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After the wonderful trip to India, I was lucky enough to get a week back in Africa. I love travelling to all the destinations that I visit, but I always come back to Africa. There is just something unique about it. This trip was to the Kgalagadi transfrontier park straddling the border of South Africa and Botswana. I have wanted to visit for a long time and was very excited to see the wildlife in this desert environment.  Surprisingly, it was much greener than I expected, largely as I was visiting at the end of the winter.  Most game viewing is done from the roads running along dried up river valleys which house a number of water holes. Water is of course the critical ingredient for life and as in Etosha, this is where much of the action occurs. Unfortunately for me , there was a big storm and so water was not as scarce as I would have liked. Nonetheless the wildlife and birds were fantastic.

My first morning included lion,leopard, cheetah and the highlight, caracal! This is a cat that I have never seen before and was amazed to see one hunting on the road in the middle of the day.

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Having caught and eaten the mouse, the caracal continued to walk along the road providing great views.

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The birds of prey were also fantastic with many young and relatively tame birds providing very good views. Pale chanting goshawks seem to be everywhere!

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One of the most famous inhabitants present in large numbers is also my favourite antelope, the gemsbok. They are such a spectacular animal, and the rutting season was approaching so there was a bit of activity between the males.

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I stayed at two lodges on the Botswana side of the border, Rooiputs and Polentswana both of which were lovely.  Great staff and food, and my driver MrT was very good as well.

Perhaps the best known inhabitant of the Kalahari is the suricate or meerkat! I had never seen one in the wild so was delighted to find them, though they were not easy to find or photograph! These were not the groups that are so used to people that they climb on your shoulders!  They were great and behaved just as I expected with sentries looking out while the rest forage. Fantastic!

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Although the caracal was the highlight, it is always a thrill to see any of the big cats. This cheetah was one of a pair up on the vast grass covered dunes.

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And of course , the magificent black maned lions are very impressive.

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Leopards are always a thrill. I saw this male pushing a female very early one morning.Not great as it was quite dark.

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The biggest photographic challenge proved to be hunting birds, not cats. One morning,I spent some time at a waterhole watching several hundred cape turtle doves coming to drink. It was spectacular and they continued to come and go for nearly an hour. During this whole time, Lanner falcons patrolled the area flying through the doves and catching one periodically. The light was poor, making this lightening fast action impossible to capture.At least I got some nice shots of the falcons starting their attacks.

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Other than the gemsbok, the other main prey species were springbuck and wildebeest. The light at the beginning and end of the day can be spectacular, like this.

Wildebeast_8506473Although the Lanner’s were spectacular, my absolute favourite raptor was the tiny but lovely pygmy falcon.

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The final evening gave us another great sighting. Although the big cats are spectacular, the small cats are also amazing. We saw this African wild cat at dusk. It looked just like a normal ‘moggie’!!

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All in all, it was  a great week. I didn’t get all I wanted, but that’s photography. It was great shooting with Percy whose knowledge of the area was very helpful.

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We travelled to India 10 years after our previous visit. I was left very uneasy last time about the attitude of drivers, guides and the public in the national parks whenever a tiger was sighted. I was however very keen to try and find some tigers, so gave it a try.We started in Tadoba national park, one of a string of parks in central India. We initially stayed at Tiger trails which was fine, but then moved to the much more luxurious Bamboo forest lodge. Very nice, with delicious food.That was not the point however, and we saw tigers on our first game drive. A family with four large cubs. They were a little way off and in very poor light so no decent shots. Encouraging start though! The next morning, we came across a young female. She was beautiful, but sadly had damaged her right eye. Perhaps a twig, or when hunting.

She seemed to fairly well fed so is presumably managing even with the one eye.
There were reasonable numbers of spotted deer and Sambar deer around, though a drive is not like most parks in Africa where there are much larger numbers and variety of herbivores. The birds however are superb. There are many stunning species including examples like this bee eater.

and the white throated kingfisher.

The star tiger in Tadoba is a female known as Maya. She has been filmed by a number of film makers including the BBC. She currently has young cubs so we spent several days waiting in her territory in the hope of seeing her. No success sadly, but on our way back to the lodge one evening, we came across two young males. They were very relaxed and gave us a great show.

Initially fairly relaxed they soon woke up and were clearly peckish, as they were very alert.

