Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow Geese of Skagit Valley

This is not in Africa. This is an hour's drive north of Seattle in the Skagit Valley, also known for its tulip fields. Those will bloom in about a month when the snow geese head north again. Right now the fields are yellow with daffodils.

Snow geese spend their summers in Alaska, but in winter they flock by the thousands to the warmer climate of the Skagit Valley.

Nowadays, after the January duck hunting season, they have been seen in big gaggles of many thousands of birds together feeding, like what I saw.

Local farmers plant winter wheat, which is just what the snow geese needs to fill up on and get fat before they fly back north.

The swans were fewer in numbers and all spread out pretty far away. Bald eagles and other raptors are also commonly seen. Here are some pictures from Sunday, February 21, 2010:
What a gorgeous day in Seattle! WOW! Never mind the Olympics going on just 2 hours away in Vancouver. Today I went just 1 hour north, half-way, to see the snow geese in the Skagit Valley with Mt. Baker in the background.
Yes, Mount Baker is in Washington state, USA. People in British Columbia think they have a better view of it and sometimes they do, but not today.
I have posted an album on Facebook here or cut and paste this link into your browser:


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Join Wonky Tusk on Safari with Jonathan Scott & Phil Berry

A Safari with Jonathan Scott & Phil Berry in conjunction with WinWin Vacations & Kristina Trowbridge,  are your expert guides for this one of a kind unique week in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. this truly is "A once in a life-time opportunity". Please inquire about availability ASAP as this opportunity will not last long. Space is extremely limited.

Oct 31-Nov 3rd: Arrive early and spend 3 incredible days in the Lower Zambezi with Jonathan Scott and Kristina Trowbridge as your guide and escort. Jonathan Scott is a famous wildlife photographer and author. He can be seen on the Animal Channel presenting from the BBC fame: The Big Cat Diary and Elephant Diaries. Chongwe River Camp have won the Zambia Tourism Award for the "Best Retreat in Africa" as well as the "Best Safari Accommodation" for 2009. 

Chongwe River House as been especially chosen for its size so that a maximum of 6 guests, plus Jonathan can enjoy a private safari. The house stands on the banks of the magical Chongwe River, close to the Zambezi, with a sensational view of the dramatic mountainous escarpment beyond. Many animals come to the Chongwe River to drink and from the deck the game viewing can be as good as any safari activity. On both the mornings and the afternoons of Nov 1 & 2, you will head off in search of game. The Lower Zambezi is famed for its water-based activities and so, as well as game drives there will be opportunities to get out onto the Zambezi and photograph from a different vantage point - or perhaps go fishing. You will have the House & guide to yourselves and so will be able to make it home.

The main event happens from November 3-10:
After making your own way to Lusaka International Airport, you will be met and assisted through immigration and onto your connecting flight to Mfuwe. A representative from the Bushcamp Company will meet you upon arrival at Mfuwe Airport, where you will be transferred to Mfuwe Lodge by road – the journey takes approx. 45 mins on mainly tar roads, through local villages and into the park.

Wonky Tusk is demanding service by ringing the bell on the concierge desk. She can't find her key, which she left right here last year when she checked out!
Can you find your key?
Having settled in, you will have the opportunity to meet the other guests, hosts and guides for a welcome talk and introduction to the park. After tea will be your first outing with Jonathan & Phil and a sundowner will be followed by a night drive.

Every morning you will be woken early by the dawn chorus. Mornings are cooler and the game is more active, the light perfect for photography. Following a light breakfast you will head off into the park with Phil or Jonathan in search of photographic opportunities and interesting wildlife. Each day will be different with meals in the bush, picnics or lunch back at the lodge. During siesta you will have a chance to unwind, enjoy the Bush Spa, relax by the pool, share stories with fellow travelers or enjoy the view from your deck.

Most days Jonathan will also be available to give one-to-one photographic advice. Another highlight will be before tea each day when Jonathan, Phil & representatives from local conservation organizations (African Wild Dog Conservation Zambia - AWDC & the South Luangwa Conservation Society—SLCS) will be giving talks & presentations. Then, after tea, you will head out once more with either Jonathan or Phil in search of game and night drive back to the lodge in time for drinks & dinner.

Every year in the beginning of November, when the mangos are ripe, Wonky Tusk brings her family right through the lobby of the Mfuwe Lodge to get at the fruit on the mango tree on the other side. Nothing will stop her. This tree was here before the lodge was built and her mother and grandmother came here too. Elephants don't forget.

November 10-16: Add on another week with the legendary Phil Berry at the Africa House & Fruit Bat Extension. Stay 3 nights at Shiwa Ng'andu and 3 nights at Kasanka. Phil Berry is one of Zambia's most prominent naturalists & guides. Having grown up in remote areas of Southern Africa, he always planned to spend his life involved with wildlife. In 1960 he joined the Northern Rhodesia Game Department and spent many years based in the South Luangwa. In 1973 he left the Game Department to establish the Zambia National Tourist Board's walking safari camps in Luangwa, but was later seconded to run the anti-poaching field operations for Save the Rhino Trust. Since 2000, Phil, along with his partner, Babette Alfieri, has run the long established Kuyenda Bushcamp (which Phil founded in 1991) from where he leads walking safaris. For the last 40+ years Phil has been at the forefront of shaping various aspects of conservation in Luangwa. His specialities are the endemic Thornicroft's giraffe, found only in Luangwa, & leopard. He has been documenting the behavior of both species for the past 35 years on which he is a recognized authority and has published scientific papers and an article in BBC Wildlife Magazine on the giraffe.
You will be taken to Mfuwe Airport to join Phil (& his partner Babette) for a scenic flight up to Shiwa Ng’andu, where you will be hosted by Charlie & Jo Harvey. For 2 days, you will have the run of the house and Sir Stewart’s library. Outdoors you can go game viewing, boating, fishing, bird watching, horse riding, on river walks, historical tours of the estate or to the Kapishya Hot Springs. On Nov 13, you leave Shiwa for Kasanka. Your charter flight will stop over enroute at Bangweulu, where you will have the chance to drive amongst massive herds of thousands of Black Lechwe, then fly on to Kasanka for 3 nights. Kasanka hosts a unique wildlife spectacle every year, when millions of Straw-colored Fruit bats assemble to roost in an area of forest there. Join Phil at twilight to watch the bats fill the sky, as they leave their roost site to feed. During the day you will go in search of a variety of unusual Zambian wildlife including sitatunga, Bohm’s bee-eaters & Ross’s Louries.