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About johnweir

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    Wildlife Photographer/Artist

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    Ettrickbridge, Scotland
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    Wildlife Photography & Wildlife Travel

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  1. @Imonmm, Glad you enjoyed the report. Regarding de-horning I can only report what I was told by the StRT guys. Individual Rhino not resident in the vast study area do enter and leave at will and so will probably have escaped the de-horning process. Spoke to someone recently who like you saw Rhino with complete horns. Does make sense not to stress pregnant females and the young. @ForWildlife, With regard to the numbers of leopards in the area was told 35, on two occasions, agree it does seem high. 7 not 6 out of 13 surviving cheetah I agree is not a spectacular success story. Checked the reserve area, is given as 200 sq. km in their own literature. Like you I have significant concerns about the operation. I think it is pretty clear in my report that this is not the type of wildlife viewing experience that we enjoy, far from it. However it does cater well for families with young children, in a very safe environment. If only a small proportion develop a lifelong interest in wildlife the experience has to be deemed as having some sort of success. @Dave Williams, Thanks for the positive comments very much enjoy your contributions to this wonderful resource. Your images and knowledge of the avian world are to say the least impressive. This was our first visit to Namibia, so a number of the more common mammal species found in Namibia were going to be completely new to us. Two in particular impressed very much, both bovids. Our first Southern African Mammal seen in the wild was the Common Impala in Botswana in 2014, they still remain a firm favourite. We were therefore keen to see the closely related Black-faced Impala, which has recently been described as a separate species. We we were not disappointed they are virtually identical to the Common Impala with as suggested a black band down the middle of the face and a thinner black band partially down each cheek particularly towards the eye. Interestingly the further south we went the less pronounced the facial markings appeared to be. The other was the 'Oryx', The Kalahari Gemsbok, simply beautiful and very common found in just about every habitat. I have more Gemsbok images filed than of any other species, started the day we arrived and I was still busy as we neared the airport to go home. The following images were taken in Ongava Wildlife Reserve and are representative of the 19 mammal species recorded during our 3 night stay. Will appear in 2 parts and Oryx later. IMAGES 1-3, Black-faced Impala. 1, Males. 2, Females. 3, Female herd. Common in the reserve and Etosha N.P. 4-5, Southern Giraffe. Not sure if these historically were found in this area or have been introduced. Should they be Angolan? Didn't see any in Etosha, if we had would they have been Southern or Angolan? Relatively common in the reserve. 6-8, Southern African Lion. 6/7, Reflections. 8, 'Dirty Boy', all members of the 14 strong 'Tented Camp Pride'. Saw 9 out of the 14. Dominant male spent the first night in camp, very vocal, great experience. Several prides in the reserve, this probably is the largest. 9, Blue Wildebeest. Relatively common in the reserve and Etosha. 10, Red-billed Quelea early morning flock. 1000's around camp.
  2. ADDITIONAL RHINOCEROS IMAGES. When I started this thread it was primarily to report on a recent visit to Desert Rhino Camp, however it has become somewhat more expansive. The following images were taken earlier in the trip, before Okonjima. IMAGE 1: We spotted this Black Rhino in the bush whilst out on an afternoon/evening game drive, however it clearly was not as happy to see us as we were to see it. It became quite agitated so we left it in peace. Only got this very hurried image. The following day it charged a vehicle from our camp, without fortunately any damage to either party. Male circa 20 years old. IMAGE 2-5: Later, on the same drive 15 minutes before sunset we came across this female White Rhino with her calf. The female is 30 years old and the calf 4 years old. The female is, as can be seen from image 4 in calf again (great news) and will drive out her existing calf once she has given birth. Both were very calm and we approached to about 20 yards on foot and spent several minutes in their company before it got completely dark. IMAGE 6: The following day another female White Rhino was located again with a calf. She is approximately 25 years old and the calf 3 years old. We did not approach them on foot as both were not as comfortable with our presence as the 2 we