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The Early Bird
Early evening in the Linyanti region of Botswana, this Southern Red-Billed Hornbill was the “Early Bird that catches the worm”. It swooped down, grabbed the worm and then flew up and onto a branch where he proceeded to bash it about before finally swallowing it whole.
Southern Red-Billed Hornbill - Tockus rufirostris
A fairly small Hornbill with a rather short red bill. It has white-spotted wing coverts, pale face and white throat.
Nikon D5 with Nikkor VR 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens and a 1.4x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm1/3200 sec @ f14, Auto ISO 4500
Photograph by Trevor Woodburn
These two oceanic Blacktip Sharks were competing for sardine pieces at the surface. They are resident off the KwaZulu-Natal coast of South Africa and is a regular attendant at the Shark feeding and diving venue, Aliwal Shoal, 5km offshore of Scottborough bathing beach. Divers can interact closely with these Sharks without the need for a cage provided they comply with behaviour styles so as not to incite the Sharks to think they are food. These Sharks have grown large as a by-product of the Tiger Shark baiting programme.
Oceanic Blacktip Shark - Carcharhinus Limbatus
This a common Shark which is distributed throughout the coastal tropical and subtropical waters around the world. The species is known to grow to a length of 2m. The Shark has a strong streamlined body with a fusiform shape and long pointed snout with relatively small eyes. The gill slits are long and they can have black tips or edges to their pectoral, dorsal, pelvic or caudal fins. They are extremely fast, energetic predators sometimes breaching the surface and swimming erratically when hunting fish.
Nikon D300 Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX, 10mm F13 at 1/50th sec, ISO 200, Sea & Sea Housing and Two Sea & Sea YS250 strobes on ¼ power. Taken on scuba at 1m at Aliwal Shoal, Kwa-Zulu Natal , South Africa
Photograph by Andrew Woodburn
This clan was rising from the desert night in summer amongst the dew wet grass. Many had damp fur and were drying out in the morning sun as they stood collectively looking for danger. Tentatively at first but with increasing confidence the pups soon emerged to join the generations of their mob on the red sandy mound outside their burrow. They played and rolled around at the feet of their parents before days foraging began
Meerkat Mob –Suricata suricatta
The meerkat is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family (Herpestidae). Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan". A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild. The meerkat is small, weighing on average about 0.5 to 2.5 The meerkat uses its tail to balance when standing upright, as well as for signaling. At the end of each of a meerkat's "fingers" is a claw used for digging burrows and digging for prey. The patterns of stripes are unique to each meerkat. The underside of the meerkat has no markings, but the belly has a patch which is only sparsely covered with hair and shows the black skin underneath. The meerkat uses this area to absorb heat while standing on its rear legs, usually early in the morning after cold desert nights.
Nikon D2Xs, DX format, Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 APO DG OS lens @ 150mm, 1/320th sec @ f6.3, ISO 560
Late afternoon in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, this male Red Lechwe darted across a wet floodplain kicking up a spray of water droplets as it splashed through the water.
Red Lechwe -Kobus leche
A sturdy, long-horned antelope that lives at the water’s edge. It has overdeveloped hindquarters, hooves elongated with wide splay and adjacent naked skin, that are aquatic adaptations.
Nikon D5 with Nikkor VR 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with 1.4x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm1/2500 sec @ f13, Auto ISO 57000
This Wildebeest had just been sand bathing in a scrape in the red Kalahari sands post the rain. The red dust stuck to it like a woman’s makeup coating his hair and providing a colourful evening sight as well as a useful way of getting rid of parasites and defending its hide from flies. It added even more to the comical appearance of these animals who seem to be made up of a mixture of parts from various antelope species.
Blue Wildebeest –Connochaetes taurinus
The Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), also called the common Wildebeest, White-bearded Wildebeest or Brindled Gnu, is a large antelope. This broad-shouldered antelope has a muscular, front-heavy appearance, with a distinctive robust muzzle. Young Bblue Wildebeest are born tawny brown, and begin to take on their adult colouration at the age of two months. Both sexes possess a pair of large curved horns. The Blue Wildebeest is a herbivore, feeding primarily on the short grasses. It forms herds which move about in loose aggregations, the animals being fast runners and extremely wary. Blue Wildebeest are found in short grass plains bordering bush-covered acacia savannas in southern and eastern Africa, thriving in areas that are neither too wet nor too arid. Three African populations of Blue Wildebeest take part in a long-distance migration.
