July 10th, 2015

Tammie Norries and More

Last weekend I was kindly invited to join Arthur Morris’s UK Puffins & Gannets Photography trip. It was a short weekend, just 3 days. But it was packed with lots of sea bird action. The most sought after bird was of course the Puffin, an almost clownesk bird, but only by looks. These burrowing nesting birds are tough and fly like bullets. In Scotland the Puffin is nicknamed ‘Tammie Norrie’.

Puffin in flight, with Sand Eels Puffin portrait

We needed to sail to the Farne Islands in order to get close to them. This group of islands are a seabird heaven: Razorbills, Guillimots, Kittywakes, Fulmars, Arctic Terns and Puffins bread here. Puffins are estimated to inhabit the islands with app. 20.000 breading pairs.

Arctic Tern Fulmar Kittywake

Close to our sleeping quarters was Bamburgh Castle. I photographed the castle at around 23:30, when the castle was flood-lit by the lights in the lawns around the castle. The purple sky of the undergoing sun provided a special color cocktail.

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More images of this trip can be found here: 2015 Seahouses.

May 18th, 2015

Spring Visitor

A pair of Black Redstarts have occupied a window cove above the sunblinds to build their nest.
Every 3-5 minutes one of the parents provides food for the brood. Here the male with a moth.
We have our fingers crossed for a successful fledging.

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May 5th, 2015

Beautiful Basel

The «Wildt’sche Haus» am Petersplatz in Basel. Architect: Johann Jakob Fechter.
Photographed with the PANO function on my iPhone

February 20th, 2015

Londolozi Trip

We have been visiting the African bush for years and we try to take every opportunity we can to get out there. There is a sense of stillness and excitement when one is in the bush that is quite unique. The buzzing ‘silence’ sets one’s senses working overtime: sight, sound, smell, taste and even touch are getting a fair share of work in the bush.

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We have experienced all sorts of bush lodges and we have wanted to visit the Sabi Sands Game Reserve for years. The region’s reputation for good game viewing is well established. We had read the books, watched the documentaries and followed the progress of famous leopards over the years. Last year we decided it was time to visit Londolozi Game Reserve, part of the Sabi Sands. Photographing the animals and in particular the leopard was high on the priority list.

Going a bit wider with the zoom, gives a nice inclusion of the surroundings.

On one of our first rides into the bush we met with an older leopard male, just waking up out of his afternoon nap. Londolozi is a private game reserve and the rangers may go off-road and follow the game into the bush when appropriate. We were able to get really close and have an almost personal interaction with this male. I had a good opportunity getting the images I wanted.

Zooming tighter provided this proud pose of the leopard.

Getting to see and, in particular photograph, leopards was high on our wishlist. We were very lucky to see leopard on more than one occasion. The rangers take great care when they approach animals and the animals are well habituated to the presence of the vehicles. This is of course great for photography and game-viewing.

The leopard female.

On our last full day at Londolozi we were treated to a spectacular display of a male and female leopard courting and mating. For thirty minutes we witnessed them vocalising to each other, walking around, flopping down and eventually also making sure the species continues to thrive. As Londolozi has a strict visiting policy (max #vehicles = 3) for any sighting, we released our spot for another vehicle after we had our fair share of taking images.

The act

The excitement of the bush is that you never know what may appear just over the next rise or behind the next bush. On one of our morning drives we visited a hyena den. At least one mother, an older cub and two younger cubs were present. Hyenas evoke many responses but cute is rarely one of those. We definitely had the cute response when we saw following scene.

The two cubs were chasing each other like domesticated puppies, playing and fighting over a piece of bark. They were having the time of their lives, we did too. For at least twenty minutes, they ran around the termite mound and raced past the vehicle and one of them gave one of the tyres a playful bite. Because it was overcast this morning, I set my camera in manual mode (by histogram check). Light conditions being the same for the time we were there, I didn’t have to reset the light settings on my camera. It was a very special encounter.

We left the scene as the smallest and cutest one glanced at us as if to say: “Oh … were you there ?”.

During an afternoon drive we came close to a group of giraffe and our ranger decided to give this group of eight giraffe a closer look. He parked the vehicle and invited all of us on board to get off and follow him in single file as we carefully approached the herd on foot! This is generally strictly forbidden in most game parks. It was really special to be on the same ‘level’ as the game, although that is not entirely applicable in this case. The eight giraffe all looked at us then turned and slowly continued on their way moving into a thicker part of bush. Since we were positioned with the sun in front of us, I processed this image to make it even more dramatic.

The past year has been one of the worst with regards to the poaching of rhino in South Africa. On average three rhino were (and probably still are) poached per day. We were very pleased to see that these animals were still present here. Private patrols have been effective in helping to protect these magnificent animals.

We were also lucky to see a group of three grazing rhino, also known as a ‘crash’ of rhinos. It was very special.

In all of our years in the bush I have seldom seen cheetah. It was therefore very special to come across this beautiful female cheetah. It was later on the morning drive and she was in hunting mode: constantly looking around. She then jumped on a fallen tree to have a better view of the surroundings.

I asked our ranger to move the landrover, to better position the vehicle in relation to the sun position. In the below image the sun is more behind us and she gave us a stunning viewing position.

