We’re over the hump

And by hump, I mean over the hump of the (peak season) figurative camel’s back. The season has progressed to its busy state, just as the thermostat has risen and the lifeline Luangwa river has narrowed to a shallow stream of luring water. September has been a busy month. I have not logged serious hours, but I have had the joy of cheating gravity a total of 105 times in a short time of 23 days. That’s an average of 4.5 legs per flying day. It sure sounds like a lot, especially when one compares it to a long-haul pilot, but once you become flying fit then it’s not too intense. The most legs I’m allowed to do in one day is 8, which happened a couple of times! I can see the need for a kidney belt if you feel like a madalla (old person in Njanja).

Yes, there’s definitely such a term in our industry as being “flying-fit”. Perhaps it is more applicable to pilots who mostly fly at low altitudes and do a lot of short legs (where convection turbulence hangs around). It certainly takes a couple of days of flying in turbulence to exercise unused muscles in your back and neck! I always find it fascinating how one becomes extremely tuned in with the machine you spend so much time operating. It becomes an extension of yourself and anticipating any minuscule changes become second nature. You see, the C210 is a busy aircraft. There are things you won’t find on other GA aircraft such as retractable undercarriage, rudder trim, cowl flaps on top of this, all the usual other stuff. So it requires a steady input of fine-tuning to fly it with accuracy and care. It’s something C210 drivers miss when progressing onto bigger aircraft with more automated engine management and creature comforts such as autopilot. Heck, the C210 keeps you on your toes with its slippery laminar flow wing and then operating it out of short runways at high 30’s even 40-degree temps. Having unique challenges every other day, such as this good 18-knot crosswind, is what makes life interesting! I think of Bob Hoover when gently putting one wheel down before the other, it’s a feeling of ecstasy when executed neatly.

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So what happened in September you ask? Well, not just flying…Carmine bee-eaters by the thousands came to nest in the river bank. They are referred to “carmine” due to their deep, vivid crimson-red colour, nearly at the end of the colour spectrum. Once they lay their eggs 1-2 meters horizontally into the river bank, they are committed to staying there, so a hide close by provided excellent photo opportunities and won’t scare them off. They are skilled insect and bee catchers and will often fly on the edge of wildfires to catch insects mid-air that are fleeing. We get a couple of different bee-eater species here, but the Southern Carmine one sees in flocks of thousands and this creates a spectacular scene to witness close up.

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Hide along the river bank

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These shots were taken about an hour before sunset. I found it necessary to cool them slightly to project the birds’ true colours. Also, the low temp. colours here in Zambia must be some of lowest (warm) due to the sunrays having to travel through a long distance of smoke. They are shot at low aperture values hence the background and foreground blur. I have also selected high shutter speeds (not lower than 1600th of a second) to freeze the incredibly fast motion of flapping wings.