had spent time with the previous evening. IMAGE 7: Later that day just before dinner, we couldn't believe it another White Rhino (different to the 2 previous sightings) female with a calf appeared at the waterhole in front of the dining area. I had no experience at all of taking images under such challenging circumstances. The camp quite rightly had a no flash rule. My first attempt was diabolical, a totally black image with a greyish blur in the middle. As luck would have it a professional photographer was staying in camp and was setting up to take some promotional nighttime images of the camp. "Help". "Up your ISO as far as it will go and set EV to - 0.7, and use my tripod" was the reply. I declined the tripod but at least got an image for my records. (Thank you, Olwen Evans). If anyone reading this has any tips on how I could respond in the future to such circumstances I would be pleased to hear from you. (For the technically minded ISO 25600, 158mm, EV -1, f/5, 1/30). IMAGE 8: On our final day in camp we decided to go for a bush walk, our guide quickly picked up the spoor of a large group of White Rhino after a long trek we located them resting under the cover of some bushes not far from a naturally occurring waterhole. There were 11 in number. Immediately they got our scent they were off at speed and believe me Rhino can certainly move quickly. As they fled I was just able to take this image which purely records the event. The crash consisted of males and females. They are aged between 5 and 8 years with one older male (14years) being dominant in the crash. This 'safety in numbers behaviour' apparently is an interim behaviour between calves leaving their mothers and going it alone. Our guide said it was a very unusual sighting to see so many, he had only seen such a large number together twice before. (Information regarding the sighting is recorded from pers. comm. with our guide).
  3. @Peter Connan On page 1 you indicate a worry about a decline in the standard of your bird photography, I certainly wish mine would decline to this standard. Favourite of your most recent posts, image 1 of the Malachite Kingfisher series. Superb.
  4. Some wonderful images Peter, keep them coming. Get a great deal of pleasure from your work and find the images very helpful in identifying species. Cape Teal and the reflection. Wow!
  5. THOUGHTS ON OKONJIMA RESERVE. NAMIBIA. @Imonmm, very interested in your comments on the de-horning of the Rhino at DRC. The more I inspect my images of Rhino #3 (female), the more I am becoming convinced it hasn't been de-horned, so it is highly likely that what you were told is the current working practice. We were also told that individual Rhino occasionally wander into the 4 zones from outside and stay for a while before being driven out by territorial males. @xelas, just finished reading your trip report, wonderful. Images also of the highest quality. Will use some of your destinations as a basis for a self-drive trip to Namibia possibly in 2018. Was rather interested in your stay at Okonjima reserve towards the end of your report as we spent 2 nights there on our trip. I fully endorse your views about this reserve as a destination for the serious safari enthusiast. When I was discussing locations to visit in Namibia with my tour operator Okonjima was not on the list, but crept in as we needed to break up the trip down from Etosha to Windhoek. I was aware of the link with Afri-Cat and the type of operation we were to visit, and that it was not really our sort of thing but decided to give it a go. We came away with mixed views, some of our observations are listed below, thought they may be of some interest to others. Okonjima is a large 200 sq km fenced reserve, an additional fenced reserve is enclosed within the main reserve. We stayed at Plains Camp which is within the inner fenced area. There are no predators within this area making it ideal for families with young children. Accommodation is in brick chalets and meals are taken in a large dining area, the meals are of a very high quality. (see images 5 to 7). The experience is more hotel than tented camp. Other accommodation within the reserve is of a very high quality. Several activities are available to guests, 2 per day. We opted to track Cheetah, Leopards and a visit to the Afri-Cat Project. The Wild Dogs have apparently been moved to another facility. The late afternoon Cheetah Tracking excursion involved a long drive with 6 other guests around the outer reserve, where the Afri-Cat rescued animals are eventually released. We picked up a signal after 90 minutes and located two male Cheetah feeding on a kill, which was good as this was their 3rd attempt at a life away from the re-habilitation centre. The leopard tracking began the following day at 06.00, we were the only guests and although 3 different contacts were