Nikki Humphrey Photography: Blog https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog en-us (C) Nikki Humphrey Photography nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Tue, 23 Feb 2021 15:32:00 GMT Tue, 23 Feb 2021 15:32:00 GMT https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/img/s/v-12/u795619668-o700188674-50.jpg Nikki Humphrey Photography: Blog https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog 80 120 Leopard Stories https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2021/2/leopard-stories Hi folks,

Recently while looking through leopard photos I was thinking about the first leopards I saw, overall and in certain places, and how you meet individuals. When you see lions you see prides, many lions all at once but with leopards and their solitary nature it’s usually only one leopard you see (occasionally mother and cub or mating leopards) but never more than one other than those times. In my mind it makes them stand out more because you remember each sighting more than you might remember the individuals in a lion pride or pack of wild dogs.

I thought it would be interesting to share with you my leopard sightings, I remember ‘most’ of them, what happened, where it was or how I felt.

 

This was my first leopard sighting EVER! I was on an overland tour travelling from Kenya – South Africa, my first big trip, my first trip on my own and one of the best experiences of my life. It started something, something magical and it started my journey to wildlife photography and travel.

This was in the Serengeti National Park, an optional extra on the trip – of course I did all the wildlife excursions, we had been to the Ngorongoro Crater the day before and then spent this day, the 17th February 2010, on the Serengeti plains. We had passed this tree previously and it had a kill in it, but no leopards, when we returned there was a young leopard (still with mum) up in the tree feeding on the carcass and mum was asleep in the notch of the tree. So I saw 2 leopards in my first sighting. You can see my camera equipment and skills weren’t at the level I was now so please excuse the ‘bad’ photos.

Soon after that sighting, which you can only imagine I was ecstatic about, we found another leopard sleeping in a tree (I believe it was really far away which is why I don’t have a photograph) and then further along another Leopard who leapt down from a very high tree, allowing me to get a few shots (still apologies for the bad photo). What a start to my leopard journey.

The next sighting of a leopard came in Namibia, Etosha National Park. We were in a huge overland bus so not many windows and lots of people, we drive past a leopard sat at the side of the road – everyone got so overexcited and noisy so it slunk away. I had my camera on all the wrong settings- which happens – but this is the shot I got. I say you can see it’s a leopard so it counts!

 


 

My next Leopard came in India in 2012, March 22nd in Kanha National Park. Hadn’t seen any Tigers which is why we were there but we did come across this leopard in the very, very distance (hence the shot) sat on a large rock basking in the sun – this is still my only Leopard in India (heard one very close on my last trip but no sightings) so this counts as my only Asian Leopard.

 


 

I didn’t go back to Africa until October 2013, it was recommended to me to visit South Africa and Kruger National Park and I found a company that did ‘Budget safaris’! It actually worked out so, so well, it took me a day or two to see my first leopard though. My first proper Kruger Leopard, just sat in the grass beside the road, it’s amazing how unconcerned they are about vehicles. I was just blown away by the fact I was watching a Leopard sitting in the grass at relatively close quarters.

I was also given a distant leopard on some rocks in the riverbank, which even though it was distant, was more how I thought it would be, seeing a leopard in its environment, both super great sightings but left me wanting more.

I got up early one morning for a bush walk with the SanParks guides, we had to drive to the location where we would be walking from. As anyone who knows me, knows, I’m not a great morning person so I was sat on the truck, mostly still asleep, when my eye was caught by something, A LEOPARD, they had said not to shout if you saw something and for a split second I wasn’t sure I had, when I was sure and since I was at the back it took us a minute or two to stop and reverse to the leopard I’d seen, we did and it was still there, a young, nervous looking female but MY leopard, I saw it, I spotted it and I stopped us. I was also the only one to get any photos but the joy I felt having been the one to see it was overwhelming. Still one of my proudest moments.

The second half of this trip was spent at a lodge just outside the Sabi Sands Game Reserve so we could go to Sabi Sands and Kruger. They had previously found a female leopard with a kill and she had placed it in a tree so for my first drive in Sabi Sands they took us straight to a leopard on a kill. We arrived and she wasn’t there, slowly she emerged from the bush and climbed the tree, eating it almost above our heads. The cracking sounds of her breaking the bones was really intense, like nothing else I’d ever heard. She also had an injury to one of her eyes, the one not visible in this photo.

A few days later, on the afternoon drive – which obviously turns into a night drive (in private reserves) we found this male leopard in the dark and I managed to get a decent-ish shot in the dark. Better than nothing.

My last leopard for this trip was this one, back in the main Kruger National Park, another one I spotted and called for the ‘stop, stop, stop’. It was sat in the grass and as we watched it, it got up, stretched, scent marked and walked off into the bush. Another pretty cool sighting.

 


 

My next time in South Africa and Kruger was in November 2014, a month later than 2013 so things were a bit different, the summer migrants were in full flow and it was bit hotter as it headed more into the summer months.

My first evening drive, was with the SANParks guides, which means you can stay out after dark, so we found this leopard as the sun went down, hence the spotlight hue you can see and the high ISO which means it’s super grainy.

 

The next morning I found another leopard, I yell-whispered the ‘stop, stop, stop’ and found this beautiful female cat sat just beside the road, we were the first ones along this road on this morning and she just sat there and stared up at us… I took my best selfie to date at this very moment.

She then walked alongside the vehicle, crossed the road behind us and then off into the bush. A while later we came back along this road and she was sat away from the road in the bush, there were more people there so we had had the best of the view.

 

A very distant leopard asleep in the perfect leopard tree but the wrong way round, why do they never sit how you think they should sit?

 

One more in Kruger National Park was this very small glimpse and this one photograph. A fleeting glimpse.

Staying again at Tydon Bush camp in Sabi Sands Game Reserve, we found this huge male leopard on the far bank of a river sitting in a patch of sunlight. We couldn’t get any closer since it was on a neighbouring property.

 

Our next sighting was one of my most memorable sightings, we heard word on the radio that there was a leopard sighted so off we went, a beautiful male leopard sat on a termite mound. He snoozed there and as he did, everyone else left, luckily the people in the jeep with me where happy to sit there with him as I certainly was.

We sat with him for an hour or so, he spotted some impala and kudu walking past, climbed off the termite mound – we really thought he might hunt, but they spotted him first so he stayed where he was. We changed positions a few times and he barely twitched an ear, after a while he got up and walked off into the bush. We went with him for a while until he headed into some bush that was impenetrable to vehicles so we circled round to try and stick with him. We found him again and just travelled along with him as he patrolled his territory before heading off on our own travels. Later that evening we picked him up in the spotlight as dusk fell. What a cat! This was my first encounter with Maxebeni, my favourite leopard of all.

 


 

My next Africa trip was to the Maasai Mara in 2015, I had only spent a night or two there on my overland trip so I was so excited to spend some time there and with my camera. The first leopards we saw were on the second morning and it was a mother and her 6+ month old cub. Amazing sighting, the female wasn’t that bothered with our presence but the cub was super nervous but it was really lovely to see the two of them interacting.

 

A few days later we were alongside the river, waiting for Zebras and Wildebeest to come and cross, and while we were waiting we got something better, a leopard, a large male leopard with a wound on the back of one of his legs but an impressive specimen. I believe he was called the Double Cross male (I may be incorrect and am happy to be corrected). He walked along the river bank, scent marking as he went, before the approaching water made him leap higher on the bank where he sat down for a snooze.

One morning we found this female leopard walking across the plains, we stayed with her for a while and she actually led us to a large male leopard in a tree with an Eland calf kill, he sat in the tree for a while to rest before starting to feed on the carcass. After a while he climbed down for a toilet break before settling down for a sleep in the grass.

We decided to check in on the female we had previously seen, leaving him to his sleep.

 


 

My 2016 Africa trip was to Botswana and was my most successful photographic trip. Our first stop was Moremi where we found a pack of Wild Dogs, Kwai where we had amazing leopard sightings and Savuti where we found a large lion pride – the predator trifecta. The first leopard came on our transfer from Moremi to Kwai, a report of a leopard took us off our direct path and it was totally worth it, this lovely young male leopard who popped out the grass, walked around for a bit then sat on a termite mound. We had to keep moving but worth the small detour.

Arriving in Kwai, a sighting of a leopard was passed to us and off we went, she came out of the mopane trees and posed beautifully before moving off. Her name is Muchabe (sp?) and it was known she had 2 almost adult cubs, a male and a female.

Later that evening as the light faded we found the female cub, she was off on her own so definitely gaining her independence from her mother. Only got this quick glimpse in terrible light so it’s super grainy once more.

The next day we found the adult female and her almost adult male cub, it was lovely to see them walk alongside each other, their tails intertwining as they went about their day, playing in the grass and jumping and walking along fallen trees. So lovely.

The next and last morning in Kwai we went straight to a tree where we had heard they had a kill, there was indeed a kill in the tree, the adult female was asleep in the tree and the young male cub was asleep at the base of the tree. He woke up, stretched and bothered his mother so much she got up too, they played on the ground for a bit, leaping off trees and tackling each other other. They wrestled on the tree itself before the male went up to get his share of the kill. It was one of the most exciting and photographically amazing sightings I’ve had.

A day or so later in the Savuti area we found a female leopard known as the ‘Twin Ridges’ female, who wasn’t fully weight bearing on her back right leg after an injury.

We found her the next day too as the light went but it created these amazing blue tones.

 

Botswana really delivered.

 


 

Later that year, 2016, I headed back south for a 3 week trip with my mum to show her the amazingness that is safari, luckily she loved it and we’ve been multiple times since. This trip however we travelled around every few days.

The first leopard was this hard to get shot of a female leopard curled up asleep in some thick bush in Thornybush Game Reserve.

That same night on the way back to camp we caught some eye shine in the spotlight, a male leopard, apparently the brother of the female we glimpsed earlier in the evening, he stopped and watched us for a few minutes, then ran away, pretty shy.

The next leopard came at the third camp we stayed at in Timbavati Game Reserve. We saw her over 3 days, she had a fresh impala kill on the ground the first time we saw her. Watched her haul it up into a tree one evening. Saw her second kill, a scrub hare in another tree, while she sat on the ground and had a drink from a pool of water before sitting up in some rocks. It was so lovely to see her over the course of a few days as she stayed in that small area because of her kill, it’s usually such small glimpses etc so it was really nice to spend some time with her.

 

We then travelled into Kruger National Park on our own steam, my first time self driving there which was slightly nerve-wracking, learning the distances etc. We drove from Satara to Skukuza seeing amazing things but that evening we went out and just off on the left as we drove along we spotted a spotty cat, a male leopard sat on a termite mound. It was almost lost in some of the other crazy highlights of that day but it wouldn’t have been so amazing without this lovely cat sighting.

