Year: 2015

Jade Green Cicada Dundubia Vaginata Kinabatangang Sabah Borneo Malaysia

Jade Green Cicada

With the Pygmy Elephant and Western Tarsier we have highlighted two of Borneo’s iconic inhabitants. However, there are many more and this instalment is about one that might not always get the attention it deserves: the Cicada. Maybe they’re just not rare enough, and certainly not cuddly, but these noisy insects perform one of the most characteristic symphonies in the tropical forests around the globe when the daylight wanes. Where the massive Emperor or 6 o’clock Cicada (Pomponia merula) excels in the production of an electrical shaver-like sound, the Jade Green Cicada (Dundubia vaginata) is the most beautiful by far. Around 5.30 every afternoon a few males would start their concert by a rhythmical pulsation of their abdomens (called tymbalisation) to be followed by the ones in their direct vicinity until retirement for the night. Despite their noisy call cicadas are not easy to locate – their excellent vision warns them for possible threats and they stop calling, hide or simply fly away to another tree when disturbed. When spotlighting in search for some nocturnal action …

Western Tarsier Horsfield's Tarsier Kinabatangan Sabah Borneo Malayia Primate

Western Tarsier – Five in One

“Our Simpalili, better known to us as Lili the Simp, was the best endurance flagpole sitter in all of North Borneo. He was brought to us from the jungle clinging to a long stick, and his expression of strained affability, and his determination not to leave his stick, always reminded me of the expressions and actions of human contestants in American endurance contests” – Agnes Newton Keith, Land Below the Wind The variety of life in the Bornean rainforests is truly baffling. Especially the primates are well represented with for example the big-nosed Proboscis, the cheeky Macaque, agile Gibbon and the human-like Orang Utan, but although they are all fascinating in their own way, the Western Tarsier – the island’s smallest primate and mammal – was our favourite by far: just one look in its big eyes simply makes you want to cuddle this adorable prosimian. During the day Western Tarsiers (Cephalopachus bancanus borneanus) sleep on the vines and creepers of the dense forest undergrowth – at nighttime they become active to forage on insects and small vertebrates while …

Borneo Pygmy Elephant Kinabatangang Sabah Malaysia

Borneo Pygmy Elephant

We are back from Borneo. Two fantastic weeks in Sabah have given us one of our best wildlife experiences ever – and this is no exaggeration. Big swaths of land in the northeastern corner of the island are still covered in primary rainforests. Estimated to be over 130 millions old these are some of the oldest rainforests on our planet – no wonder we encountered such a rich and intriguing biodiversity under and above its almost impenetrable canopy. Spotting its diverse inhabitants was by no means easy. With only 2% of the sunlight reaching the forest floor most life seems to be concentrated amid the leafy tops of the tall Dipterocarps, beyond our sight and hearing, while the fact that many mammals are nocturnal is another obstacle for easy wildlife viewing. Add the leeches, stifling humidity and 5.30 wake-up calls (sci-fi ringtones) and you’ll have a rough sketch of the efforts we made to meet the animals – photography in those challenging circumstances is another chapter. But still, we got so much more than we bargained …

West of Wallace’s Line

Time for new adventures as iAMsafari will be exploring the jungles of Borneo for the next couple of weeks! We’ll be spending time on the banks of the Kinabatangan River as well as the Danum Valley Field Centre in search of the island’s magnificent wildlife. As we will busy living the adventure to the max there will be no updates, likes or comments from the field until we’re back. Hope catching up soon again!

