Colombia Bird Photography - Part 3
I hope you have been enjoying this series from the trip I led to Colombia for Wildlife Worldwide? For the third instalment I am taking you higher in the Central Andes in search of some real specialities. We left Manizales and started our climb ever higher up to Nevado del Ruiz - a towering volcano home to a variety on habitats and countless species.
Our first stop was the charming hillside property of Hacienda el Bosque. This working cattle farm has committed to protecting its high altitude forest and is actively planting corridors to help wildlife flourish on the property. It is little wonder that the property is a haven for numerous rarely seen species including the flammulated tree-hunter, grey-breasted mountain toucan and hooded mountain tanager. First up though was the equatorial antpitta at a feeding station before we went in search of the spectacular array of hummingbirds.
What an incredible start to our day at the hacienda. In my opinion it only got better as the real stars made their appearance a little later on ...
It was time for the grey-breasted mountain toucans and hooded mountain tanagers to put on quite the performance.
As I am sure you can see, the photography was exceptional thanks to our magnificent subjects. I was blown away by the photography opportunities and the birds were just stunning.
From here, we headed further up the mountain in search of higher altitude species including an endemic hummingbird - the buffy helmetcrest. In fact we were also treated to incredible views of tawny antpitta, lacrimose and scarlet-bellied mountain tanagers and rainbow-bearded thornbill. We were incredibly spoilt, but it is important to highlight the amount of time that has to be put in to get the images you are after.
I hope you have enjoyed looking through these images and discovering the wonderful birdlife that calls Colombia home. I really can't recommend visiting the Central Andes enough - it is a birder's and photographer's paradise.
Find out more about the trip on the Wildlife Worldwide website and book your place under the expect guidance of Ben Sutcliffe.
My Top 5 from 2022
It has been another action-packed year for me. With the travel sector back in business, I was busier than ever (making up for lost time) leading tours left, right and centre. With such a busy year, I haven't really had time to focus on my own projects, but I was able to capture a few wonderful moments when out in the field with clients.
So with that in mind, I thought I would share my 'Top 5' images from the year of 2022. I should add that these are in chronological order and just a small selection of some of personal favourites. In case you haven't yet realised, I really love taking portraits of wildlife.
I would love to know which is your favourite. The wonderful thing about photography is that it is completely subjective. My decision making behind this selection is probably biased, as my memories of each moment are likely to change my perception of the image itself. Anyway, I do hope you enjoy them.
2023 promises to be another busy year and I will do my utmost to keep this blog up to date. In the mean time, I have two more posts to come from my Colombia tour, another focusing on South Luangwa in Zambia and a final one from Australia. Happy reading!
I know. It has been a while since I last posted about the wonderful bird photography tour I led to Colombia for Wildlife Worldwide. I left you after photographing the absolutely beautiful toucan barbets of the western Andes.
Today I am going to whisk you further north towards the city of Manizales and share with you a kaleidoscope of new colours and forms. Of course, with this being a bird photography tour, if you aren't a fancier of our avian friends, I suggest you wait for my upcoming blog on Zambia's South Luangwa National Park.
So to start you off easy, here are a couple of images taken from the Tinamou private reserve. The first was the diminutive golden-collared manakin. This tiny bird was incredibly challenging to photograph and my entire group had to work extremely hard to capture a 'record' shot - it was definitely about trying to capture it in its thick rainforest home. The second bird from here is the striking bar-crested antshrike.
After a couple of days exploring the trails and gardens of Tinamou, we headed across Manizales to the protected area of Rio Blanco Reserve. This cloudforest habitats has been set aside as a water catchment area for city below and in turn provides a refuge for numerous sought-after bird species. It is particularly well known for several species of antpitta - the most photogenic of these was undoubtedly the chestnut-crowned antpitta which was a perfect poser. The whole group were treated to some exceptional photography opportunities from only yards away.
After a morning with the antpittas we spent a prolonged period around the garden feeders, which attracted numerous hummingbirds such as buff-tailed coronet (the most common visitor) and the star bird which was the long-tailed sylph, alongside a number of other passerines.
As we descended down the mountain back towards the city of Manizales, we came across our first roadside hawk of the tour - it posed perfectly as everyone snapped away - providing some wonderful photography opportunities. Further down the steep road, we stopped at a small reservoir's dam and immediately saw the handsome white-capped dipper. Like the roadside hawk, it posed beautifully for a brief moment on the dam wall.
As we neared the bottom of the steep-sided mountain and crossed the river, our guide Juan spotted a torrent duck. These birds are notoriously hard to approach and tricky to photograph, but we were in luck as the bird was preoccupied with chasing a pair of white-capped dippers. The male duck was just the perfect subject as it came back and forth, stopping atop of numerous rocks with the lush forest-clad banks behind.
As I am sure you are starting to appreciate, Colombia is a birder's dream and as a wildlife photographer I think it is equally a rewarding. My group all took such a wide gamut of images, capturing numerous species in flight, feeding and just in their habitat. What more can you ask for?
I will try and bring you the next instalment within the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, you can read my tour report from the trip and find out more information on the Wildlife Worldwide website.
Colombia Bird Photography - Part 1
It seems like things are slowly returning to normal for those who work in the wildlife travel industry. With things continuing to look up, I was delighted to be at the helm for Wildlife Worldwide's Colombia Bird Photography tour.
