Following on from the recent posts of my favourite photos of people, and my favourite landscape photos here are a selection of my favourite wildlife photos.
We were hiking in the far north of Australia in Kakadu National Park. It was hot and dry and we didn’t have enough water with us. Add to that I’d forgotten my sun hat and was wearing Don’s swimming trunks on my head, which at least gave me the protection I needed. And then in amongst the dry grasses I spotted this little
dragonfly bush fairy. Who says fairies don’t exist?!
Everyone goes to Agra because the Taj Mahal is located there. What most people don’t know is that near Agra is the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. We spent a day there and the absolute highlight was the spectacle of the nesting Painted Storks. There were hundreds of nests, hundreds of chicks of varying ages in the nests, and hundreds of adults coming and going feeding the chicks. We watched them for a long time. It was noisy, colourful and totally awesome!
We went to Ranthambhore National Park in India hoping to see tigers, but alas we were not that lucky. We were however lucky enough to see sambar deer, a crocodile, langurs, spotted deer, a mongoose, Indian antelope, many different bird species, and this very rare Chinkara, or Indian gazelle. We felt well rewarded for our very early morning explorations even if there were no tigers.
Crossing the Pacific the slow way we spent five days in Hawaii, six days in Samoa, and three days in Fiji on the way to Australia. While in Hawaii we visited the Byodo-In Temple on Oahu. In a stream in the perfectly manicured Japanese garden there were hundreds of bright orange koi clamouring for food, and these zebra doves all in a row on a bamboo fence.
We were on a boat on the Adelaide River in the far north of Australia. On the roof of the boat, standing on fenced overhanging platforms, a couple of young women were dangling raw meat near the surface of the river. Holy leaping crocodiles Batman! Apart from being on this boat they say once you see a croc leap you’ll never see it again.
Day one of a three day overland trip across the altiplano of Bolivia. This land is a high desert, dry and wild and uninhabited. We went as high as 5000 metres that day, and saw spectacular scenery, many flamingoes, and these wild vicuñas. The traversing of the Bolivian altiplano remains one of the highlights of all our travels.
In Canberra, Australia’s capital, we were exploring one of the public gardens on the north side of the lake when suddenly the skies opened. We ducked under the nearby awning of the visitors’ centre, but this swan, completely unconcerned, continued preening.
Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada is one of the biggest urban parks in the world, and was recently voted the best. Most of it is forested and the forest provides homes for an abundance of wildlife. One summer we housesat near Stanley Park and walked there almost every day. If you spend enough time in the park you’ll see herons, swans, beavers, and squirrels. And racoons like this one.
At another time we were housesitting in Burnaby, a city contiguous with Vancouver. We frequently went to Burnaby Lake Park to see the abundant birdlife in the lake there, including this Sandhill Crane fishing for dinner.
When we lived in Tiruvannamalai, India we walked part way up Mt Arunachala every morning to listen to a monk chanting in Ramana Marharshi’s upper ashram. There was a holy man, known as the Wandering Swami of Arunachala, who was always sitting on the trail. Gradually we got to know him. One day we were sitting chatting with him when this mongoose came out of the bush right across the trail from us.
There are only three small colonies of King Penguins outside of the Antarctic and we were lucky enough to get to one of them. From Punta Arenas, Chile we travelled by van and ferry to Tierra del Fuego. It was a drive of several hours to get to this rare colony. We only had an hour or so with the penguins and then had an even longer drive back, but it was so worth it!
If you put out a bird feeder in Australia this is what you’ll get – galahs. And cockatoos, crimson rosellas, eastern rosellas, king parrots, rainbow lorikeets, and several other species of colourful parrot. They’re all noisy. Parrots may look pretty but they sure know how to screech. This shot was taken in Canberra, my Aussie home town.
We visited the Monkey Temple in Jaipur, India. Many Indian cities have a Monkey Temple – devoted to Hanuman the Monkey God. Like cows, monkeys are regarded as sacred, and can be a little scary (especially the alpha males) but this little one perched in a tree not so much.
