Among Uganda’s National Parks and Reserves, Murchinson Falls is the only one that supports the kind of herds of the bigger animals that you associate with Kenya or Tanzania or South Africa. In fact, I have never seen larger herds of Giraffes than we saw at Murchinson Falls. Giraffes generally go in bunches to graze…not as solitary individuals…and bunch of Giraffes in the landscape together is called a “herd” or a “journey” or a “tower”, depending on which authority you check. Tower is pretty obvious in its derivation, but not, in fact, very descriptive. While Giraffes might tower as individuals, they don’t group up into anything like a tower. Herd is too prosaic for consideration. Which leaves a “journey of Giraffes,” which certainly captures more of the feeling of Giraffes as you actually see them in the verdant expanse that is Murchinson Falls in September when the rains have started. The Murchinson’s Giraffes are Rothschild’s Giraffes, the most endangered of the three sub-species of common Giraffe…the Masai (the most widespread in Kenya and Tanzania), the Reticulated with a limited range in Kenya, and the Rothschild’s, common only at Murchinson Falls National Park here in Uganda and in a healthy introduced herd in Lake Nakuru National Reserve in Kenya. The panel presented here tries to capture both the felling of the mass of Giraffes at Murhinson Falls, and the grander of the creature. These are from our first encounter with Giraffes on this trip with #Epic_Uganda_Vacations. Sony RX10iv at various focal lengths. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos, and assembled in FrameMagic.
This shot shows off one of the “tells” that helps us humans to separate male and female Giraffes in the field. The female in the foreground has tufts of hair on the tops of the bony protrusions on her head. They are not “horns” as such, since they are still completely covered by skin. The male, in contrast, has no tufts. His protrusions end in a smooth point…sometimes spreading to form a bit of a ball. Aside from the id aspect, I just like the graphic impact of this image…which is all, actually, I was looking at at the moment I took it. 🙂
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
Oxpeckers have a mutulistic relationship with many of the large herbivores of Africa. The Oxpeckers feed on tics, lice, and flies from the hides, and especially from around the wounds, of everything from Antelope to Zebras. They benefit from the constant food source, and the herbivores benefit from having parasites removed, and wounds kept clean. it is rare to see a group of Giraffes, or an individual hippo or rhino, without at least a few attendant Oxpeckers. Some animals seem more attractive to Oxpeckers than others. The thick hides of Elephants, for instance, don’t seem to have much interest, while almost every Kudu I saw in Kruger National Park had at least one Oxpecker riding along. This Giraffe was infested with Oxpeckers…which probably means it was infested with ticks or lice.
The relationship is so close, in fact, that I was genuinely surprised to see Oxpeckers in a tree, doing regular bird stuff…flying around, harassing other birds…apparently even fly-catching over the tree-tops. I don’t know why it surprised me. They are birds, after all…closely related to the host of Starlings in Africa, and seen in the same mixed flocks…when they are “off-duty”.
Evolutionists would, of course, look to a long history of slow change that somehow turned a Starling-like bird into the Oxpecker of today. They would have to explain how the association developed between bird and herbivore, and why the bird, alone among its iridescent blue brothers, has become the color of dusty herbivore hide, not to mention the function of the red bill in survival and reproductive strategies. They would have to come up with naturalistic reasons for a lot, and there would be a lot, I think even they would admit, that they just could not explain. And it is not that I, as a man of faith, have a “better” explanation. It is easy to say I see in the Oxpecker an example of intelligent, of loving, design and creation. But that would really be taking it backward. I don’t believe in an intelligent loving creator because I see evidence in the Oxpecker. I begin with belief in the creator, through a personal encounter in Jesus, and then can see the Oxpecker in no other light. That is how it is with the generous eye. You see the world in the light of creation, and everything you see speaks of intelligence and love. It is, in fact, easy with the Oxpecker on the hide of the Giraffe…it is not so easy when we look at the worst of human behavior…but it is possible, and it is something I strive for each day. Happy Sunday!
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.