Eventually they wandered off into an area where we were unable to follow. It was a great sighting.

Over the following days, we continued our search for Maya, but without success. The other wildlife such as the langur monkeys were quite entertaining however.

There were other great birds to see including a good few raptors, including my ‘bogie’ bird from Portugal the black shouldered kite!

On the last day, patience was rewarded when Maya finally appeared with her two three month old cubs.

What could have been a really spectacular sighting was partially spoiled by the utter selfish stupidity of one of the guides from our own lodge, Arjun, an extremely arrogant young man, who placed his car in the way and blocked everyone else’s view. Very disappointing! Still managed to get a couple of very nice shots.

We left Tadoba and headed north to the famous bird sanctuary at Bharatpur. This was well worth the effort providing some wonderful birds such as this gorgeous coppersmith barbet.

Also present were many water birds such as spotted duck.

Perhaps the highlight came late in the evening with a couple of blue bull or Nilgai antelope, the original sacred cows of India. Two males were after the same female.It was quite dark, but I got a couple of shots.

From here, we went onto Chambal river. There were a couple of targets that I really wanted which is why we went there. It was a lovely lodge and the nearby countryside provided all I wanted. First wes the stunning saris crane.This large bird lives in the surrounding farm land. Very attractive in the fields.
They even put on a display with the famous trumpeting calls that pairs make to confirm their bonding.

The next target was an animal that I had wanted to see since collecting a picture of it on a Brooke Bond picture card in the 1960s. It was the blackbuck, and again, we had success. This lovely antelope also lives in farmland.Not the easiest to see as they are quite shy.

A little stalking allowed a close approach and some great views.

The remainder of this part of the trip was on the river where we had more great sightings. The gharial crocodile were another of those Brooke Bond creatures that I finally saw.

There were also quite a number of impressive march or muggy crocs.

The birds were the highlight including these gorgeous Indian skimmers

and a Bonelli’s eagle nest with two big chicks.

The other highlight here was a hunting jungle cat we saw on the bank one evening.

From here it was further north to our final destination, Dudhwa national park near the Nepal border. We arrived after another horrendous and chaotic road trip! We went to Dudhwa for rhino, and although I did see a pair, the park was very quiet and actually quite disappointing. The rhino was fun but had to be photographed from the back of an elephant which I was not happy about.

Frustratingly, you have very limited time on the elephants so I would not really recommend this for photographers. There were more nice birds here and at the nearby Kishnapur reserve where our last day saw a further tiger sighting. This male appeared at dawn.

Then in the evening we saw another male and his mate. Nice ending to a generally very good trip

I look forward to coming back to India as there is so much here for the photographer, both in the national parks and outside!!!

October has seen a return to Africa. One of the great game parks is Etosha in Namibia. My previous visits have always been hard work but very fruitful. This time of the year is hot and dry with most of the action going on near the various natural and man made waterholes. We tend to stake these out and are rarely disappointed. Initially we stayed at Mokuti lodge on the edge of the park. This is a nice lodge, but has the disadvantage of being outside the park boundary, which opens at sunrise.This means that getting into the park proper can take a frustrating 10-15minutes in the morning, and you have to remember to get out before sunset. This can mean missing some very nice light, but rules are rules! There has been an increase in rhino poaching recently, so control of who is in the park is important. The two nearest waterholes to the lodge are at Klein Namutoni and Chudob. Chudob is good in the mornings and has always yielded some good lion activity as well as masses of herbivores. On my first morning, I caught a glimpse of a couple of lionesses who were walking towards Chudob but were in thick scrub. I got down to the waterhole and then enjoyed the site of six lionesses coming down to drink. They had clearly eaten well, but the sixth one was huge.She was full and pregnant, and could hardly walk!

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Although the middle of the day is not always ideal, you can often see elephant activity, and we regularly saw families coming down to drink and play. A truly wonderful and moving sight.

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As well as the local elephant families at Klein Namutoni, we had a nice sighting of a very relaxed female leopard art the waterhole.

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Etosha is very hot and dry, and this landscape lends itself to some dramatic scenes.

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After a couple of days at the eastern end of the park, we drove across to our second destination, Okakuejo. This camp is within the park and has a fantastic floodlit waterhole.. This is a very reliable site to spot black rhino. One night, there six around the waterhole at once! Amazing.