Nikon D7000, DX format, Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 APO DG OS lens @ 250mm, 1/400th sec @ f6.3, ISO 6400
Early morning in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, this Back-Backed Jackal was seen running through the long grass when he suddenly crouched down and peeked through the beautiful dry grass seeds using these grass blades as camouflage.
Black-Backed Jackal -Canis mesomelas
Handsome jackal with a distinct saddle of black and silver hair, also known as Silver-Backed Jackal. Weighs around 7 to 14 kg and is reddish brown to tan, redder on flanks and legs; saddle of raised black and white hairs; black tipped tail; underparts and throat are white.
Nikon D5 with Nikkor VR 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with a 1.4x Teleconverter, effective focal length 500mm1/3200 sec @ f14, Auto ISO 3200
Stingray Swim by
This Blotched Fantail Stingray sometimes known as a Bull Ray was found flying effortlessly over the deep reef looking for a sandy patch to settle down on and dissapear beneath the seabed. These Rays rest by day and are more active hunting at night but in this case it was quite curious about the divers wanting its photo. The motion of swimming by moving its round disk makes it seem like a magic carpet waving in the wind and while it seems tame and effortless this is the type of Ray responsible for Steve Irwin’s death by using the sharp barb at the base of its tail.
Blotched fantail ray - Taeniura Meyenie
The common name for the Blotched Fantail Ray comes from its coloration and tail flap. The upper surface is a pattern of black, grey and white spots and blotches which ends abruptly at the edges of the circular-shaped body. The pattern continues along the tail to the one or two spines where the colour changes to black or dark grey. The very edges of the body disc are white like the belly. This Ray lives throughout the coastal waters of the tropics. It is common on coral reefs where it feeds on bottom-dwelling animals. While the Stingray is approachable and at times curious, it should be treated with respect; at least one human fatality has been attributed to this ray.
Nikon D300, AF Sigma 10-20mm D lens, 10mm, 1/20th sec @ f5, ISO 200 Sea & Sea Housing and Two Sea & Sea YS250 strobes on ¼ power. Taken on scuba at 41m at Deep Pinnacle, southern Mozambique
In the desert of the Kalahari where the arid region bakes for much of the year, the rain is scarce and a miracle maker. Flowers and insects all flourish post the rain for a short period when the life cycle of most species needs to complete in short order. The colours and smells are intense and so is the need to feed and reproduce in Tswalu reserve during dusk.
Armoured Ground Cricket – Acanthoplus discoidalis
The Armoured Ground Cricket is a wide-bodied, flightless species that typically grows to a body length of about 5 cm. The pronotum bears several sharp, conical spines. The mandibles, or main biting jaws, are powerful; they can inflict a painful nip and they permit the insect to feed on material such as tough herbage or carrion. Another defense against predators is reflex bleeding (also called "autohaemorrhaging") in which the insects squirt haemolymph from pores in their exoskeleton, achieving a range of a few centimetres. Especially when their diet is deficient in protein and salt, members of the species commonly become cannibalistic, so much so that when their populations peak in autumn and some of them stray across roads and are crushed by traffic, cannibalistic conspecifics congregate around the casualties and feed until they, in turn, are killed.
Nikon D300, DX format, AF-Nikkor 105mm f 2.8 Macro lens, 1/80th sec @ f11, ISO 800
Later afternoon in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, this Leopard climbed a very tall dead tree and chose a comfortable branch on which to lay and survey the panoramic view before him. While he lay there the moon was seen to slowly rise and peer out from behind the some misty clouds.
Leopard -Panthera pardus
Leopards embody feline beauty with stealth, infinite patience and power. A Leopard will get to within 5 m of its quarry before pouncing, taking it completely by surprise. Tremendously strong, these cats can carry a 70 kg Impala to a feeding position up a tree.
