In February, I finally managed to get to Ecuador. This was another trip previously postponed due to COVID so it was a massive relief when we got off the plane in Quito to start this wonderful adventure.

From the initial base in the hills outside Quito, we went visited a variety of sites with a staggering number of amazing birds.  I was fairly open to seeing whatever we came across, but there were certain species that I really wanted to see. The first and probably most important for me was a bird that I have wanted to see since my childhood. Back in the sixties, Brooke Bond tea used to give small ‘picture cards’ on different themes. I was an avid collector and one of my favourites was the ‘Tropical birds’ collection. The bird on the front cover was the extraordinary Andean cock of the rock. This spectacular bird with its brilliant colour and bizarre crest caught my imagination, so seeing it at a lek site was absolutely wonderful.

Another fantastic bird on my hot list was also soon found in the hills of the Choco region west of Quito. This was a toucan which is one of my favourite families. This is the plate billed mountain toucan. Such gorgeous colours!

Funnily enough, there was another bird in the same area sharing some of those colours, smaller than the toucan, but just as spectacular. This is the toucan barbet.

One of my favourite sites that I visited twice was Zuro Lama. Here I also saw one of the many hummingbirds that I was hoping to photograph. This bizarre design is another of natures miracles of adaptation.

The sword billed hummingbird is almost ridiculous, but when you see the flowers it feeds from, then it is such an obvious and brilliant solution!

Zuro lama is also a great place for other birds including two antpittas and a lovely green and black fruiteater.

We travelled around the area visiting many other areas, and seeing a huge range of birds including many other hummingbirds, and colourful tanagers. This period ended with us moving east over the Andes on the Papallacta pass at an elevation of over 3000m. At the top , we saw another lovely hummer, the rainbow bearded thornbill.

On the other side of the pass, we travelled down to the Amazon basin. Specifically, the Rio Napo and Yasuni national park. Although much of the wildlife was high up in the canopy, there were a number of canopy observation towers which gave me great, but slightly dizzying views 50m up in the air!The rainforest is soooo beautiful.

From here a number of monkeys and birds were more easily seen. This is a red howler 40m up near the top of a tree.

The wildlife at ground level was very special as well.  Giant river otters were around and great fun to watch.

I finally saw an anaconda, the world biggest snake. This one had recently eaten something judging by the substantial swelling in it’s body!

The best of the monkeys we encountered were the highly endangered golden mantled tamarind. These small fast cute little monkeys were great fun and actually came to the lodge one afternoon while foraging.

After a week in in the Napo River area, it was back up to Tandayapa for a little high speed flash to capture some more amazing hummingbirds like this booted racket tail.

At the end of three fantastic weeks, I got a bit of a shock when I tested positive for COVID. Still have no idea where I got it as I had virtually no contact with anyone except my guide! It made getting home a little trickier, but it was still a wonderful experience. I would love to go back!

In July, I finally managed to escape lockdown and go to Iceland. It was a week long trip to the spectacular Hornstrandir Peninsula in the North West corner of Iceland. The aim of the trip was to find and photograph Arctic foxes, and if possible , dens with young.

It turned out to be relatively easy as the fox population in the area is quite high, and as they have never been hunted, they are quite tame. In fact, some are so curious that they will walk right past you, just a few feet away. These foxes live by the coast and at this time of the year were enjoying a relative glut of food in the shape of seabirds from the nearby colonies. The adult foxes spent their time scouting along the beaches looking for dead birds, washed ashore after falling from their nest sites on the cliffs. This was the first adult , who came very close.

There were a couple of dens that we focussed on, though we had a Netflix film crew who tended to get the best positions!!

The kits were the real target and it was a massive thrill to see them at the nearest den to camp, which was set on a rocky hillside covered in lovely flowers. Initially, they appeared rather cautiously.

But they soon relaxed and then ignored us completely

Another den on the other side of the bay was near this lovely waterfall

This den had a very lively family of slightly older youngsters, who spent most of their time play fighting, practising their future hunting skills

This den also allowed us to enjoy some nice birds along the shoreline. Many were nesting nearby and feeding amongst the weed on the beach where they found numerous insects. This is a snow bunting, not what I expected on the beach!

This is a male wheatear

And by the water, a number of spectacular harlequin ducks. This is the stunning male.

