Last Thursday, there were some odd happenings going on here at NYS Mombasa. I woke up to the sounds of Black Hawk helicopters running laps around my base. It was weird, especially considering, according to public information, the Kenyan Armed Forces do not possess any Black Hawks. I am pretty sure I got their profile matched correctly, and they looked like Black Hawks.
Then, when I left my house later to go to work, there was a large, black bird standing about 100 feet away from me in the gravel driveway. I have written before about all the wild life living on the NYS compound, and my friends semi-seriously refer to my compound as a nature reserve, but never in my life had I seen such a large, black bird. I had seen common grey heron; I had seen the annoying squawk birds, and my favorite, little blue birds. But this was a new one. Not wanting to scare it away (it had noticed my presence and had begun to meader in the opposite direction), I snapped this picture with my camera phone, instead of grabbing my G9:
Upon cropping, the best I can do for the photo is this:
Unsure of what this bird was, I went ahead and asked Google Baraza. The first answer that set me on a more sure footing suggested it was a member of the stork family, and I was thinking it was a Black Stork:
Birds are tricky to identify, and one of the biggest differences between individuals in a species seems to be color-patterning. Even though the traditional description of a black stork would not meet the description of the bird I saw, it was close enough, and I am no bird expert.
However, just yesterday all mystery was brought to a close when a friend of mine provided another answer on the Baraza thread, suggesting maybe the bird was a Southern Ground-hornbill. Sure enough, upon checking out a variety of pictures online of said species, the mystery was solved. I got scared sh*tless by a Southern Ground-hornbill. Don’t let the pictures fool you, this mofo was huge.
The animal stories don’t end there, but first a note: NYS has closed up the dirt footpath that I usually take to work, because it is what landscapers call an, “eyesore,” and what normal people call, “perfectly functional.” With this in mind, let’s continue.
Feeling particularly lazy the next day (Friday), and seeing a parallel footpath already being worn into the grass by the countless treads of the countless number of other lazy people on this compound, I decided to just take a little bush walk instead of following the preferred NYS path: a paved road, which loops conveniently away from the computer lab for about 90% of the trip.
Karma has her ways, and apparently I had used up all my points with her recently, so of course, as I am walking along this illegal footpath, none other than a green tree snake decides it wants to eat me. Mind you, it’s not a real green tree snake, I only call it such because it’s green and spends an inordinate amount of its time in trees. A little internet-searching makes this whole situation seem a lot more crazy. It was a Green Mamba. I think that makes me hardcore.
Anyways, near-death experience aside, I think what happened is that it thought I was a monkey. No one reading this blog would argue the point. In my defense, snakes have very poor eyesight, because on an absolute scale, the ability to track movement is nowhere near a qualifier to justify telling the difference between my furry head as seen from a tree, and the furry head of a monkey as seen from a tree.
This all changes though once the snake leaps from the tree, thrilled to finally be brining Martha and the kids home some tasty monkey meet, and yet, the monkey keeps getting bigger and bigger, and all of a sudden is big enough to devour you, the measly snake.
Witnessing a mid-air course correction from a flying green mamba is an amazing natural experience. Watching as this course correction flings the snake meters away from you, with it scuttling into the bush afterwards and not deciding to bring you home to Martha, elicits what can only be described as a sigh of relief. Needless to say, I’ll stick to the roundabout path from now on.