A once in a lifetime
07th February 2016 - 0 comments
I have decided, and I hope you will hold me to it, that I really need to get better at blogging and sharing images and their stories this year. So after a slow start to January, here I am in early February with the first post of many for this year!

I am currently working through a huge backlog of images, but there is one sighting in particular which was a real highlight of 2015, and which I think deserves to be shared first! Leopard cubs in the Okavango Delta...

As some of you may know, I have a huge soft spot for leopards, I believe they are one of the most beautiful creatures to photograph and are one of the more interesting cats to spend time with. They can be very secretive, and I have had leopards disappear from sight not to be seen again after turning away for literally seconds. If they don't want to be seen, they won't be! Having been privileged to see and photograph many over the years, I can assure you the thrill of each and every glimpse of a leopard is immeasurable. It sets my adrenalin pumping and my heart all aflutter! So you can imagine how I felt when told that there was the potential to see some very small leopard cubs while staying at andBeyond's Xaranna Okavango Delta Lodge in Botswana recently. The female had a density quite more than 1.5 hours drive form the lodge, but with our great guide we decided that it was definitely worth a visit! I was itching the whole afternoon, hoping we would be able to see the cubs, yet alone photograph them as the hours of daylight ticked away. After dark you can't sit near a den as any light could attract other predators, and we didn't want to disturb the youngsters or their mother. Time passed, and I got more and more excited and nervous about our chances of seeing the cubs!

When we arrived at the den site, this is what greeted us- honestly I would struggle to imagine a better den site photographically!

The cubs had were able to completely disappear inside the hollowed base of the tree, but also had a great place to climb, and one of the cubs was incredibly confident given it's young age, and climbed straight up the tree, which was really more bush sized, and then fell asleep! To say I was on a high the whole drive home would be an understatement. I could barely sit through dinner I was so excited, and before you wonder, yes- we did return the next morning for one last try before our onward flight!

Xaranna is not as well known as some of andBeyond's other lodges, but I can say we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, and the game viewing was excellent! To think when they took the land per it had been a hunting concession, and all the animals were very nervous. Now, 10 or so years later, the wildlife is flourishing and the photography is fantastic- it's a really beautiful story of the difference the right kind of tourism can make.

The Magic of Puffins
19th June 2014 - 2 comments
Puffins are very charismatic little birds, their brightly coloured beaks during the breeding season, and their fantastically curious and accommodating personalities make them a joy to photograph. They accept people into their little world, seemingly without complaint, especially when there is only one of you sitting in the middle of the cliffs.

Mating Puffins

The past month I have made a couple of trips to Skomer Island, off the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales. It's a 15 minute boat crossing, weather dependant, a steep climb and then you're surrounded by nature, pure and simple. I had secured one of the coveted spots to stay on the islands old farmhouse accommodation, so I had the luxury of time on my side. this also meant I was able to photograph in the golden light of sunset, should I be fortunate enough to witness a rare Welsh sunset!(I had two!)
In all honesty, even in the rain puffins look beautiful, a bit of cloud brings out their colours and the detail in the feathers beautifully.

During the day, a small number of day visitors are allowed on the island, and they seem to almost disappear, absorbed by the island and her wildlife so that it hardly feels busy at all. that is, until they all leave by 5pm, and there are only a handful of people left- wardens, researchers and a few lucky guests. Then it feels quite deserted, but for the sound of hundreds and thousands of squawking, screeching, energetic seabirds!

Puffin with a stolen gulls feather

I was there for the puffins, although there is great opportunity for Guillemots, Gulls, Short Eared Owls and Razorbills. Each evening I would sit down a 'The Wick' and photograph the puffins as they arrived in their droves back from a day of fishing.The cliffs literally come alive, hundreds of the little characters pottering around about their business.

Bonding Puffin Pair

They are smaller than expected- think of a puffin, then halve the size you expect and you're close! Although we shouldn't anthropomorphise animals (give them human attributes or emotions), it's really difficult when you see them pick a flower and take it down their burrow to line their nests, or watch them sneak up and pull the tail feather of another before running off sheepishly.

