Category Archives: Travel Tales
Common Eiders (Eider) can been seen throughout Iceland. In the beginning I met only with birds that were very shy. At the end of our trip, at the famous Jökulsarlón Lake, I found a couple that was willing to stay close to the shore. Exposing this duck is notoriously difficult due to black and white contrast. With a partly overcast sky and backlight, helped by reflection from all the snow and ice, I managed to make some good shots.. A wonderful place where I could have easily spend a week . And that’s not because the site is also often used for fashion shoots ….
Since we were cruising the south/west part of Iceland, we had to drive quite a lot. This meant that we could not be everywhere at the same time, i.e. at the best lighting conditions. So when against midday we crossed a river where thousands of Northern Gannets (Jan-van-Gent) were feeding, my first thought was ‘sh*t’ , as in ‘how to deal with this harsh light’. On the upside, shutter speed was not a problem this time. I spent some 30 minutes enjoying the enormous splashed these birds make when diving for fish. Couldn’t make a descent shot of that action though (very unpredictable) – but left with many flight shots. Also in this blog some other species that we saw on many different places.
We just came back from a nine-day visit to Iceland, where we have traveled the southern and western part of the island. All in all we drove some 2.200km and made as many pictures, mainly of birds, but also plenty of landscapes and ‘natural wonders’. It was a first timer for us and we already ‘decided’ to go back and see more. What an incredible beauty – both wildlife and scenery. Every hill, turn or rear view exposed a new ‘wow’ sight! To start of some blogs on this amazing trip, I decided to show two of my favorite birds immediately. Although we had being warned that the Puffins (Papegaaiduiker) may still be at sea, we were lucky enough to see several hundred of them and had some good opportunities for shooting. Should we have wanted, we also could have tasted them, since they are on many menus in local restaurants.. Anyway, we decided to only frame them . A species we encountered in more areas than anticipated was the Rock Ptarmigan (Alpensneeuwhoen). Some months ago we first saw it in Italy, but far away and hardly discernible in the snow. On Iceland the birds were still moulting, and many could be spotted easily among the volcanic fields (as you can see in the ‘making of’ shot). More birds and scenery is coming up in a few days !
Since today is my last full day in Sao Paulo, I decided to go back the city park and make some more shots of the city birds around here. I went early, since the day was supposed to be warming up rapidly. All in all I did not see any ‘new’ species compared to the visit I made earlier this week, but still could return to the hotel with some okay shots…
My current hotel is at a convenient location in Sao Paulo, and some 10 minute taxi ride to the largest park of the city: Ibirapuera Park. It is frequented by many brazilians that come here for running, cycling, relaxing, playing soccer etc. It also hosts many bird species, most of which can be relatively easily approached – since they are used to people. Most surprisingly for me are the enormous flocks of Black Vultures that seem to feel at ease throughout the park. Many other species passed in front of my lens, even in the short time I spent there two days ago. Herewith you will find a selection.
Today is a special day in The Netherlands: our queen Beatrix abdicated and since this morning ‘we’ have a new King, Willem-Alexander. Today I found myself however in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Some people have to work, even during national holidays . Anyway, to make the best out of it, I decided to fly out a day earlier, so that I could spend a day birding in the Ubatuba Atlantic Rain Forest. To make sure that the little time I had would be well spent, I contacted Paulo Boute from Boute Expeditions. He tailored a 24 hour tour for me, which started 30 minutes after me landing in Brazil. Needless to say that it was a tiresome trip, but on the upside we had a great time and Paulo showed me many, many new species. Some were rather dull colored (like the Black Vulture), but most of them extremely colorful and exotic. I made many pictures, which I have to sort out when back home – but for the moment I will show some in this blog, to give you an impression of what my day was like. Hope you like it, I surely did ! And thanks again to Paulo, for organizing a great trip !
Slowly I am going through my shots of last week. Looking back, I realize more and more how lucky I have been. Be real: I more or less squeezed this day into a busy week of work and travel. In order to get to the hide, I had to take two trains from Stockholm Airport, rent a car and carry lots of gear. Besides my formal clothes, I brought down booties, down jacket, Goretex pants, gloves and hat, a sleeping bag, my ultralite Helinox chair (which was the most comfortable thing I had with me in the hide) and of course food, water and last but not least some 18kgs of camera equipment. As written in my first post, the cranes were much later than normal. So short and good: it took some time and effort to get there and I had only one day to spend. So when this day proved to be sunny, not terribly cold (only some 6 degrees below Zero) and the Cranes turn up in large numbers and stay around for the whole day – who am I to complain ? Herewith some more shots, hope you like them as well. Since there were so many birds around, getting shots of lonely ones or an isolated couple of ‘dancing’ Cranes was difficult. Portraits on the other hand were possible on many occasions ! Thanks for looking, greetings, Hans
Last week I was for business in Sweden, and organized my schedule in a way that allowed me for a day of Crane Watching (Common Crane | Kraanvogel). A friend of mine (thanks Martin!) organized a stay in a hide near Horborgasjön. So last tuesday I found myself in a very small hide (200x80cm) for some 16 hours (from 5am till 9pm), in the midst of thousands of Cranes and Whooper Swans (Wilde Zwaan). The area is a main meeting place for the Cranes coming from the South. They feed here after their long trip, and look for a partner to raise some kids. This year, due to the cold weather in most European countries, they arrive only now, some 3-4 weeks late, meaning that their time is limited. Maybe that’s why I saw the first ones mating as soon as the sun came over the hill . Photographing proved to be quite a challenge though: with so many birds , it’s almost impossible to isolate one from the group – always there’s some other bird in the background (grey spots = cranes, white spots = whooper swans ). Nevertheless, I made quite some okay shots, and am currently in the process of sorting out some 1.300 images… Pffff…. Here’s a first selection, hope you like it !
Birding in Beijing can also be terribly frustrating: heavy smog taking away the daylight, strong winds that blow away the birds and cause dust and sand storm. And so many places with so many people… That all said: still there’s more to show after the previous blog. Another newcomer for me was the Grey-capped Pigmy Woodpecker (Grijskapspecht) – a very little, lovely woodpecker. The Azure-winged Magpies are a pain by the way since they roam around in large flocks, but fly of at the slightest human movement.. Anyway, see for yourself & greetings from Beijing !
As I am currently in Beijing, I organized a quick visit to the chinese Capital’s Botanical Gardens. Having had contact with some locals, there was one species I was after: the Pallas’s Rosefinch (Pallas’ Roodmus) – a species very hard to find world wide. Some had been sighted here over the last few weeks. So this morning I gave it a go and after some 1,5 hours walking and searching I happily enough found them ! On top of that, I also found a species that I had been searching for so much last year but couldn’t fine then: the Chinese Nuthatch (Chinese Boomklever). Besides, I found some ‘old friend’ as the Chinese Grosbeak and the Bluetail.