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Close to the Nest
Photograph by Anup and Manoj Shah

It was a mystery: Where do lesser flamingos go to lay their eggs? In 1953 British biologist Leslie Brown found the answer—in mud-nests by the thousands—at Tanzania's remote Lake Natron, above. Trudging across the searing, foul-smelling mudflats almost cost him his life. As Brown recounts in his book The Mystery of the Flamingos: "The mud beneath the crust . . . gelatinous in texture and extremely sticky, gripped my feet in their protective boots with a tenacity I had never before encountered. The effort of wrenching one boot out was often sufficent to imbed the other so deeply that it, in turn, required several jerks before it would come free."

He found an island of dried mud to sit on, then "took off my gum-boots and had a look at my feet. I knew they had been cut by soda crystals in my struggle, but they gave me an unpleasant shock. . . . [They] were covered with enormous bright red blisters, which, as I watched them, turned slowly dark brown and then black."

Amazingly, Brown drove himself to the closest settlement, though he was in such agony that his facial muscles contracted and pinched his eyes shut. "I finished the journey into Magadi holding one eye open with my fingers and steering the car with the other hand." Seven weeks later, helped by skin grafts, his feet had healed.

Photo Fast Facts

Camera: Canon EOS-1V
Film Type: Fujichrome Provia 100F
Lens: 50mm
Speed and F-Stop: 1/1000 @ f/2.8
Weather Conditions: Clear
Time of Day: Mid-morning
Lighting Techniques: Natural light

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