Flower Gift

They mate for life (more or less) and return to their partners and the same burrow year on year where they spend a few weeks bonding before mating and laying a solitary egg- a chick who will demand their full attention and devotion if it is to survive and fledge. In any case, I could watch their interaction for hours, which I did! Sometimes 7 hours at a time, hand holding my ever heavier lens, and waiting for that perfect moment- the moment a bird picked a flower and looks straight at me, or landed near enough to photograph in flight.

One of those amazing Skomer sunsets
It is a special place to be, that is undoubtedly true. Something that needs to be experienced to be believed...

Best of Britain 2013
05th January 2014 - 6 comments
Happy New Years to you all, and may it be a year full of happiness and new and exciting adventures.

I have now been in the UK shortly over a year, and as such am just beginning to explore the different wildlife we are exposed to here. My work on this is just a drop in the ocean, but after a year I am able to share a small selection of work with you. I am very excited for 2014, and all the trips I have planned this year, exploring the moors, coasts and islands of this somewhat waterlogged country!

It has been a year of firsts for me- my first ever Otter, my first time experiencing snow where I actually live, my first red squirrel, and the first time I've lain in the freezing ocean just hoping to catch a glimpse of an otter! I have travelled to Svalbard again, as well as in my much loved South Africa, but I will only be sharing 10 of the best UK images I have captured this year. I hope that you enjoy the selection of wildlife this country has afforded me...

'Snowy Stags'
Red Deer, Richmond Park, London

I have long looked at the images of other UK photographers, and marvelled at the grace and beauty of the Red Deer presented. To finally capture these myself was of great excitement, especially during some fairly rare snow in the middle of London!

'Puffin in Motion'
Atlantic Puffin, Skomer Island, Wales

This magical destination is one I plan on visiting frequently during 2014! This puffin was approaching his burrow, and I used a slow shutter speed to capture the beats of his wings as he flew.

'Tuft-eared beauty'
Red Squirrel, Cairngorm National Park, Scottish Highlands

If ever there was an endearing creature, it was this. In winter they grow ear tuffs, and their red coats and bushy tails shine in the cold weather in the old forests in Scotland. Although Reds have been pushed out of a lot of their range by the non-native Grey squirrels, in Scotland they are doing well and provide ample photographic opportunities.

'Just a Little Kiss'
Little Owls, Farm in rural England

Photographing this mother Little Owl and her chick, as the chick learnt to feed itself was a great moment for me. It was too endearing to watch, especially considering my fondness for the Owl family!

'Painted mudflats'

One of the first trips I did was unto Snettisham to photograph the waders on the Norfolk mudflats. This sunset however stole the show. It was the middle of winter, and the stormy sky was lit up by some magic colours, reflected in the streaks of water on the mudflats.

'Roaring Dawn'
Red Deer Stag, Richmond Park, London

When October finally arrived, I was very excited as it meant the beginning of my first 'deer rut' season in the UK. In a feat of bad timing I had also booked to return to SA to visit my family and spend some time in the bush! I only had a few short opportunities at Richmond, but came away with some shots that not only made me happy, but also excited for the potential of next year October, where I will stay firmly put in London! This beautiful stag was roaring in a small forested area of Richmond, as shafts of light filtered through the forest creating the perfect back drop for the image. I was very excited to get home and check them out that evening!

'Pineforest Dweller'
Crested Tit, Cairngorms, Scotland

The Crested Tit is one of the inhabitants of the pine forest in Scotland, and are very easily identified by the beautiful crest on their heads, as well as their slightly aggressive nature. When that crest is backlit against the pine trees of the forest, any image becomes that much more striking. This is another subject I am sure I will spend more time chasing over the coming year- he is certainly worth it!

'Red Squirrel against pines'
Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

Yes, this little beauty was bound to come up in more than one image! An image I really wanted from my trip to Scotland for Christmas was that of a squirrel against the pine forest backdrop. It's easier said than done, as they are incredibly agile, and don't much enjoy sitting still unless busy feeding. Here the little bushy tailed beauty posed for a couple of seconds on the tree trunk, so I managed to fulfil one goal!

