Category Archives: Wildlife

Happy New Year 2010!

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season, surrounded by family and friends. This has been one of the best holiday seasons I can remember. I have spent some significant quality time with my family and this feels like the first time in I don’t know how long that I have been able to enjoy the season.

Now to some photography! We had about 5 inches of snow yesterday making everything look very festive. Given I was itching to make some clicks the snow was the perfect excuse to get out and ring in the New Year. With everything covered in snow and the bird feeders full, I had my pick of subjects.

There are 2 new species I have seen in mass numbers over the last few days/week, White Throated Sparrows and Dark Eyed Juncos.

White Throated Sparrow

White Throated Sparrow waiting for turn at feeder

Dark Eyed Junco in Snow

There seems to be around 10-20 White Throated Sparrows and 20-30 Dark Eyed Juncos. They are both beautiful birds and very fun to watch.

And one of my all time favorites:

Downy Woodpecker in snowy tree

The Downy Woodpeckers and Woodpeckers in general are difficult to photograph. They are very skittish as are the Cardinals. There could be 10 outside when I look out the window but they take off permanently when I go outside. I guess I need to work on my technique!

I wish you all a Happy and Healthy 2010.

Impala Antelope

Its amazing how beautiful the Impala is. Botswana’s population seems to be thriving. When we were there, mothers had recently given birth to many calves.

Impala Calf Approaching Male Adult
Impala Calf Approaching Male Adult

Several things make identifying Impala’s easy. The most notable is the “M” shape marking on the hind end. Many people think it looks like a McDonalds sign. Many of my readers know I love movies. To me it looks more like the McDowells sign in “Coming to America”!
Hind End of Impala showing "M" marking

Unfortunately, one of the real purposes the Impala serves in the circle of life is food for many of the predators. We witnessed many kills where the Impala was on the menu as the daily special. The most notable of these kills were the dog kill featured in one of my previous blogs and a leopard kill from my last day at Chitabe.

Leopard Kill of Impala in Tree, Chitabe, Botswana, Africa
Leopard Kill of Impala in Tree, Chitabe, Botswana, Africa

Its hard to imagine that a creature so beautiful as the Impala serves mostly as food for Africa’s wild predator population.

Impala Calf, Chitabe Camp, Botswana, Africa
Impala Calf, Chitabe Camp, Botswana, Africa

Africa Day 3, Wild Dogs

We were very fortunate to witness a pack of 22 wild dogs on 2 of our game drives. This was one of the most exciting parts of the trip for me. I will keep the pictures here to just pack behavior as I know many children read this blog. I will have some scenes of the kill in the website gallery shortly.

African Wild Dog Pups at play, Chitabe, Botswana
African Wild Dog Pups at play, Chitabe, Botswana

You can tell by the image below that these hunts take their toll on the animals. Look at the right front leg on the dog to the left.

African Wild Dog with Injured Leg, Chitabe, Botswana
African Wild Dog with Injured Leg, Chitabe, Botswana

This pack had 14 new pups in the 22, 2 of the pups had already not survived the last few months. That said, our guide told us that this was one of the largest African Wild Dog packs in Africa.

African Wild Dog pups at play, Chitabe, Botswana
African Wild Dog pups at play, Chitabe, Botswana

Flying around the dog kill was this beautiful Yellow Billed Kite. When the dogs were not looking he swooped down and grabbed a piece of their kill which is actually still in his talons in this picture.

Yellow Billed Kite in Flight, Chitabe, Botswana
Yellow Billed Kite in Flight, Chitabe, Botswana

Africa Day 2, Victoria Falls and Zambezi River

Sunday was an intense day, not only was it our first full day in Africa (after roughly 30 hours of flying) but it was a day with 3 scheduled location shoots, 1 more than we would have on any other day. After we photographed in Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park we were off to Victoria Falls. As many of you know, Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Victoria Falls from the Zambia entrance
Victoria Falls from the Zambia entrance

Above is a picture looking at the falls from the Zambian entrance. You can visit the falls from either Zambia or Zimbabwe. Given that this was the beginning of the wet season, the falls were almost dry. In another 2 months the falls would cover the full length of the photo along the right wall. We were told that when the falls were in full force, we could not stand where we were taking pictures because the mist and force of the water would overwhelm us.

Man sitting on dry Victoria Falls
Man sitting on dry Victoria Falls

If you look closely at the above photo, you can see a man sitting on a dry section of the falls, this will give you a perspective of just how massive an area the falls cover. I would estimate that the section in this photo was approximately 1/8 of the full width of the falls.

Victoria Falls across the foot bridge
Victoria Falls across the foot bridge

Many of you have heard about people bungee jumping from Victoria Bridge. Here is the bridge. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the building on the bridge people jump from and the bungee as it hangs down from the bridge.

Victoria Falls Bridge
Victoria Falls Bridge

Later in the evening we took another sunset cruise down the Zambezi River. In the photo below, we were looking down one of the rivers tributaries that led to the falls. You can see in the photo the mist from the falls.

Victoria Falls Mist from Zambezi River
Victoria Falls Mist from Zambezi River

African Crocodile along the Zambezi River, Zambia
African Crocodile along the Zambezi River, Zambia

All in all, our trip to Zambia was very memorable albeit short.

Africa Day 2, Morning Game Drive

First of all I would like to thank everyone for the notes I have received since my return. I am feeling better and expect to make a full recovery shortly.

