September 2021: Another day at the forest!
I spent another day at a beautiful hide in a Dutch forest. Weather forecast: acceptable light conditions. The objective of this day was to try-out some new settings to test my new lens while getting some close-up images of the Northern Goshawk. And what a day it turned out to be: I guess about 10 Common Buzzard visits and 6 Northern Goshawk visits throughout the day! The cherry on the cake however was the visit of an awesome and elusive Eurasian Sparrow Hawk taking a long bath at close distance!
July 2021: Woudaap – Little Bittern – Ixobrychus minutus
What a thrill to find some secretive Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) not too far away from my home town. Actually it’s the first time I was able to take some reasonable flight shots of this amazing little heron. Their length is approximately 35 centimeters and their wingspan about 55 centimeters. This water bird or wading bird is the smallest breeding heron in Europe. Yes, they are from the same family while it is believed that there are only about 20-40 breeding couples in The Netherlands. So it really was a rare sighting. To put their size in perspective: just compare them to the Blue Heron. The images taken are adult birds busy with feeding their youngsters hidden in the reeds. As you can see the youngsters have a totally different feather pack.
June 2021: Little owl – Athena Noctua – Steenuil
Last week I went out to capture some little owls at a farm close to the location where I captured the Eurasian Bittern (see previous blog article below). As you may know they are really small little owls with an estimated size of 21 to 27 cm while their wingspan is believed to be approximately 55 cm. They have yellow eyes and a white eyebrow making it look like if they are constantly frowning!
The Little owl is widespread across Europe and they are territorial. They hunt from poles or other high positions on mice, worms, insects etc. and they even eat little birds.
The images below are from last week and from some time ago.
June 2021: Eurasian Bittern – Roerdomp – Botaurus Stellaris
The last couple of days I went out to an area where some Eurasian Bittern had been reported. As you may know these very shy birds tend to hide in the reeds and they hunt at swallow water at the waterline looking for fish, small mammals, amphibians and insects. Unlike other family members the Bittern fly with retracted neck.
Bittern belong to the Ardeidae family (including the more common heron). The estimated number of population of Eurasian Bittern is between 110,000 and 350,000 and their status is believed to be “least concern”. Worldwide there are 14 different Bittern species known. The Eurasian Bittern is believed to be one of the largest Bittern (in size) within the Ardeidae family.
Secretive as they are it’s a bonus to find them and get some acceptable images. Getting up early and with some guidance of a friend I found some Bittern and managed to get some shots of the youngsters (3) and food providing mother. As the images show they are very special birds with beautiful feathers providing for perfect camouflage.
March-May 2021: The Courtship process!
During the first months of this year I tried to capture the courtship process of the Great Crested Grebes. Despite the non-cooperative weather I managed to get some reasonable images, including the “love dance”, the “weed-dance” and the “cat-dance” (also called “admiral sailing” – translated form Dutch). A very interesting process and hard to capture due the unpredictable movements of the Grebes. E.g. during the Cat-dance the female swims underwater towards the male who is waiting for her with his wings spread wide open! They also often separate and come together at some distance making it hard to prepare for some acceptable shots.
March 2021: The beautiful European Kestrel!
I spent a whole day at a hide to capture the mating process of European Kestrels. Great weather conditions and cooperating Kestrels. However, and although I managed to get some beautiful Kestrel images, the mating process happened at a less desirable position!
February 2021: A wonderful white world!
Finally, we had some real snow and freezing weather in The Netherlands. Lots of snow to be precise! An incredible opportunity to accomplish one of my wishes: make some cool images of raptors in the snow. Easy to say but hard to accomplish! It was only at the last snowy day that I managed to get some great images of Goshawk, Buzzard and smaller birds in an amazing white setting:
February 2021: Images published.
Dr. Jose R. Castello, a medical doctor, naturalist and wildlife photographer, recently published a new book with the title: “Felids and Hyenas of the World”. A fascinating book with great photos and a lot of information about these species. Two of my images are included in this new book. The images of the nocturnal Aardwolf were captured while on safari in Kenya, East Africa (see photo credits).
January 15 2021: Velduil / Short-eared Owl / Asio flammeus.
Early January I’ve visited a location in upper part of The Netherlands to shoot some images of the beautiful short-eared owls. As they are not common in my country you may understand that I was excited to go there and try to get some inflight images. Another goal for this trip was to get an image of an owl sitting on a pole! The images below are the result of this trip. Obviously the image of an owl on a pole remains on my wish list!
December 2020: Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)!
While traveling to Africa I’ve always managed to return home with some nice images of the fastest predator on land: The Cheetah or Acinonyx jubatus! This beautiful and slender cat with its long legs can reach a maximum speed of approximately 130 km/h! That ability is essential while hunting during daytime.