We flew direct from London to Bogota and then on to the city of Cali across the central Andes in the Cauca Valley. It is important to note that Colombia is home to more birds than other country on Earth and the photography opportunities my group were treated to, were quite simply exceptional.
I am going to share some of my images from the trip, spread across a few different instalments. I feel this is the only way to do this amazing country and the spectacular birdlife justice.
On our first day, we spent a few days around the lodge's grounds and were blown away by the number of hummingbirds, tanagers, woodpeckers and even toucanets. The next day we moved across the mountain, high above the city of Cali where we hoped to photograph the elusive scaled antpitta and the massively sought-after multi-coloured tanager (see below).
For our third day of bird photography in the Western Andes we headed to a known spot for toucan barbet. Here we were treated to some more incredible photography and the whole group just lapped it up.
These stunning birds were all photographed over a period of three days in Colombia's Western Andes. I was using my Canon 1DX II with my Canon 500mm f4 L IS II USM lens.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment and be sure to find out more information about the tour on the Wildlife Worldwide website.
N.B. I will not be leading the 2023 departure for this tour as I am away in Brazil, leading for Wildlife Worldwide.
Finland's Apex Predators
This year I had the privilege of leading three photography tours in Finland's remote eastern forests, right on the border with Russia for Wildlife Worldwide. Across the three trips we had some incredible sightings and exceptional photography, but as always, each had its own highlights.
In this blog I am going to share some of my favourite moments from across the three tours. The magic of this remote landscape, is that you never really know what will show up and when. On one particular tour we had an awful lot of close encounters with a young grey wolf, another we had multiple wolverines and on the third we had the opportunity to photograph a great grey owl nest.
Here is just a taster of what we saw ...
As you can see, no matter what the weather, there are always excellent opportunities to capture some stunning imagery. The grey wolf above hung around for a couple of hours one evening and the rain just added to the moment.
For me, the wolves are definitely the biggest draw. It is the only reliable location I know of where it is possible to capture stunning imagery of this elusive species. However, the area is fantastic for wolverines and brown bears, meaning there is never a dull moment. It is even more exciting when the different species show up at the same time.
It is important to say (as I always do), that food is put out to entice the predators in front of the purpose-built hides. Furthermore, the food put out is typically salmon scraps or meat that is not fit for human consumption.
There is the chance to join me in 2023 and photograph these incredible predators for yourself. You can find out more on the Wildlife Worldwide website and book your place on this wildlife photography extravaganza.
Iceland – Arctic Fox Delight
Back in March I led the inaugural tours for Wildlife Worldwide to Hornstrandir Nature reserve in the remote north-west of Iceland. Staying at the delightful Kviar Lodge, our sole focus here was the blue morph Arctic fox on our Arctic Fox Photography tour. Coming face-to-face with an Arctic fox has long been on my wishlist, particularly after seeing them in the wilds of Svalbard many years ago.
The lodge is situated on an uninhabited peninsular, over 40 km from the nearest settlement and only accessible by boat. Our voyage from Ísafjörður was not the smoothest, but on arrival a fox was running along the high snow bank above to greet us. It doesn’t really get any better for a wildlife photographer.
I led back-to-back trips in this spectacular landscape and enjoyed some of the very best photography opportunities I have enjoyed for many years. My clients were spoiled with all sorts of weather conditions and countless moments to capture some breathtaking imagery.
Here is just a taster of what we enjoyed …
As you can see, the first day was pretty wild with incredibly strong winds and a few snow storms. Although the photography was challenging, it was also particularly rewarding.
The weather was very changeable, as you would expect in Iceland during March, but that enabled us to photograph the different foxes in a host of different conditions. The photography was exceptional. I was able to use my phone to capture some wonderful images, that's how obliging they were ...
We were also treated to a marvellous display of Aurora borealis and all my first group were able to capture some stunning imagery.
But of course the primary focus was the Arctic foxes. Here is a selection of images from the second of the two departures - we really were incredibly lucky with the weather and the cooperative wildlife.
I hope the photos above have whetted your appetite - if you would like to join me in Iceland to photograph these charming foxes, there is still space remaining in March 2023. You can register your interest here.
Sorry I have been quiet again for the first quarter of the year. It has been a crazy few months and I am only just getting the time to sit back and think about the past 5-6 months. Back in November I was in a state of shock as I was actually able to enjoy leading my first African photo safari in nearly 2 years.
Wildlife Worldwide were finally able to run our unique South Luangwa Photo Safari and it was a pleasure to be at the helm for two separate trips. Our first trip was based at one of my regular haunts – Flatdogs Camp – where I had the pleasure of my good friend and guide Bwalya looking after us. We had an exceptional week with Bwalya, although the leopard didn’t quite play ball, and were treated to some excellent encounters with the African wild dogs and countless lions.
The second week was based at the delightful Mfuwe Lodge and we had some exquisite sightings of leopard and the wild dogs once more. The rains had started to fall intermittently, but it really didn’t disturb our game drives and huge thanks must go to our excellent guides .
One of the great things about South Luangwa is that you never really know what to expect and from one week to the next, you will likely see something completely different. Here is just a taster of what we saw …
If you would like to join me in Zambia's South Luangwa with Wildlife Worldwide, there are still some spaces available. I will be joined by fellow photographer Sean Weekly, and I will be back for more in 2023.