The itinerary for our trip was a fairly simple one. Each day was comprised of an early morning activity (4:45 AM wake up) and an early evening activity. This left the heat of the afternoon (this was the summer in Africa of course) for education, naps, inter-camp travel or individual game reserve exploration.

The exception to this itinerary was our first full day. We had an early morning game drive in Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, followed by a trip to Victoria Falls and then another evening boat ride on the Zambezi River.

The main purpose of our stop to Zambia was to have the group acclimate to the time zone and check our gear before we headed to our main photographic destination, Botswana.

The Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park was full of wildlife. However park management never stocked or reintroduced predators in this park due to its proximity to a large orphanage at the main gate to the park. The prime subjects for us were the White Rhino herd, 5 in total, that were recently reintroduced to the park.

White Rhinoceros Grazing
White Rhinoceros Grazing

It is hard to appreciate the majesty of these animals until you are up close and personal!

Male White Rhino checking out his audience
Male White Rhino checking out his audience

Unfortunately for the group we only located this lone male, the females were nowhere in site.

One of the challenges that the group faced photographing in Zambia and Botswana were the busy backgrounds. Many people associate photographing animals in Africa with the cleaner backgrounds common in Tanzania (Serengeti) and Kenya. Here are two examples of images doomed by background.

Southern Giraffe in Zambia
Southern Giraffe in Zambia
Common Waterbuck
Common Waterbuck

Both of the above pictures are nice “mementos” but not valuable for a portfolio. You might be able to get away with the Giraffe background but definitely not the Waterbuck’s.

One surprisingly interesting subject were the Fireball Lilies that dotted the landscape of all the parks we visited. You don’t normally think of flowers when you think of the Kalahari and other dry locales.

Fireball Lilies in full bloom
Fireball Lilies in full bloom

Stay tuned for Victoria Falls and the second Zambezi River trip! They will be posted soon.

Africa, First Stop, Zambia

Hello All,
I am back from Africa and I have a lot to share with you. I know some of you are asking why I am back so soon. Well, the short answer is I had a bad reaction to the malaria medication I was given and it forced me to end my trip 6 days early. It was a devastating set of circumstances given I had planned this trip for 12 months. However, on the bright side, I am home, safe and under the care of my own doctors. But I will admit that the 28 hours it took me to leave camp and land at JFK were extremely stressful. That all said, I expect to be fully recuperated in time for Thanksgiving dinner!

So our group had their first stop at Toka Leya camp in Zambia. This camp is fairly new, approximately 1 1/2 yrs. old. It sits right along the Zambezi River, a few miles up river from Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls are one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Our first game drive was a sunset boat ride along the river (I know, if my wife or mother finds out I was in a small boat, in the dark, on a river filled with crocodiles and hippos I might not see Thanksgiving Day).

Speaking of hippos, as soon as we entered the water we saw our first herd.

Yawning Hippopotamus in the Zambezi River, Zambia
Yawning Hippopotamus in the Zambezi River, Zambia

Hippos sometimes yawn to show potential threats how fierce they are. We didn’t need much convincing!

The Zambezi River is shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia as are Victoria Falls. The ecosystem is filled with wildlife, both mammals and birds. We could have stayed in the river for several days and not had a chance to photograph all that we witnessed.

Zambian sunset from the Zambezi River
Zambian sunset from the Zambezi River

The summer months in Africa are considered the rainy season. An advantage of being there during this time are clouds! The rest of the year has just plain blue or grey skies which can get pretty monotonous.

Sunset over Zimbabwe, from the Zambezi River
Sunset over Zimbabwe, from the Zambezi River

Over the next few days/weeks, I will journal for everyone our daily game drives as well as provide information about our experiences during the trip. Many people have asked me about what I brought and how I packed. A separate post would be necessary to do justice to this topic and I will provide this information at the end (most likely after the holidays).

If you have any comments or questions about the trip either drop me a line of leave a comment. I will most definitely be around the next week.

The Zoo is a Magical Place

I asked my daughter if there was anything special she wanted to do, just she and I, before school started on Monday. She answered quickly, “Go to the zoo”. So off to the zoo we went. Her request happened to coincide nicely with some work I wanted to do photographing big game in preparation for an upcoming trip to Botswana (Okavango Delta) and Zambia (Victoria Falls) hosted by David Cardinal (www.cardinalphoto.com). I think David still has 1 opening for the trip. If you are interested please contact him.

Today was a lovely day in the N.Y. Metro area and the Bronx Zoo was packed! We had a great day visiting several of the zoo habitats. It is a magical place for children. Most had big smiles on their faces. My daughter and I could not have had a better day together.

I told my daughter to pick which of today’s photos she liked best and that I would use them for this blog post. I was surprised at how much time she spent at my computer mulling over her choices. Here are some of her favorites and a few of mine as well. Most of these pictures were taken through glass so the focus is not the best.

No Respect
No Respect
Sleeping Panther
Sleeping Panther
Monkey in Tree
Monkey in Tree

My personal favorite for a whole lot of reasons:

Manly Mandril
Manly Mandril

If you are interested in supporting the Zoo or more directly the Wildlife Conservation Society, here is the link: (www.wcs.org)

All photographs taken with Nikon D700, 70-300 VR lens and Lexar Digital Film