Common Brushtail Possum Lesmurdie Falls National Park Mundy Perth Hills Western Australia

Publishing, Long-Tails and Possums

As a wildlife photographer I always hope to spot spectacular creatures, to capture them in the most artistic way and to publish the results in posts that go viral on the internet. Wouldn’t that just be fantastic? Absolutely, but it never happens. I guess that iAMsafari is just a reflection of our ramblings in the outdoors, aiming to entertain highly esteemed followers, fellow-bloggers and ourselves! A glance at our blog’s statistics shows that some posts are more popular than others, but just a handful seem to draw in visitors over and over again – these are the true ‘hits’ and ‘best-sellers’ here at iAMsafari. The majority however is read and liked significantly less regular – as opposed to the very popular posts they are what is often called the ‘long-tail’ of publishing. This is nothing new as every blog or collection of published articles will show the same distribution unless you either release just blockbusters or ill-received content (both options seem pretty unlikely to me by the way). Although I admit that statistics and popularity are …

Galah Tendon Locking Mechanism Kalbarri Western Australia

Galah – Defying Gravity

“Every bird that flies has the thread of the infinite in its claws” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables This galah I met on the banks of the Murchison River near Kalbarri seems to defy gravity. But it doesn’t. As any other creature or object it would fall to the earth – even while being a bird – without the ingenuous anatomy of its feet. As in most birds they’re gifted with the so-called tendon locking mechanism or TLM – a mechanism in which the toes automatically grasp a branch in pincer-like fashion when bending its knees and heel articulations, allowing it to stay up in a tree without wasting too much energy and ‘play the Galah’.

Carnaby's Black Cockatoo Calypthorhynchus latirostris Yanchep National Park Western Australia

Rain Birds – Carnaby’s Cockatoo

The short-billed black or Carnaby’s cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) is one of Western Australia’s most fascinating birds. In summertime they reside in coastal areas while feeding on the seeds of Banksia, Hakea, and eucalypts – and with ample water and roosting sites Yanchep National Park is a favourite hangout and excellent place to spot them. Last Sunday we weren’t short of luck with flocks of up to a hundred individuals socialising in the tall Tuart trees. Here we witnessed a noisy spectacle of feeding, crooning and preening – the meticulous grooming ritual in which pairs strengthen their bond. Preening is the earliest sign of the approaching breeding season when the female will lead her partner back to the place where she was born, deep in the arid inland of WA’s Wheatbelt region. The arrival of the first storms and winter rains will be the starting sign of this journey, and the early settlers therefore called them ‘rain birds’, referring to the change of weather and seasons when the cockatoos flew over. However, the future of the Carnaby’s cockatoo …

Seagull Monkey Mia Western Australia

Seagull – Thirst

The last photo in the 5 Day Black-and-White Challenge is somewhat different. I found out that during the past few years I started to develop a certain style of photography – a style that increasingly showcases details, close-ups and portraits of animals and plants. I also discovered I find myself less confident when taking photos of landscapes or bigger subjects, resulting in my shots never really telling a story within that broader context – I guess this is exactly the reason I like to elaborately tell the stories behind my photos. But this photo is different as it does tell a story. That is because my wife Anita has taken it. Anita is a great photographer, and whenever I leave the camera alone in an unattended moment she’ll grab it and starts playing around. Her photos are totally different as she simply sees things that I don’t. Where I probably would have focused on this gull’s brightly coloured beak Anita focuses on the bird drinking from a leaking tap. It just illustrates how people look …

Nile Crocodile iSimangaliso Wetland Park KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Crocodile – Economy of Scales

South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park is one of our favourite destinations. This unique estuarine park consists of over 300,000 hectares of lakes, swamp forests, giant sand dunes and one of the most beautiful coastlines in Southern Africa. And of course there is an abundance of wildlife, an ever important asset for the local tourism industry with its headquarters based in the pleasant and laid back town of St. Lucia. In fact, (eco)tourism has become such an important economic driver that the park has seen major changes over the past 15 years with new sections created, the rehabilitation of former agricultural land and the reintroduction of thousands of animals including elephants, rhinos and lions – notably in the uMkhuze part of iSimangaliso. Not less spectacular are the hippos and crocodiles that live in the park’s waterways – with around 1,200 crocodiles iSimangaliso holds one of South Africa’s most important wild crocodiles populations. Apart from being important predators in a complex ecosystem crocodiles are also of vital importance for the local economy – boat cruises on the …

