Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ngoro Ngoro Crater: The Eighth Wonder of the World

The Ngoro Ngoro Crater has been described as the eighth wonder of the world and it really does live up to expectation. So much so that I couldn't quite finish my series of blogs on my August trip without posting some of the pictures I took there.We visited the crater during the last three days of our Masai Mara safari. It was my third visit to this remarkable volcanic bowl and as always proved well worth crossing the border into Tanzania for.

It was quite dry there and although the animals in this crater are isolated by the steep crater walls from the vast savannah that surrounds it, the wildebeest still migrate locally.
Their steady progress made a dramatic picture against the back drop of the salt pan and the crater walls behind. These elephant had clearly been stripping the bark from the yellow fever trees.

Again the steep walls of the crater set the scene each day.

Black rhino are a rare sight in Kenya and Tanzania, but the Ngoro Ngoro Crater is well-protected and supports a stronghold. There are nearly 30 living in the 10 mile wide crater.
There were plenty of lion there too. This lioness was in season and in a playful mood. She jumped across a muddy river - hence the 'black stockinged effect up her back legs - to greet another lioness and left a pride male looking rather disgruntled on the other side.

We came across this year-old cub and his mother. He looked in very poor condition.

I suspect he had been attacked by another lion, or hyenas.

When we stopped at a toilet block we noticed a dead bull buffalo about 70 yards away. He was in too good a condition to have died of disease or age. Then as we all filed out of the toilets we saw this male lion glowering at us.

I walked a bit closer to get a photograph and he dragged it under a bush. I decided it was time to get back in the car since I didn't know where the rest of the pride were.

I liked the almost pink morning light on this shot.

Braced against the wind.

Ostrich are plentiful in the crator.

Serval cats live in grassland, specialising in catching rodents and birds. I got this shot of one pouncing.

It was such a fantastic safari that I plan to lead another next year. If you're interested in booking a place click here for more information.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book a Walk on the Wild Side

Book now if you want a place on one of the wildlife events taking place during my Winter Exhibition. Choose from daytime walks to see short-eared owls, red kites, and winter migrants or evening talks to hear wildlife police officer Mike Pannet talk about his experiences in North Yorkshire and a cookery demonstration for Christmas!
Click on the title of an event to book online or call the gallery on 01759 368355 to secure your booking.

Professional birdwatcher Michael Flowers takes you to a secret location near the Humber Bridge to see these magnificent birds in the wild.

Sat Oct 29th, Sat Nov 5th, Monday, Nov 7th: 1.30 - 4.30pm

Tickets £10

Ex-PC Mike Pannett on the wildlife beat
Heartbeat meets James Herriot - a humourous talk by this Wolds author to launch his new book 'Just the Job Lad' about his adventures as a wildlife police officer in North Yorkshire.

Sat Oct 29th, 7-9pm.

Tickets £7.50

Join professional birdwatcher Michael Flowers to watch a flourishing population of red kites come in to roost.

Sun Oct 30th, Sun Nov 6 and Sat Nov 12th; 2-4.30pmTickets £10

Seek out otters and other mammals in the reserve with the head warden, then sit back and watch as 100s of gulls and geese come in to roost on the lakes of Tophill Low

Sun Nov 6, Sat Nov 12th 2-4.30pm Tickets £7.50

Cooking for Christmas
Chef Ali Bilton of JSR Cookery School demonstrates fantastic dishes for Christmas.

Fri Nov 11th, 7-9pm

Tickets £7.50

Discover the latest migrants to have flown into the UK with professional birdwatcher Michael Flowers.

Sun Oct 30th and Sun Nov 13th: 10am-12.30pm

Tickets £10

Monday, September 26, 2011


I've had quite a few queries about which camera gear to take on a trip like the one I just took to the Masai Mara in Kenya so I've decided to devote a post to it!There is no hard and fast answer as it will always depend on space and budget, but I have used Canon cameras for 14 years now and over this time I have collected an array of different camera bodies and lenses.