At one stage she suddenly accelerated away from us in pursuit of a steenbok, a small antelope. The chase was brief, the little steenbok escaped and after that she searched for some shade to recover from the sprint.

Pushing the shutter button during the jawn, I managed to get the widest gape.

Often when one sees buffalo there are only a few animals in view. If there are more they are usually hidden deeper in the bush. We entered the open plain in the middle of the Londolozi concession and we were in the middle of an enormous herd of buffalo grazing, resting and socialising. Amazing.

Lions are always a big attraction. Despite their reputation, one mostly sees them lying down and doing pretty much nothing. They usually rest in the heat of the day and generally only become active as the light goes. Our sighting was no exception.

They yawned and stretched and changed lying positions. Nevertheless, I was able to capture proof of their reputation. Note the teeth in the following image.

A complete BIG 5 experience when the elephant is added to the list. We saw them a number of times in the reserve, placid and relaxed. A good sign as it indicates they have been leading a peaceful life in the reserve and not chased by poachers.

This disturbingly still elephant was simply taking an afternoon nap.

Our visit was a very satisfying experience – I was going home with a slightly overwhelming number of images to keep me busy for a while.

Lesley was keen to meet Elmon Mhlongo, one of the longest staying and knowledgeable rangers at work at Londolozi. He is the famous tracker from the Londolozi Leopard documentaries filmed by wildlife filmmaker John Varty. Here flanked by Lesley and yours truly.

Last but not least, we were very impressed with how Londolozi treats its staff and gave us a tour of the accommodation village and how operations work behind the scene. Staff is living on and in the camp site boundaries. Offices, a school for the kids and an advanced study centre are part of the community providing all the facilities for staff and families. Sustainable development and community involvement are well implemented at Londolozi.

We were both very impressed by the village tour. It gave true meaning to the meaning of the word Londolozi: “Protector of all living things”.

See more images of our trip here: Londolozi Photo Gallery.

January 30th, 2015

Young Leopard

I am working through files from old trips. In recent times I learned a ton of new and improved processing methods. The files I am working now are from trips in 2008 and my ‘dark-room’ skills were definitely not as tuned as they are today. When going through the folders and processing this leopard image, I thought it was time to post it here. The image shown here is from a scene in Kruger park, near Paul Kruger gate. As we were leaving the park to go home, there was this traffic jam, cars packed around a tree with 2 leopards. One leopard, the mother, had just dragged an impala up the trunk of a tree. This young female leopard was impatiently moving in trees around the tree where the mother was eating. She gave a nice glare at all the fuss going on at the roadside.

December 29th, 2014

Snow Snout

Winter arrived here in Switzerland. With 20-30cm of snow, the dogs are having a ball. They almost disappear in the snow blanket and at every opportunity they stick their noses in the snow. What interesting smell is buried there ?

April 25th, 2014

Keukenhof 2014

For second year in a row I went to the Keukenhof in The Netherlands. As last year, Birds As Art organised a photographic tour concentrating on visiting the tulip and bulb region. The Keukenhof is only open for 2 months of the year, displaying amazing gardens and flowers: an astounding 7 million bulbs are on display. The rest of the year the Keukenhof prepares for the next year. The Keukenhof attracts nearly one million visitors, of which 80% are foreign visitors. The Keukenhof is one of the main spring attractions in The Netherlands. The Keukenhof is an amazing place to visit to photograph and use your creative skills.

The group and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly: a summary of my photos can be viewed here: http://www.naturenotions.ch/blog-galleries/keukenhof-2014.

Part of the photographic tour is to visit some of The Netherlands’s historic sites. I only had time to visit Kinderdijk, where the above image is a true black and white image, created in photoshop using a threshold layer.

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February 26th, 2014

At the Duck Pond in Basel Zoo

As I was saying in my previous post, I went to Basel zoo to do some photography. I spent most of the time at the duck pond, where captive and wild ducks fill the pond. Some absolutely gorgeous species are kept there: the Mandarin Duck, the Smew and the (American) Woodduck. The Smew with its beautiful black and white coloring and mask was strikingly referred to as the Zorro-Duck by some young visitors at the duck pond.

The Woodduck has an amazing color range in its feathers.

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February 23rd, 2014

Spring is Knocking on the Door

I went out to do some photography in our local zoo. Temperatures were mild (almost spring-like) and most animals were in a spring mood. I was photographing near the duck pond, when suddenly this red squirrel ran into a low shrub, trying to avoid an attack from a stray cat. As a result, the squirrel remained seated in the shrub, waiting for the cat to disappear. I was glad to help :). Next, the only thing I had to do was find a spot to photograph through the branches to get a clean-ish shot. Below is the result.

January 2nd, 2014

Surprise End of 2013

We went to the Netherlands over Christmas to visit friends and family. On 31 December I visited my cousin who is living in a forest region. She knew of my passion for birds and alerted me to the special guests she has in her garden: a family of a Long-Eared Owls, roosting right next door to the house in a conifer tree. In total a party of 4 owls come to roost in this tree every day, to leave for the hunt just before sunset. I had never seen these small owls before and it was very special to see them on New Year’s Eve. Fortunately I did travel with my photo-gear and was able to grab a few images of these special birds. To all visiting my blog, I wish you a happy and prosperous 2014.

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