24 December 2010

Be good to each other (Hamerkops preening)

To me, the " Christmas controversy" seems analogous to arguing over the identity of the singing bird, with the beauty of the song drowned out by the strident voices. But rather than merely tolerating others' beliefs, how about trying to understand them. The difference is substantial.

Merry Christmas/Yule/Holidays/Whatever-you-like-to-call-it. Thank you for visiting, and a special thanks to those of you who comment regularly and so generously. See you in the New Year

[25 May 2007, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 200, 1/400 at f6.3]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

22 December 2010

Boatman, Shire river, Malawi

The crew of our boat on the Shire comprised just the skipper and this man, whose role seemed little more than to moor the boat and keep watch.

[1 June 2007, Canon 20D, 24–105 mm f4 L at 105 mm, ISO 200, 1/80s at f6.3]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

20 December 2010

Shire River, Malawi

Hippos yawned and snorted near the banks, jacanas stepped precisely over water hyacinth, an open-billed stork flew past carrying something unidentifiable. Well within the park boundary, we passed a man in ragged clothing; he stood baiting a line and looking nervous in a canoe that was little more than a crudely shaped and hollowed log. The skipper called out to him as we passed; he looked back at us but didn't reply. He wasn't the only one fishing.

[1 June 2007, Canon 20D, 24–105 mm f4 L at 58 mm, ISO 200, 1/40s at f11] 

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

18 December 2010

Red stag in velvet

Summer moves on. The stags' antlers continue to grow; both stags and hinds wallowed while water remained in the hole (that's dried mud on his antlers); the first fawn arrived on 7 December, the day I photographed this stag. Three more fawns followed soon after.

[7 December 2010, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 400, 1/320 at f8]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

15 December 2010

The Nyika Plateau at dawn

At dawn, mist pooled in the shallow gullies, a group of eland grazed on a far hillside, bushbuck fed near the campsite. A white-necked raven explored nearby, no doubt hoping for scraps. Of all the places I'd travelled in Africa, this felt the most remote, the quietest, the most peaceful. Perhaps it was an illusion.

[21 May 2007, Canon 20D, 24–105 mm f4 L at 105 mm, ISO 200, 1/13s at f8] 

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

13 December 2010

Kotare (kingfisher) chicks

As I picked my way down the sheep track onto the remains of the old road cutting, I heard faint cheeping. I looked around, noticed a hole in the bank. The cheeping seemed to be coming from within the burrow. Serendipitously, I'd been prowling for photos of invertebrates, so I had the camera fitted with the 100mm macro and the flash (strobe), diffused and on an extension cord. I could see nothing inside the burrow and was conscious I was probably alarming some anxious parent nearby, so I quickly set the lens to autofocus, aimed it directly towards the hole, tried to angle the flash as best I could to get light down the burrow, and hoped the autofocus would do the job. I then immediately moved well away, and shortly after saw the adult kotare (Todiramphus sanctus; New Zealand sacred kingfisher) return to the nest.

All I could see on the antiquated little LCD panel was a dark blob in the centre of the frame. But when I downloaded the photo into Lightroom and played around a little with exposure, vignetting and fill light, this is what I saw.

Cute, eh?

[12 December 2010, Canon 20D, 100 mm f2.8, ISO 200, 1/500s at f16, flash (strobe)] 

 All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

11 December 2010

Agama lizard on the coast of Ghana

On the coast of Ghana, males fought, presumably over females and territory. Fortunately, they were agama lizards.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of these fights was the way the combatants would change colour. In particular, as battle approached, the head took on this striking orange-red colour.

The other fights I saw (three in the three-and-a-half weeks I was there) appeared to be over traffic incidents. Fortunately, I wasn't involved.

[13 April 2007, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 200, 1/500 at f4]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

09 December 2010

Male slave dungeon, Elmina Castle

Ghosts haunt Elmina castle, on the coast of Ghana. Toni, Ana and I sat on steps in the shade after the guided tour and wondered how the castle would affect us if we were able to return after closing time, when the tourists had gone; when the boundary between the past and present blurred; when the only other inhabitants were birds, echoes and memories; the spirits of those who died here and those who left in chains and never returned.

The horror, the horror.

[22 April 2007, Canon 20D, 24–105 mm f4 L at 58 mm, ISO 100, 1/80s at f11] 

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

07 December 2010

Toad, Kakum National Park

On the way out of Kakum NP after dawn on the ropeway, I glanced down. At my feet, I saw something slightly out of place; not just another leaf. I looked closer. This is what I saw.

[22 April 2007, Canon 20D, 24–105 mm f4 L at 105 mm, ISO 400, 1/20s at f5.6] 

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

05 December 2010

Honeybee and harakeke (NZ flax)

Honeybees foraged in the morning sun, paying plenty of attention to the harakeke flowers. Clearly, pollen was one of the attractions, with a bonus being whatever nectar they could extract from the long, tubular flowers.

[4 December 2010, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 400, 1/1250 at f4.5]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

03 December 2010

Harakeke (NZ flax) flowers

The harakeke (New Zealand flax; Phormium tenax) has begun to flower here, bringing a feast for bees, both native bees and the introduced honeybees, and birds, particularly tui and korimako. However, the long, tubular flowers mean the nectar's not easy to extract unless one has the right kind of beak and tongue (like tui) or are small enough to crawl down the tube (like the native bee seen here). Otherwise, it's a case of trying to mop up what might have dribbled within reach, or forcing oneself as far down the tube as possible (the honeybee approach).

[2 December 2010, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 200, 1/125 at f8] 

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

01 December 2010

The novelty of binoculars at Mt Abu

At Trevor's Tank, the reservoir in the wildlife reserve at Mt Abu in western Rajasthan, I offered the warden the chance to look around through my little binoculars. I prefocused them and showed him how to adjust them to fit his eyes. "Ohhh...!" he said, softly, as he gazed at the big muggers (crocodiles) hauled out on the rocks at the water's edge. It might have been one of the few occasions he'd looked through reasonably good binoculars.

[28 January 2007; Canon 20D, 24–105mm f4 L at 105 mm, ISO 200, 1/60 at f5.6]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor