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OK, here's Part 1 of a little safari through Etosha National Park in the north of Namibia. I made one other post from here, "Wanna Tussle?" about animal interactions. But now we're just on safari ... in this article we'll see some birds and an arbitrary categorization of mammals -- those with patterns. I didn't have a great camera or skills, but it's just fun to share safari ... animal pics never get old to me.

So ... giraffes! The giants with patterns. When I'm around them in the wild I always feel such peaceful awe. They can certainly have their aggressive moments among each other -- fighting for females and fending off predators. But among the puny humans who crane their necks to look up the length of the giraffe's unfathomable neck, they are typically docile, staring dispassionately through their wide and gentle eyes, batting a set of long eyelashes.

Giraffe in profile, Etosha National Park, Namibia.Two giraffes facing each other, Etosha National Park, Namibia.Giraffe reaching into the frame for a nibble of acacia. Etosha national park, Namibia.

They, above all other savanna creatures, compose an epic story of the landscape and the nature of movement. Humorously awkward in some poses, they display an unparalleled grace while traversing the wide open plains. 

Giraffe pair crossing the plains of Etosha national park, Namibia. Three giraffes checking me out on the plains of Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Walking to a water hole, the giraffe towers over the other thirsty critters with that grace of theirs. Then the grace quickly evaporates as soon as they have to bend down to reach the water! They scoot their legs out one at a time until they are sufficiently "tripod"-ed to reach the ground. When they stand up, they jump up and pull both front legs in together simultaneously. 

Giraffe walking to water hole towers over a warthog lapping at the edge. Etosha National Park, Namibia.Young giraffe spreading apart front legs in preparation to drink from a water hole. Etosha National Park, Namibia.Touch down ... the giraffe's landing gear has hit target ... a nice drink of blue water. Etosha national park, Namibia.

A behavior not seen too commonly, this giraffe is sucking on a piece of bone ... a behavior called osteophagia. They don't actually eat the bone, just suck on it like a hard candy which releases calcium and phosphorous, which are both beneficial minerals to the giraffes, particularly in regard to their large bone structure. Makes me think of when I sucked on candy cigarettes as a kid.  

Giraffe sucking on a piece of animal bone - osteophagia. Etosha National Park, Namibia.Giraffe sucking on a piece of animal bone - osteophagia. Etosha National Park, Namibia.Giraffe sucking on a piece of animal bone - osteophagia. Etosha National Park, Namibia.

 And here is another animal with spots. My favorite spotted animal, actually. I just got a tattoo of one on my shoulder I like them so much ... the cheetah! This was only my second sighting of cheetah on safari and I was so excited I just about lost my cool over it. The guide, who expertly spotted these three young cheetahs eating a meal in the high grass, told me explicitly to "calm down." I was just a bit beside myself. My camera and lens weren't quite up to the task of capturing them as they were very far away and surrounded by the tall grass. But oh well ... I spent most of the time watching them through the guide's strong-magnification binoculars. These pics are hugely cropped in. 

At first we only saw one cheetah head. Then a second popped up, and then a third. The we saw the blood around their mouths and realized they were eating a meal. Then they began licking each others' faces to clean them off. So cute. I sure wish I could have gotten some nice pics! They are likely brothers who have left their mom's care, as they will often stick together.

Three cheetahs in the tall grass finishing up a meal, Etosha National Park, Namibia.Three cheetahs in the tall grass finishing up a meal, Etosha National Park, Namibia.Cheetah licking blood off his brother's face after a meal. Etosha National Park, Namibia.Two cheetahs looking across the tall grass on the plains of Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Cheetah in the tall grass of Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Now let's move onto zebras ... the most popular images of zebras are of a bunch of them lined up in a perfect line drinking at a water hole, and that does make for a damn sweet photo. Maybe someday I'll be lucky enough to snag such a shot. But I like this one for its chaos of lines and shapes. 

Chaotic gathering of zebras at a water hole in Etosha national park, Namibia.

Here's a mini line, I guess. What I like about it is the one zebra who's got his eye on me. Uh-oh! I've been spotted! At the time, I had no idea what the consequence might be for being recognized by a zebra, but it turns out it was nothing immediate. Hard to say what future hardships could be blamed on this incident. It reminded me of a scene that would exist in the Far Side world, though I can't think of a clever caption. 