Next we headed out of Kruger itself and into the connected neighbouring Sabi Sands Game Reserve where I was thrilled to introduce my mum to Maxebeni, that very favourite leopard of mine. It was only a brief glimpse where he was walking along the opposite river bank to us but he turned to look at us so I think he knew I wanted to see him!

The only other leopard sighting of this trip was after flying from SA to Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls) and into Chobe National Park in Botswana. We had been out on the boats on the river, and on drives into Chobe itself and seen so many elephants, I never imagined there were that many! The very last morning, I decided to go on one more drive, no one else did so I had a whole jeep to myself (very bizarre) and that was the only time we found a leopard in Chobe, and not just one but a pair, mating leopards. It was also the only time I’ve looked for leopard specifically and found them!

 


 

The next trip to Africa was 2017 to the Maasai Mara in Kenya once more.

Our first view of a Leopard was the legend that is Bahati.

And her two cubs, one we only saw glimpses of in the bushes but the second one climbed the tree, I was so happy I cried which concerned the guide until I reassured them they were happy tears. I’ve wanted to see leopard cubs for so many years and while I still want to see the tiny ones, these filled that brief and I was left very emotional.

A few days later we found a leopard in a tree, this young male still with his mother, was up in the branches feeding on the carcass they had stashed there. He was up and down the tree, mum was on the ground looking up, she went up to feed and dropped the carcass from the tree, it got caught on a low branch so the cub/young adult was trying to hit it like a piñata.

 


 

Later on on 2017, I took two of my friends to Kruger for a self drive trip, which is great because you can spend as much time as you want with the animals you want.

This was our first leopard sighting.

Hard to see… try the left most tree… Can you believe someone even spotted that one? It wasn't me by the way, we stopped by some people who said there was a leopard but it took us about 10 minutes to find it!

We then didn’t see a leopard for 5 more days, saw so many other animals though. We got a tip about a leopard in a tree, we arrived at the spot but the only view we could get was this one, it counts but not the best photographically. It jumped down soon after we arrived and disappeared into the bush.

 

The same day, we were headed out for an afternoon drive, as we were at the gate to leave camp, there was a sighting report of a leopard – in camp! From the restaurant walkway along the river there was a male leopard in the riverbank sitting in the shade, so we stayed and watched him for most of the afternoon. According to my friend it was two leopards but the rest of us were aware he just moved along the riverbank!

The next day on one of the main tar roads we came across a battle-scarred male with half a tail, he walked alongside the road before stopping and settling down for a sleep. It was a really great sighting with some excellent backlight.

The next day after a Black Rhino sighting, a car had stopped and the occupants were looking at something, we could not see what they were looking at… this beautiful female leopard sat at the side of the road. She quickly got up and slunk away, clearly not the most habituated leopard but so pretty.

One morning my friends went on a bush walk, so I went out on my own, someone told me about a leopard so I went along thinking I wouldn’t find it. I did, had an amazing view and with only one other car, magical.

After my friends came back, we popped along to see it again and it was the worst traffic jam I’ve ever seen in Kruger. Insanity. Got a quick view of him in the tree after feeding on a kill, he wasn’t rolling off the tree any time soon, his belly was so full.

 


A few months later at the beginning of 2018, I took my aunt and uncle on their first safari along with my mum, not only was it amazing to show them my ‘world’ but really lovely to spend time with them since they live in Canada. One of our first days amounted in this sighting of a leopard.

Once more we had stopped because someone else had, they let us know there was a leopard in the riverbank below us, we were on a bridge. Could we see this damn leopard – no. We sat and waited, and waited and eventually it moved, stalking a Bushbuck, and finally we could see it. Only a glimpse but a good start.

 

The next day we had a better view of one as we came across this lovely cat sitting in a tree. The chaos of Kruger was present too so we didn’t stay too long but a great view.

Then I took them to Sabi Sands Game Reserve and to Tydon camp I’d stayed at many times before, we found this female walking on a neighbouring property, we couldn’t get any closer but a nice fleeting glimpse on the first drive

The next day, who did we find walking towards us, but my dear old Maxebeni, it’s like he knows I’ve bought people to see him and there he appears. He was doing his usual territorial pacing, scent marking and making his presence felt. He walked slowly towards us, straight past us and then off on his patrol. I was so happy to see him, and to show more of my family this impressive cat.

Another leopard we found in Sabi Sands was this beautiful female, she was originally walking along a drainage ditch but she settled down on top of a termite mound, which put her pretty much eye level with us in the vehicle which was disconcerting and amazing, she slept a bit, then turned and looked at us. Magical.

That same day we headed back into Kruger itself and up the road towards Satara camp. Along this road there was a tree and in the distance we could see a carcass hanging in the tree, after a minute of looking, we realised there was also a cat in the tree, fast asleep.

My aunt and uncle left a day later leaving mum and I to wander around in Kruger, a few days later, we had one of those crazy drives where there is so much to see you don’t know where to look. Rhinos, elephants, lions and this leopard in a tree, I’m pretty sure it was a male, it stood up and turned around, it also stood in the tree and called out, first time I’ve seen a leopard call, it was very cool.

Further along the same road, another tree with a leopard, wait, two leopards, they didn’t move and we had to but by the sizes, I would say it was a mother and cub. One of those days.

 


 

Mum and I headed back to Kruger later in 2018, November. We stayed in Sabi Sands first for a few nights, where we didn’t see my beloved Maxebeni this time but we did see his son, White Dam, Max was starting to get a bit older and losing territory so he wasn’t around that area anymore but it’s really good to see his genes living on in his offspring. White Dam was in this area with palm trees so I used them to frame his face. I love this photograph.

A glimpse of a female leopard on a neighbouring property.

And a day later another view of White Dam in the riverbed.

We were a little short of leopards on this trip, a lot of ‘almosts’, ‘you just missed it’ and ‘maybe it’ll be back’. So frustrating but also fairly typical of leopards and cats, we/I have been super lucky to this point. However we did find this leopard in a tree with a kill, it was possibly the leafiest tree in the park but I managed to get some shots through the branches.

On the last day we were there, we got a this glimpse of a male leopard sleeping in a tree, and just a glimpse.


 

2019 brought another trip to Kruger and a few more leopards. Again we started with a few nights in Sabi Sands where we saw only one leopard, a male called Nweti, the new big male in town, Max is long gone now, pushed out of this territory and Nweti is trying to take over as the dominant male. We found this guy after smelling popcorn, which is the scent associated in your mind with the scent marking male leopards do. Very strange.

After that we headed into Kruger for 2 weeks. This old, scarred male was just walking alongside the road for some time, I would drive ahead of him and wait for him to catch up so I could get face on shots and I kept my window up, the most dangerous leopards to humans are the hungry old leopards, the ones who want easy prey. But what a face and what a life he must have lived.

Next was this male leopard on a distant riverbank at a lookout spot near Shingwedzi, he just lay there watching the cars on the opposite bank before heading off into the bush on the far side.

Along a high river bank still near Shingwedzi, we saw this female sitting in the river bank, just sat. Eventually she disappeared out of view towards the bank we were on but we couldn’t find her as we drove along, what we did find where more cars who said there were cubs around too.

We didn’t see cubs but we did see this male skulking along the riverbank within a few hundred metres of where we saw the original cat, this male has a cloudy eye, it’s not impossible for them to continue after having an eye injury.

We stayed in the area and saw the female leopard stalk across the river bed and up the other side in obvious hunt mode. We couldn’t see what she was focused on but she was serious, then a cub appeared out of seeming nowhere, mum took off after something and the cub followed after her, we don’t know if she caught anything or whether the cub ruined the hunt. Excellent sighting though.

 

A day or two later, very close to the most northern camp Punda Maria, we came across this female leopard dragging her recently killed Impala carcass, the effort it took was palpable to see. She dragged it into cover and we could only get glimpses through the bushes but she seemed to be enjoying her meal.

Then we didn’t see many leopards, our last morning we went out along the river route and although I usually try not to hope for anything, I was definitely on the lookout for leopards, I really wanted to see one more. We saw someone stopped near a Giraffe and thought that was why they stopped, turns out – not. But sat on a low termite mound was this beautiful female, there was one view through the bushes and we were in it, only one other car and perfect positioning, it was magical. After a while she walked off and we managed to stay with her for a bit but lost her in the dense South African bush, the perfect end to our trip and one of my favourite photographs.

 

Since then I haven’t been back to Africa so I’m left with this as my last leopard – not so bad – but I miss the thrill, the breath-taking feelings that make my heart happy and I hope to be back in Africa as soon as it’s safe to do so.

 

I Miss It.

 

In re-reading this before posting it, it's a strong showing of how my photography has improved and changed over the years. I'm quite proud of where I started and where I am now.

 

~Nikki

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Africa Big Cats Cat Feline female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey Leopard mammals National nature nature photography nikki nikki humphrey photography Park photographer photography South Africa travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2021/2/leopard-stories Tue, 23 Feb 2021 15:31:55 GMT
Antelopes https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2021/2/antelopes Antelopes

When I think about what to post next on my social media, I always have an internal argument with myself, it set me thinking about when I’m looking through my image library for new images to post, it’s always the ‘big’(lions, elephants, puffins, the things that get the most engagement), the ‘small’ (the birds – which don’t do so well on likes etc.) or the fascinating (strange behaviours, cute moments etc.) not the everyday, not the Impala, not the Kudu. So I decided to write a whole blog about the common Antelope, the overlooked, the underappreciated, the mainstay of a safari, the humble and beautiful Antelope.

 

I was going to put them in size order, turns out I don’t know the size order – I know some of them but then there’s a few outliers that I’m not sure of, so I’m going randomly go through them.

These are the ones I actually have photos of, there are more, obviously, and these photos are taken from the entire 10+ years of my image library so some of them aren’t the standard I hold myself to now because I took them 10 years ago.

 


We will start with the Impala, the most common of all antelope, I’ve had a safari guide tell me, they would pay for my next trip if we didn’t see an Impala on a drive! We saw them! Although one morning in Kruger, we didn’t see an animal for hours – not even an impala and we were severely worried that someone had stolen all the animals.

The Impala is so numerous because it is a prey animal, the amount of prey must outweigh the predators or the whole ecosystem comes crashing down, and a lot of predators like Impala, from Wild Dog to Leopard, Baboons to Pythons, they are eaten by almost everything that eats meat.

You see them so often you forget to stop and look at them sometimes but as with many of the antelopes, they are quietly beautiful and interesting. The amount of lambs born is more than the predators can take so a large proportion will survive and therefore the survival of the species is guaranteed. Clever prey.