'Otter in Seaweed'
Argyll, Scotland

The enigmatic otter, and one of my dream subjects, finally became a reality on a trip up to the Argyll area in Scotland. They are an addictive subject, so elusive and shy, yet so interesting to watch that they really keep you coming back for more! When I shot this, I was lying in the seaweed bed, half submerged in the rising tide, completely oblivious to the slow creep of cold because I was so enraptured at my close proximity to this wonderful animal. We had worked hard for 3 days, in the icy cold and whipping winds and this moment was our reward- so very worth it! Next year I hope to return to this location, as well as to the Shetland Islands, to find myself some more otter gems...this was just enough to whet my appetite and leave me longing for more!

'The Stalker'
Red Fox, Greater London

We live in a country where one small predator certainly steals the show in terms of frequency of sightings, and ability to thrive. The Red Fox may not be loved by all, but they certainly do hold a special place in my heart. I love seeing them hurrying through the street on my way home from work, or scampering across the road in front of the car. We live with them in our neighbourhoods, and hopefully over the coming year I will get a chance to photograph my resident foxes as they go about their lives. They are beautiful, wily and intelligent animals with a sheer will to survive.

Happy 2014 all, and here's to a wonderful new year!
I hope it will be a great one for you, and for wildlife- let us find place in our hearts for them, for without nature we are nothing.
Otter Heaven in Argyll
24th November 2013 - 0 comments
For those of you who have tried to photograph otters in the wild, I am sure you will agree it's not the easiest thing to do- especially if you haven't a clue how to spot one, or get close enough to one for a decent image. they are elusive and quick, and also utterly entertaining!

With this is mind, I went up to Argyll, in Scotland, for three days recently, to try and photograph this mega. I enlisted the help of a local guy, who runs various workshops specialising in Scottish wildlife- Philip Price of Loch Visions Photography.

We met Philip early one morning, after a very misty and dark drive from Glasgow, and I could tell immediately he was my kind of guide- fun, passionate and extremely keen for the 3 days ahead. Those of you who may have watched the 'Hebrides series' recently, I was to spend the next few days photographing in one of the areas they filmed the otter sequences from the series. It was cold and blustery, the wind whipping around us like ice, but we were well 'packaged' up- gloves, caps and full waterproofs including knee length boots, an essential for otter photography.

We set out, and spent our time scanning the coast, looking for the tell tale 'v' shape of a swimming otter in amongst the choppy water. There were 3 good points to spot from, and as we arrived at the 3rd, Philip spotted a dog otter fishing away. As they fish, they dive- which gives you a good 20 seconds to move without being seen. The otter would plunge under the water, and we would run/slide down the bank, until eventually we were secreted away in between some rocks, feet in the water. They are magic creatures to watch, almost dancing as they move. They are also very efficient hunters, coming up with a fish about 95% of all dives. It was a great experience, but he never caught any fish large enough to haul onto the shore near to our hiding spot...

That night we slept like the dead, after some hearty Scottish salmon, ready for another day of wind, rain and beautiful wild areas! The Saturday dawned cold and stayed that way- in tees of sightings as well. We gave it our best, but with the choppy water and difficult conditions we couldn't find a thing despite nearly 8 hours spend out. Not disheartened, we were up early the next day and ready to go!

Overnight the wind had shifted position, and the water was relatively calm as we drove to the otter site. On the way, we spotted one swimming in the loch along the road, a good start to the day, and we arrived on the point rearing and ready for some otters!

Philip spotted one almost immediately, and we watched for an hour or so as she fished far off, trying to get an idea of where she may go. All of a sudden she was on the move, and we were running again, keeping low to get into a position where she would hopefully be visible, and we would remain hidden! Before I knew it she was swimming not far off from my lens, a large fish in her mouth and completely oblivious to our presence. After she disappeared we could hear some excitable squeaking, her cub and her obviously sharing a joyful reunion and a fish!