Warthog MPila KwaZulu Natal Hluhluwe-IMfolozi South Africa

Warthog – Residential Wildlife

My third contribution in the 5 Days Black-and-White Challenge is an animal that is part of Africa’s notorious ‘ugly five’. I’m not sure if I would have posted this Warthog in colour, although we’ve got fond memories of her as the residential lawnmower of Mpila in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi. What stands out in this monochrome version is the incredible high contrasting texture of her hairy coat. And then those eyelashes – isn’t she pretty??! If there is anyone who could learn us more about black and White photography it has to be Leanne Cole in my opinion. Leanne is a professional photographer based in Melbourne with a wonderful blog that is absolutely worth visiting – don’t miss her Monochrome Madness episodes.

Steenbok Kruger Park South Africa

Steenbok – Just Magic

Welcome back to the second post of the 5 Day Black-and-White Challenge. Today I’ve chosen to feature a photo of a tiny Steenbok we encountered near the boulders of Masorini in Kruger National Park, a cute little antelope that always tries to look pretty on photographs. But that’s not the only reason why I decided to share it with you – the other reason is the emotion behind the photograph. Let me try to explain this. Being outdoors, hearing the sounds of the animals, smelling the bush, see and feel the wild, all of that evokes a sense of freedom and authenticity in me, a sense of being part of a much bigger scheme of things. Apart from being outdoors myself, I’ve always enjoyed the work from people who possess the gift of perfectly capturing those emotions into images or words. Artists as Peter Beard, Karen Blixen or Laurens van der Post still provide me with ample inspiration, as does the work from contemporary writers, photographers and fellow-bloggers – they all share the same passion …

Zebra skin monochrome

Black and White Challenge – Stripes

A few days ago we were honoured with an invitation from our dear friends at De Wets Wild to participate in the 5 Day Black-and-White Photo Challenge. If anyone has ever read their reports on South Africa’s incredible parks and wildlife it’s easy to understand we were absolutely delighted by their invite – which we eagerly accepted. Regarding our own blog I personally believe it’s more about storytelling than anything else, and although you might like some of our shots we never had any technical photography training  whatsoever. To do something different than usual is therefore the real challenge, however, I believe there are a few simple rules or tricks to master black and white photography. The most important of course is the subject, which has to be suitable for print in black and white. And what other animal than the zebra could that be? Although so common in any game reserve it’s often overlooked after the first few encounters,  I’ll always be fascinated by their unique stripy coat that offers camouflage to the zebra …

Shark Bay Western Australia

Gutharraguda – Colours of Shark Bay

In my previous posts I have written about some of our inspiring encounters with the magnificent wildlife of Shark Bay. The Malgana people used to call this land ‘Two Bays’ or Gutharraguda – referring to the shallow waters of Hamelin Pool between Peron Peninsula and the mainland in the North and Henri Freycinet Harbour between Peron Peninsula and Dirk Hartog Island in the South. The old map of French navigator Henri Freycinet shows this piece of remarkable Australian shoreline best. Shark Bay is a unique area with vast beds of seagrass, forming massive meadows in the shallow and warm waters. Seagrasses provide both food and shelter for the stunning array of marine life, but also bind sediments moved in through tides and currants. Accumulated sediments have formed the numerous banks, sills and channels that have turned some of the bay’s waters hyper saline – the area around Hamelin Pool is twice as salty as the open ocean! Although hostile to many animals, the extreme salinity of Hamelin Pool forms the perfect habitat for Stromatolites – single celled …

Australian Pelican – Jurruna

With so much fish around it doesn’t come as a surprise Australian Pelicans reside in Monkey Mia. Although some individuals are kept at bay with handouts during the dolphin interactions, most pelicans can be seen hunting throughout the rest of the day. They fly out to wherever food can be found, but mostly stay close to the shore to herd fish into shallow water – the same strategy as used by dolphins. Pelicans therefore like to shadow them and try to swim between the dolphins and the shore to capitalise on the dolphins efforts. Obviously not only dolphins are smart!