 


 

One of the largest Antelopes is the Eland, it is the largest in Southern Africa and can jump a 2m fence from standing! To think that such a large antelope can jump so high is astonishing. They are exceptional fast walkers, a human could not keep up with them on foot, the adults are rarely predated because of their size. Not my favourite antelope but certainly one of the most impressive.

 


 

This is a Red Hartebeest, this was taken in South Africa back in 2008 and is the only photo I have of one, they were commonplace in South Africa once but the lack of habitat and poaching caused their decline, they have been reintroduced in some places and I was lucky enough to see this one.

 


 

Next we have the Thomson’s Gazelle found only in Eastern Africa. Nicknamed the ‘Tommie’ they are one of the fastest Antelopes and one of the fastest animals in the world, 4th fastest to be precise, it has to be in order to try and get away from it’s main predator, the Cheetah who of course is the fastest. They follow parts of the great migration of Wildebeest and Zebra they can survive on the grasses left behind after the huge herds have been through and decimated the grass.


The Red Lechwe, found in watery, swampy areas, they eat the highly nutritious grasses growing in water meadows, they feed by wading into the water up to their bellies. They are crepuscular, being mostly active and feeding at dusk and dawn, when danger is near and they need to flee, they split in different directions and use their unique gait to flee danger which looks clumsy and slow on land but is the fastest through water.

 


 

One of the most beautiful Antelopes is the Kudu, the female with the big ears and liquid eyes and the males with the most impressive horns. When fighting the males can get their horns trapped together and can actually die in combat if they get very entangled with each other.

Their horns grow a turn in 2 years so a fully grown Kudu male is usually about 7-8 years old, that’s when their horns are fully grown in, they have the longest horns of all the African antelopes. They are the second tallest antelope with the Eland being bigger and can also clear a 2m fence from standing, how they do it with those horns, I just don’t know. They have such large ears to attract the most amount of sound as they spend the majority of their time in thick brush, they are browsers so they mostly feed of bushes and trees hence their usual habitat.

 


 

Turning to the smallest, the Dik-Dik, this being the Kirk’s Dik-Dik found in Eastern Africa. This was in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, usually found in monogamous pairs, I have only a few photos of them, this one was years ago.


 

From one small antelope to the next, the Steenbok, one of my favourites. Driving around Kruger you can go days without seeing them and then have one day where you see 10. They have these tiny territories of up to 1km sq, so each one you see alongside the road is in it’s own territory. I’m sure it’s just coincidence but it’s happened to me so many times. They are such pretty tiny antelopes, they have monogamous pairings but don’t always spend their time together which reduces their risk of predation, to avoid that they run very fast and change direction really quickly.


The next tiny antelope is the Klipspringer the small antelope that spends most of its time on rocky outcrops, their name means ‘Rock-jumper’, they have unique hooves, they essentially walk on their tip toes but their hooves have a special pad which allows their hooves to grip the rocks and absorb the shock of their landing. They also have hollow fur which has two purposes, it regulates their temperature (it gets in turn very hot and very cold on rocks) and it also protects them if they fall on the rocks, acts as a shock absorber. I love seeing a Klipspringers standing high up on the rocks overlooking their territories.

 


Back to larger antelopes again now and the Roan, originally a wide ranging antelope, their lack of habitat and poaching caused their numbers to decline, they are very rare in Kruger and this is the only one I’ve seen, it was one of an introduced herd in a private game reserve bordering the Kruger NP. Unfortunately the rest of the herd hadn’t made it (I can’t remember why) so this was the last one on this reserve – hence the ear tag.

 


 

This is the Nyala, one of the spiral horned antelopes, the males and females are sexually dimorphic – meaning the males and females look very different. The males have chocolate coloured coats, yellow socks and a mane that stands on end when they are posturing against each other, the females are a red-brown colour with white stripes along their coats. Another of the very pretty antelopes.


Onto the Topi, or as I like to call them ‘Topi on a mound’ in the Maasai Mara almost every termite mound has a Topi on it, they are similar to the Hartebeest in shape. They follow along with the great Wildebeest migration too. In Southern Africa they are called the Tsessebe but essentially they are the same creature, I’ve only seen them twice in Kruger NP.


 

This one is the Common Duiker, another of the small antelopes, a greyish colour with a tuft of dark hair sticking up from it’s head, they prefer denser bush than say the Steenbok and it’s name comes from the way it ‘dives’ for cover.


The Bushbuck is another of the mid-level Antelopes, but the smallest of the Spiral Horned Antelopes. Their alarm call is a deep bark that doesn’t seem like it should come from such a small antelope, they are the antelope I have seen most in the company of human habitation, in the grounds of the private lodges in the game reserves surrounding Kruger NP, they have learnt that there is food around the grounds (kept green for the visitors) and that there is safety (less predation) in the company of humans to the point they wander around the rest camps in Kruger.

 


 

The Sharpe’s Grysbok, or I think it is, it was found in much bushier landscape and at a lot higher elevation than the similar looking Steenbok. I could be wrong but I believe this the Sharpe’s Grysbok.


This pair is the Waterbuck, as the name suggests, where you find Waterbuck, within 2-5km you will also find water, they are incredibly water dependant. They have the most unique ‘follow-me’ sign, the white ring around their rear end. They have a scent gland in their skin that is particularly strong, they aren’t the preferred prey for predators but they are predated, they are hunted by humans too and both human and predator has to be very careful not to contaminate the meat with the scent gland, the males especially secrete the liquid and can be smelt from 500m away.

 


 

Next up we have the Springbok, an animal I have only seen once in Etosha NP in Namibia back in 2010 – hence the less than brilliant photo. The national animal of South Africa they have become very adapted to the drier climates and will drink when water is available but they don’t need it as much as others. They get their name from the pronking run they do.


 

This one is the Sable, one of the most beautiful antelopes. With their large curving horns and dark brown to black coats – females with the brown, males with the black. They are, to me, one of the most elegant of the antelopes. The females and young form herds whereas the males tend to claim a territory where they try to keep a herd of females within, so the strongest bulls will have the best territory – water, food etc.

 


 

The desert adapted Oryx or Gemsbok is an antelope I’ve again only seen once so far in Etosha National Park and therefore only have these distant photographs of them, with their 1m+ backwards curving, incredibly sharp horns. The males and females look very similar and travel in mixed herds but there are also the solitary, possibly territorial (still under investigation) males. At the highest intensity fighting the males try to stab each other with their sharp horns, but this is a last resort.


 

This is the Common Reedbuck, an antelope not often seen and often overlooked, they are a shy species preferring to hide in long grassland, mostly living in monogamous pairs but separately and are mostly nocturnal.

 

 


 

As I wrote this blog I found myself more and more curious about the size order...so...

Smallest to Largest:

DikDik

Sharpe's Grysbok

Common Duiker

Steenbok

Klipspringer

Thomson's Gazelle

Springbok

Bushbuck

Impala

Reedbuck

Red Lechwe

Nyala

Topi/Tsessebe

Waterbuck

Roan

Hartebeest

Oryx

Sable

Kudu

Eland

 

 

So I came across an interesting fact in the Nyala section of my research

" The smaller females are considered ewes while the larger males are called bulls.  Any antelope the same size or smaller than a female nyala will have their sexes describes as rams and ewes [young -lambs] and any antelope the same size or larger than a nyala bull will have their sexes described as bulls and cows [young - calves]"

 

 

Here endeth the Antelopes... Hope you enjoyed my little exploration into the world of the underlooked.

 

~Nikki

 

 

 

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Africa Antelope female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey Kruger Kruger National Park mammals National nature nature photography nikki Nikki Humphrey Photography Park photographer photography South South Africa travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2021/2/antelopes Wed, 10 Feb 2021 14:30:05 GMT
Tips from the Animals for Social Media Part 2 https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2021/1/tips-from-the-animals-for-social-media-part-2 Tips from the Animals for Social Media Part 2

 

11. Find someone that looks at you like this..

Make sure all your followers know you are adored and loved by at least one other person. Encourage them to find themselves someone who looks at you like the Puffin in the back is looking at the one in front, there is nothing better than being adored and idolised.

 

12. Find the Light..

Always try and find the light with your eyes, they are the most important part of your face and by catching the light with your eyes you engage with your audience more. They are also the windows to the soul, so if you want to keep your soul safe, make sure you close the blinds.

 

14. Don't pull faces..

You might get caught at the wrong moment and then you have a photo that you don't like, so make sure you're always ready for the camera. So no tongues out, no funny faces, make sure you're always smiling so people don't think you have RLF, Resting Leopard Face!

 

15. Practice your 'Stare off into the distance'..

Sometimes not looking at the camera is the best strategy so make sure you have a range of poses where you are staring off into the distance in a variety of looks; longing, love, thoughtfullness,

 

16. Make sure someone else doesn't steal your thunder..

If you're trying to be the centre of attention make sure there isn't someone more striking than you in the background, you do not want something to steal your thunder. You should be the centre of attention and someone in spotted coat shouldn't be trying to take your attention, especially when you preened your feathers specially.

 

17. Perfect your selfie face..

Make sure you know your best angles, your best pout and where best to aim your eyeline. It will really help to be photo-ready if you can pull the right look out on command, it will also save you having to get a sore wing from holding the camera for multiple selfies when you could get it in a few shots.

 

18. Stand out from the crowd..

Sometimes you will be in the same colour as others so it's advantageous to be able to stand out when you all look similar. You want to make sure you are always the centre of attention and can really stand out of a crowd.

 

19. Find a natural frame..

In this case, it's foliage but natural frames can mean anything from gaps in buildings, small openings in walls, or even peeking round corners etc, you want something that frames your beauty so you can really stand out in your photographs. You put your photos in frames to hang up or display in your house and there's a reason for that, it emphasizes your amazingness.

 

20. Get your 'over the shoulder look' ready..

As I said previously, make sure you know all your angles, if you have a good profile, make sure you know how to showcase it to your best advantage. An over the shoulder look can look alluring and draw the viewer into your photograph and make them want to be you, be with you or just follow along with your life.

 

21. Let everyone see how cool you are..

If you have an awesome hairdo, like a mohawk, then make sure you show it off well. Turn all the angles, make sure they really take notice to move slowly and deliberately. Make sure you lift your head regally and hold it up high to show how proud you are of your super cool hairstyle.

 

This concludes the animals tips for social media, hope you enjoyed them and took them for the lighthearted fun they were meant.

