Reflecting Back Through the Dust of 2015

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Looking back through the dust of 2015 it’s time to reflect on the year, learn from the mistakes and resolve not to repeat them next year. Glancing back its hard not to be happy to see the end of what was a long hard year.

With the Cecil lion saga, where a Zimbabwean hunting guide sacrificed all basic principles for a few quick bucks to illegally bait and entice the most famous lion in Hwange to its death at the hands off a low life American dentist, we saw the real power of social media at work. Today the dentists practice is no more and the hunting guide bankrupted and facing charges for illegal wildlife smuggling. Even better is the decision by most of the world’s leading airlines to ban the transportation of hunting trophies. With the American Congress in the process of bringing new wildlife protection acts into force there is a glimmer of hope that the days of rich poachers killing endangered wildlife is coming to an end. We just need the Chinese and Vietnamese to enforce the importation of banned ivory and great steps will have been taken in the name of conservation.

If have one wish for 2016 it is to see the oil price to go down at least another $10 and stay there at least for a year or eighteen months. Oil is probably the world’s most corruptive commodity and a low oil price is the best way to shuts those taps. In my opinion it’s time the fat cats in the Gulf who have screwed the world for years pretending to be friends of the west while quietly funding the crazies in countries like Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan need to face a day of reckoning.

Also in the wish list is the hope we could see an end to Japanese whaling in Antarctica, illegal logging in Sumatra, Malaysia, Myanmar and Papua new Guinea and the stupid habitat destruction to plant oil palm. It’s also about time the Chinese and Korean long-line fishing that is decimating the world’s oceans is stopped. Why they just can’t farm their fish requirement instead of decimating the oceans is just beyond me. So, what a year 2016 will be if we could see the sun set on those activities.

Photography wise 2015 was a dry one. But there were some good moments and memories.

One highlight was seeing a swarming flock of hundreds of thousands of red-billed quelia in the southern part of Kruger National Park. It’s basically a sight that is almost impossible to describe and one which a camera only records one piece and not the whole story. It’s absolutely an incredible sight that leaves you wondering how the birds don’t fly into each other while seemingly swarming in a random fashion. A bit of research indicated that they manage this by each bird maintaining a certain personal space. As another encroaches the other gives way setting off a chain of perpetual adjustment within the flock. Simple, and effective and certainly spectacular.

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Another highlight of the Kruger trip was seeing and photographing an African Wild Cat for the first time.The big cats are always special, but this little guy was extra special.

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Everyone goes to Africa wanting to see the big stuff and of course seeing the big stuff is always great, but sometimes the small stuff is just as interesting. So instead of just posting big stuff I thought I’d look back with a mix of the small stuff that really made me smile when I downloaded the files.

The dung beetle busily moving his fresh ball of droppings across the middle of the road posed a special challenge as I had to get out of the car and get low. No matter how I positioned myself the damned beetle was intent on frustrating me by heading off at another angle. Finally just as I was about to surrender to the commands of the Boss to get back in the car it finally went straight and I got the shot. Similarly the baby tortoise that crawled through our camp one evening was too fast. I could hardly get in position before it galloped past.

But the chameleon that grudgingly allowed itself to be photographed one afternoon is the one that really made that day special.

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Following the theme of small stuff, one of the most pleasing photos of the Africa trip was the one below of the fly on the eye of a white rhino. What better way to celebrate a year of small stuff by mixing it up with one of Africa’s great beasts. When I took the shot I was focused on the wrinkled eye and only found what I had got when I opened the files a few weeks later.

Let’s face it. Its the fly that makes the wrinkles in this photo cry! For me, its my photo of the year.

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Long weekends in Australia were put to good use with two trips out the far west of Queensland. Sadly most of rural Queensland is suffering from years of bad drought. The effects are devastating and small rural communities are dying, yet it’s something that’s hardly covered in the press. Consequently most Queenslanders living in their latte bubble along the coast hardly give it a thought. It’s a very sad state of affairs.

