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Zambezi Voyager Carmines

Zambezi Voyager: Yellow-billed Kites attack Carmines

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News from Brendon:

The beautiful sunrise greeted us already on the water and at a Carmine Colony site that we have not visited before.

                       Wim van den Heever ZK-006

This is a new colony, still being established and the conflicts are at fever pitch as the birds vie to establish nesting areas and struggle to win a suitable patch of the bank. Properties are snapped up and lost continuously and it is difficult to determine which birds have managed to secure their small nesting area.

Because of the competition for an ideal space for nesting the disputes were far more numerous than any we had witnessed before. 

We noticed that some birds would actually attack the nest of others, even scooping out any eggs within that nest. Whenever this happened, the ever vigilant Yellow-billed Kites swooped in to grab the eggs.

The Kites kept a close eye on the clashes, and from time to time they appeared as if from nowhere and if a Carmine dropped its guard for a moment it ended up in the talons of the incredibly fast raptor.

The wind picked up over the river as the day progressed and as conditions were not all that comfortable we returned to the houseboat for photography tutorials.

As we set out again this afternoon we almost immediately spotted two juvenile Fish Eagles. They were unconcerned by our presence and allowed us close enough for some fabulous photography.

There was a surprise for us when we stopped to photograph the White-fronted Bee-eaters. First of all the Bee-eaters were very active again, catching insects, flying back to their nests to feed their chicks, and bathing in the river.

We were photographing this activity when we noticed a White-backed Night Heron very close by. We approached cautiously and were gratified when it ignored our presence and we were able to get some really good shots of this normally shy, retiring bird.

Back at the Carmine colony we decided to leave our small boat and sit right on the river bank to get some new perspectives on the duelling, sparring, active birds.

                             Wim van den Heever ZK-007

And the glorious sunset provided a suitable backdrop for the last evening of this spectacular safari.

Tomorrow morning we will travel down the river for four hours as we head toward Kasane where our magical journey ends and we return home with a collection of wonderfully enviable memories and images …

Zambezi Voyager: A Kaleidoscope of Carmines

By Zambezi Voyager Carmines No Comments

News from Brendon:

Another beautiful sunny day with a cool breeze to keep the temperature close to ideal gave us a spectacular day out on the river.

We arrived at the main Carmine colony before sunrise so that we could be in place to photograph the Carmines against the dramatic rising sun. We all managed dozens of images of the beautiful birds silhouetted against the sun and the colourful sky, and our flashes were kept really busy as the birds emerged from their burrows.

Once again tremendous disputes broke out and the mid-air aerobatics, squabbles and chases kept us focussed for hours. 

Then suddenly a Yellow-billed Kite swooped out of the sky …

                                                           Wim van den Heever ZK-012

… and grabbed one of the fighting Carmines, and within seconds was flying away with his prize in his talons. More fabulous images!

We traveled upstream for about 100 meters to a second Carmine colony where similar aerial displays were in evidence. Biting each other’s tails, pinning opponents to the ground, and magnificent chases through the air again gave us photographic opportunities in any direction we chose to point our cameras.

                         Wim van den Heever ZK-010

Before returning to the Zambezi Voyager for brunch we decided to reconnoiter a little further upstream. And as everyone is a very keen bird watcher we were delighted to see a number of species including Skimmers, Jacanas, Fish Eagles, plentiful Openbill Storks, Plovers feeding their chicks … and a Godwit.

On the way to the Carmine colony this afternoon we again stopped at the White-fronted Bee-eaters. They were very active again, creating wonderful photo opps for us, and when we saw chicks being fed we knew that we could not ask for more.

We found another White-fronted Bee-eater colony also busily catching insects above the water, and stopped again to enjoy the spectacle.

By the time we reached the Carmine colony a golden light suffused the area. Many of the Carmines fly away during the day to catch insects elsewhere, but they all return to the nesting colony as evening approaches. 

As the birds return and the bird density increases, tensions build up and the squabbling, fighting, chasing, biting, flying higher and higher, tumbling and pinning opponents to the ground reaches a fever pitch. For spectators the sight is quite amazing. Vibrant colours and whirling birds create a kaleidoscope of ever changing patterns … and excitement.

The stars above the boat tonight are brilliant, and with the peace and quiet all around we cannot help but wish that this moment will last and last …


Zambezi Voyager: Thousands of Colourful Carmines

By Zambezi Voyager Carmines No Comments

News from Brendon:

We were on the water as dawn broke, heading straight to the largest Carmine Colony.

And what a fabulous morning we spent with them as they swooped around, challenged each other in amazing aerial tussles with either beaks or claws locked as they tumbled around the sky defying gravity with their spectacular displays.

                                 Wim van den Heever ZK-009

And the altercations were not limited to sky combats. As many disputes occurred along the banks of the river.

All in all we hardly knew what to choose next to photograph. To add to this, the thousands of beautiful birds were totally unfazed by our presence and interactions and fly-passes came within a meter of our cameras. There was much switching of lenses from 600mm to wide-angled and back again as we determined to capture every conceivable type of glorious image.

         Wim van den Heever ZK-003

We took a short break from the Carmines to visit the African Skimmers. There are two nesting areas and the Skimmers were flying around, but not skimming as we watched. Then we spotted an indentation in the bank and when we went closer to investigate we were surprised to find three eggs. This is fairly late in the season, and we are hoping to see hatchlings before we leave.

A visit to the White-fronted Bee-eaters on the way back to the Zambezi Voyager found them out catching bugs and returning with these to their holes in the side of the river bank. We sat patiently with our cameras ready to capture images as the birds emerged from the nesting holes.

This afternoon we opted to return to the Carmine colony again. We passed the White-fronted Bee-eaters on the way. There were more birds than ever, flying all around, catching bugs and dipping into the water to bathe. Then lovely action shots as they vigorously shook the water droplets from their feathers.

And of course the remainder of the afternoon with the Carmines was quite magical. They were so close, so colourful, so active and so beautiful.

Then once again as the sun dipped toward the horizon, a cluster of fires, together with the sunset hues, created the most vibrant and colourful backdrop for the birds and we took full advantage of the incredible scene.

The Carmines are so breathtaking that we plan to spend much of tomorrow in that area again …