The seabird colonies were very spectacular, and this piece of rock in particular!

Among the seabirds were kittiwakes

and my favourites, puffins

Overall, it was a fantastic week. Right at the end, this little chap came to say hello, perfect!

In February, we returned to India. Last time, we went looking for both Indian elephants and one horned rhino with very limited success! Dudhwa was a beatiful park, but we were unlucky with the ellies, and the rhino could only be seen from an elephant back within an area of the park where they are protected. This time we decided to try Kaziranga instead. This park in Assam is famous as a great reserve and the biggest stronghold for the rhinos.I can see why. Within a few minutes of entering the park we saw our first of many of these spectacular animals that are so prehistoric looking.

These animals are very special and thankfully doing well here with over 2000 animals in the park. The park also holds a good population of elephants and it never ceases to amaze me how hard it can be to find such a huge animal! We did find them though. This is a very large bull in musth, a very dangerous situation requiring considerable respect.

There are many other wonderful animals and birds in Kaziranga, including tigers, one of which we saw. However many of the smaller creatures are also really special, such as this giant black squirrel.

There were great birds here too, but for me, the most exciting was the great hornbill. This is another of the targets from my childhood when I had a Brooke Bond PG tips book of picture cards of Indian wildlife that I loved. This hornbill was amongst my favourite, and I have looked for them in the past without any joy. We found a pair feeding in a fruit tree.What a treat!

Another special encounter came in a sanctuary a few hours drive from Kaziranga where the rare Hoolock gibbons live. The amazing gymnasts are often relatively easy to hear in the early morning when their calls echo across the forest. Finding and photographing them is not so easy though! Luckily, a family eventually settled for a feed and I got some shots.

Kaziranga was wonderful, and I could have easily spent another week there, but our second week was back in Tadoba where we had some great tiger encounters in the previous trip. It is always fascinating going back to a place to see what has been happening to the animals that you met last time. On this occasion, we were lucky enough to have more fantastic tiger sightings and on these early mornings , it was the cubs of a very shy female that we saw last time that gave us such thrills. These two are both males and their sister, though nearby was much more cautious, like her mother had been three years ago. These guys were even stalking the vehicle!

So much wonderful wildlife to see , but the other highlight was the Indian wild dog, or dhole. We came across a pack early one morning, just minutes after seeing the tigers, a potentially very dangerous situation for the dogs.

The other sighting that took me back to the jungle book was the sloth bear. These guys are not always easy to photograph but great to see.

Tadoba also has loads of great birds such as the green bee eater.

and the lovely mottled wood owl.This is a female sitting on her nest.

Tadoba and Kaziranga are both fabulous national parks that I would recommend. Look forward to going back to both in the future.

We decided to break our journey home from Australia by spending a few days in Kuala Lumpur. We stayed in a very nice hotel which was very reasonably priced, but surrounded by motorways ! We were not really in the right frame of mind in a way as having been away for nearly 3 months, this felt like the end of the trip, and perhaps we didn’t do it justice, but I didn’t love KL. The centre was spectacular with the Petronas Towers but somehow it didnt really do it for me.

I managed to get out of the city for a day of bird photography and there were some great birds around. This is an orange bellied flowerpecker.

Great views of a blue eared kingfisher

Late in the day, during a huge rainstorm we found a family of Asias smallest bird of prey, the pygmy falconet.

On our last day, we visited the Batu caves in KL. A very spectacular site.

The stairs lead up to the great caves.

At the back of the caves, there is an opening with cliffs leading upto the jungle. I watched a family of macaques climbing down to the temples looking for food.

That was it. Time to go home! Great trip, over so soon! That’s life, so grateful to have had the chance to enjoy the great adventure!

I couldn’t believe it, but we had been away two and a half months, and we were now enjoying our last few days in Oz. We picked a great place to finish. Kangaroo Island was great. We initially stayed in American River, a small very quiet(!) town. It did have some very friendly Australian pelicans though.

From here we drove west to Flinders Chase at the far west end of the island. We stopped off to see the Australian sealion colony at Seal Bay. These animals are highly endangered but it was great to get a little time on the beach with them.

Contine along the coast and you reach Flinders Chase.Our lodge was really nice and we were surrounded by wildlife. There were plenty of the kangaroos that the island is named after, a variant of the grey kangaroo with darker thicker fur.

