures it takes, but it seems flimsy somehow. I bet Roger knows what I mean.

Perhaps I just wasn't meant to photograph the owl, just to enjoy it.

Here's my South Africa bird list:

  1. Southern Masked Weaver (and the nests to prove it)
  2. Common (Indian) Mynah -- very very very common here
  3. Cape White Eye
  4. Dark Capped (Blackeye) Bulbul
  5. Common Fiscal (Fiscal Shrike) -- hilarious to see this heavily beaked bird manhandling...a French fry
  6. Cape Sparrow
  7. Cape Glossy Starling
  8. Cape Robin-Chat
  9. Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon (hey, it had to happen)
  10. Southern Red Bishop -- the males are spectacular in the sunlight
  11. Black Shouldered Kite
  12. Speckled Mousebird
  13. Spotted Eagle Owl

I thought I heard the Hadadas Ibis but I didn't see it. Another lady saw an ibis with "something on its wing" so I suppose I'm right even though I haven't heard the call since Kenya. But I'm not counting it if it won't show itself.

My flights to South Africa went smoothly. At New Orleans I whisked my international WBC ticket and got free entrance to the DL club room, where I had coffee and breakfast. A short CO flight to Houston. A stop in the President's Club North, until the actual KLM club room opened. Finally my luxurious WBC flight IAH-AMS. I felt a little weird because I was the only woman in WBC on that flight, but they still served the pre-boarding champagne, and I didn't hear all these hard-working businessmen turning it down either.

The bed did not lie down 180 degrees. It went down 176 degrees. And it's true what they say -- you do tend to slowly, slowly slide off. But I still got much more sleep than I would have gotten in sardine class.

Two hour connection at AMS and I actually had time to mill around. More pre-boarding champagne, more chardonnay. To get on a daytime schedule, I only took an afternoon nap after lunch and then watched a movie, Disturbia, which was pretty good for an airplane movie, although the most horrifying scene was, I think, the first, when the kid crashes the car and his father is killed.

I was exhausted when I landed at JNB, and in no mood for the 20 minutes or so that it took to get some dollars changed into rands. I mean, what's that about? Fortunately, I had a driver to meet me and take me to the hostel, so there was no wondering about cabs and who to trust in Johannesburg on a dark night.

I slept late in the morning and did end up on the Soweto tour, which was the tour that they were running in the afternoon, so there it was. I guess a little history won't kill me. And it was interesting to get out and see some sights. On the famous street of the two Nobel Prize winners (Tutu actually still lives there) we ordered beers at an open air cafe. The other three people on the tour broke down and got something to eat after seeing the guide's lunch, but I have no appetite after flying and contented myself with the beer and the beauty of the male Red Bishops perched on a high branch.

I do not want to carry any unnecessary liquids on my next flight, so I have figured out how to open my cute little Delft houses (one each from each KLM WBC flight) and pour out the gin. Which I'm now drinking.

Onward to Madagascar. No telling when I'll be able to post again.

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