made after 7 hours of searching we returned to the camp without a Leopard sighting. The late afternoon visit to the Afri-Cat facility was in a large group, visiting first the veterinary suite and then two large pens each containing 2 Cheetah. There was a big sell on adopting an animal and we were told that 2 lions were presently in the facility but could only be seen by those guests who were staying for at least 3 nights or by sponsoring one of the re-hab animals. There is little doubt that the unit has taken on some hopeless cases with some success. Two of the Cheetah had previously been kept as house cats since they were cubs by a farmer who had shot their mother. When his farm was sold the cats were taken in by Afri-Cat, a similar tale for the second pair. Since the inception of the Rescue, Relocate, Release Programme 13 Cheetah have been released in the reserve, only 7 have survived. Leopard predation being cited as the cause of all the fatalities. There are apparently 35 Leopard living in and around the reserve. The general habitat is not entirely suited to Cheetah so at the time of our visit huge swathes of land were being converted into more Cheetah friendly areas, which should give them a better chance of survival. The reserve also has a night hide where guests can observe nocturnal mammals, slight snag they use bait. We decided to visit, another snag it is only made available to those guests staying at the more expensive Bush Camp. After much negotiation they agreed to include us in that evenings excursion. They are at great pains to point out that all the animals that visit the hide are also known to feed under natural conditions! The hide is large, floodlit and bait is put out, mammals appear within minutes. It was an interesting experience, they also had a Leopard feeding station, however that practice has now been discontinued, thank God. On our return after dropping the other guests at the Bush Camp our guide agreed to take us on an extended night drive during which time we saw some wonderful nocturnal mammals. We arrived back at our camp at 24.15. A great guide he certainly went the extra mile. Whilst staying at Okonjima we had one of our most memorable wildlife moments to date. It was the morning of the Leopard Hunt and we had just entered the outer reserve at about 06.15 when a Gemsbok calf flew past the side of our vehicle. It was probably only a few weeks old and was screaming loudly clearly in distress. Next 20 yards behind it followed a Brown Hyena at speed and it was quickly gaining on the calf. Then from nowhere its mother appeared, also running at top speed and just as the Hyena was about to take the calf down hit the Hyena at full force with her snout catching the hyena broadsides and propelling it high into the air. Two other Gemsbok quickly arrived and surrounded the distressed calf, a very lucky escape. The Hyena recovered quickly and slunk away. What an experience. Other notable sightings included during our stay included Cape Eland, 3 Small-spotted Genet together in a huddle, Black-faced Impala (much less black on face than in Etosha), Damara Dik-Dik, Steenbok, Bush Duiker, Southern Porcupine, Red Hartebeest, 23 mammals in all. Oh yes and at long last an Aardwolf. So mixed feelings, certainly they have the wildlife to concentrate on normal game drives and not have to rely on the partnership with Afri-Cat which could still flourish in a less public environment within the reserve. IMAGE 1: Damara Dik-Dik. IMAGE 2: Released Cheetah near kill. IMAGE 3: Brown Hyena recovers from Gemsbok attack having failed to kill her calf. IMAGE 4: Cheetah in re-habilitation. IMAGE 5: Typical chalet at Plains Camp. A view room. IMAGE 6: Interior. IMAGE 7: Dining area.
  6. DAMARA DIK-DIK. Madoqua damarensis. Male. Image taken late afternoon (15.50) at Okonjima Wildlife Reserve, Namibia. July 2017. Female was also in the area. 400mm, ISO 250, f/5.6, 1/320. Very slight crop.
  7. @xelas, glad you enjoyed the report on Desert Rhino Camp. Look forward to your report. Just to clarify our total Rhino count which is not too clear in the report, 3 Black were seen at the camp. 1 Black and 17 White were seen later in the trip on the Ongava Wildlife Reserve close to Etosha N.P., 3 females all with young and amazingly 11 young adults together. Our guide had never seen so many Rhino together, quite a rare sighting apparently. For those struggling with the Horned Adder (image #13), it is in the centre of the image, just shows how effective its markings are, virtually the same colour as the surrounding small stones. Please find 3 additional images, not the world's best. Image 1: Cropped image slightly lightened. 2: Cropped image, close up of head. 3. The group investigates, we decide to continue with lunch at the chosen spot, one of the trackers offers to move it, the group decides to leave it in situ.