 

~ Nikki

 

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Africa Bird Bird Photography Birds female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey mammals nature nature photography nikki Nikki Humphrey Photography photographer photography South South Africa travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2021/1/tips-from-the-animals-for-social-media-part-2 Tue, 19 Jan 2021 15:57:01 GMT
Tips from the Animals for Social Media https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2021/1/tips-from-the-animals-for-social-media Tips from the Animals for Social Media

So it's not just influencers on Social Media and here are some of the animals to give you their best tips about how to engage with your audience, grow your reach and create the best photos you can...

 

1. Silhouettes can be your friend..

Find a raised area to pose from, then you will be silhouetted against the sky, the clouds and the colour. A colourful sky is better than a dull one. If you have a unique silhouette make sure you showcase your best feature, especially if you have a beard like me!

 

2. Get a friend to check your eyebrows and your makeup..

There's nothing worse than doing your photo shoot and then discovering that your eyebrows have an insect in or they are uneven, that your makeup is smudged or you have something in your teeth, so get a trusted friend or personal assistant to check.

 

3. Have a Unique Hairdo..

If you have a hairdo that makes you stand out, make sure you showcase it in your photographs. A friend of mine got a huge push after his hairdo was posted online... (This dude below). A funky hairdo can really elevate your brand and start a trend.. give it a try!

 

4. Practice your strut...

Practice, practice, practice that strut even when you aren't on camera, that way when you are it will come naturally and best of all look like your natural strut. Keep your eyes up and walk with power and passion and people will notice!

 

5. Stretch out your muscles..

If you want to make your social media following about exercise and body stretchiness, make sure you have some shots of you doing the exercises. Balancing on inanimate objects can make some really unique photos, if you use a tree, don't go too high in case you fall off.

 

6. Find the right prop..

It may be a log you can strut along in the wild or it could be a wall in your garden, if you use it correctly you can really show off your stuff, like using this fallen tree to show off the curl of your tail or the pattern of your coat!

Of course you may want to walk towards the camera if you want to show your face but if you want to show off your booty then make sure it's this direction.

 

7. Be Camera Ready..

Make sure you are always facing the camera, even when everyone else is looking the other way, that way you are always the focus of the image and you'll stand out the best. Who cares what your friends look like, as long as you look the best. Remember it's all about you!

 

8. Find a good reflective surface..

The right reflective surface can earn you some really unique shots, just don't get so obsessed with your reflection you can't stop staring at yourself. If you look towards the camera whilst your reflection shows your profile and your fancy side feathers it's a way to really show off your plumage. Not to mention putting your bill at the right angle makes it look more impressive.

 

9. Arch your back..

A good arch of your back can really help show off your figure, a slight 45 degree angle to the camera, a good arch to your back and then of course the straightening of your tail and you've got the recipe for the best way to show off that figure you worked so hard for.

 

10. Make sure your eyes catch the light..

See how the little bit of light that hits the eye makes all the difference in the photo, the one on the right is more engaging, more connected and more interesting. It gives more life to the image and makes the viewer like the photograph more, which in turn helps you grow your brand, business or influence.

 

Part two of the Tips from the Animals for Social Media will be along shortly. Hope you enjoyed them.

 

 

 

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Africa Bird Bird Photography Birds female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey mammals nature nature photography nikki Nikki Humphrey Photography photographer photography South South Africa travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2021/1/tips-from-the-animals-for-social-media Mon, 11 Jan 2021 13:57:01 GMT
Birds of Kruger 7 https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/6/birds-of-kruger-7 Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

 

Starting off with something that looks plain to start with but when you look closely, they have a beautiful sheen to their feathers, the Hadeda Ibis.

Found throughout Africa, in cities as well as the wild places, it is often the first bird I hear when I arrive into Africa and it sort of lets me know, I'm there! They call as they fly and it does sound as though they are very scared as they fly. Annoying to many, I guess I don't have to live with it, to me it makes me smile.


This one is a Broad Billed Roller, found only as summer visitor to the north-eastern most areas of South Africa and therefore Kruger. I found this one at the top of a tree in the Pafuri Region, a real birding area, I knew it looked like a roller but was very excited when through the binoculars I saw it, absolutely thrilled to find a 'new' bird for me.


These are Meve's Starlings, a type of starling only found in the Pafuri region of Kruger and therefore the North-Eastern most area of South Africa. It has a much longer tail than the other starling types found in Kruger, and is slightly smaller than the Burchell's Starling which is the one it looks closest to.


The White-Fonted Bee-Eater which I've shown you before but just look how beautiful the bird is.


Not the best photo I've shared with you but this is a Common Scimitarbill, looks a lot like a Green Wood-Hoopoe at a distance but is always found alone whereas the Wood-Hoopoes are always in a small flock. They have red bills and legs whereas the Scimitarbill does not, it's beak is also slightly more curved. It's call is easy to distinguish by it's 4,5,3 note call.


Next up we have the Pearl Spotted Owlet, a really lovely little owl that can often be seen during the day, I've seen a few of them in my visits to Kruger. It literally has eyes in the back of it's head, it has 'false eye' patterns in it's feathers on the back of it's head which give a potential predator the idea that the bird has already 'seen' it so moves on to easier prey.


This is the Barred Owlet, slightly larger than the Spotted Owlet, it has a barred chest rather than the streaked of the Spotted. Another small owlet it too can be found calling and perching in trees during the day too. We had one in camp who would call throughout the morning, this is it, it would sit on a branch and stare down at us.


Next up is the crazy haired Crested Guineafowl, it has a beautiful pattern on it's feathers to go with the funky hair and the red eye. It's one of two guineafowl found in Southern Africa, but whereas the Helmeted Guineafowl is widespread, these live in very small pockets in Southern Africa. One of these pockets is the Northern part of Kruger, this was taken in Punda Maria Rest Camp, one of the most northern camps.


This beauty is the Southern Carmine Bee-Eater, a summer visitor to Kruger and the Southern African countries, another of the birds that 'hawks', flies from a perch, catches an insect or other prey on the wing and usually flies back to the same perch. A really beautiful bird and one I haven't seen often at all.


A pair of Lappet-Faced Vultures, taken in some serious heat haze, I was lucky to get a shot that was clear. I often see the White Backed Vultures but seeing this pair of Lappet-Faced and being able to get a photograph was a first for me. Not the prettiest birds but hugely important in the grand scheme of things, they 'clear up' the leftovers from carcasses which keeps diseases from entering the ecosystem.


This is a Retz's Helmetshrike, a bird that genuinely sounds like it's calling 'Arriba, Arriba', it's wonderful. Usually found in small flocks, and is another of the co-operative breeders I've mentioned previously. All the helmetshrikes have this wonderful contrasting eye, in this case red/yellow.


The African Green Pigeon has yellow socks! I'm pretty sure that's all I need to say to prove they are fantastic but they also have a beautiful blue eye, eat fruit and are often found in the magnificent Sycamore Fig trees along riverside. They also have a call that sounds like a Tarzan warble.


These are the Green Wood-Hoopoes, another co-operative breeder and so found in small flocks, they are called 'iNhlekabafazi' in Zulu which means 'cackling women' and is reference to their raucous chattering and cackling call. They flick their tails up and down in group displays as they call, known as 'flagwaving'. Trust me, you know when they are around.


Last up we have the Secretary Bird, usually found alone or in pairs and for me, most often found in grassland. My last trip to Kruger I saw one take off and circle in the sky, my first time seeing one fly high like that, I knew they flew for short distances but the idea they flew high and circled in the sky hadn't occurred to me. Funny how your brain thinks sometimes.

 

That's all, I've enjoyed showing you my birds of Kruger photographs and telling you the little bit about them that I know. There's so much more to all of them though and the more I learn about birds, the more I see and hear them, more than I ever have before.

 

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed them too.

~Nikki

 

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Africa Bird Bird Photography Birds female photographer female wildlife photographer Humphrey Kruger Kruger National Park mammals National nature nature photography Nikki Nikki Humphrey Photography Park photographer photography South South Africa travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/6/birds-of-kruger-7 Thu, 11 Jun 2020 14:42:11 GMT
Birds of Kruger 6 https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/6/birds-of-kruger-6 I didn't think I would get so many blogs out of my bird photos, it turns out I have way more than I thought.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

I thought I would start with a Dark-Capped Bulbul, a very common bird around Kruger with a lovely little call that seems to say 'Let's Let's say hi to Gregory', wish I knew who Gregory was?! They are very often seen at picnic spots, I have sat and eaten an ice cream having a chat to one sat on the same table with me. They can be found singularly, in pairs or in flocks.. a very versatile bird!


This is the Red-Billed Oxpecker, one of the most important birds in the African bush and arguably the one you should know the call of the best. They tend to be found on large mammals, so knowing the call of the Oxpecker can help you find mammals in the bush. They often fly up off an animal or spiral down when they find one and therefore you would know where they are and the mammal they are sat upon. It also means if you're walking in the bush, hearing the Oxpecker can mean you don't walk into a dangerous mammal without warning.

They are useful for the mammals they use as perches and as food providers, most mammals have ticks and insects feeding on them, the Oxpeckers come along and pick the ticks off the mammals. The mammal has some relief from the insects and the bird gets food, a mutualistic symbiotic relationship, both parties benefiting from the interaction. Sometimes it can weigh more heavily on the bird's side as they also can open up a wound or keep a wound from healing in order to drink the blood of the mammal. This doesn't usually have a massive impact on the animal but it depends on the size of the mammal and it's underlying health conditions.

This is the Yellow-Billed Oxpecker, a much rarer bird, more often than not found on buffalo and cattle, they prefer the bovine family but as with this one, they can be found on other mammals too. They were almost wiped out with the advent and use of pesticides on cattle, slowly their numbers are increasing but there are still studies that ask for sightings of them to be reported to them so they can track the rise and fall of their numbers.


The Common Sandpiper, I think, I'm not fantastic at wader birds just yet. A summer migrant to South Africa, obviously found at water's edges, this one was at a dam we stopped at.


The Purple Roller, a less flashy version of the Lilac Breasted Roller, also slightly larger but still such a unique silhouette. They often perch at the top of a dead tree or on the end of a branch and you can always tell it's a roller by it's silhouette. Even my mum can spot one in a tree!!


This is the White-Crested Helmet-Shrike, a small bird with excellent yellow eyes. They are always in small family flocks, co-operative breeders again, that's when the 'Alpha' pair lay eggs and have young and the previous year's young (usually) helps them make the nest and feed and rear the young. You can tell when they are near because their call sounds like the noise of a pinball or arcade game.