The highlight was the amazing Hanson Bay sanctuary where we got wonderful views of koalas, including a number of young joeys who were delightful.

The area has some spectacular scenery as well, including the huge ‘Remarkable Rocks’

And Admirals Arch.

The island was fantastic, and following our return to the UK, we were heartbroken to see the news showing the terrible damage caused by the fires which were all over South Australia but hit the Flinders Chase area very badly, even burning our lodge to the ground. We had been amazingly lucky throughout our trip to keep just ahead of the fires, but seeing the destruction and loss of life was awful. Hope it recovers soon.

It was time to leave. We drove back to Adelaide where we would get the plane. Our 10 weeks in Oz were absolutely fantastic. The animals were crazy and the birds stunning. The people were friendly throughout and the wine delicious! A huge variety of landscapes and scenery. Wow, what a country. Cant wait to come back! Thanks.

We loved Tasmania but we had to leave all too soon. So it was onto the Great Ocean Road. This magnificent road runs along the southern coast of Australia from just past Melbourne (actually the small town of Torquay!!) to Adelaide. The first day was the drive from Melbourne to Apollo Bay. This started with a very nice black shouldered kite sitting by the roadside. I have struggled to get good shots of this bird in Europe, but this was pretty relaxed.

We passed through the small town of Lorne which appeared to be a very pretty Victorian period seaside town. We proceeded to Apollo Bay where we had booked our accomodation. Big mistake! Apollo Bay is a bit of a dump compared to Lorne and given the choice, go to Lorne. Luckily there was a half decent pub in Apollo Bay where we got diner and watched a good rugby match on tv! One of the highlights of the area was our first good views of koalas at the famous Koala Cafe. Here , you can park the car and walk up the hill where there are a number of koalas in the trees.

The town itself had a nice little harbour with some nice crested terns which I enjoyed photographing in the late evening sunshine

The next day we visited the Great Ottway national park with it’s spectacular forest and some massive trees. There is a very steep narrow drive up the mountain to where the walkway is that gives an amazing view of the forest from below and at tree top level on the walkway.

From Port Apollo, the road turns north west towards Port Fairy. Along this part of the road, are some of the really stunning views including the famous 12 apostles. These were gorgeous but then when I saw a hunting peregrine, and was really hooked!

Quite soon after this was Loch Ard Gorge, below and London Bridge etc etc! Wonderful.

This part of the road the takes us to Port Fairy, a pretty little town where we stayed in a gorgeous boutique hotel. There was also a nice little Italian restaurant! We enjoyed our brief stay, which included a visit to a nearby nature reserve called Tower Hill. Here I managed to get my favourite emu picture of the trip.

After Port Fairy, the road turns inland and there follows a long drive of several hours through farm land towards Adelaide. Not quite so exciting! Eventually we reached Adelaide. We had a very nice apartment and really enjoyed the sights of the city including Port Adelaide. Some great museums and parks. I also had a great day out with Craig Greer. It was quite hard work but we got a few nice shots of some great birds like this red capped robin.

And the splendid mulga parrot that I had to crawl upto in the very hot middle of the day!

The afternoon involved a long and tricky search for crimson chats. Eventually , having given up, we found a couple!!

The city itself also provided me with some great views of the bird that I saw in the rain in Tasmania, the Eastern Rosella. These ones were very relaxed and allowed me to crawl up to them.

After a few days, we drove south to our last stop in Australia, Kangaroo Island.

From Melbourne, we hopped across the water to spend a little time exploring Tasmania. We started in Launceston, a nice little town with a great Peppers hotel in an old grain store! We enjoyed some nice walks but then left and drove to Cradle Mountain national park in the NW of the island. This is a little gem. Gorgeous scenery and we were very lucky to see it in sunshine and rain! We stayed at another great Peppers hotel which was a real treat as it had some wonderful wildlife on site! Having looked all over Australia for a wombat with no success, this female appeared within minutes of our arrival!

So cute! Right on the doorstep! There were also pademelons and wallabies on site! The hotel was on the edge of the national park and had some lovely walks such as to this pretty waterfall, called Pencil Pine Falls after the type of local pine tree.