Outback Queensland is the land of Big Sky. Big blue sky that contrasts with olive vegetation and red earth. If you want wilderness (and thousands of flies) it’s simply spectacular!

Compared to Africa where the wildlife and birds are overwhelming, you have to drive long and hard to find good stuff in Australia. But Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary near Cunnamulla is one place where you can find variety and bird densities that make the long trip worthwhile. It was at a small waterhole in Bowra late one afternoon that we photographed a flock of Galahs drinking and watched and photographed Emu’s messily quenching their thirst.

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No one in Australia stops to photograph kangaroos. But early morning on the road between Cunnamulla and Eulo we came across these two feeding in an area of orange grass. They just had to be photographed, something that left the Roo’s astounded.

This photo won me a $1500 lens from The Australian Traveler Magazine, Australia’s premier travel magazine. After the Rhino Fly, this is my second favorite shot of the year.

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One good thing about Australia is that when you feel you need to take a break from the bird photography monotony there are plenty of spiders, and other stuff to focus on.

It’s only after you take a few shots of spiders and try and identify them that you start to realize the number of species and variants of these critters that there are in Australia. More disturbing is finding out how many are poisonous to the point of being deadly. Add the snakes and you almost don’t want to walk in the bush.

My favorite spider shot of the year was this Tent Spider feasting on a flying ant after a night of heavy rain. My macro photography is nowhere near the best that you sometimes see posted on the net, but its slowly making progress. Like everything practice makes perfect. Let’s hope 2016 brings on the spiders!!!

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One favorite photo spot not that far out of Brisbane are the quiet mangrove beaches of Bribie Island and this past year we managed a few interesting captures out there. One of the interesting sights is watching mangrove beach areas swarm with thousands of Soldier Crabs. It’s an incredible sight, a mass of small blue critters moving like lice over huge areas of sand.

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Go deeper into the mangroves and another world of small crabs opens up. It’s hot sweaty photography and the mosquitoes chew you up but its quite interesting what you get for the effort. They might be a bit small, but looking at some of these crabs, you can’t help but wonder what they would taste like fried in a hot wok with some black pepper!

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The sky above Bribie is almost constantly patrolled by Osprey’s and Kites of one type or another all looking for a meal either in the water of stranded on the edge. When photographing out there its necessary to constantly have one eye up. One time, while standing photographing Honeyeaters and Ariel battle between an Osprey and a Masked Lapwing protecting its chick on the beach erupted in the sky above. A bit closer to earth would have been perfect, but it was an event of aerobatics that I think is worth posting here.

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Eyes down that same day yielded other interesting captures in the form of a family of Buff Banded Rails and Brown Quails surprisingly quite happy to be photographed. That was a good day, one of the best of the year for the variety and quality of photographs bagged.

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No Bribie related posting would be complete without some photos of the Honeyeaters feeding on the beach Bangsia plants that attract us out there in the first place. First up are some shots of White Cheeked Honeyeaters, small busy little birds that really photograph well. Striped Honeyeaters are another Bangsia feeder. Bigger and more territorial, they don’t like their smaller cousins coming near. Catch them perched on the top of a plant declaring their presence and it’s always a keeper!

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Looking back on 2015, it was not all about swatting flies and mosquitoes. There were some quality moments miles from nowhere with no phone or internet to distract where the world and all it’s issues did not exist. Give me a lodge in Biyamiti in Kruger or a simple room in the Hotel at Hungerford in outback Queensland over a five star hotel in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur any day. This is what I call living the life!!

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As the sun sets on 2015 and 2016 draws closer I figured what would be more fitting as the last photo in this posting than the sunrise rainbow taken early in the morning on the bridge above the Letaba River in Kruger. It was a spectacular sunrise that began a fantastic day of photography!

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May 2016 bring peace to the world and another few thousand great images to my camera!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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