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Lovely to see young rhinos in spite of the disgusting poaching that continues. This area has another great waterhole, Nebrowni. It is a few minutes from camp, and provides a different type of image for photographers. Although we saw lions here, the bull elephants were the stars. There are a large number of these huge elephants around the park, and they also need to drink. They are easy to spot and always fun to watch.

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In spite of their huge size, they all have small and broken tusks. This is probably due to calcium deficiency, but may be a life saver as they are not such a target for poachers as the great tuskers of East Africa.

We spent one night listening to the fantastic sound of roaring lions. As soon as the sun came up,I drove out to try and find them They were about 100m from camp and provided some great images.

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Not all the predators are as big as the lions, and early morning also revealed some local bat eared foxes. These are small and quite shy, and sometimes all you can see is the large ears on show!

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These open plains are also home to another very characteristic bird present in large numbers in Etosha, the ostrich.

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After a few days, we headed back east to Onguma. This is a separate privately owned reserve on the edge of Etosha. I wanted to go there as they have built a hide at a waterhole. This is always an attractive option for a photographer as it allows you to watch the animals at eye level, rather than from a vehicle. It proved very successful with lots of animals coming to drink. The highlight of the whole trip however was when two lionesses with four six month old cubs came to drink and play. I didn’t what to look at with plenty of amazing action in every direction!

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As well as the group shots, the cubs came so close to the hide to investigate that portraits were very easy, so close that I could pat them on the nose!!

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The mums were not quite so pleased about this and kept us on our toes!

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Lions were not the only visitors at this waterhole. It provided a chance to see some of the gorgeous small birds that can be so difficult to see on a normal safari.

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At the other extreme, giraffe also came to drink.

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Black backed jackals are always busily running around. They seem to be on a mission, always running in such a purposeful manner!

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Lots of herbivores need to come and drink in this very hot environment. There was a virtually constant parade of these guys coming to drink. Some of them such as the zebra were not surprisingly, very wary!

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I thoroughly enjoyed the hide, and enjoyed shooting with Bill Gozansky who shared some of the sessions with me.

Our last few days in Etosha were a really special experience.It seems to get better every time I go. We yet again failed to find a cheetah in spite of looking hard. Everything else however behaved  as well as we could have asked for.What was best? Elephants are always such amazing animals.

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Rhino are so special and the continuing poaching is so tragic. Even cutting off the horns makes no difference, but lets hope that the market in China and Vietnam can soon be shut down before these animals disappear.

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But the best? Lions. Just can’t get enough of them!

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I tried to photograph these birds last year while nesting. No joy as they nested late! So I decided to try again, a little later, in the hope of getting some shots of young birds, which are a little less nervous. We headed back to Lisbon, where we started with a delicious custard tart and visit to the Time Out market for some fantastic food.We headed out to the country to try and track down the kites and yet again, they proved difficult. Several birds were around but remained extremely shy, taking flight as soon as we got to within about 100metres. Even with a 600mm lens and 1.4 converter, they were too far off. It was a shame as they are stunning. I got some flight shots but in the very hot air and great distance, they are all a bit soft.

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This became even more frustrating when a kestrel decided to have a go at one of the kites.

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The following morning, I finally got some nice shots of a young bird on a perch.Beautiful!

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There were some other nice birds around the area including this bishop.

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And a squacco heron.

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We went back to Lisbon for a couple of days. There was a visit from the Irish President so our last morning was spent enjoying watching this cavalry unit doing their stuff!

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It was a fun weekend.Thanks to Elder for his help.

August has been a month to shoot nearer to home. My main subject has been the local roe deer.They are quite shy and always hard to get a good shot. I was hoping to find some rutting males, and although I did come across a pair of bucks squaring upto one another, it was almost pitch black so no pictures! The next morning however, I did see this buck hot on the tail of his doe, with clearly only one thing on his mind!

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The other lovely sighting was this youngster that I came across on another evening out.

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Last weekend,I spent a very enjoyable afternoon shooting harvest mice. These tiny rodents do not hang around so also proved to be quite a challenging subject.

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When they stop for a second, you can get some nice poses. These two are youngsters. Childhood doesn’t last long for these guys as they grow and breed quite quickly.