Their usual prey is small or medium sized impala or antilope, while Cheetahs themselves are on the menu of lion and hyena! Female Cheetah normally give birth to a maximum of five cubs. They raise them all alone. I have been fortunate to watch them hunting and with very small cubs (see the images below).
Their population is threatened by several factors, including human interference, hunting and due smaller territories. In fact their population has decreased to around 7,000 only and they are now listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List!
September 2020: The Blue Arrow!
How I love to see and watch that little blue arrow! Flying low over the water they announce their arrival with a loud whistle. This amazing little bird, with an approx. 16 cm length, has a striking blue colored upper feather deck. The difference between male and female is in the beak: females beak is partly orange (lower part) while the male’s beak is completely black. It feeds mainly on fish, caught by diving. During the dive a cover membrane (in Dutch: knipvlies) protects their eyes during the dive while they still can see the fish. Common kingfishers are highly territorial. Once you understand their behavior and know the location of their nest (they usually dig a hole along the steep waterfront) you may be able to watch and capture them with your camera and without disturbing. Below are some images of diving Common Kingfishers.
August 2020: A heated conversation!
Somehow Common Buzzards and Northern Goshawks don’t really get along! When they appear on the same site at the same moment you can expect some action. That’s what happened last week when I stayed at a bird hide in the southern part of The Netherlands. Weather condition (after 8 hot dry days) was acceptable but the forecast also predicted some rainfall. Despite the light challenges I was able to get some nice action shots of two great raptors.
In the last weeks I have been out to capture some little owls and kestrels. A real challenge to get some good flight shots of the little owls as they move without making any sound. The kestrel with prey shot was taken against a great background providing a nice soft bokeh.
July 2020: Images displayed at art centre.
I am proudly announcing that from July 16 until the end of August some of my wildlife images are on display at the “Koetshuis /Hooiberg of Hoeve Rijlaarsdam”, a well known art center with gallery and sculpture garden in Nieuwkoop, The Netherlands. Below is one of the displayed images: an approaching White-tailed Eagle in an autumn setting (Dibond 100 x 100 cm).
A link to their website and my photo’s: https://rijlaarsdam.nl/portfolio-item-category/dieren/ and https://rijlaarsdam.nl/schilderijen/
Following the Corona virus restrictions the famous “Keukenhof” with all its blooming tulips stayed closed for the public! A disappointment for thousands of spectators, not to say for the organization itself. The Dutch and local government also strongly advised to avoid visiting the area preventing too many people gathering together. Lucky enough I found some nice tulip fields near my home town allowing for some nice photos!
I made another quick trip to a nearby wetland to capture the courtship behavior of the Redshank. A real challenge to get some sharp images as they are so little, constantly -and unpredictably- moving during their courtship dance and a little far from my position. The below images were taken with the Nikon D850 with the 500F4 lens and 1.4 extender. Distance to the Redshanks approximately 50 meters. Heavy crop.
April 2020: They are back!
Despite all the imposed Corona-virus restrictions, including border controls, the Black-tailed Godwit and Redschank (just to name a couple of waders) returned to The Netherlands. It’s great to see them back in our meadows and wetlands. Many of these waders depend on our wetlands and lucky enough there is some increasing awareness to maintain them. While obeying the restrictions and avoiding contact with other birders, I managed to get some nice Black-tailed Godwit and Redschank images. It’s really spring now!
March 09 2020:
The mating of Common Kingfishers is a spectacular sighting and as such it was on my wishlist for this year. It’s still early for mating Kingfishers but surprisingly some action was reported in the Northern part of The Netherlands! A trip was quickly organized and after a long and very early morning ride I reached the site. It was cold and windy and not really inviting for the Kingfishers to do their act! However, during the day I managed to take some nice images of a fish transfer and a quick mating! How wonderful are these colorful little birds!
March 09, 2020:
This week a nice photo of a dancing little owl was sold to a real estate broker. The photo will be printed on an acoustic cloth to cover one of the walls of his office space. Naturally I am always pleased if someone likes my photos! The photo below will be replaced in due time with the photo displayed on their office wall.
The month started with low temperatures and a lot of rain! Not really inviting for a photo trip. However, yesterday the weather changed with higher temperatures and a partly cloudy sky. It didn’t take long to decide to take my heavy equipment and visit one of the nearby nature reserves to shoot some red foxes. After a hour walk over paved roads and through sand dunes I found a beautiful red fox and it was curious enough to come close allowing for some nice images. I walked around 11 km’s and crawled a lot to get the images. I nice workout for sure!
This cold and wet month is not really inspiring to go out and take some wildlife photo’s. Perhaps it is my age, but more and more I long for a warm climate providing more energy and better photo opportunities! 😁
Taking advantage of the weather I’ve cleaned the camera bodies and calibrated some lenses for the Nikon bodies (including the new Nikon D850). Some spics were removed and they are all clean and perfect working condition. Not only for short term activities but also for my upcoming trip to Kenya in June. Yes, I finally return to the Masai Mara with their great wildlife and nice people! I am already excited while making preparations for this trip. The goals for this trip are to return with some great memories, have some extraordinary sightings and to capture some awesome actions (predators and mammals).