Next up was a pair of otter, a mother and her sub adult who we watched playing and fighting( in a sort of friendly way) for hours (far off) while huddling in the seaweed for camouflage. Next we knew, the tide was lapping around our feet, and we needed to move back a bit. I will point out that our hands were almost frozen solid through the gloves at this point... it was a chilly Arctic wind! we lay down behind another rock, just in time as the female had started hunting again. We watched and watched until all of a sudden she was swimming towards us, a large fish in her jaws. We hunkered down as low as possible in the seaweed and waited.

She popped out the water, lost the fish, dived in again and then she was tearing into it, 10 metres from our position which was rapidly filling up with icy water! Her cub then approached, unable to find the mother, and swam through the seaweed looking for her. It was exhilarating, being so close to completely wild otters, having stalked into a position close enough for photography, and everything just falling into place!

I cannot wait to return, I think the otter will be my version of a leopard while I'm in the UK. Although a lot of hard work, they are certainly a delight to photograph, and a very addictive subject!
Rocking Mid-Summers Day under the midnight sun
14th August 2013 - 0 comments
I have recently returned from my third visit to the archipelago of Svalbard, a magical place high above the Arctic Circle and home to around 3000 of the worlds declining Polar Bear population.

It is a beautiful place, glaciers around every corner, cliffs bustling with life during summer as the birds try frantically to breed before winter returns.

I was there for Mid-Summers Day, and was introduced to the tradition of celebrating the longest day, and reveling in the long summers sun before the days begin to shorten. It is a worthy tradition, and celebrates life and friendship and the good times. We spent mid-summers day anchored in front of the Lieliehookbreen, a 7km long glacial front on the west coast of Spitsbergen. The day was clear, the sky was blue, and everyone was filled with a sense of excitement at the expedition we were enjoying, and a sense of awe at the beauty of the place we were in. It was magic.

After a lunch served on deck under the shining sun, we danced the night away in the most northerly party on earth, celebrating the summer and the sun. I don't think there could have been a more fitting place to spend it.

Earthshots POTD- Little Owls Kissing
07th August 2013 - 0 comments
Last week I was very pleased to see I had another image as Earthshots Photo of the Day. It is a wonderful showcase of photo's, one per day, and the images are of some of the most beautiful wildlife and scenes on earth.

The image' Just a Little Kiss' is one of my favourite recent images, and shows an adult Little Owl feeding one of this years chicks. The youngster was quite unstable on it's feet, and would fly down from the safety of it's nest and beg the adult for food. They made delightful photographic subjects, and It was a real privilege to see and capture this moment.

I hope you enjoy the image as much I enjoyed seeing it!

Three days of Tlangisa
04th October 2012 - 0 comments
In december last year my family had flown up to Kruger to join me on a safari over Christmas. For the occasion we visited the andBeyond team at one of my favourite South African lodges, Exeter River Lodge, in the Sabi Sands. Of course, when visiting the Sabi Sands, one of the main interests is the leopard viewing which is usually unbelievably good and certainly better than any other reserve I have visited.

On Christmas day, it poured and poured with rain, but out we went early in the morning, looking for a 'Christmas leopard'. Near the end of our drive, on the way back to the lodge, we found her, resting on a termite mound. In the Sabi Sands, many leopards are given names as they are seen frequently and it's always interesting to keep track of the individuals- this leopard was named Tlangisa.

Over the next three days we viewed her getting hungrier and hungrier, often hunting but never successful. One night we watched as she stalked to within a few metres of a herd of impala, before they were spooked and disappeared into the darkness.

On our last morning we found her hunting again in some thick bush. As she entered a small clearing she stopped, and her tail began to twitch with great excitement. In the grass a few metres ahead of her lay an impala lamb, concealed as best as possible by its mother. She stalked closer, her tail twitches getting even more excited until the lamb decided to make a dash for it. Within seconds she was standing in front of us, holding her prize up proudly.