Nikon D5, 20 megapixel resolution with Nikkor VR80 – 400mm f4.5 – 5.6G lens with Nikon 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 135mm, 1/800 sec @ f16, Auto ISO 2800
“Back-off, Big Boy!”
With evening rapidly approaching on the Chobe River, this plucky little Africa Jacana was sitting on eggs in its net which had been built on the floating vegetation. An old male Buffalo waded into the water towards the nest and threatened to destroy the nest and its precious eggs. The Jacana reared up with its wings spread out and it bellowed loudly in an effort to chase away the approaching buffalo who then retreated and waded off in a different direction.
African Jacana – Actophilornis africanus
This bird has a distinctive rich chestnut body, white neck, yellow upper breast, black and white head with a blue frontal shield. The Female Jacana mates with many different males who then incubate, hatch and raise the chicks.
African or Cape Buffalo - Syncerus caffer.Massive build with short, powerful limbs and cow’s tail. Broad head with wide mouth, moist nostrils and drooping, fringed ears. The size and shape of the horns reflect sex and age.
Nikon D5 with Nikkor VR80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with Nikon 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 390mm, 1/3200 sec @ f16, Auto ISO 22800
From Heaven to Earth
On the river banks of the Sabie river after a 44o Celsius day the thunder clouds of Cumulo Nibus storms were seen to be windblown towards the north. This vantage point allowed us to see the lightning flashing and reflecting of the rivers surface lighting up the sand and islands.
Lightning is a sudden electrostatic discharge that occurs during a thunderstorm. This discharge occurs between electrically charged regions of a cloud (called intra-cloud lightning or IC), between two clouds (CC lightning), or between a cloud and the ground (CG lightning).
The charged regions in the atmosphere temporarily equalize themselves through this discharge referred to as a strike if it hits an object on the ground, and a flash, if it occurs within a cloud. Lightning causes light in the form of plasma, and sound in the form of thunder. Lightning may be seen and not heard when it occurs at a distance too great for the sound to carry as far as the light from the strike or flash.
Nikon D300, DX format, AF-S VR-Nikkor10-200mm f 3.5-5.6 lens, Manual at 32mm, 30 sec @ f9, ISO 100
This stingray was found free-swimming across the reef surface in deep water and its natural curiosity brought it over to my camera. It was quite calm and resembled a magic carpet as it gracefully glided in towards me with undulations of its disk. They are gentle creatures and will often approach divers in order to satisfy their curiosity. The eye is quite visible in the photo as it gives me the once over, investigating this strange scuba creature blowing bubbles and certainly not exhibiting the grace of a creature perfectly designed for life in the ocean.
Smalleye Stingray - Megatrygon microps
TThe Smalleye Stingray measures up to 2.2m across. Rare but widely distributed, it is found in the Indo-Pacific from Mozambique to India, and to northern Australia. This species may be semi-pelagic in nature, inhabiting both deeper waters and shallow coastal reefs and estuaries. It is characterised by a diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc much wider than long, a tail that is broad and flattened in front of the spine but whip-like behind, and large white spots over its back. The very wide shape of the Smalleye Stingray differs from that of most other members of its family, and may reflect a mode of swimming from bottom dwelling to mid water journeys.
Nikon D300 Nikkor 10.5mm f2.8 Fisheye lens, 1/50 sec @ f10, ISO 200, Sea & Sea Housing and Two Sea & Sea YS250 strobes on ¼ power. Taken on scuba at 25m off Tofo, Mozambique
Very early morning in the Ngorogoro Crater, Tanzania, a flock of East African crowned cranes flew past. The straw-yellow crowned feathers were neatly blown back by the wind creating an unusual perspective.
TEast African Crowned Crane / Grey – Crowned Crane - Balearica regulorum
TThe East African Crowned Crane is a slate grey colour with an elongated neck and body. The primary and secondary feathers are dark grey with chestnut markings. The cheek patches are bare, with white at the bottom and a small red patch on top. A distinctive crane with long golden crown feathers.