  8. Earlier this month (July 2017) we were fortunate enough to visit Wilderness Safaris Desert Rhino Camp situated in a remote valley in the Palmwag Concession, Damaraland, in the north west of Namibia. It was part of a relatively brief introduction to the delights of Namibia a country we had not visited before, but one we will certainly return to. The catalyst for the visit was to hopefully to enjoy some decent Rhinoceros sightings having only previously had one very lucky Rhino sighting (from a considerable distance) in The Northern Serengeti, in July 2015.(Eastern Black Rhinoceros). We tend to develop itineraries around the species we would hope to encounter, this year's target species was the Rhinoceros and so Namibia seemed a logical choice, although other destinations were considered. The opportunity to observe totally free roaming South-western Black Rhinoceros ensured this camp was included in our itinerary. Several current and past articles more than ably cover some of the other regions we visited on this trip but I thought it might be of some interest to members to give an update and share a few images from this very specialist camp. We flew into the airstrip which services the camp from Sosssusvlei via Swakopmund and Doro Navas. This airstrip is about a 30 minute drive from camp. However a new airstrip had been completed just a couple of days before our arrival, about 1/2 mile from camp. Nobody could explain why and there is little doubt it has desecrated a beautiful swathe of pristine wilderness in the immediate vicinity of the camp.This however would be my only criticism of a very well run camp which along with its partners is making a significant contribution to the stability and preservation of the Rhino Population in the area. The camp is beautifully situated on a grassy plain, surrounded by trees and some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. The sunrises and sunsets were to say the least magical. The camp consists of only 8 very well appointed tents with all the facilities for a very comfortable stay. The social / dining area is similarly well appointed and contains informative displays about the target species. (see image 11). During the visit it was cool at night and around 25C during most of the day. It is a very intimate camp as it only caters for 16 clients at any one time, we met some wonderful like minded people from around the world. The quality of food at all meals was excellent. We stayed for 2 nights and undoubtedly it should have been for more. The camp opened in 2003 as a joint venture between Wilderness Safaris, Save the Rhino Trust and local community groups, since its inception no Rhino have been lost to poaching, despite an escalation of activity in the surrounding areas particularly in 2012. All tracking activities are led by SRT staff and strict animal welfare protocols are observed at all times. The tracking area is split into 4 zones, with only 2 being used in any one day, the Rhino are free to roam between zones and beyond. The last birth was in 2016 and since the partnership was developed the population has remained stable at around 16 individuals, 6 have died, all of natural causes with one being as a result of lion predation. All the Rhino were de-horned in 2014, and I was unable to find out if they were due to be done again. On our only full day in camp we left at 0.500 for a full day in the field, the trackers having gone out ahead at 04.30 heading for zone 4, the furthest away from camp. The trackers head for the appropriate waterhole (see image 8). and then follow any spoor before making radio contact with the following clients. I spent quite a lot of time with the trackers and most of the information contained in this article is taken from those conversations. Most of the day was spent in desert / semi-desert habitat (see image 9), many of the dry riverbeds contained significant amounts of vegetation which the Rhino feed on, at 06.45 we came across 4 Angolan Giraffes feeding in such an area. (see image 2). At 09.00 a message came in that the trackers had visited the waterhole in zone 4 and no activity had been noted, I was beginning to regret having only booked for 2 nights, trackers had indicated the night before that we had only a 50% chance of success, in reality and hindsight this was probably a very cautious estimate on their part, playing safe. Shortly after the message they passed us heading for zone 2, we followed. After another hour they stopped and following spoor started to track on foot, all 3 going in different directions. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast. A tracker was eventually spotted (10.30) about 1/2 mile away walking quickly, 1/4 mile in front of him a Rhino was seen running away from him. He doubled back and we drove to pick him up, he had located a mature female resting under a bush. We drove for 15 minutes around a rocky spur before driving towards the direction the Rhino had been heading. We left our vehicle and walked about 50 yards and sheltering behind a bush, within a couple of minutes the Rhino was came into view heading towards us. At a distance of around 75 yards she stopped, presumably got our scent, turned and decided to exit over the brow of an embankment. We walked towards the top of the embankment from the opposite side. As we approached the top she was again visible 100 yards in front, we stopped, she approached us cautiously, quite closely (see image 3, Rhino #1), before moving slowly away towards the valley bottom. We spent probably 20 minutes in her company a truly amazing experience. The whole tracking process was conducted in a very safe manner and I believe the Rhino was not caused any undue stress. Data taken each day by the trackers is sent to their central office. After lunch a large herd of Hartmann's Mountain Zebra were located and time was spent approaching them on foot, but they appear much more nervous than their savanna cousins and moved away before we were able to get any meaningful images. (see image 4). About 14.00 our guide received information that another Rhino had been sighted at the opposite end of the zone, we decided to try and locate it, after an hours drive it was found in a dry river bed feeding. (see image 6, Rhino# 2) As we had by this time no trackers with us we stayed in our vehicle quietly observing this magnificent animal (male) for about 20 minutes. Just as we were about to leave a third Rhino (female, see image 7, Rhino #3) was spotted walking up an incline about 50 yards behind the male. We watched the male slowly move off in her direction and then decided to leave them in peace. We returned to camp at 17.00 having been out for 12 hours, but having seen 3 desert adapted free ranging South-western Rhinoceros, what a wonderful experience, a 2 night stay had for us been highly successful. Other mammals seen during our stay included: Hartmann's Mountain Zebra (2 small herds, 20), Gemsbok (lots), Springbok (lots), Banded Mongoose, Spotted Hyena, Black-backed Jackal, Angolan Giraffe (7), Ground Squirrels (lots) and Greater Kudu. There is little doubt in my mind that SRT in conjunction with Wilderness Safaris are doing a fantastic job to support this critically endangered species in this area, without their intervention there can be little doubt that this unique population would not exist. The whole trip to Namibia proved to be an outstanding success, 4 Black and 17 White rhino were recorded including a crash of 11 young adults, and the scenery just blew us away. I would recommend this particular element of our trip to anyone visiting Namibia, for us personally it certainly was just as memorable as tracking Mountain Gorilla in Rwanda. Image 1: Hartmann's Zebra, on the way to camp. 2: Angolan Giraffe, taken early morning on the day of the Rhino trek. 3: Rhino #1, female. South-Western Black Rhinoceros. 6-7 years old. De-horned 2014. V ear mark to identify. Condition 4.5 out of 5. 4: Hartmann's Zebra, tried to get close, no chance. 5: Ground Squirrel. 6: Rhino #2. Male. 27 years old. 7: Rhino #3. Female. Daughter of Rhino killed by lion. Born 2012. 8: Typical waterhole. 9: Typical Rhino Habitat. 10: Gemsbok. 11: Desert Rhino Camp. 12: My Heroes. 13: Horned Adder, found by our guide 3 yards behind our lunchtime camp. Excellent cryptic colouration. 14: Ludwig's Bustard.
  9. NORTHERN SERENGETI N.P. TANZANIA. 7th & 9th JULY 2015. Whilst out on an afternoon game drive (14.00, Lamai Wedge) I noticed about 1/2 a mile to one side of our vehicle a blurred flash followed by a cloud of dust. Our guide agreed to investigate, on arrival we located a female cheetah and 2 cubs with a gazelle kill. The following images were taken during a 10 minute observation. As one cub was much more nervous than the other and disappeared into the long grass on our arrival, we decided to leave to let them feast in peace. Lots of hyena were about and we wanted them to feed well before the kill was discovered. Two days later (06.30, 3 miles further south, just north of the Mara River) we located the family again and watched from a distance an unsuccessful hunt. Amazingly when the mother aborted the chase the lucky gazelle turned towards her and started to follow her back to where she had hidden her cubs. The gazelle approached to about 20 yards of the cheetah who fortunately by now was pre-occupied with maternal duties, one of the cubs had climbed a small tree and was having great difficulty returning to terra firma. (Incident too far away for any meaningful images). Image 1: On arrival at the kill, as seen. Image 2: Mother with the more bold cub. Image 3: As 2 but reasonable shot of the butterfly, top right. Image 4: The bold cub with lipstick. Image 5: Two days later, Mother with her 2 cubs. Image 6: The shy cub.
