Readers’ wildlife photos

Remember, I’m running low on photos, so send in your good ones!

Today we have the final installment of reader Joe Dickinson’s photos from his recent trips to Africa. Birds and one reptile. Joes’s captions are indented.

Tanzania was mostly about “big game”, but here are some of the more photogenic non-mammalian species we saw.

Rüppell’s Griffin Vulture (Gyps ruppellii) is one of about six species commonly seen in East Africa.  It is not uncommon to see three or four species on a single carcass.


Another scavenger, the marabou stork (Leptopilus crumeniferus), seen here on the shore of Lake Victoria, is possibly the ugliest bird on earth.


The saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), on the other hand, is rather attractive.


And the black-headed weaver (Ploceus cucullatus), seen on a tree just by our “tent” at the last Serengeti “camp” is really quite beautiful.


Here is a related species, Speke’s weaver (Ploceus spekei) on its nest  in a thorn tree near the Olduvai Gorge visitors center (between Ngorongoro and Serengeti).


The superb starling (Lamprotornis superbus) is ubiquitous and, as you can see, very bold.


The white-headed buffalo weaver (Dinemellia dinemelli) I took to be some sort of finch, but what do I know? [JAC: it is a weaver, related to finches but not itself a finch.]


This is some sort of bee-eater (Merops ?), but I can’t identify the species).


Red-necked spurfowl (Francolinus afer).


And a leopard tortoise (Testudo pardalis).



  1. Stephen Barnard
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Very nice photos, but I’d give the nod to the Shoebill Stork as ugliest bird.

    • Andrew Laycock
      Posted January 30, 2017 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      I quite agree about the Shoebill – both hideous and creepy. I wonder if there’s any evolutionary reason why we find some creatures beautiful and some ugly?

      • Christopher
        Posted January 30, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        My thoughts are the scraggly, scruffiness of it’s neck and head (reduced feather coverage for obvious evolutionary benefit to carcass scavengers) too closely resembles the effects of disease and parasites that trouble mammals such as ourselves.

        • frednotfaith2
          Posted January 30, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

          What immediately struck me about the maribou stork in that particular photo is that at a glance it appears part of its brain has been exposed and the upper section of its top bill, surrounding the eye, appears rotted. Then there’s that long neck which almost look like it belongs to a very old, unkempt white man with a lot of silver stubble. All just combines for a rather ghastly image at a glance, like a host to one of EC’s horror comics! The shoebill doesn’t look quite so ugly to me, but looking at a photo of one with its mouth wide open it looks rather more monstrous, like it just may be able to grab and swallow someone whole with that bill. Of course, it’s nowhere near big enough to do something like that but it does vaguely evoke cinematic images of its distant tyrannosaur cousins.

          • nickswearsky
            Posted January 30, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

            Another name for the Marabou is the “Undertaker Bird” because with their naked head and dark feathers, they resemble a slim, bald undertaker in dark clothes laboring over a fresh corpse as they feed on large carrion. A Ugandan proverb states that “When God made all of the birds of the world, he took the leftover parts and made the marabou.”

    • Dominic
      Posted January 30, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      They are not ugly! 🙂

      If baldness is part of ugliness, poor me!

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 7:58 am | Permalink


    BTW I just plowed through a stack of RWP’s – they’re all delightful but I can’t practically drop a comment on each, so thanks again RWP contributors.

  3. nickswearsky
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I think the Marabou’s mother thinks he looks very handsome! I loved watching those birds in Kenya. Huge, fascinating animals. I always hoped to see a Shoebill (Whalehead stork) but never caught a glimpse of one.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted January 30, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Shoebills are much less common than marabout storks and more restricted in habitat. They are also much less tolerant of human disturbance (marabouts happily exploit human waste tips and such like).

  4. Christopher
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Always lovely to see birds I’m unfamiliar with, but to see a leopard tortoise in the wild, I’m green with envy!

    • Lars
      Posted January 30, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      I agree. I’ve always wanted to see a tortoise in the wild, but have never been able to visit a locale where they are found.
      Have to say, though, from my experience with tortoises, that one in the photo is suspiciously clean and tidy looking.

  5. Lisa
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I will never get tired of bird photos, such a beautiful variety nature gives us. I have never seen anything like the weaver nest.

    • rickflick
      Posted January 30, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      That was my thought as well. Birds, whether exotic or common, are something you can dwell on and admire. The throngs of birders out with their binoculars is a testament.

  6. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    The bee-eaters look like European bee-eaters Merops apiaster to me. This is a trans-Saharan migrant which would be over-wintering in the area.

    • Josh Lincoln
      Posted January 30, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      How come they don’t have the long central tail feathers?

      • Jonathan Wallace
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 1:16 am | Permalink

        The central projecting tail feathers (which in M apiaster are significntly shorter than in some other bee-eater species) are absent from the non-breeding plumage.

  7. Rob
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Great pics. And interesting!

  8. Mark R.
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Nice variety of African birds. The griffin vulture looks like one mean dude. Love the tortoise!

  9. keith Cook ¿
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Nice and ugly to be sure…thanks.

  10. Karen Bartelt
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    So nice to see such beauty while we deal with such (political) ugliness!

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