The actual national park was spectacular and Cradle Mountain is it’s centrepiece. There is a lovely walk around the lakes perimeter.

The next day was a little different with heavy rain all day. We did a different walk over the hills to the right of the above picture. It was a great walk, but much of the scenery was obscured by low cloud. Towards the end of the walk, we had another great highlight. I turned a corner along the path, and straight in front of me was a pair of gorgeous green rosellas.

This species is only found on Tasmania, so it was great to get some nice pictures before they flew away. We also saw some black currawongs, a corvid with a very characteristic haunting call.

The end of the walk passed through an area, that was very good for wombats, with plenty around in the heathland.

We left Cradle Mountain after a really enjoyable stay and headed south east towards Hobart and Bruny Island. This little island is really pretty.We were again very lucky with the weather. We stayed at the Inala private reserve in a nice little cottage in the forest.They have built a hide there for raptors and I was lucky enough to see grey and brown goshawks as well as a brown falcon. This is a white form of the grey goshawk.

The site is also well known for a very rare,tiny bird called the forty spotted pardalote. This bird is nearly extinct and they are doing a great job helping in its survival.

It was lovely staying on Bruny and I wish we had longer. There were some lovely spots on the island and I hope to go back again to enjoy more of them. We did have to leave so headed back to Hobart for our last couple of days. Another small but nice city, where we enjoyed a great view over the historic harbour, and some fantastic food! Like all the other Aussie cities, it has a great botanical garden, and her I found another wonderful parrot, the Eastern Rosella. Really spectacular colours even in the filthy weather on the day I found them!

We also visited the amazing historic site at Port Arthur. Well worth a day out. We really loved Tazzie and will go back.

From Sydney, we moved onto Melbourne. This is another very pleasant city, where we enjoyed the sights including the old prison, parks and botanical gardens. There is also an abundance of actual photographic equipment shops one of which has a great museum with some wonderful old cameras on display, including every model that I have ever owned in my lifelong photographic journey!

There was also some amazing food in Melbourne, including an absolutely amazing pizza at the 400Gradi restaurant where they have won the Pizza world championship on 3 occasions. Superb!

The wildlife wasnt bad either. I had a fantastic day with Jan who found some stunning birds. The first was this beautiful rose robin ‘singing in the rain’

That afternoon, we then found a couple of pairs of nesting parrots, which were only a few metres apart. First a pair of purple crowned lorikeets, with adults feeding their two chicks.


Nearby in the other tree were this pair of little lorikeets.

Back in town that evening I wandered into one of the parks where I was able to photograph some possums, like this common brushtail.

We spent our last day on an outing to the nearby Dandenong range of hills near Melbourne. This national park has some very spectacular old growth forest with massive trees. Here we found an abundance of cockatoos near a visitor centre. Although a common bird, its not easy to get a nice shot so I was pleased to get this picture showing a bird with an erect crest and a lovely dark background!

From Melbourne we flew to Tasmania, landing in Launceston.

From Brisbane, we flew to Sydney. Like so many of the great cities, you have seen it so many times, but it’s still very special in the flesh. The bridge and opera house are simply wonderful, and I am not really a city lover!

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Yet again, we found a lovely botanical garden with some great birds. This laughing kookaburra was so tame, that initially I wasn’t sure if it was real or a ‘model’! I went closer and closer then it moved! By then I was only a couple of metres from it, hence this portrait.

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There were many other birds, and again the rainbow lorikeet is very common, but you cant always get too close. Not this one  who ignored me completely.

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I had a fantastic day out with David Howe and saw some really spectacular birds. The first was a peregrine falcon. These guys are never in very accessible places, but David reassured me that this was fine. When we got there, we had to perch on the edge of a cliff to see the nest. He was like a mountain goat, but I hate heights so really didn’t enjoy it. I did however love the birds , both adults were present.

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The two chicks also made an appearance. Incredible.

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I really was so happy to get these shots having not really got many peregrines in the past. I also got some really nice flight shots before the sun got too high and spoilt the light. Sadly, I committed a major crime later in the day when shooting some other birds, and had to format my memory card in a rush. Tragically, I formatted the card with the flight shots by mistake and overwrote the images losing them forever. That was really hard to swallow as I couldn’t go back to get more.