The number of birds of prey in The Netherlands is increasing according to the latest information! Isn’t that great news? Personally I love the raptors and especially white-tailed eagles, goshawks, kestrels and sparrow hawks. Naturally the buzzard is a great raptor too, though, in my humble opinion, a little less spectacular in terms of colors and feather detail.
Last week I’ve been to the southern part of The Netherlands to shoot sparrow hawks and goshawks. At least that was the plan. The weather forecast was not too bad, but during the day the light conditions turned out to be really “challenging” !
I managed to take some acceptable Buzzard shots but, unfortunately, no photos of other raptors. Most probably they got scared-off by the presence of the buzzards – or due the loud noise of some nearby motorcrossers.
During the day I captured some other small birds and small mammals too!
This week I’ve visited a location at the Dutch coast to shoot some foxes. Apparently their hole was located between (or near) the big rocks that are protecting the shore/waterway. The weather was surprisingly acceptable. Although there was a cold wind, it was dry and there were some sunny moments too! Lucky enough I got my Fjallraven windjack protecting me from the ice cold wind! I arrived early and had to be very patience for a couple of hours until finally one beautiful fox showed itself allowing for some nice images. The constantly moving (restless but also relaxed) fox went from rock to rock, using the space between the rocks to disappear and then showing up 30 meters further to the left or right, making it a challenge to get some good images. The icing on the cake was the moment it decided to walk over to the sandy beach and along the tide line! What a lovely moments with this little beautiful fox dressed in it’s awesome winter fur jacket!
I finally managed to make some changes to my website, although I am still not satisfied with the whole set up! Bare with me until I manage to make some final updates in the coming weeks!
I am excited about ongoing discussions regarding a possible near future exhibition of some of my photos at an art gallery! I hope to further inform you about developments, including a date and location, in the coming weeks!
This month I’ve visited a bird-hide in the southern part of The Netherlands to capture some birds of prey in an autumn setting. During the day a juvenile Northern Goshawk visited the site and even stayed there for more then one hour allowing me to take some great portrait shots. The juvenile hawks really have beautiful feathers! Naturally some other small and large (buzzards) birds and some red squirrels visited the site resulting into some other great images!
Africa kept calling and I/we could not resist to plan a trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa! Planning the trip always gives a lot of fun and excitement, although it’s a real struggle to find the accommodation you want. There is limited accommodation available and there are many people visiting the park. Anyhow, we managed to get accommodation near the main entrance and up north in an unfenced “tented camp”! During the trip we met with some Dutch and South African friends who too are members of the photo site Flickr.com.
During this incredible trip we saw many great Black-maned Kgalagadi lions, Cheetahs, Cape fox, raptors and other small and big animals in their natural environment or near the water holes along the two main roads. The cherry on the cake was the meeting with a beautiful leopard near the park exit on the last evening of our stay. I’ve seen and captured many leopards in the last years but this was the first one within this park.
I’ve traveled to wild Poland in 2018 to photograph the “endangered” White-Tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla). During this trip all came together: light, detail, focus, poses, interaction and beautiful autumn background! Some spectaculair images of this trip are published in my newest book which can be purchased via the Blurb Bookstore (https://www.blurb.com/b/9703155-white-tailed-eagles)!
The White-tailed Eagle is a so called “Bird of prey” (sometimes called raptors, which is derived from the Latin word rapio). Their wing-spread is about 2,4 meters! Although their numbers declined (mostly due human interference and human activities, including destruction of habitat, the use of pesticides and hunting) they are now slowly recovering in numbers, though still listed as vulnerable. White-tailed eagles are part of the Accipitridae family (including hawks, kites and harriers and other sea eagles).
May 2018: Meanwhile I have been busy traveling to some national and international destinations. This first blog is about the recent trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National park and Kruger Wildtuin. Our stay at Kruger was very nice with a lot of lion sightings and we also captured an awesome bathing scene of Elephants! Naturally we also saw, though limited, some beautiful rollers! Some photos can be seen hereunder!
Lilac Breasted Roller!
On our way to the Kruger Wildtuin we saw some beautiful Sunbirds posing for us in the sun!
Our stay at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was as usually great with many sightings and special moments! It was great to meet some South African friends (Flickr) and to spend some valuable time together! Unfortunately we did not see any leopard but at a number of occasions we saw -and captured- lions, cheetah, some other predators and some nice birds of prey. This park somehow never fails to deliver! We will for sure plan another visit to this amazing park in the near future!
Clockwise from left: Bateleur; African Wild Cats; Cheetah’s resting in the shade!