I posted a gallery of shots of the male Three-fingered Sloth taken at Cope’s home in La Union, Costa Rica a few days ago. This is the female with her child, from our visit the week before. Always something fascinating at Cope’s. Again, the sloth was so close the photos were taken at 120-140mm equivalent (except for the close up of the face, which was at 600mm equivalent). And again, it was very dark under the heavy canopy so these were all taken in Anti-motion Blur mode. Notice how green the fur of the female sloth is…that is, of course, algae growing in the fur. We were close enough to see the moths that feed on the algae. I am calling this a Three-fingered Sloth in line with the new naming convention, instead of the more traditional Three-toed Sloth, since, again, both tree sloths of Central and South America have three toes on each hind foot. Processed in Polarr.
Every visit with Cope, a self-taught artist and naturalist in the small village of Flores near Gaupiles, in the Limon provence of Costa Rica is a rare treat. He knows where the owls and Potoos and bats of the area are roosting, and the little sanctuary he has created around his home is always teaming with an unbelievable number of interesting creatures, from Helmited Iguanas and Wood-rails to many varieties of hummingbirds. This December he had a family of Three-fingered Sloths living in his heavily vegetated yard…a male and a female with a young baby. On the first of my two visits we got to see the female and baby, close enough so we could have touched them, moving along a branch near Cope’s little stream. This sloth has been called “Three-toed” in most references and by most people for years, but there is a movement now to change the common name to “Three-fingered”. Both Central Amercain tree sloths (not, by the way, closely related at all) have three toes on each hind foot. The difference is in the hands and number of fingers. As you can see in the photos above, this sloth has three fingers on each forefoot. On the second visit we were just getting out of bus after a successful search for Specticaled and Crested Owls (and tent-making bats) when Cope called us urgently to come see. The male sloth was moving in the vegetation above a narrow trail, crossing from one side to the other. It is very dark under the low heavy canopy Cope as created. I had learned my lesson on my first visit and brought a flashlight this time, so I was able to illuminate and photograph the sloth without disturbing it. We watched it for 15 minutes or more, as it made its slow way across. Like an accrobat in slow motion on the rings and ropes, it used the vines and branches to preform a series of moves somewhere between yoga poses and styalized dance just a few feet above our heads. Totally fascinating. We could only stand and watch in wonder. Sony RX10iv at various focal lengths…the close up is at 400mm equivalent from about 6 feet. LED flashlight for illumination. Anti-motion Blur mode. Processed in Polarr.
One of the reasons I like to visit Cope, the artist and naturalist in the tiny village of Flores, near Gaupiles, Costa Rica, is that he always knows where there are Honduran White Tent-making Bats roosting, and he can generally find them. Tent making bats make a tent to roost in by chewing along the spine of large leaf until it collapses over them. They leave just enough spine intact to create a safe space. The rainforest where they regularly roost is full of such tented leaves and it is only a matter of checking enough of them to find one with bats inside. These shots were taken in the light of Cope’s flashlight, using Anti-motion Blur mode on the Sony RX10iv at about 80mm equivalent. It is a slow painstaking process to get in the right position for photography without touching the leaf and sending the bats flying, but Cope always seems to guide the whole group through it without disturbing the bats over-much. I always ask Cope to find us bats, and he has not failed in three visits, but his real speciality is owls and we were in the forest in search of Crested Owl and Spectacled Owl, both of which he also found for us. Bats are just a personal bonus for me. 🙂
Carol picked up movement way back in one of the fields at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge south of Socorro New Mexico as we drove the tour loop. It turned out to be a Coyote and we watched it come up the tree-line and then cross into the next field fairly close to the road. It stalked across the field to a group of Sandhill Cranes. I could not figure out what it was doing. Sandhills are not easy prey for coyotes…in fact, unless an adult is injured, and totally alone, no coyote stands a chance against a Sandhill Crane. They do take pults and eggs, but only on the rare occasions when they find them unprotected. The Cranes responded to the Coyote by coming toward it, in a group, sending a clear “don’t mess with us…we are ready for you” message. Eventually the coyote went round the front group, up a corridor between groups, and drove off a couple of ravens who were pecking at something dead far out in the field. When you are an omnivore, leftovers are better than food that fights back…especially standing Cranes.
Sony RX10iii at 494mm equivalent field of view. Program Mode. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 200. Processed in Snapseed on my Android tablet.
And a closer shot of the Coyote.