We did move on in the afternoon to photograph some other great birds including a family of the massive and very impressive powerful owls. Again, adults and chicks were present.

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The chicks show the curiosity that many owls demonstrate with twisting their heads to size you up.

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The day ended with a visit to a great flying fox roost in Centennial Park. Love these guys. They have such interesting faces.

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The park also had some nice black swans which was where we had our closest views in lovely light.

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Our days in Sydney passed very quickly and before long, we were off to another beautiful spot, the Blue Mountains. Not far from Sydney, they are very attractive, but much more crowded than I expected. Don’t know why I expected that but anyhow, the little town of Leura was very pretty and had a garden festival. The main attraction were the pinnacles known as the three sisters. Very impressive.

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Another amazing part of the country that gave us so much. We started in Cairns which was great. We had a lovely apartment and the whole city had a ‘holiday’ feel about it. Clearly this is because it’s on the coast and like Darwin, it also has a great esplanade. The birds you can see on this walk are amazing including another gorgeous kingfisher, the sacred. Also some stunning waders. My favourite was this common but nonetheless spectacular rainbow lorikeet.

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There is also another really nice botanical gardens. Here I saw my first laughing kookaburra, frogmouth and this little kingfisher.

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Cairns was also where I ventured out to sea to the great barrier reef. If I am honest, I was a bit disappointed I took a day trip out to Michelmas Cay and Hastings reef. We did some snorkelling but I thought the coral was disappointing and looked quite unhealthy, tragic. There were some fish including this big guy.

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I was also keen to see the seabird colony on the island. It was fantastic, but again so frustrating as I didn’t arrive until quite late in the morning and had so little time there. Seabird colonies are always great, with so much action, everywhere.

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Inland was also very good for birds with a selection of stunners. This is a female eclectus parrot, a species that is getting established here form it’s natural home range further north.

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There were some nice ‘roos’ as well, the first eastern greys.

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At Mareeba, there is a small population of the endangered  and very cute Mareeba rock wallaby.

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From Cairns we drove inland to the Atherton tablelands to stay in the nice little town of Yungaburra. We actually stayed in a wonderful cabin in the dense forest near Crater Lakes. What a fantastic place, made all the better by the owners who have spent many years encouraging the local wildlife. This meant that one of the absolute highlights of the trip was possible when a Victoria’s riflebird, one of Australia’s birds of paradise and the only one I have seen, actually landed on my hand to take food from me. Astonishing. And as if that wasn’t enough, he then displayed in front of me. Wow. This was minutes before we left and was so amazing to see after waiting three days.

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There were other amazing highlights here, the first was the most bizarre creature, a kangaroo that lives in the trees! The Lumholtz tree kangaroo was weird,

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but of course the platypus must be the weirdest of them all!! They appeared every evening just before sunset in the little stream in town. Magic, and the only one we saw in the whole trip.Duck Billed Platypus__NZ73629

After sunset, there was still activity like this yellow bellied glider.

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It just went on and on, but sadly it was time to move on again to our next destination, Brisbane. Suddenly it felt like we had really returned to ‘civilisation’ though Brissie is a nice city. We had an apartment 30 floors up and there wasn’t much wildlife there though the suburbs and surrounds did provide many such as the scaly breasted lorikeet

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and the fearsome but fun Eastern water dragons in the cities parks!

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The parks also had some nice water birds such as this Australian grebe and chick

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I also found my first koala at last, but more of them later.

After a couple of days enjoying the city sights, we drove southwest to the amazing Lamington National Park. This was a great relief, as the week before we had read about bush fires in the park and one of the two lodges there had burnt to the ground. Luckily we were staying at O’Reillys and that part of the park was untouched.  That was lucky as this was another fantastic wildlife destination. It was a great drive up the mountain to the lodge where we found so many great birds. The two most obvious were the King parrot and crimson rosella, absolutely stunning parrots. The most famous however is the Regent bowerbird, which come to the lodge mainly in the early morning.

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I also loved the Eastern Spinebill that I found around the lodge.

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In the local forest was a satin bowerbird who had previously starred in a BBC documentary.

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We has another fairy wren, the splendid fairy wren nesting just outside our room.

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I just loved Lamington and would have spent much longer than the few days we had there.

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All good things …. and it was off soon, next stop Sydney.