Next we have the Black-Crowned Tchagra, one of my absolute favourite calls. This one sounds like a drunk guy whistling as he walks home from the pub, it's brilliant. A lovely little bird, the largest of the Tchagras, found across Southern Africa but only in the northern reaches of South Africa.

 


This is the Crowned Hornbill, another of the hornbill family. I saw this and assumed it was a hornbill, it was only after I looked through the camera I realised it was one I had never seen before. How exciting is that feeling?


This one, the Brown Hooded Kingfisher, happy to be corrected if it's the Striped, I seem to struggle with identifying the difference between these two, is another of the kingfishers that doesn't really hang around water, mostly found woodland, forests, parks and gardens.


This is the Marabou Stork, considered to be one of the Ugly 5, it isn't the best looking bird and when combined with it's tendency to defecate on it's legs to act as a sunscreen and to cool itself down, and it's habit of feeding on carrion along with many other things, it really doesn't help it's case. It's an incredibly useful part of the food chain though, along with the vultures and other 'clear up' squads they eat the leftovers from carcasses and kills made by predators which in turn stops diseases the prey might have from entering the food chain and clears up any meat etc that might sit and rot.


An to finish this instalment off,  2 in 1. A male Chinspot Batis on the left and a White-Fronted Bee-Eater on the right.

The Chinspot Batis is a great little bird with a 3 tone call, very often heard, for me it's one of the sounds of the bush and when I hear it, it makes me smile.

The White-Fronted Bee-Eater, a permanent resident of Southern Africa where some of the other Bee-Eaters are summer visitors. It hawks insects on the wing as most of the Bee-Eaters do, they fly from a perch, catch an insect and then usually head back to the same perch, which is handy when you are trying to photograph them.

 

So another installment for you. Hope you enjoy it.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

 

~Nikki

 

 

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Africa Bird Bird Photography Birds female photographer female wildlife photographer Humphrey Kruger Kruger National Park mammals National nature nature photography Nikki Nikki Humphrey Photography Park photographer photography South South Africa travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/6/birds-of-kruger-6 Sat, 06 Jun 2020 13:00:29 GMT
Birds of Kruger 5 https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/5/birds-of-kruger-5 So here we are with the next installment,

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

First up...

The African Grey Hornbill, has a lovely piping call unlike the Red and Yellow-Billed Hornbills who have a very similar woop-y type of call. Less showy than their red and yellow cousins they have a subtle beauty of their own. A little less common to see as well, it's always a treat to see one for me.


The beautiful and distinctive of the Bateleur/Short Tailed Eagle, depending on which you use. I love the name Bateleur - it was the first Bird of Prey I learned in Kruger and they are stunning birds, so even though their proper name has changed I will probably still continue to call them the Bateleur. They get that name from their 'wobbly' way of flying, like a tightrope walker/acrobat - which is where the name came from, the french word for 'Street Performer'. You can always pick them out as they fly, the very short tail in the silhouette and the 'wobbly' flying. This one is being mobbed by a Fork-Tailed Drongo, the ever brave and tenacious little black bird chasing away birds many times it's own size.

 

Below is a Juvenile Bateleur, lacking the orange/red colours of the adult, they have a blue face and muted brown coloured feathers, this youngster was sat on the ground near a herd of drinking elephants calling, calling and calling. I don't know if it was imploring an adult for food or admonishing the elephants for being too close to it.

 


The Green-Winged Pytillia, a very tiny bird, often found in the company of Waxbills and other small birds at these 'bird parties' you come across. A lovely little bird, look at those beautiful black and white patterns.


The Double-Banded Sandgrouse, very well camouflaged on the ground, my mum spotted this one, probably very often overlooked but when you look closer they have beautiful markings and that lovely yellow eye. The subtle birds sometimes have the prettiest markings.


This is the Red-Headed Weaver, they build a nest hanging from a tree with a tunnel to enter mostly made out of sticks and twigs unlike many of the other weavers who use grasses.


A tree-ful of Red-Billed Quelea, one of the most numerous birds in Africa. Huge flocks of these birds can decimate crops and become a huge nuisance for the people who spend their time growing crops. They are proliferate breeders and can reproduce very quickly hence their huge numbers. The thing I like about them though, is the noise that hundreds of wings make as they fly in synchronicity.


The largest flying bird in Africa, the Kori Bustard. They don't fly often, it's a bit laboured as you can imagine. I remember watching a dung beetle roll it's ball of dung along, I was so focused on it that I didn't notice the Kori Bustard coming closer until it bent down and ate the dung beetle in one scoop, thrown and swallow. Poor dung beetle.


From one large bird to another, this is the Southern Ground Hornbill, the largest member of the Hornbill family. They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because they are very slow breeders and have trouble finding holes large enough for them, they need very large trees to have the large holes and as you can imagine, elephants also like these massive trees, either to push down to get to the foliage at the top or ring bark to get the cambian layer so therefore not so many big trees.


The European Roller, a summer migrant to Southern Africa and a much less showy version than the Lilac Breasted Roller, is not one I've seen very often so I was thrilled to get a good shot of it.


The Magpie Shrike is one of my favourite birds, I always see them in Kruger and always enjoy their beautiful 3-note call, plus they are a classic black and white with beautiful long tail feathers. Mostly found in small flocks of 4-12 birds, a family of co-operative breeders where the main or alpha pair have the eggs but the whole family/group, usually previous young birds help feed the new chicks.


Finishing up with a Red-Billed Firefinch, another of the tiny birds often found in the bird parties with the waxbills and pytillias. I'm not 100% sure on this ID but I think this is what it is. It has these tiny light coloured spots on it's breast.

Thanks for sticking with it and reading Part 5, turns out I have a lot more bird photographs than I thought...

 

'Til the next time...

 

~Nikki

 

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

 

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Africa Bird Bird Photography Birds female photographer female wildlife photographer Humphrey Kruger Kruger National Park mammals National nature nature photography Nikki Nikki Humphrey Photography Park photographer photography South South Africa travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/5/birds-of-kruger-5 Sat, 23 May 2020 14:06:22 GMT
Birds of Kruger 4 https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/5/birds-of-kruger-4 So here we are with the next installment, hope you've been enjoying them..

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

First up...

A Great Spotted Cuckoo, not really something I knew anything about until I saw it. What a fabulous hairdo this dude has!


These are Lesser Striped Swallows, not one of the one that migrates back here to the UK, it only migrates within Africa. I do love their streaked fronts.


This is the Burchell's Coucal, known as the 'waterbottle bird' as it's call sounds like water bubbling out of a bottle.


I'm going with Lesser Masked Weaver for this one but I'm not 100%, the weavers look quite similar and I find them hard to differentiate between so if anyone can help me out, please do.


The Wattled Starling, a new one for me, perched in the top of a tree I thought it didn't look like anything I had really seen before and it wasn't.


Next is the White-Crowned Lapwing, this one I always forget the name of and have to look up..


A female Knob-Billed Duck in a tree with a pair of Pied Kingfishers below and in the bottom right corner the nest of the Red-Billed Buffalo-Weaver.


The White-Browed Robin-Chat in a bird bath, (see, another 4 name) a beautiful bird and you can really see the white brow it gets its name from.


A little Three-Banded Plover, found at many of the lakes, dams and ponds in Kruger, so little you don't always see them straight away but usually present.


One more...

This is the Yellow-Billed Stork, you also see a lot of these at dam, rivers, ponds.

 

Hope you enjoyed this installment..

 

~Nikki

 

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) bird Bird Photography female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey mammals nature nature photography nikki nikki humphrey photography photographer photography travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/5/birds-of-kruger-4 Fri, 15 May 2020 12:39:45 GMT
Birds of Kruger 3 https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/4/birds-of-kruger-part-3 Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

This is taking me a while to get through all my bird photos so I'm going to start being a bit more brief about each one.. Except this one below - one of my favourites.

Lets start with my favourite noise, the noise of the White-Faced Whistling Duck, listen to the noise they make through this link (it takes you to a youtube video, no spam links I swear) it's so wonderful, it's one of my 'heart happy' things.  (You know when you love something so much that it gives you that happy, full feeling in your heart)

Plus they are cute, you find them at ponds, dams, lakes and sometimes you just hear them flying past, always in a flock, they feed both in the water and on the ground. Widely found across all of Southern Africa.


Next up is a Western Barn Owl, common across the world and found in every Southern African country. Would you believe this is the only time I've photographed a Barn Owl anywhere in the world, even in my home country of the UK where they are seen regularly.


This is the stunning Paradise Flycatcher, look at that wonderful eye.


The Brown Snake Eagle, a commonly seen bird of prey, probably the one I see most often in Kruger when I'm there, usually in the summer months.


I think this is a Golden Tailed Woodpecker, (happy to be corrected) there are a few woodpeckers that look similar.


Here's a lovely Little Egret, common across the world I reckon, most people will have seen them or seen some sort of Egret.


This is the Pied Kingfisher, love it's black and white colouring, it used to be by favourite kingfisher until I met the next one....


This is the Malachite Kingfisher, so pretty and so tiny...

Here's a photo from my phone of it in situ, just to give an idea of the size of it.


The Blacksmith Lapwing is found in pretty much every body of water you come across in Kruger, and their distinctive ting-ting-ting call (which sounds like a blacksmith hitting an anvil).


The African Hawk-Eagle is one I haven't seen a lot of so I was pleased to get this shot in flight.


The White-Browed Scrub-Robin, (they really like 4 naming things in Africa) have a lovely repetitive call which they switch up just to confuse you.


The Jacobin Cuckoo, similar to the Levaillant's cuckoo but without the streaking on the breast.


Finishing up this blog with an African Spoonbill at sunset.

 

More soon.

 

~Nikki

 

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) africa bird bird photography birds female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey kruger kruger national park mammals national nature nature photography nikki nikki humphrey photography park photographer photography south south africa travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/4/birds-of-kruger-part-3 Thu, 30 Apr 2020 12:15:41 GMT
Birds of Kruger 2 https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/4/birds-of-kruger-2 Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

So Part 2 begins with....

A Fork-Tailed Drongo, a bird that sounds like a drunk R2D2, is very commonly found in the bush and is often overlooked. They have this lovely characteristic forked tail - handy and they are often found around large mammals walking through the bush - why? Well, as the animals move through the bushveld, their movement stirs up insects from the grass etc which the Drongo likes to catch and eat. This is known as a Commensalistic relationship where one party gains all the benefit but through no harm to the other party. So the mammals gain no advantage to this but they aren't harmed by it either.

It's an excellent mimic and will mimic the sound of a predatory bird to make another species of bird drop it's prey so it can have an easy meal. Usually found singularly or in pairs, or during a bush fire, large numbers. Widely found in Southern Africa.