It is not very often than we get to witness this type of moment in nature: predator and prey both doing their best to survive. Sometimes it just all comes together! More images of Tlangisa and other Sabi Sands leopard can be found here
Meet the family
06th August 2012 - 2 comments
On a recent trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa I was very privileged to spend an hour watching a pride of lions at a waterhole all alone one evening. I was staying at one of the wilderness camps, Urikaruus, which only has four rooms. This meant I had a good chance of having a sighting 'to myself'. The pride of lions in question is known affectionately to me as the 'Craig Lockhart Pride', as that is the waterhole where I first encountered them, and spent many an hour watching their antics. It had been two years since I last saw them, so this sighting was extra special in my books.

Family portrait

On arrival at the waterhole, the pride of two adult females, two younger cubs, an adult male and one very young cub had just made their way down from the dunes. The youngest cub cannot have been long with the pride, and was of great fascination to the lionesses and older cubs. He had a lot of bravery for one so young, and continually plodded up to various pride members, giving them a small tap on the nose, or a cute cat-like bite on the ankle.

The newest edition bravely marching across the riverbed

It was extremely special watching a pride of powerful killers playing with each other. Lions are the most social cats, and usually live in prides ranging in size from two to twenty. They can take out prey as large as young elephant, or adult buffalo, but show surprising gentleness toward each other in play. Even the older cubs seemed to be limiting their strength when they pushed the new addition gently around. It was such a pity that we had to leave to get back to camp, but it was an hour I will always remember fondly.

Playful cats
My 'lions' gallery can be viewed here for more images of these impressive cats!
Beware the tern
16th July 2012 - 1 comment
The sight of thousands of nesting birds, trying to raise their young as quickly as possible during the brief window of opportunity provided by the Arctic summer, is magic to behold. It is most likely one of the reasons each arctic visitor makes the long trip north into the relative cold. However, some of these nesting birds come with a disclaimer.

The Arctic tern is one such bird, making the epic journey north from the Antarctic to take advantage of 24 hours of sunlight. They nest on the ground, in shallow depressions, which are guarded vigorously against predators- humans included in the broader definition thereof! When you get too close to one of their nests, often unavoidably as they will nest right next to roads, or on pathways, they take to the air. The first thing you hear through the beanie that is protecting your head against the icy wind is a faint clicking sound. Next, you see a set of white wings preceded by a sharp red beak making their way quickly in your direction. If you have experienced this before, you know that they aim for the highest part of your body, so you now raise you hand (hopefully gloved) against the inevitable collision. If not, you may find yourself with a nasty looking cut and a trickle of blood flowing freely down your scalp.

Polar bears looking for an easy meal, arctic fox trying their luck and humans are all put off very quickly by this dive-bombing technique. Us 'predators' are quick learners! On our first day in Longyearbyen we watched an arctic fox being mobbed by about 20 terns, and he was in such a hurry to escape that he plunged straight into the river to get away. We fell victim to a few such aerial assaults, but were able to move away quickly enough and without injury. I do however warn you- beware the tern...

Here is a link to my Svalbard Gallery
Earthshots POTD- Dance
27th May 2012 - 0 comments
My image 'Dance' which was taken in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve over Christmas has been featured on as photo of the day!

I like this image because of the angle it was photographed at- I was lying flat on the ground in front of the game drive vehicle. If I had stayed in the landrover, the image would not have had the same impact as it did. The image is of a flap-necked chameleon crossing the road, but they try and mimic a leaf in the wind as they go, which makes them appear to be dancing as they move! Other chameleon and nature images can be found in the Nature gallery. I hope you like it!
Earthshots POTD
10th February 2012 - 0 comments
I am once again very pleased to be featured on Earthshots photo of the day! Do have a look at some of the other images on the site, they are really great.

This image was taken while on safari in Mashatu Game reserve in Botswana. It is of an elephant matriarch who was sniffing our vehicle before moving the herd past us.
More elephant images can be found in the African Mammals page.
Earthshots POTD
11th November 2011 - 0 comments
I was extremely happy to have one of my brown bear images featured as the Earthshots photo of the day. This image was shot in Finland, right next to the Russian border from a photographic hide in the forest. I fell in love with the bears, and it's a trip I will definitely do again in the near future. More of my images from the trip can be seen in the Finland gallery