June has been a busy month with 2great trips. The first was to Minnesota in the northern USA. I had two targets for this trip, but the whole thing nearly collapsed at the first hurdle when I realised that I had forgotten our driving licenses while on the plane flying out! It took a huge amount of stress and great work from Luke and Geoff to get me the information I needed to get a car in Minneapolis. Having finally got it, we drove out west to Annandale to try and find the bird called the Western grebe. This lovely bird is a member of the family that I have always liked. I set out with Stan and nearly had to cancel the whole thing due to terrible weather, but we carried on to the lake and the sun came up. The first bird soon came into view sitting on it’s nest.

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These birds nest in large groups in the middle of big lakes. In this area, there were probably 20-30 pairs and as the sun came up, we got some stunning views.

_DSC3542Photographing from a boat is not always easy, but we spent a few hours enjoying these birds. Also nearby were a group of American pelicans.

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The birds are very attractive and here is a male displaying his crown.

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In amongst all the Western Grebes, was one single Clarks grebe, a very similar birdbath a slightly different feather pattern on it’s head.

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The real hope however was to see the amazing rituals that these grebes do as part of their pair bonding. It took all morning and the weather started to rapidly deteriorate, before we got one view of the wonderful dance, the ‘rush’

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Well worth the early start and the wait! After this excitement, we went to see a bald eagle nest, not something you get a good view of every day. Both parents were in the tree nearby.

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The nest itself seemed to have one large chick who seemed quite content!

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Another bird of prey came into view at Stan’s house, where he is lucky enough to have his own osprey’s nest. This must be what it’s like to be a fish in the sights of these great birds!

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Eventually we drove north to find the black bears that were the main focus of the trip. Orr is not a very exciting village. We stayed in a classic American motel, and eat our meals in the only local restaurant, The Dam. No Michelin stars, but adequate qualities!! We were there for the black bears and we were not disappointed.

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There were plenty of these cute, eating machines in the area along with a selection of this years cubs and curious teenagers. The cubs were adorable, as all baby animals are.

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Although ‘black bears’, many of them are brown in colour. They are amazing climbers going straight up the tallest trees as soon as they feel in any way threatened. It doesn’t take much to get them climbing then they sit happily high watching everything beneath them.

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They are very cute when hanging onto the trees.

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The main problem we had was that the weather was too good. Photographing black bears in a forest in dazzling sunlight is a very challenging task. Many of the pictures were unsuitable, but some were still salvageable, just!

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After finishing in Orr we drove back to Minneapolis and St Paul, the twin cities on the Mississippi river. A very interesting place well worth spending a couple of days exploring with some good history including Fort Snelling on the edge of the city and some of the amazing houses built by the timber and railroad barons who controlled the city in the late nineteenth century.

Overall, a very enjoyable week, that started disastrously but ended very well.

The second great trip was a return organised brilliantly by Greg and Brigitte. This year we decided to go to a different part of the Camargue, based at the beautiful town of Aiges Mortes. We stayed at a lovely hotel called Villa Mazarin in the centre of this stunning walled town. The food was fantastic, but of course the purpose of the trip was to photograph the horses. We were lucky with the weather again and had some great settings to photograph these gorgeous horses.

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This light was lovely and you really can’t go wrong with this kind of subject. We mainly photographed at the beginning and end of every day, with some great trips during the day including for example the great Roman city of Nimes and Avignon.

Although we always think of the horses as being white, this year we had the chance to shoot this impressive black stallion.

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Stallions are fairly intolerant of each other so this kind of activity happens fairly easily as soon as they get close.

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It was a great weekend with a really nice group of people. Thanks Greg for doing a great job.

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