When we were housesitting in Burnaby we left a handful of peanuts on the table on the back deck every day for the blue jays, as per the owners’ instructions. The back garden was surrounded by very high old cedar trees, and the blue jays would come sweeping in as I waited with my camera. This one grabbed about four peanuts before he took off again.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. We went on an eight day cruise there and it remains a highlight of all our travels. On every beach there are sea lions, so unafraid of human presence they will walk right up to you. This is not some weird camera angle. They really can bend their heads completely backwards over their shoulders as this young one is doing.
Canberra is an unusual city in that it is planned. One feature of this is that all the suburbs are interspersed with large tracts of natural bushland. These nature parks are a haven for all kinds of wildlife: lizards, snakes, a wide variety of bird life, and kangaroos. This shot was taken in the nature park that covers the top of Red Hill, a short walk from my sister’s house.
Don and I had been so excited to see blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos. Seeing them for the first time was a moment of exultation, and we high-fived in delight. This shot was taken the second, or third, or fourth time, but it never got old. Blue feet are an indication of good health and thus are a survival advantage.
Twice we lived in La Manzanilla, a small fishing village on the Pacific coast of Mexico, once for four months, and once for two months. It’s a little slice of heaven. On our second visit we were there in May and I became aware of the swallows’ nests up in the eaves of many of the buildings in the town, mainly because of the chirping of the chicks. I watched the parents flying back and forth with food and knew it was just a matter of time before I got the shot I wanted.
Driving south from Kakadu National Park to Katherine Gorge in Australia’s far north we stopped in the village of Pine Creek. Getting out of the car I immediately heard squealing and wondered what it was. I followed the noise to a small park across the road and looked up into a big tree. It was filled with fruit bats, or flying foxes. Hundreds of them. It was like a giant fruit bat high-rise apartment building and everyone was at home. There were at least three more trees also filled with bats. They were all noisy and restless.
So we get to Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) and get tickets for a boat trip through the gorge. Don has wandered on ahead of me. I’ve stopped because I’ve found yet another tree full of fruit bats and am busy photographing them when I hear a loud thud on the ground about eight feet away. I look over to see this python quietly strangling and devouring one of the bats. There is no mercy in nature.
Later that same day we were at the visitors’ centre having coffee outside on the terrace. The blue-faced honeyeaters had long ago figured out that the terrace of the visitors’ centre is a great place to cadge a meal. There were at least half a dozen of them flying around, peering down from the rafters, landing on tables or the backs of chairs, on the alert for a safe moment to grab an abandoned crumb or a piece of sausage or pie, or, in my case, get their greedy beaks into my coffee cream.
Mogo Zoo, about 300 km south of Sydney, Australia is a small privately owned zoo that has had some success in breeding endangered species. The zoo also has large enclosure for about twenty meerkats. They are so funny to watch as they go about their meerkat business, constantly active and curious. I noticed there was always one standing guard, upright and unmoving, however when a plane flew overhead they all immediately stopped and looked skywards.
On the coast, also about 300 km south of Sydney, is the beach town of Mossey Point. We went to the Mossy Point Muffin Shop. Good muffins. Good coffee. But best of all: the rainbow lorikeets that came to clean up the crumbs!
Canberra’s Australian National Botanic Gardens, at the foot of Black Mountain, has an abundance of native plants, wide shaded lawns, quiet walking paths, a simulated rain forest, grazing kangaroos, shy echidnas, and some beautiful water features inhabited by a variety of water dragons. Water dragons are found in the rivers around Canberra and no doubt found their way naturally to the gardens when the water features were created.
We spent nine days at a lodge and research centre in the Amazon Jungle in Peru. Every day we went out hiking in the jungle, or canoeing the backwaters and lakes, looking for wildlife. On one excursion we were given a bunch of bananas to take with us and our guides stopped the boat near a turn in the river. They had been feeding the woolly monkeys there, and sure enough we’d not been there longer than a couple of minutes when two or three of them arrived. One came right down onto the boat, but this one waited in the branches to be handed his treat.
Another Australian parrot. This one is a female king parrot. We were staying at a motel in Morengo on the south coast of Victoria. The motel owners had been feeding the local birdlife sunflower seeds for several years. When it was feeding time great flocks of them came – king parrots, corellas, galahs, and cockatoos. All it took was for me to hold out my hand full of seeds for this one to land and start eating.
I had a really hard time reducing the wildlife photos down to a reasonable number so the next post there will be more – from Ecuador, India, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2018.