  10. NAMIRI PLAINS CAMP. SOUTHERN SERENGETI. TANZANIA. July 2016. 2 of the notorious 6 brothers, arrived for lunch one day, also one slept at the back of our tent one night and roared constantly before being moved on by camp staff at 01.30, a memorable experience.
  12. Hope you don't mind me gate-crashing the party but visited the Farne Islands yesterday. (22/6/2017). Huge numbers of Guillemot, Shag, and Puffins. Significant numbers of Razorbill, Kittiwake and the 3 relatively common species of Gulls. Several Gannets also seen and Oystercatchers. Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns were seen in large numbers. (Arctics as aggressive as ever!). Tend to visit annually and can safely say yesterday for sheer numbers of birds was the best to date. Photography was limited due to inclement conditions, warm but very overcast with some light rain, previous 4 days apparently hot and sunny. Visitor numbers were incredibly high on both Inner Farne and Staple Island, spent 3 hours on each island. High tide for most of the visit so no Grey Seals observed. Last year went early August, too late, very few birds although lots of seals and several dolphins. 2016 visited late May bird numbers good but not as good as yesterday. Any interest generated by this thread for a visit in 2018, please let me know would enjoy meeting up with some members. A few images attached from the visit, straight out of the camera.
  13. RED LECHWE (Kobus l. leche) , BOTSWANA 2014. A common antelope in northern Botswana (Okavango Swamps), a perfectly adapted semi-aquatic species. Images taken in Botswana July 2014. All images taken using EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS Mk1, set at 400mm. ISO 200 (A) all 3 images. Image 1: Pom Pom Camp, f/8 1/640. Image 2: Pom Pom Camp, f/6.3 1/800. Image 3: Lebala Camp, f/8 1/640. The image accurately reflects typical Red Lechwe habitat.
  14. @Kitsafari Apologies for taking so long to respond, now this wonderful travelogue has regrettably come to an end. Your narrative has been truly outstanding and supplemented with so many beautiful images. I apologise for interrupting the flow with my deliberations on the African Lion but your images showed a 'slightly different' lion to the the one I have observed numerous times and were the catalyst for some very interesting amateur research. I was saddened by #163 in which you mentioned some feelings of guilt at having stayed at Camp Nomade, you should have no such feelings. Your writings have literally brought Zakouma N.P. and its unique wildlife alive to literally hundreds of wildlife enthusiasts world wide who may or may not decide to visit. However they have through your writings and images virtually been there already, to many that will be sufficient to others like myself I can't get there soon enough. I have read all your text several times and it is forming a vital part of my planning for my visit in February 2018. Interestingly several members have indicated via this thread that they could be on the same safari (6th - 14th February 2018), it would be great to make contact prior to the trip. (I hope there is a bird expert going!). Possibly 5 participants from the U.K. and 3 from Southern Africa?, use of the message facility on this site would be useful. (Just a thought). Thank you again for all your hard work that went in to preparing this highly detailed report no doubt over several months, I and many others look forward to your next trip report.
  15. CATARATAS DEL IGUAZU. SOUTHERN BRAZIL. JULY 2012. I think I must have a waterfall / helicopter fetish, found these old images in a file, thought they were worth sharing. Once again taken fully automatic, aerial images at 18mm. Lens EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, this was a great lens for general/wildlife photography and I was very sorry to see it go when I went full-frame. Image 1. General view of Cataras del Iguazu taken from Brazilian airspace, hotel in the foreground is Hotel das Cataratas. (Excellent, particularly after several days in The Pantanal). Image 2. Falls & Rio Iguazu (Superior). Garganta del Diablo (centre), which I think loosely translates to 'The Devil's Throat'. This is approachable from the Argentinian side which we did, you can just about make out on the image the walkways leading to this impressive feature. 80%+ of the falls are actually located in Argentina. I have included a 2 extra images just to set the ambience, obviously not taken from the air. Image 3. 'The Devil's Throat'. Argentinian side. Image 4. Salto Rivadavia & Salto Tres Mosqueteros. Brazilian side. Although Iguazu is the largest waterfall system in the world and hugely impressive, Victoria Falls for me remains number 1, just love the gorges below the falls, the Zambezi and the bridge, or is it just because it's Africa.

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