Nikon D5 with Nikon VR 80-400mm, f4.5 – f5.6 G ED lens with Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III 1.4x effective focal length 320 mm, 1/1600 sec @ f11, ISO 400
Late afternoon in the Grumeti region of the Serengeti National Park, this Lioness was found moving her cubs from their den to a new more secure one situated within a thick clump of bushes.
Lion - Panthera leo
Call of the African Wild, King of African Carnivores. Lionesses are low slung but large and powerful, weighing around 125kg. When prey is plentiful, Lions spend 20 hours out of 24 conserving energy, becoming active in late afternoon; hunt most actively early and late at night and for a couple of hours after daybreak. Lions can become active at any time, day or night, hungry or gorged, so that when easy opportunities to catch prey present themselves, they react immediately and take advantage. Lions kill and often eat all other carnivores, including Leopards and Cheetahs, but rarely Hyenas. Lion cubs tend to be woolly with greyish, spotted coats when born, changing to an adult coat by three months of age.
Nikon D5 with Nikon VR 80-400mm, f4.5 – 5.6 G ED lens with Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III 1.4x, effective focal length 550 mm, 1/1250 sec @ f14, ISO 2800
Early evening on Mnemba Island, Zanzibar, this baby turtle hatchling successfully managed to emerge from the sand nest amongst over one hundred other siblings to navigate its way down to the beach to finally reach the sea, despite toppling over several times.
Green Sea Turtle - Chelonia mydas
The green turtle is a large, weighty sea turtle with a wide, smooth carapace, or shell. It is named not for the colour of its shell, which is normally brown or olive depending on its habitat, but for the greenish colour of its skin. Green turtles, like other sea turtles, undertake lengthy migrations from feeding sites to nesting grounds. To nest, females leave the sea and choose an area, often on the same beach used by their mothers, to lay their eggs. They dig a pit in the sand with their flippers, fill it with a clutch of 100 to 200 eggs, cover the pit and return to the sea, leaving the eggs to hatch after about two months. The most dangerous time of a green turtle’s life is when it makes the journey from nest to sea. Multiple predators, including crabs and flocks of gulls, voraciously prey on hatchlings during this short scamper.
Nikon D4S with AF Nikon 24 – 120mm, 1.4 G ED lens at 120mm 1/320 sec @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 10000
Very early morning in the Ngorogoro Crater, as the dawn broke, a ray of light reflected off the wings and bodies of a large number of beautiful pink Lesser Flamingos.
Lesser Flamingo - Phoeniconaias minor
The Lesser Flamingo has a white and crimson plumage with a dark red bill and long stilt-like legs. These beautiful birds are common and make a distinctive “honk-honk” sound. They live nomadic lives across shallow freshwater lakes, salt pans and estuaries.
Nikon D5 with Nikon VR 80-400mm, f4.5 – 5.6 G ED lens with Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III 1.4x, effective focal length 550 mm, 1/2000 sec @ f13, ISO 2200
Mid-afternoon on a river bank in the Grumeti region of the Serengeti National Park, this magnificent Nile Crocodile was found displaying its large powerful body and ferocious teeth while at the same time showing off its exquisite and beautiful scales on its body and legs.
Nile Crocodile - Crocodylus niloticus
The Nile Crocodile is common in many parts of Africa. Like all crocodiles, the Nile Crocodile is a quadruped with four short, splayed legs, a long, powerful tail, a scaly hide with rows of ossified scutes running down its back and tail, and powerful jaws. The nostrils, eyes, ears are situated on the top of the head, so the rest of the body can remain concealed underwater. The Nile Crocodile is the largest crocodilian in Africa, the male crocodile usually measures 3.5 to 5m long, but very old mature ones can grow to 5.5m or more. Typical Nile Crocodile weight is from 225 to 500kg, though large males can range up to 750kg in mass. Their mouths are filled with a total of 64 to 68 cone-shaped teeth.
Nikon D500 with Sigma 150-600mm, f5 – 6.3 DG lens with Sigma Teleconverter 1.4x TC – 1401 for Nikon, effective focal length 700 mm, 1/3200 sec @ f11, ISO 22800