Then we have the Southern Yellow-Billed Hornbill, I'm pretty sure you can't go to Kruger without seeing one of these. The smaller birds are harder to identify and can be overlooked but no can overlook the mighty banana bill, or 'flying banana' as they are often known. They are common in the northern parts of South Africa but common throughout Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia as well.

They always sound like they are laughing at you, and their call is very similar to that of the Red-Billed Hornbill so in my mind they were always laughing that I couldn't tell which is which when they call. I still get it confused in the field sometimes. A beautiful bird though and they can become quite habituated with people, knowing that at picnic spots they will get an easy meal, and will come really close to you. I've never fed them but when they look at you with their heads cocked to one side, it certainly makes you want to.


With the Yellow-Billed Hornbill we have a Red-Billed Buffalo Weaver, a part of the large Weaver family who are known for huge nests or colonies of small nests. The Red-Billed Buffalo Weavers build a large nest usually in a large tree or an electricity pylon and it will contain different chambers within it, each chamber with a nest in. Sometimes the male is polygynous, so has many females in in one nest and/or multiple nests but some males create coalitions and join together to assist with raising the chicks. They have a distinctive red bill but also a flash of white along the wing - that's always my go to to ID them, red bill, white flash. (I'm sure there are many more ways to ID and more scientifically correct ways but that's mine).


The stunning Burchell's Starling is up next, a dark blue bird until you look closely and see the multitude of colours within their feathers. The iridescent sheen to them shimmers with blues, greens and purples, the Burchell's has a dark eye and slightly larger than it's Cape Glossy cousin, it's the largest of the glossy starlings and stands tall which gives the idea it's much bigger than it's smaller cousins. Found only in the Kruger region of South Africa it is also found in Namibia and Botswana and likes woodland and savannah habitat.


One of the greatest noises comes from this one, the Red-Crested Korhaan, bill snapping and then a piercing whistle (see video just below). Until their are courting you can't really see their red crest, I have yet to photograph it so I can't show you but I do love seeing these in the bush, they are always smaller than I remember. They are part of the Bustard family where the smaller bustards are known as Korhaans, again the northern part of South Africa and across the continent from Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe are generally where you see these.

The male attracts a mate by flying high up in the air and dropping suddenly like it's been shot before gliding to the ground, it is known as the 'Suicide Bird' the object is to open it's wings at the last moment to save itself and therefore proving it's the best male around. (insert female eye roll here!) But it works on a Korhaan.


In the same family is the Black-Bellied Bustard, who makes the most remarkable popping noise, like a water drop into a bucket or a cork popping out a bottle. It's wonderful. I've only heard it once or twice on my trips but managed to get the smallest clip of it. A very handsome bird with that beautiful black belly, slightly taller than the red-crested korhaan, found from sub-Saharan Africa all the way down into South Africa, prefers savannah, open grassland type areas and prefers higher rainfall which may explain why I've only seen them after heavy rain in the Kruger area.


Let's finish up with the Southern Red-Billed Hornbill, the 'Flying Chilli', also laughs at me for not knowing whether it's a red or yellow billed Hornbill. Slightly smaller than the Yellow-Billed and with a bill that is narrow and more pointy (so scientific) and of course it's red, not yellow. Also found at picnic spots where it scavenges from humans but you can take advantage of that and get some good shots of them. As with most hornbills during nesting season, the female is walled up in a tree cavity with only a small hole left open, she then moults all her feathers and waits for the male to bring her, and then the chicks, food before she breaks out and they fledge. What a huge amount of trust she displays to be sealed in a hole, loose all her flight feathers rending her unable to fly and relying solely on the male. Incredible.

 

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it and keep an eye out for Part 3...

 

~ Nikki

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Africa Bird Bird Photography Birds female photographer female wildlife photographer Humphrey Kruger Kruger National Park mammals National nature nature photography Nikki Nikki Humphrey Photography Park photographer photography South South Africa travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/4/birds-of-kruger-2 Fri, 10 Apr 2020 13:48:21 GMT
Birds of Kruger https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/3/birds-of-kruger In recent years I've become much more interested in birds and especially when in Africa. I kind of 'got' the mammals and their ID's down and then became really interested in trying to ID the birds too. Don't get me wrong, I haven't turned into a 'birder' or go specifically somewhere for birds (not that there's anything wrong with that) but I'm interested in what I can see as I go around in amongst other things. (A day of birds and birding made me slightly grumpy, heat and camera issues didn't help, but I do like to mix in some mammals and other things too).

I've learnt a lot about some of them so thought I would share some of what I've learnt and the photos I've taken of them.


First up is the Blue Waxbill, a very tiny little bird, in a lovely shade of turquoise-y blue. It makes a psh-psh-psh noise which is very easy to overlook in amongst the bigger birds and the bigger calls. They often 'hang out' in small groups of mixed birds, I've quite often seen them with Firefinches or Pytillas in a slightly 'woodland' habitat, they obviously occur in other habitats but these are just my personal observations. A common resident to parts of Southern Africa.


This is an Arrow-Marked Babbler, one of my favourite birds for a few reasons. One; it's one of the first I learnt the call of by seeing it and hearing it in the bush (I learnt a lot of others by listening to calls that have been recorded), Two; it's got the most beautiful eyes and the patterns of the feathers are wonderful, Three; They sound like a bunch of cackling, laughing women which immediately reminds me of a group of wonderful female friends I made and we decided we sounded a lot like them. Always makes me happy to hear these in the bush. They are always in a flock and when one starts calling the others all get involved too. They are cooperative breeders which means only one pair in the group breeds and the rest are there to 'help'. It means they breed more successfully like this than if they went at it alone. Usually the helpers are previous offspring but that isn't always the case. A fairly common resident bird in the eastern half of Southern Africa.


The Black-Backed Puff-Back, (boy do they like to give everything 4 names in Africa - ask me about some of my favourites) but it has the best call, click-whistle-click-whistle-click-whistle. It's fabulous. In breeding season the male puffs up his back to create a puff of white feathers, known in Africaans as 'snowball' because that's what the puff looks like. They have a beautiful red eye and who doesn't love a black and white bird - it's a classic combination for a reason. They prefer the thickets and woodland type habitats, usually found singularly or in pairs. Again a common resident of the eastern half of Southern Africa.


Next up we have the Saddle-Billed Stork, a tall black and white stork with a red and black banded bill with the yellow 'saddle' at the base. You'll notice there are two photographs here and the difference is the eye. The female has a yellow eye while the male has a dark brown eye and a yellow wattle below the bill. Mostly silent they use their bill to bill clap and once again a fairly common resident to South Africa. I think I've seen one every time I've been to Kruger. Very elegant birds. It took me forever to remember which has the yellow eye!


Here we have the Woodland Kingfisher, a summer visitor to Southern Africa, you can only see, and hear, it in the summer months, November onwards usually as they spend the rest of their year in other parts of Africa, they are intra-african migrants, arriving in Southern Africa to court and breed. As they start their courtship they call, and they call and they call. It's a wonderful sound and then it's the sound that is the only sound you can hear sometimes! Such vibrant little birds, they have this vibrant bright blue and black plumage and a black and red bill. There are 3 kingfishers I think are similar, the Striped, the Brown-Hooded and the Woodland but it's call is unmistakable, always takes me a few minutes to work out which one I'm looking at or photographed. In 2018 this was the first Woodland Kingfisher we saw on the 23rd November.

Considering they are all called Kingfishers, none of the 3 mentioned above actually frequent water, they all frequent savannah and woodland.


 

 

Hope you enjoyed this small installment, I have more to come in coming days and weeks with many more birds.

Let me know who's your favourite of these birds.

~ Nikki

 

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six are through these links (just click on them).

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Africa Bird Bird Photography Birds female photographer female wildlife photographer Humphrey Kruger Kruger National Park mammals National nature nature photography Nikki Nikki Humphrey Photography Park photographer photography South South Africa travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2020/3/birds-of-kruger Mon, 30 Mar 2020 13:31:52 GMT
Updates https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2018/10/updates Hi folks,

It's been a while, I know. I had a small disaster at the end of last year as some of you may know, my computer crashed, my hard drive was corrupted and I lost my Lightroom catalogue! Although my RAW files were safe and sound on an external drive, I lost all the work, edits and processing I'd done for the last 3 years. I was devastated. I cried, then set about turning it into a silver lining. To start from scratch, to organise all my images, to go through them as I added them to my library and delete all the ‘rubbish’, to keyword every single image so I can actually find what I’m looking for and to rate them so I can easily pick out the good stuff from the bad.

I struggle to delete all my photos, tending to keep a fair amount of them as memories rather than proper photos but I’ve managed to half the amount of images I had to begin with. It took me 8 months, and a slightly nocturnal lifestyle (apparently I work best from 12 midnight to 6am) but finally it was complete. Everything is in it’s place and I’m more organised and up to date than I have EVER been. It was worth it.

I don’t recommend it but the silver lining turned out really well.


 

From that I decided my website needed an update too, not an overhaul but all my up to date images are now online and ready for viewing (and purchasing if you wish).

I've updated folders already there (ie. South Africa, Black and White) and added new folders (ie. Azores, Botswana) so please feel free to have a browse and tell me what you think.

 

 

I've also updated my 'Personal Favourites' page and thought I would share with you why a few of them are my favourites.

This is a favourite of mine, even though others don't love it. I really like the panorama feel, the beautiful light and the eyes. I spent a lot of time with this deer and her family, she was pretty tolerant of me, I would be out in the open and approach carefully and she would keep an eye on me, know where I was but allowed me to stay if I stayed quiet and calm.

She's beautiful..

 

This one I titled 'Photobomb' and it always makes me chuckle when I look at it and something that makes you happy is a good thing to have as a favourite.

 

This one I call 'Tears of a Swan', it was only in processing I noticed the tear falling from it's eye, and these days it's bittersweet for me too, as this was the last year I followed my family of swans.

 

Anyway, I hope to keep everything more up to date now that I am not spending every moment remaking my image library and really want to keep myself organised.

Remember to always look on the bright side, sometimes you can't see it straight away but everything happens for a reason!

 

Take care of yourselves

~ Nikki

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) deer favourite female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey nature nature photography nikki nikki humphrey photography owl Personal Favourites photographer photography swan travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2018/10/updates Tue, 30 Oct 2018 15:08:54 GMT
Azores 2017 - Part Three https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/11/azores-2017---part-three Parts One and Two 

So first up lets talk about the first whale I saw in the Azores, one that shouldn't really have been there at all. The Fin Whale. The Baleen whales (Humpback, Fin, Blue, Sei) are usually found in the Azores in the earlier part of the year, April/May time, so to see one in July was unusual, not impossible but certainly a thrill for me.

