Always the bad guy

5 11 2014

Always the bad guy, always hated, always the cowardly scrounger – the spotted hyena has caught a tough rap over the years. Partly because of the Lion King, but mostly because every time the hero gets a meal, those pesky hyenas are in there like a shot to steal it!

It must be said, that I like hyenas. I think they are very well designed, and excellent at their job – possibly better than most other predators roaming the savannah in Africa. It does not mean, however, that they don’t frustrate me endlessly! I have had many sightings of leopard/lion/cheetah actively hunting, and closing in on their quarry when a bumbling hyena stumbles into the sighting to see if there is anything on the go, chasing away the prey and ruining the hunt.

Photographing hyenas can be particularly exciting. They move freely through the bush looking for other predators, so the chance to see and photograph large predator interaction is quite high. We have all seen the classic battles between hyenas and lions (don’t lie, you always support the lions), but to actually be there witnessing the battle first hand is wonderfully exciting, and great for wildlife photography. Their relationship with leopards is slightly trickier, where one-on-one the hyenas usually win, but it does sometimes go the other way. You always need to keep the camera ready, because a short, sharp and often violent scuffle could break out at any moment.

There is another side to hyenas though. Their behaviour around their den sites is highly contrasting to their business personas. They are very caring and nurturing mothers (the males play no role, and are treated like lepers in medieval times), and show their young ones the sort of patience that a paint-drying-wall-watcher displays while in the middle of their hobby. The cubs are cute as you like, and their little personalities show right from the first time they leave the den to explore their immediate little world. To me, they often make the best photographs, because they become comfortable with the safari vehicles quite quickly, and are often very playful.

To join me on safari, click here!





Svalbard: Arctic cuteness

5 08 2013

One of the species I was really hoping to see on this safari was the arctic fox.  I have been to the arctic twice before, but these little beauties have eluded me on both occasions.  I figured that at this time of year they would not be wearing their (more well known) all white uniform, but would be in what is known as the blue phase, or their summer outfit, which would give me a better chance to spot one (the white fur on white snow makes spotting them in winter a tricky business). 

 

We checked a few areas where the foxes are seen regularly, but to no avail.  It seemed that this was going to be a species that would laugh at me from its secret hiding spot for a third consecutive visit to the cold north, until the second last day.  At around four thirty in the morning (remember the midnight sun – we started out at one thirty) we found our first fox – an extremely nervous individual that ran like an arctic blizzard, giving us only a quick look at over one hundred meters.  Not great, but it counted (I did manage to grab a photograph of the fox, but even with all the equipment in the world, let’s be fair, it was a long, long way away).  It put a smile on my face and a tick on my list, but being a photographer, I (as always) hoped for a second opportunity.

 

After a solid midday sleep, we set out again on a final attempt to find some foxes, and boy did we strike gold!  Twenty minutes into the search, we had a quick glimpse of a fox on a small ledge above us.  We slowly followed, and had been led to a den site.  The female fox had moved up over some rocks, and while we were scanning the area, three small balls of fluff started rolling around in the afternoon sun.  Fantastic!  I could hardly believe our luck, but left the disbelief for later, because I was concentrating through twelve frames per second.  The three little foxes were an estimated twenty days old, which is just old enough to be ignorantly playful, but young enough to be absolutely cute.  We were lucky enough to spend close to three hours with the little foxes, and got the images I was hoping to get.

 

To join me on safari, click here!