We spent the day at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in Cochiti, New Mexico yesterday. We finished the day’s hiking (which is to say my legs had had enough) by about 2:30, and had a dinner appointment in Albuquerque at 5:30 so we had some time. I sat at a picnic table and processed pictures from the day on my tablet. As it was getting time to think about moving on, Carol, who was in the car knitting, leaned out the window and said, “look to your left.” I obeyed, and there was a Black-tailed Jackrabbit sitting not 20 feet away in a patch of sun. By the time I got my camera out, it had moved closer, and it kept coming until it was sitting about 12 feet from my table. I, of course, took way too many pictures. 🙂 The Jackrabbit is actually a hare, the third largest in North America, and is certainly an impressive beast. Compared to a Desert Cottontail, which shares its habitat, it is huge…heavy and dominated by those very large ears and the equally as large eye. Impressive.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. Program Mode. Processed in PhotoShop Express on my Android tablet.
The Blue Wildebeest is, of course, the iconic African Migration animal, the one you see thundering off a stream bank in a mass of horns and hooves by the hundred as they move across the African bush in season…but most of the year this is how you see them, at least during the day. During the day the herds are dispersed in small groups as the grazing allows, generally in the company of similar small groups of Zebras. Zebra have a “you watch my back and I’ll watch yours” arrangement with Wildebeest. Come sundown, the Wildebeests (and the Zebras) reform in larger herds. One of our game viewers, on a day I was not in Kruger National Park, was stuck for 2 hours as herd of Wildebeest crossed the only road out of the park. The largest herd I saw, at sunset in Kruger, was maybe 200, and they crossed while we were parked at the gift shop/camp ground 7k inside the gates, stocking up on water for the drive home.
Sony RX10iii at 214mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom.
This is a classic Zebra pose from Kruger National Park in South Africa. Though it might look like a tender moment, the Zebras are actually resting. The posture allows each to relax, while still keeping watch in both directions for potential danger.
Sony RX10iii at 500mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom.
One of the things that attracted me to Viva Safaris was the inclusion of a 4 hour bush walk at Balule Game Reserve, part of the greater Kruger National Park in South Africa. Experiencing the African bush from a Game Viewer (a converted Land Cruiser or Land Rover with high seats and open sides) and experiencing it on foot are two very different things. The Olifant River, a perennial river that flows across Kruger, is not far from Viva’s Tremisana Lodge were we stayed, and we were driven out to walking distance and then walked up over a ridge and down to the river. There were, as promised, Hippopotamus. (Hippopotami?) A fairly large group, already back in the water after a night of feeding on the sparse grasses of late winter in a drought. Just as we got to the river, the hippos had a crocodile scare and all burst up out of the water at the same time…too fast for a pic, but I took plenty as they settled back down. These animals are the most dangerous in Africa…and kill more people every year than Lions and Rinos and Cape Buffalo combined…largely because it only takes one bite when you get between a Hippo and the water, and that is evidently not all that hard to do. The guides at Tremisana are cautious and respectful and do not approach the river if the Hippos are still out of the water. Once in the water, you are safe, if you maintain a reasonable distance, and offer no threat. Though they might appear to be swimming, the hippos are actually kneeling on the bottom in shallow water, and can, as we saw when we got there, burst up pretty quickly. We saw other game and lots of birds on our bush walk, and learned a lot about the environment of the South African bush, but the highlight is certainly the Hippos of the Olifant River.
Sony RX10iii at 591mm equivalent field of view. 1/250th @ f4 @ ISO 125. Processed and cropped for effect in Lightroom.
As I suspected, the wifi at the lodges and camps in greater Kruger National Park in South Africa was somewhat chancy, so I have some posts to make up from my 11 days there. I will be doing it over the next several days. This hansom male Giraffe could not have been better posed, and the light could not have been better. You can tell it is a male because of the smooth round knobs on the end of its bony extrusions (horns). Females have tufts of hair there. I had many opportunities to photograph Giraffes and you will undoubtedly see several over the next few days. 🙂
Sony RX10iii at 390mm equivalent field of view. I found that full zoom was only occasionally needed when photographing the larger animals at Kruger. Program mode. 1/640th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom.
I believe this is a Two-toed Sloth we found on the road down to the Changuinola River in the foothills for Panama above Bocas del Toro. The mother is making a hammock for her baby. The baby was, typical for the young of any species, quite active (for a sloth). It was also very interested in us.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. Program Mode. Cropped and processed in PhotoShop Express on my Android tablet.