It really allowed me to see their Asymmetrical jaw, the left side of the jaw is dark and the right side is light. The only whale to be asymmetrical, whilst I have seen Fin Whales in the past, I've never seen the white jaw as cleanly as I did here.

It wasn't my only Fin Whale, another morning we saw two of them travelling along together.

They are one of the fastest whales, getting up to speeds of 25 knots, the second largest whale, the females are longer than the males unusually and they are filter feeders, surviving on fish, squid, and crustaceans including krill and copepods. This is where the baleen comes into play, the whale takes a large gulp of water and prey, using the baleen plates to push the water out of their mouths and leaving just the food which they swallow.

 

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I was thrilled to see a Hammerhead Shark whilst out on the water, I actually saw two but both days in fairly rough water, the first was a day with very large waves and a grey sky and I was unable to get a shot of it either above or below the water. Even to my eye it was a dark shape through the water, the second one was a much brighter day so I was able to make out the hammerhead shape of the shark. I did take a shot through the water and here it is, I can make out the head, can you?

Hint: It's to the left side of the image!

 

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Another resident species in the Azores is the Bottlenose Dolphin, everyone knows it, many have seen them, they are visible all around the world and is the quintessential 'dolphin'. These are the dolphins that started my love of dolphins and whales, so I'm always over the moon to see them in the wild where they should be. The resident Bottlenose Dolphins in the Azores live close to shore but act a little more like Risso's, they are more elusive, not so quick to interact with the boats or with people. The ones I got to see were the offshore Bottlenose dolphins, they are slightly larger and darker than their inshore cousins, they are more willing to bow-ride, interact with the boats and with other species too. They also congregate in larger groups, and we did see some large groups which is fantastic to see but makes it hard to know where to point the camera.

I thought since everyone knows so much about them already, here are the photographs I took.

This is a very small baby Bottlenose Dolphin that I was lucky enough to photograph. You can't really tell scale but it was about a quarter of the size of an adult.

 

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One of my new favourite cetaceans is the Striped Dolphins, I don't remember seeing these 10 years ago, but now I need to see them again. They are fabulous, they aren't the most sociable of dolphins, and tend to 'take off' when you get close to them. As there is less resistance in air than in water they 'travel' by leaping out of the water, back in and almost straight back out again, many times all you end up with is photographs of splashes, but by watching where they went in the water, and moving with them you can manage to photograph them coming out of the water or mid jump. This is essential in seeing their absolutely beautiful patterns, in my opinion they are one of the prettiest of the dolphins, what do you think?

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This was my second time to see, luckily, the Northern Bottlenose Whale. I remember seeing them 10 years ago very briefly but the boat skippers and group leaders were pretty excited, back then I didn't really get it but now I know how lucky it is to see them. They are a cold water species, found in cold northern hemisphere waters. Every year in the Azores, in the warm water part of the year, a small group of these whales turn up, they seem to mostly be males and without knowing really why, to me, it seems like there are on a boys holiday. They are hard to photograph, because they pop up and breathe for a few minutes then they dive down again, where they can be underwater for up to 40 minutes, and turn up in a completely different place as well as heading away from the boats more often than not. They don't get very much of themselves above the waterline often, so you get a lot of fins and blows but not much else. A few times they headed straight for us and I was able to get a bit of the head.

They are large beaked whales, with a bulbous melon with a dark yellow-brown colouring, although that really does depend on what weather you see them in, sometimes they look brown/pink and other times grey. I saw them on every trip for 2-3 days in many different sea conditions, light and weather.

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The Portuguese Man O' War is NOT a Jellyfish… this fact completely blew my mind. They are named as they are due to their resemblance to the 18th century Portuguese sailing vessels.

It is a colony of many different organisms, the part you see on the surface of water is a sail full of gasses, which can be deflated if the colony is attacked allowing it to dive below the surface for safety. The tentacles are usually 10m but can get up to 30m, they are venomous and often sting swimmers, they are also known as Blue-bottles and wash up on beaches all around the world. However, when you see them floating past (because they can't swim, direct or plan their route – they are at the mercy of the wind) they look beautiful, their 'sails' are shades of blues, pinks and mauves. We were lucky enough to find one on a flat, calm day which allowed me to get shots really highlighting those colours as well as being able to see the tentacles flowing through the water.

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) azores bottlenose dolphins cetaceans dolphins female photographer female wildlife photographer fin whale humphrey mammals nature nature photography nikki nikki humphrey photography northern bottlenose whale ocean ocean photography photographer photography pico portuguese man o' war sea sea photography striped dolphins travel whales whales and dolphins wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/11/azores-2017---part-three Mon, 06 Nov 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Azores 2017 - Part Two https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/10/azores-2017---part-two My trip to the Azores was one of joy and photography, the first part of my blog can be found here

This is Part 2, I thought I would start off with the resident Sperm Whales.

With the Azores being a stronghold for them we obviously saw many of them and sometimes the same ones over the course of a few days. The Azores themselves are volcanic islands, rising from the depths of the oceans to the heights of the mountain of Pico in a very short distance, meaning deep waters are also very close to the shore, hence seeing so many deep water diving cetaceans at relatively short distances from land. The Sperm Whale can dive to depths of a thousand metres to catch and feed on the giant squid that lives there, this makes them a great whale to watch dive because they almost always show their tail flukes as they dive, however less ideal is the length of that deep dive, they can be below the water from 20-40 minutes on average and can even be down for an hour.

Their blow is very recognisable because they are the only whale who has the blow hole on the left side of the head so the blow is always low and left, they lie at the surface of the water for some time between dives, resting and breathing regularly to gather enough oxygen in their bloodstream to allow them to dive for a substantial length of time. They are the largest of the toothed whales and are probably the deepest diving of all whales (although there is still a lot not known about the beaked whales). They, like many whales, can be identified through their fluke shape, that's how it is known that the same females live in the Azores year round and year after year. I saw the same whale 3 different times, her name is Stefanie and she has an obvious pattern of notches in the tail fluke.

Stefanie and her calf.. see the double notch on the right side of her tail fluke.


My favourite fact I discovered on my trip this time was that the mother sperm whale's milk has a very high fat content (the babies have to get that blubber from somewhere) and that because of that and the fact it's difficult to drink liquids underwater, the milk has the consistency of cottage cheese!

They have wrinkly skin (they've clearly been in the water too long!) and they make this very arched back shape before their fluke shows above the water which gives you time to get your camera up and ready to fire, it's a really excellent early warning sign for a photographer.

When they lie at the surface to breathe, you can often see their blowhold, back and short dorsal fin at water level as below.

The resident whales in the Azores are the females and calves, the family groups, they work a lot like an elephant family, the females in a group being related; mothers, calves, sisters, aunts, cousins with the males leaving the group in their adolescence, where they sometimes live in 'bachelor' groups before sometimes moving on to be solitary mammals.

The females look after each other's calves when they go for a dive due to the length and depth of a dive, it takes the calves a few years to be able to hold their breath for long enough or to have the power to dive that far, and females can and will suckle calves that are not their own, meaning if a mother dies, the calf has a good chance of making it to adulthood thanks to the other females in the group. The males are a fair bit heavier, longer and more adventurous and they pass through whenever they feel like a bit of action, they will 'pop' by the Azores whenever they want to see if any of the females are ready to mate.

This is the mouth of the Whale, compared to the rest of them it seems small, they have the most unique shape of all the whales, having a very block shaped head filled with what is known as Spermaceti, the thick, waxy oil contained there, the substance they were hunted to collect for many years. Only in the last century has whaling of these whales died out as their commodity as a tourist attraction has outweighed their hunting usefulness. In the Azores for example, the Spermaceti oil and the blubber was used to make candles and lantern oil which was the only way to light the houses before electricity reached the islands. The Azorean whaling boat was a unique thing of beauty, cleverly created from the basis of a canoe to be almost silent in the water (to sneak up on the whales - sound carries in the water) to being a thing of pride for each village/area, even today with whaling no longer the main source of income, they have regattas and races to see who's boat is the best.

The rougher the weather, the more likely they are to breach, I was lucky enough to witness two sperm whales breaching on different days, one was the wettest, rainiest day I had there and that particular whale was clearly having some digestive issues, the third and last breach in a row resulted in some spectacular 'dung' spray. The last day I went out was fairly windy and the swell was quite strong, we were one of two boats travelling along the same lines that day, my friend Pedro was skipper of the other boat, we watched one of the whales fluke as it dived, the second seemed to just head to deeper water rather than an actual dive. I looked over and saw Pedro had his camera out and ready, and a tip he given me earlier in the week popped into my head. Sometimes when they are about to breach, they do a funny shallow dive to get enough space to propel them out of the water. I raised my camera and got ready…

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) azores cetaceans female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey mammals nature nature photography nikki nikki humphrey photography ocean ocean photography photographer photography pico sea sea photography travel whales whales and dolphins wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/10/azores-2017---part-two Wed, 25 Oct 2017 14:00:00 GMT
Azores 2017 - Introduction and Part One https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/10/azores-2017---introduction-and-part-one 10 years ago, as a birthday present, I went to the Azores to swim with wild dolphins, with a friend of mine. It was a fantastic trip and I had bought a waterproof case for my point and shoot camera to be able to try and capture some photos of the dolphins underwater. I was unsuccessful in getting anything useful while swimming along, with the super speedy dolphins swimming past at a rate of knots. My best shots came from hanging off the side of the boat, holding the camera under the water and pressing the shutter button whilst hoping there was something in the viewfinder. Luckily a few times there was and this was one such photograph.

 

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I remember seeing Dolphins of all types, but the Spotted Dolphins struck a cord with me, their beautiful spotty sides and their joyful antics, I hadn't seen them anywhere else unlike their counterparts, the Bottlenose or Common Dolphins. I also remembered the joy of watching a Sperm Whale fluke as it dived down deep and the fact I had seen a rare species, the Northern Bottlenose Whale (briefly). Having only a had a point and shoot camera had meant all my above water images showed indecipherable blobs of grey matter that I could only tell you were dolphins. I knew I wanted to go back in the summer months because it was the best chance to seeing the summer visitors of Spotted Dolphins, possibly the Northern Bottlenose Whales and of course I knew the resident Sperm Whales would be there for viewing.

 

I had been saying for years I needed to go back and see what else I could see whilst marvelling over the photos taken by two of the boat skippers of 'Espaço Talassa' one of the oldest, most responsible (and best) whale watching company in the Azores. These two guys, Pedro Madruga and João Quaresma take some of the best whale and dolphin images I see and I knew I had to go and try my own luck.