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It was nice to get them in various environments, though sadly the classic wheat stem eluded me. A bramble bush was a nice alternative though.

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It was great fun, thanks to Pete Whieldon for this.

In june, I finally got back to Costa Rica, 5 years after my previous trip. This time Nicky joined me. We travelled with my friend and guide Jeffrey Munoz.  The trip started with a dire 4 hour delay at the immigration hall in San Jose. Four wide bodied jets land within minutes, and only 4 agents to check all the passports! Not a great start, but things rapidly improved. Next morning, we drove to the Arenal volcano. The Arenal Observatory lodge was a perfect base for the first few days. We had hoped to see a margay in the area. Sadly no joy, but on our first day there, we did have some amazing opportunities to photograph some of the snakes that live in Costa Rica. This included some beautiful eyelash vipers.
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The highlight however was the chance to shoot this stunning bushmaster. This is central America’s most venomous snake, and although it was clearly quite relaxed, taking pictures with a wide angle lens at this range was quite a thrill
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The next day was spent on a visit to the Cano Negro wetland area on the Nicaraguan border. This was a great area for bird photography with our first owl of the trip, these screech owls.
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There were also a number of other great birds like this kingfisher.
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From Arenal, we moved up to Bosque de Paz, our first hummingbird site.  This small lodge was a great site with gardens full of hummers. Initially, I shot using natural light, fun but difficult as it was so dark.
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The next day, we set up some flash guns and spent the whole day shooting the humming birds. This was huge fun and totally addictive. I managed to get many good shots, very many!!
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There was also a little surprise for Nicky here when she came across a tarantula on the path one afternoon. Cute!
From here we moved back down to sea level to spend a few days at the Selvaverde lodge. Here we met a very strange character , known by Jeffrey as Elmo, due to his vocal similarity to the Muppet character. The was hot tropical rainforest and provided some amazing wildlife. We were able to photograph some of the wonderful little frogs that live in this humid forests. They are great fun, but again a challenge in low light. They tend to hop around quite rapidly too!! This little guy is a glass frog, transparent and only 2cm long!
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The next day,I met Coppee, an amazing guide. He hacked through the rain forest and found some great stuff. Within a couple of hours in the baking hot, humid forest I had photographed two species of bat, and two species of owl amongst others.Amazing.
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In the afternoon, we had quite a laugh shooting an ant pitta. This little bird is quite shy, and it appeared within the root system of a large tree.We then waited for a couple of hours while it teased us by starting to come out into the open, then rushing back into the dark. Eventually, it relaxed came out and flew so close that I thought it would land on the camera!
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The next destination was back up in the highlands. We travelled to the Paradiso de Quetzal to try and find the resplendent quetzal, said by some to be the most beautiful bird in the world!! Last time I came to Costa Rica, I only saw one at the top of a very tall tree in Monteverde. This time was much more successful. With the help of Eric,our local guide, we found some wild avocado trees which were fruiting, and before long, the quetzals appeared, stunning indeed!
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We the did another great session with the humming birds, including the amazing flame throated hummingbird. High up in this new ecosystem at nearly 3000m , there were lots of other stunning birds to photograph such as this chlorophonia.
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Our final destination, was on the Pacific coast. The Parador hotel in Quepos is right by the Manuel Antonio national park. Here we found the mantled howler monkeys the had woken us at 5am when we were at Arenal. The hotel was amazing and having monkeys, sloths and many birds on the property was amazing.
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We got some great views of sloths at long last, Both here and in Brazil, I had been unable to see a sloth, so it was great to see both 2 and 3 toed varieties.
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On the final day, we went looking for birds again. Several great species, but it was probably the ferruginous pygmy owl that was my favourite. Like all these small owls, they seem to have a great attitude.Tough characters.
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It was a great trip.I came home with over 22000 images, some idea of the almost continuous shooting. Thanks for all your help Jeffrey, you did a great job. Look forward to returning soon.

May has been centred around Luke and Laura’s wedding, so wildlife has taken a bit of a back seat, at this most busy time of the year. I was however delighted to find a little owl nest here in West Horsley, and have spent the last few evening watching the adults coming into the nest hole and hearing the rather unpleasant racous calls of the owlets demanding food. Here is the male,I think. He seems much more relaxed in my presence than his partner.

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