Friday, April 12, 2024

Phatsima: A photo-essay

Most people have travelled to Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta for the big five, as well as to tick these places of their bucket list.

This is where you can find the Great Blue-Eared Starling. Most might have seen it or heard its call, but it is ‘just a bird’; for all its seeming ordinariness.

A 16-picture tribute of a good dose of unparallel beauty in bird photography. Here you can sense the dedication of a man who challenged himself to capture breath taking pictures of ‘just a bird’, to capture your eye. Here you can feel the passion of a men who has used imagination to touch your sole, so that next time when you see birds, you stop and marvel. The fact that he is a young Motswana makes it inspirational.  

Khumoyame Mogotsi a young Motswana photographer who always uses his skills behind the camera to share his hobbies. This past week he showcased his ambition and dedication in both bird-watching and bird-photography in a photographic series focusing entirely of a bird called the Great Blue-Eared Starling, titled Phatsima.

The first thing that will strike you about the Great Blue-Eared Starling is its shining bright feathers. Di a phatsima. This is how the photo-essay got its title: Phatsima. It featured an array of 16 stunning bird photography pictures on the Great Blue-Eared Starling. Teaching, sharing his experiences and humour are used as captions stories accompanying each picture. You can check the photo-essay on the following platforms: Facebook (Khumoyame Mogotsi I), Instagram (@khumo_yame) and WordPress (iamkhumoyame).

Through this project Khumoyame used it to educate people on this bird and exhibit his endless love with the camera. He also used this photo-essay to challenge himself to undertake and deliver a bird project as he is working on his photo-book on Hornbills of Botswana, due next year (2021).

About the Great Blue-eared Starling

The greater blue-eared starling is a very common species which favours Mopane Savanah. It is easy to recognise, because of their upright posture, the stout bill, short tail and their shinning bright feathers; glossy blue-green with a purple-blue belly and blue-black ear patch (Sexes are alike). An adult is about 23-cm long (from the tip of the bill to the ending of the tail) and weigh about 90grams. If you look at the flying wings you will observe evenly spaced and relatively uniform black spots (like dots) which create two wing bars. Its eyes are bright yellow or orange and black ear coverts, grey-black legs. The sexes are similar. Its life span is about 2-3 year.

The Greater blue-eared starling is an omnivore, taking a wide range of seeds and berries, but its main diet is insects taken from the ground.

In Botswana this bird is found in the Northern and Eastern parts of the Country. It is very Common in Majestic Chobe National Park, the mighty Tuli, the breath-taking Nata, amazing Moremi and the beautiful Okavango Delta.  


I like this picture, but I don’t like the blurred branch that bends towards the head of the starling, which it is perching on. I could have used another picture, but I choose this one, because it explicitly captures the subject in visual form.

Greater blue-eared starling is classified as a passerine; sometimes known as perching birds. Passerines are distinguished from other orders of birds by the arrangement of their toes (three pointing forward and one back). This arrangement enables passerine birds to easily perch upright on branches.


The leg of passerine birds has a special adaptation for perching. They have tendon in the rear of the leg running from the underside of the toes to the muscle behind tibia, which will automatically be pulled and tighten when the leg bends, causing the foot to curl and become stiff when the bird lands on a branch. This enables passerines to sleep while perching without falling off.

Glow in the dark

The first thing that you notice about this bird is e a phatsima. Well, for me it was and it is still the very first thing that always strike me.

It’s all in the eyes

It could be a Cape Glossy starling, but it’s a Greater blue-eared starling. I am the owner of this art piece. I am the one who captured it. Trust me when I say it’s Great Blue-eared starling. I went for the eyes and nothing else, but the eyes. Everything is killed to make the eyes pop.

In this picture I wanted to show the Orange eyes of the starling, thereby I reduced the ‘iris’ of the camera. The sun is directly above the birds, everything in the frame just goes dull and dark leaving the eyes popping.

The eyes of the birds have numerous features that make their eye sight good. A bird’s eye processes information very rapidly allowing it to catch its prey and avoid an unexpected branch or structure when flying.


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