Campaigns | Guest Editors | Mammals | Birds | Underwater | Landscapes | Pets | Other

The best of friends

by Darren

We’ve seen this pair a few times this week.  At first there doesn’t appear to be any symbiotic relationship but a brief internet search throws up a few other isolated cases of trumpetfish and parrotfish hanging around together, with a claim that the trumpetfish is using the parrotfish for cover.  Given their relative shapes and sizes, that seems strange, but of course we don’t see things in the same way as their underwater predators.

It’s always been on the same reef, and looks to be the same two fish.  It was a fascinating interaction to watch.  Often the parrotfish would go down to the reef to nibble on coral and the trumpetfish would wait mid-water, then they’d swim on a bit and do the same again.

The greatest pleasures in nature are to be found just watching what goes on.  It’s fascinating!

In awe of creation

by Darren

I photographed this scene a few days ago in Washington Slagbaai National Park.  Our rental truck is there in blue on the left hand side to show the scale of this vast desert island scene.

Given yesterday was Easter, it’s an appropriate time to say that whatever you believe created it, our natural world is pretty awesome.

Turtles, nature’s therapy

by Darren

Like everyone I know, I’m quite fond of seeing turtles when I dive.  It’s always a highlight, and it was no accident that my 200th dive a few days ago was one the Bonaire dive guide describes as “Divers enjoy this site, since turtles are nearly always seen.”

We did see a turtle on that dive, and it immediately had me grinning behind my regulator.  As did this hawksbill turtle we saw today on the house reef right in front of our hotel.

It was already a spectacular dive, with a patrolling barracuda in the shallows, a free swimming moray eel (very rare during the day), a parrotfish and trumpetfish that seemed inseperable and went everywhere together (a picture for a future post), and then this hawksbill turtle.

It was almost immediate after Louise spotted this friendly soul that it went up to breathe.  Turtles need to surface once every six hours, and I was fortunate a few years back to have one time this with my safety stop.  On this occasion I was only half way through my dive and didn’t want to surface so waited patiently for it to come back down.

Once the turtle had done the necessary I took a few pictures.  After a couple of minutes I thought it had probably had enough of me and swam away leaving it to feed.  But it didn’t stay eating the coral, it came with me, swimming alongside.  So we swam around together for a while and I took a few more.

It has me grinning when I see them, it has me grinning when I look at the pictures afterwards, and I know you’re grinning right now.  Turtles, nature’s therapy.  Guaranteed to raise a smile!

School’s Out!

by Darren

I’ve just arrived in Bonaire, an island in the Dutch Antilles (southern Caribbean).  I was fortunate on my second dive yesterday to spend some quality time with this fish which didn’t seem at all bothered by my presence and posed for about 15 minutes on the wreck of La Machaca – a dive site that’s about 100 metres away from my hotel.

It’s a Schoolmaster fish, and earlier in the dive I was really interested in the teeth.  I wanted a head-on image from just below to really show this feature.

Images of fish from above are usually pretty boring, but I quite like this dopey, forlorn looking portrait.  The scars on it’s face seem really deep and disfiguring and the teeth are on show.  It’s nice not to cut off bits of a subject – fins, tails etc, but this crop always seems to work well due to the shape and markings on the fins.

This is the one I was looking for.  You can really see those teeth now and it’s looking straight on, a bit fierce!

Back out today so I’ll try and post more as the week goes on.

Three pigs and a little lady

by Darren

I was fortunate to spend yesterday on a ‘farm’ in Devon with these wonderful Kune pigs.

I put farm in quotation marks because Donald and Rebecca aren’t farming the land.  They are cultivating it to some extent but only to enjoy it and to develop it as their own nature reserve where they can relax and watch the variety of wonderful wildlife who also call it home.  There are parts they took us to which they hadn’t visited themselves in six months.

They keep three kune pigs as pets.  They are huge impressive beasts with a voracious appetite but they are also very welcoming and I really enjoyed the time I spent with them.  The vegetation on the land is quite dense so after the top has been cut off an area the pigs move in to eat the roots and brambles which initially turns the area to mud, but then the pigs move on and it recovers.

We had barely arrived when a kestrel appeared.  Having come to photograph pigs I wasn’t set up for this but quickly fetched a telephoto and approached low and slow.  It wasn’t to be, but that will be one of the challenges for a future visit.  The kestrels are frequent visitors and we saw the remains of a meal later in the day (a long trail of fresh pigeon feathers).

There is a large area of woodland occupied by approximately 15-20 badgers as well as fallow deer and plenty of woodland/farmland birds.  Donald and Rebecca also keep chickens, so their land is virtually an adventure playground for someone like me.  At one point Donald even offered to build a hide for me to come and use, but quickly followed with the line “I hope you won’t expect me to come and sit in it with you!”

I almost forgot the little lady ….. a wonderful Jack Russell called Madeleine who accompanied us for most of the walk.  Later in a field Donald kicked a basketball around for her so that I could photograph her amazing ball control!

It was a fun trip, and I hope to do some more in-depth work later this year.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.

The eyes of these gentle giants are absolutely beautiful, but really hard to capture as often covered by the vast amount of hair

The pigs like to root around in the mud to make sure they haven’t missed any food…

Feeding time was quite difficult to photograph as they all got very close to each other with their heads down, but when the time came for them to have a drink, camera shake was the problem – we couldn’t stop laughing!

Big Foot was the largest hen, while Madeleine showing off her ball skills concluded a wonderful few hours


Silfra – a dive between the Continents

by Darren

A couple of weeks back I was fortunate enough to dive Silfra Crack in Iceland, pictured above.  This channel is just six metres wide and has been formed by the separation of two geological (tectonic) plates which are moving apart at two centimetres a year.  Iceland is like a cookie, gradually breaking in two.

Yep you read that right.  In the image above, the rocks on the left hand side are the edge of the North American continental shelf.  The rocks on the right are the edge of the Eur-Asian continental shelf.  That on it’s own would make this one rather special dive site.

On top of all that the water comes from the Langjökull glacier 50 kilometres away. Over 30 years it filters through lava rock meaning that by the time it reaches Silfra it is oh, so pure.  The visibility underwater is in excess of 100m which might not sound like much to non-divers but believe me, it’s incredible.  It’s so pure that you can drink it while you dive and at 2 degrees celsius it’s perfectly chilled.   I just took my regulator out of my mouth at 15 metres underwater and took a drink!

Anyway, you didn’t come here to hear me eulogise about how wonderful this dive was – you want to see the pictures.  You’re going to see some interesting colours – that’s because water filters light, starting with the shorter wavelengths like red.  One of the features of this amazing visibility is that white balance varies throughout the scene meaning that images will get greener and bluer in the furthest parts of the image from the camera.

As I said before, the crack is 6m wide but in places the rocks come close enough that you can touch both continents!  At the end of the crack the water feeds into an amazing lagoon where that visibility really becomes clear.

What a terrible pun to end on.  I hope you enjoy the pictures :-)