Turns out it's way more difficult than they make it look.

The animals move (some fast, some slow), the boat moves – in a direction and with the waves, the sea never stops moving and I did pretty well at staying upright let alone pointing the camera in the right direction. It really was more of a challenge than I thought it would be, but oh, so worth it.
I spent a total of 30+ hours at sea and saw 12 different species of whales and dolphins, as well as least 5+ other species of fish, reptile and organisms. 4-5 of those whales and dolphins I had never seen before which was hugely thrilling for me, and I got to see a few species that were 'out of season' (more on that later).

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It turns out I have a lot to tell you about my trip to the Azores so I will be doing a series of blog posts, talking about the different species and showing you the photographs I took of them.

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You may have already seen my post about the Risso's Dolphins (here) so I won't cover them again, so moving on…

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This is a Sowerby's Beaked Whale, we came across a large pod of them, the beaks breaking the surface of the ocean followed shortly and swiftly by the rest of their bodies. They are quite fast and unpredictable meaning photographing the beaks and heads was a challenge, as was the light, although I managed to get this shot of the beak coming out the water but the angle of shooting into the sun's glare meant it has to be a silhouette type shot. The small dark marks beyond it are the backs of other Sowerby's beaked whales.

This one shows the multitude of Whales in the area...

Originally named by an Englishman named Sowerby, after the examination of the skull of a beached whale found in the Moray Firth in Scotland. They live mostly in the Northern oceans, the North Sea and the North Atlantic. They are rarely sighted so to see them is something special and to see this many was thrilling for me. Here are a few of the shots I did manage to get, then they disappeared like they were never there

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Next up I thought I would share with you some of the images I took of the Short Beaked Common Dolphins. They are a resident species in the Azores so you can see them pretty much year round. They prefer the warmer temperate waters and rarely venture to the polar regions. They are very sociable animals, living in large groups that can become super pods of hundreds or thousands of them. They have been found bow-riding boats and even baleen whales and sometimes interact with Pilot whales and other dolphin species. They have a beautiful hourglass pattern on their sides that varies in shades of grey, yellow and gold while their backs are dark and their bellies are light.

They are nimble, playful and curious dolphins from my own observations and I love to see them jump, porpoise and play in the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one on the left shows the variations in colour and hue from individual to individual.

 

Part Two will be along soon... with more information, more photos and hopefully still interesting.

 

Thanks for reading.

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) azores cetaceans dolphins female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey mammals nature nature photography nikki nikki humphrey photography ocean ocean photography photographer photography pico sea sea photography travel underwater whales whales and dolphins wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/10/azores-2017---introduction-and-part-one Wed, 18 Oct 2017 14:00:00 GMT
Black and White Cats https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/9/black-and-white-cats
Towards the beginning of the year I put together and shared a series of black and white photographs of big cats.

These are some of my best and most favourite Cat encounters so I thought I could talk you through them, where they were taken and why I love them.

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I stayed in Sabi Sands, which is adjacent to Kruger National Park in South Africa, and on a drive one morning we found this beautiful female Cheetah. She sat on the ground and groomed herself before standing up (above left) and starting to walk into the bushveld, we followed for a while but we lost her when she took off after some impala, once she started running, there was no chance we were keeping up with her. We found her on the other side of some dense shrubs and she had caught an impala fawn, she sat and after catching her breath, she ate her prize keeping a watchful eye out for hyaenas and other predators who could take it from her.

The next day we found her again, she once again sat for a while, snoozing and grooming herself before wandering off, as she did, a side-striped Jackal caught her attention and clearly annoyed her enough to make her chase it. It was intense, I really think she would've done some damage to it if she had caught it, luckily it stayed a step or two ahead of her. (Above right) is a moment between that chase and her sharpening her claws on a small tree. Such a beautiful cat.

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Next, the Jaguar, is a big male called Maxim (they name them in order to keep track of which ones they see on a regular basis) in the Pantanal in Brazil. We saw this cat numerous times over several days and he always delivered. We watched him try to hunt a Capybara (I have a crazy amount of love for those giant Guinea pigs so I was kind of pleased he missed) but it would have been amazing to see a proper hunt. He used the rivers as ways to get around the dense jungle and was quite happy to sit on the riverbanks allowing us to get good views of him, if they wanted to get away from the humans on the river they can so easily, one metre into the jungle and they are camouflaged into invisibility.

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This was taken in Pench National Park, India. We hadn't had great luck at Kanha NP and then in Pench NP and although we'd seen a Tiger very camouflaged in a bush for a very short view, we hadn't had any amazing sightings. Our last morning we arrived at the gate to the park and almost didn't get to go in, some mix-up, we started to drive around and rounding a corner, we were told a Tiger had just walked across the road and into the forest. Once more we had missed out on seeing one. We decided to sit still for a few minutes, then from the jungle out walked this beautiful female Tiger, her name means 'Little Mother' and I apologise I can't remember what it was in the native tongue. She wandered across the road, rubbed her face on a tree, scent marked the same and then walked down the track towards us. I panicked. I took my shots - with no thought for settings - thank goodness they came out, and then the camera said 'no battery', by this point, my knees were trembling, my breath was caught in my throat and my heart was pounding. As she walked up to our car, she swerved off to the right and into the forest. It was a moment indelibly etched in my memory and I can't wait to see them again.

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Although these are two different cats they were taken on the same trip to Kenya to the Maasai Mara.

The first is a Lioness who we found on the plains of the Enonkishu Conservancy, we found her just as she had caught a very young Thompson's Gazelle fawn, which she proceded to eat from tail to head. After she finished her snack, she washed her paws and face off a little before walking off across the plains, we got ahead of her and I was able to get a face on, portrait shot of her. I think she looks quite young, we left her sitting on a termite mound before moving off to find something else.

The second is a young Leopard, around 6 months old, at the time this was the youngest cub I had ever seen and it was interesting to watch the difference between the mother who couldn't care less about the presence of the vehicles and the cub who still wasn't sure he liked them. He hid in this thick bush, by finding a 'window' through I could see the potential of this image in black and white in my mind and luckily when I processed it, it turned out how I imagined it, which isn't always how I work so I was pleased to produce what I had envisioned.

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This is one of my favourite cats, his name is Maxabeni and he resides in Sabi Sands in South Africa. Also indelibly etched in my memory is this beast, we spent hours with him, we first came across him sat on top of a termite mound where he dozed for a while. He eventually was tempted down by the prospect of a meal in the form of some Impala walking nearby, when he realised they were too far off he settled down for another snooze, rousing himself a few times to check out new impala arrivals but nothing that made him want to produce any effort. At this point he was lying on the ground next to our vehicle and only a few feet from me, it was an incredible encounter.

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This is the last one in the series to share with you and in my mind, the most dramatic. This was a beautiful male Lion taken in Savute in Botswana, one of two males in charge of the Marsh Pride that resides there. We tried to get ahead of them in the hope they would walk towards and we could get some face on shots. Luckily the light was falling from the left side and during processing I realised I could make it even more dramatic by using some editing techniques to darken the right side and keep the left side lit. I originally processed it in colour as well as black and white but for this series it had to be black and white and it worked out beautifully.

I'll leave you with that very image. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.

 

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) big cats black black and white cats cheetah female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey leopard lion mammals nature nature photography nikki nikki humphrey photography photographer photography tiger travel white wildlife wildlife photography https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/9/black-and-white-cats Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:44:23 GMT
Risso's Dolphins https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/9/rissos-dolphins 10 years ago I went to the Azores as a birthday present, since that date I've been saying I will go back, this year I decided it was that time and booked a week on the island of Pico with Espaco Talassa, the best whale watching company in the Azores.

It was the most amazing week and I hope to share many more photographs with you, I've been sharing them on my social media, Facebook , Instagram and Twitter so make sure you check them out.

I'd thought I would share with you my latest post... Risso's Dolphins

These are Risso's Dolphins, they are born dark grey and as they are age they appear to turn white thanks to extensive scarring caused by other Risso's Dolphins, bites from the giant squid they dive hundreds of meters to catch and eat and from parasites. They have a rounded head as opposed to the more usual beak type shape that other species of dolphins have, this is to allow them to have more fluid in their head to locate their prey in the dark depths they dive to go catch and eat the giant squid.

They are among some of the most aggresive dolphins, not towards people or boats (they really tend to ignore boats unlike the more inquisitive bottlenose, spotted or common dolphins) but towards other marine mammals that might be after their food source, they have been known to chase away larger mammals such as the Sperm Whales. I myself witnessed them harrassing a pod of Short Finned Pilot Whales who they did chase away from their 'territory'.

They are both hard and easy to photograph, hard in that they don't come too close to the boat and can be a bit illusive, also that white has a tendency to burn out in photos, but they are easy to follow underwater because of that white so you can follow an individual with the eye and 'try' to predict where it will surface to breathe, allowing you to get a shot of the eye - the money shot as it were.

They do jump and breach but fairly unexpectedly and I missed a few opportunities of this, cetaceans are harder to photograph than you think.

Such fantastic marine mammals to watch and try to photograph.

 

10 years ago I took this photograph, a pure lucky shot, holding the camera over the side of the boat, hoping I was pointing it in the right direction and hoping something showed up. It has been my most successful shot to date, being used in Paris' Natural History Museum among others.

This was taken on a point and shoot type camera 10 years ago and still counts amongst my favourite images.

 

Hope you enjoyed this installment of my adventures, I really hope to share more with you here soon.

 ~ Nikki

 

 

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) azores dolphins female photographer female wildlife photographer humphrey mammals marine nature nikki nikki humphrey photography ocean photographer photography pico rissos rissos dolphins sea travel wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/9/rissos-dolphins Mon, 11 Sep 2017 21:09:52 GMT
First blog https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/6/first-blog I've had an external blog for years but it was also 3 years out of date because I, unfortunately, never found the time to keep up with it.

I thought I would integrate it into my website and hopefully keep up to date with it. I am going to my best to keep up with this, adding stories behind images, sharing small sets of images and sometimes a peek at what I'm doing at the moment or recently photographed.

This is the image I shared on my social media yesterday... Please follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter  Lion following his prideTaken in Chobe National Park, this male Lion followed his pride through the bush on a dusty evening with beautiful golden evening light.

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nikki@nikkihumphrey.com (Nikki Humphrey Photography) Blog Botswana Chobe Chobe National Park Lion National Nature Nikki Humphrey Nikki Humphrey Photography Park Photography Travel Wildlife https://www.nikkihumphrey.com/blog/2017/6/first-blog Fri, 02 Jun 2017 21:55:39 GMT