I have five digital SLR bodies and 10 accompanying lenses, ranging from 17mm to 800mm, and six flash guns as well as a load of other gizmos and gadgets such as tripods, lights and hides.

For photographing wildlife my favourite camera body is the 1D Mark 4 and my most used camera lens is the 500F4.

When travelling around weight is always the biggest issue - especially on flights. I usually manage to get a friend or relative to carry a rucksack for me, jammed with gear.

On my latest trip to the Masai Mara I took three camera bodies:

Two 1D Mark 4s and one 7D

Four lenses:


70-200mmm F2.8,

24 to 105mm F4

300-800mm F5.6 Sigma Lens

Two 1.4 converters

And 10x40 Swarvovski Binoculars
A Wimbly Tripod head and clamps

Camera cleaning equipment and a bean bag!

It is possible to hire camera equipment, some people on our trip used www.lensesforhire. but when buying I recommend getting the best you can afford. A digital SLR camera body and accompanying lenses are best, I recommend the two leading brands Canon or Nikon.

They have the widest ranges to choose from. Sigma and Tamron will do cheaper lenses to fit canon and Nikon, but over the years I have found Canon and Nikon to be the best quality.
If a lens has a huge range of zoom it is usually too good to be true - having said that the 17 - 270 Tamron lens got 93percent in a test in Outdoor Photography magazine. I imagine its value for money would have been a big consideration. I can't comment myself, not having any experience of it.

Don't get caught up in the amount of megapixels, there is more to getting a good photograph than megapixels!

If I were to give any advice on photographing wildlife it would be to use one thing: patience. If you wait long enough, you will get the shot you want!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Farewell Masai Mara

I took so many photographs in the Masai Mara that if I don't stop posting now I'll go on forever. I wanted to leave you with a few final shots to give you a lasting flavour of this memorable trip. There was a breeding herd of elephants quite close to our camp and it was wonderful to watch them with their young.

Follow my leader.

The storm clouds in the background and sunlight playing across the plains gave such wonderful photo opportunities.

We always liked to be out before sunrise to make the most of our opportunity.There's nothing like being out on the plains as the sun comes up.

We had our breakfasts out on the savannah.

This is the whole team together. Their hard work and generous hospitality made our trip such a tremendous success.

Bird Life

What the big cats and vast herds of the Masai Mara have in stature, the birds make up for in colour and character. These little bee eaters were very entertaining to watch. They often hunt in pairs and then return to the same branch after catching insects on the wing.

A lilac-breasted roller.

And by far the ugliest bird in the Mara: the Marabou Stalk. What this bird lacks in looks it makes up for in character. For this shot I slowed the shutter speed down to one eigth of a second to blur the rapids of the Talek River behind.

These two were fighting over the intestines of a wildebeest!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lion does the catty paddle!

This was the most extraordinary sight we saw during our safari - and it was on our first morning too!Lions detest water so we watched in astonishment when this male stepped into the swollen Talek River. Look out for the full story of his escapade in my column in the Yorkshire Post today.The river was in full spate and he lost his footing half way across and had to paddle fiercely against strong currents. As he emerged on the other bank, he shook himself down and strode across the plains as if he owned the place.

We tried to cross the river at the same spot a few days later, but were less successful.

We were stuck for half an hour!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Early Morning Leopard

We came across this male leopard early one morning. There was a dead wildebeest nearby, so he had clearly made a kill in the night.

Masai Mara's Celebrity Lions

There were one or two TV celebs to see in the Masai Mara too. This is Notch, the pride male that starred in the BBC series Big Cat Diaries. He's getting on now, but at 14 years old is still worthy of a good photograph! And his teeth, which he treated us to a good view of during this enormous yawn, are still impressive!

This pride of lions are used to being watched, but are nonetheless wild. Notch was quite a formidable presence. He is pictured here drinking from a rain puddle in the track.

And here trying to ignore a swarm of flies!