Four zebras at a water hole in Etosha national park, Namibia. One of them has spotted me!

And now some zeebs hanging out in a small thicket. 

Two zebras in a thicket, Etosha national park, Namibia.Mother zebra with an older foal. Etosha national park, Namibia.Close up of zebra. Etosha national park, Namibia.

Jackals are cute and wily and the little devils of a campground! In South Africa it was the vervet monkeys, but here the jackals were the ones to watch for. I slept outside on a cot in a sleeping bag (very awesome) but I had to keep my shoes and any stray bits tucked underneath my sleeping bag so the jackals wouldn't run off with them. One night a jackal came into our crib thinking he was going to score some yummy treats, but when he pulled the huge cast-iron skillet off the table he got a bit of a surprise ... it was a little heavier than he imagined and made a completely scary racket. Foom! Off he ran.  

Alert jackal in Etosha national park, Namibia.

Black-backed jackal trotting along a water hole, Etosha national park, Namibia.

Birds are creatures I have not sufficiently appreciated until I started traveling to Africa. I still don't have very many photos of them, but there are some lovely specimens here in Etosha. The most stunning is the lilac breasted roller. I was also terribly excited when our guide spotted these fellas because I specifically wanted to have an opportunity to photograph them. Their coloring is so spectacular ... just imagine if we humans grew things on our body of such varied and vibrant color, like what if our hair grew naturally in a rainbow palette such as this. 

Lilac breasted roller against a blue sky, Etosha national park, Namibia.Lilac breasted roller perched atop a tree branch. Etosha national park, Namibia.Lilac breasted roller in flight against a blue sky, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Flamingos! These are such fantastical birds, by which I mean birds of fantasy and imagination and drunken tropical holidays ... swimming in rum punch along with toothpick umbrellas, and posing on peoples' lawns, and lit up in strings of bar lights, heck I even have floating candles in the shape of pink flamingos. Their plastic prevalence in festive atmospheres kind of makes them lose their credibility as real-life creatures. So it's fun to run into them in the wild just being hungry, feathered birds. 

Flamingos wading in a water hole near sunset, Etosha National Park, Namibia.Flamingos wading in a water hole near sunset, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

The tallest of the birds in Etosha ... the ostrich. Are they the tallest birds, period? Hmm, I don't know. Google it and let me know. I like ostriches, though I liked them more before I spent time around them in the UWEC and realized what ill-tempered and downright scary animals they can be! So I'd rather watch them from afar. Or at least from amiddle, in a vehicle that can outrun them. 

Trio of ostriches walking to a water hole, Etosha national park, Namibia.Trio of ostriches drinking at a water hole, Etosha national park, Namibia.

The kori bustard is a healthy-sized bird, it can reach over 4 feet tall. They're pretty incognito strutting through the brown grass in their brown feathers.

Kori bustard striding through the tall grass on the plains of Etosha national park, Namibia. The bataleur eagle, on the other hand, has a bright and intense face. He's a bit intimidating with his penetrating stare, or glare, or hexing gaze ... difficult to tell exactly what's going on behind those eyes -- calculations, curses, ridicule, pitying the fool ... haha. Who can say for sure.  

Bateleur eagle with a penetrating stare ... Etosha national park, Namibia.Bateleur eagle standing in the road in Etosha national park, Namibia.

A blue-eared starling. Also has intense eyes but they seem like just flashy wardrobe components ... they don't make me wonder what is going on in his little head nor ponder whether or not I should be frightened of him.

Blue-eared starling perched on a tree branch, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

A dark chanting goshawk below. He sounds so sinister, chanting darkly, but he's light and bright and cheery with orange. But he's got a keen eye on somebody here ... methinks that lunchable somebody might agree more with the "sinister" idea.  

Dark chanting goshawk in flight, Etosha national park, Namibia.Dark chanting goshawk landing in tree branches, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

OK, now it's time for yours and my lunch, to siesta after our morning game drive. We'll come back to finish the safari with tusked and horned creatures ... next post. :) 

*

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