Emu foot Dromaius novaehollandiae Monkey Mia Shark Bay Western Australia

Yalibirri – Walking with Dinosaurs

When camping at Monkey Mia it is hard to miss the Emus wandering around the grounds looking for anything edible – or seemingly edible. Regarded by many as a nuisance, for nature lovers as us they offer the perfect opportunity to study them a bit better. What strikes me most about these big birds is their peculiar body structure that is considered by paleontologists as similar to theropods – giant three-toed dinosaurs that roamed the earth in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Their feet are very similar to dinosaur feet, and while looking at them walking it’s impossible not to think of their ancestors with toes curling back first and  spreading out again just before planting their foot –  no wonder Hollywood used emus when creating Tyrannosaurus Rex for Jurassic Park!

Green Sea Turtle Chelonia mydas Monkey Mia Shark Bay Western Australia

Green Sea Turtle – Buyungurra

Western Australia’s vast and remote Shark Bay is a unique region covering more than 2.2 million hectares of land and sea. It is home to a great diversity of plants and animals, some of them found nowhere else on earth. Unfortunately many of the species that live in this immense wilderness are vulnerable or even critically endangered. One of them is the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), a species that depends on the bay’s plentiful seagrass meadows – just as the more than 10,000 Dugongs (Dugong dugon) that graze in this World Heritage Area. Considering the high number of sightings of this massive turtle out in the water, it is hard to believe they are under serious threat. But although Green Sea Turtles are legally protected in Australia and hunting is restricted to traditional use by aboriginal people, they still face numerous challenges. Apart from crabs, goannas, birds and sharks that feed on hatchlings, the major threats are created by human activities. Each year thousands of turtles end up on baited longline hooks as bycatch, …

Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops Aduncus Monkey Mia Shark Bay Western Australia

Bottlenose Dolphin Puck – Leading Lady of Monkey Mia

When international dolphin research started in Western Australia’s Shark Bay in 1982, female Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) Puck would never have believed she’d become a true film star – but she did. Just before we left for a trip to this remote World Heritage area 850 kms north of Perth, we watched the 2009 BBC Documentary ‘The Dolphins of Shark Bay’. This documentary follows a family called ‘The Beachies’, named after their regular fishing expeditions in the shallow waters of Monkey Mia. As other dolphin families living in the vast Shark Bay area The Beachies form a tightly knit group led by adult females; matriarch Puck and her daughters Piccolo and Kiya. Together with their offspring they regularly visit the beach of Monkey Mia to hunt or to receive fish from Department of Parks and Wildlife rangers – the perfect chance to meet those big brained mammals up-close and personal! Interaction between humans and dolphins in Monkey Mia goes back long time. Aboriginal fishermen would use dolphins to chase fish close to the shore and share their …

Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae Gloucester National Park Pemberton Western Australia

Emu – Giant of the Southern Forests

Since I was a young boy I have always been fascinated by the big flightless birds that roam the grass- and woodlands of our planet. I guess their long neck, inquisitive look and striding gait are just a few of the hallmarks that make those animals so completely different and unique. But as these birds only inhabit the continents of the Southern Hemisphere I had to wait a long time to see them in the wild – you might therefore understand my excitement when I spotted my first Ostrich on the plains near Satara in South Africa’s Kruger Park almost 20 years ago. The fascination for big birds never left, so when we heard a family of eight Emus (daddy with his offspring) regularly visited the dam of our friends vineyard in Pemberton, we were getting ourselves ready for some serious bird watching. The beautiful backdrop of this place – a vineyard surrounded by tall golden grass and towering Karri trees smack-bang in the middle of Gloucester National Park – would allow us to take …