Our trip "up river " was over all too soon and today we were heading back to Kotu and the Bakotu hotel but that had some compensations. Comparative luxury, good food and , most desirable of all, an unlimited supply of cold beer!
Leaving straight after a breakfast of cold baked beans and omelette which only I ate ( if the beers had been that cold they would have been OK!) we loaded up the luggage and off we went.
The car was pretty full when we left camp as we were now loaded to the gunwhales with firewood to take back home.
Once again we stopped immediately outside the gates, no Bush-shrike but the pigeon was still there.
and in a moment of Deja Vu a Double-spurred Francolin appeared at the side of the road before running across.
Exactly the same as 2 years previously only I got better snaps this time around!
During the course of the journey a huge sack of charcoal was added to the roof and a few of watermelons joined us in the cab. Room in the back was a bit cramped as we had to make room for my camera bag now the back was full. Still the watermelons travelled in comfort and arrived back in pristine condition. I'm not sure the savings on the purchases were greater than the increased fuel consumption of a thirsty V6 petrol Pajero but that wasn't our concern.
From memory other than shopping stops we only made one birding stop other than the regulation road blocks. At one the soldier on duty questioned my tripod that had been in open view in the back of the vehicle. You'll notice from the picture above it has camouflaged legs. I bought it with them on and they do make it more comfortable to carry, especially when it's cold.
The soldier demanded our driver get it out for examination. He'd no idea what it was and wanted to know why it was in the back of the car and camouflaged. Fair do's the driver wasn't intimidated by the gun the soldier was toting and gave back as good as he got telling him it wasn't his fault that his guests had arrived at the international airport with it.
Without further ado we were allowed to carry on but for the one and only time on the journey at one of the police checks a subtle request for money resulted in a note or two exchanging hands very surreptitiously. Our guide admitted after he'd passed over some cash, he said the policeman was an old friend and former boss.
Anyway, we were heading to Farasuto Woods and a meeting with our contact there, the Owl Man. A phone call had confirmed the Owls were present and had been showing well.
I think you have to take much of what you are told with a pinch of salt and in fact it's best not to have any expectations at all!
Owl can be extremely difficult to see never mind photograph. The local guides amaze me that they can see them so easily when sometimes it takes me an age to spot what they are trying to show me.
First species was the Greyish Eagle Owl. Last time it had been a bit of a 'mare.
This time I think I did marginally better. That shot might look as if the bird is on the same level as me but it isn't. It's directly above me looking down.
Attempts to get in to a similar position with the Northern White-faced Owl were no better than the one taken with the branch of a tree across it's middle!
But the last one was the worst of the lot!
The African Wood Owl was a first for me and when we arrived at the tree the bird was sitting nicely in full display. I spotted it straight away for a change but our guide decided to try the new toy Alan had bought him as a gift. A laser pointer.
The minute he turned it on, the Owl moved and that was without pointing it in the Owls direction.
Damn! Co-incidence ? Maybe but we know how sensitive the Owl's eyes are to light. They need to be used with care and consideration. Another example will follow in a later episode of this blog!
As for the Wood Owl, well despite all the efforts of the guides to find a better vantage point the best photo I could manage was this one.
Looks more like a wasp's nest than a bird!
Never mind, that's the way it goes sometimes. Out of the woods we did get lucky and I got my first ever shots of a Gabar Goshawk so that was an unexpected bonus.
After this we were happy to get back to the hotel where we arrived at mid-afternoon.
Yes, there was even a watermelon stored under the drivers legs!!!