Archive for eagle

Six images in the Share The View competition…

Posted in Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

©NeilAldridge

Six of my photographs have been selected in the winning portfolio of the Audubon Society’s Share the View International Nature Photography Competition. It’s a shame not to have been amongst the winners but my sincere congratulations to Bence Mate (Grand Prize, Best Bird winner) and Suzi Eszterhas (Grand Prize, Overall winner).

©NeilAldridge

Those of my entries which made it into the top portfolio include a portrait of a Canadian bald eagle feeding, two little terns in courtship display, a zebra stallion biting the neck of an adversary, a portrait of a meerkat, a close-up wide-angle shot of a colourful painted reed frog in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and an intimate portrait of a white rhinoceros – a shot which also features in BBC Wildlife magazine’s 2013 calendar.

The winners and top 250 will be featured on the Share the View website in early January 2013, so be sure to check back then.

©NeilAldridge

British Wildlife Photography Awards

Posted in Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Exhibition, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

One of my white-tailed eagle photographs from my last visit to Skye will be featured in the winning portfolio of the 2010 British Wildlife Photography Awards. All of the winning and commended photographs will form part of a series of exhibitions, launching at London’s Hooper’s Gallery on the 14th of October. The portfolio of images are also available for the first time in a book. For a full schedule of the UK-wide exhibition tour, visit the BWPAwards website. My main site conservationphotojournalism.com features more of my work on white-tailed eagles.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

Lock and load…it’s migration time!

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Photography, Poaching, Take Action, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

Quite soon birds will be leaving Europe for warmer climes. Tiny swallows to huge eagles will be heading Africa-wards to escape the northern hemisphere winter. However, many will not get there and even fewer will make it back again to breed in 2011. Some will be predated along the way and others will fall to other natural influences like severe weather or poor navigation. But it is the human impact on the hundreds of species that make the journey across the Mediterranean that is most worrying.

At many significant points along the way, human development is encroaching on natural habitat that has been vital for migrating birds for centuries. The vast amounts of energy used when flying such long distances makes resting and refuelling stops essential. If these birds can’t find enough to eat along their journey, chances are they will starve and perish. With booming human populations, this global fight for space is a sensitive issue that has no quick fix or easy solution. Similarly, increasing energy demands and the quest for renewable energy resources has necessitated the erection of wind turbines that increase the risk to birds of mid-air collisions. However, one fight that migrating wildlife is losing that can and should be remedied more easily is the illegal shooting and trapping of migrating birds by poachers around the Mediterranean.

BirdLife Malta works tirelessly to monitor and reduce activities on the archipelago that threaten wild birds yet the high density of hunters makes their job difficult. Relatively few birds are resident on Malta in comparison to the 170 species that occur during periods of migration, making spring and autumn the height of BirdLife’s efforts. Almost anything avian is targetted by illegal hunters from beautiful hoopoes and European rollers to black storks and lesser-spotted eagles (check out BirdLife’s 2008 illegal hunting and trapping report). Birds of prey are specifically persecuted and so it’s not surprising to learn that Malta’s last remaining resident pairs of peregrine falcons and barn owls were all shot by hunters.

In 2009, volunteers at BirdLife’s annual raptor camp found the remains of over 200 birds stashed away in the Mizieb woodland and the reports and video footage captured by BirdLife staff and volunteers show that hunters are prepared to flaunt the laws protecting wild birds right under the noses of the authorities.

The presence of dedicated conservationists and their links with the local police may help to deter some poachers on the islands yet the confiscation of smyrna kingfishers and lappet-faced vultures from Maltese hunters after visits to north Africa shows just how far some individuals are willing to go to carry out their killings. It is thought that Maltese poachers bribed their way in to Egypt’s Gebel Elba National Park before smuggling guns and ammunition through various checkpoints. But Egypt is not the only other important site for conservation where birds are at risk on the Mediterranean. It is believed that bird trapping in nearby Cyprus accounted for an estimated 261,000 birds on the island during spring this year. Top conservation blog ‘Migrations‘ gives more in-depth information on the situation in Cyprus where many migratory birds are trapped for the restaurant industry. But if you want to help put a stop to the illegal killing of thousands of birds each year and also get to see the biannual spectacle of this mass migration then check out BirdLife Malta‘s autumn Raptor Camp and its springtime equivalent Spring Watch.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

Too big for our skies?

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

With Natural England and the RSPB carrying out yet more research, assessments and feasibility studies to see if a reintroduction of White-tailed (Sea) Eagles into Suffolk will have a detrimental impact on the livestock farming industry in the area, one would be forgiven for thinking they were readying themselves for a good old-fashioned western duel, not initiating a conservation project. The immortal threat of ‘this town ain’t big enough for the both of us’ permeates the attitude of the old-fashioned society that these conservation bodies are up against, generally intolerant of anything with a predatory disposition. Unfortunately for our birds of prey, far too many ‘conservationists’ fall into this club as well, intent solely on protecting pretty song birds and ground-nesting game birds.

It’s astonishing the number of people that I’ve met over the last year or more who all regurgitate the same line of ‘there’ll be nothing left’ when the topic of a White-tailed Eagle reintroduction comes up, as if the bird is some rabid tiger with huge pterodactyl wings. Yes, they are known to take lambs but there are measures that can be taken that don’t include poison or firearms. The birds, mammals and fish that we see around us in Britain today all survived the period when the eagle lived here naturally before we extirpated them, so what would be different if they were to be reintroduced? Or have our interests in self-preservation reached such levels that we honestly believe there is no space for any top predators other than ourselves?

But, with it being the International Year of Biodiversity, I shall try to remain optimistic. After all, Natural England does seem optimistic about starting formal consultation on the reintroduction issue in the second half of this year. Perhaps one day we will see this magnificent bird return to English skies. But for now, in defiance and celebration rather than pessimism and nostalgia, here’s a series of photographs from my last couple of visits to Scotland showing both wild and captive birds doing what White-tailed Eagles do best. Wouldn’t it be great to see this along England’s coast once again…

Land of giants

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

The recent storms in South Africa’s northern Limpopo Province may have been big but they measure up against the region’s landscapes and wildlife. From its trees to its birds, mammals and the river itself, the valley of the great Limpopo River is a land of giants!

The vast landscapes of this place near where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana meet are dominated by baobabs. These colossal trees support a whole community of wildlife – elephants eat the bark, bats feed on the nectar of the flowers (and in turn pollinate them) and barn owls roost and nest in holes in their large boughs. Many particularly large trees still bear the pegs that allowed humans to climb up and collect rain water collected in troughs in the boughs. In such a hot climate in a place where ground water will have been shared with wild animals, this would have been a vital source of fresh water…if you can reach it.

During the dry winter months, large herds of elephants move into the valley from dryer areas over the river in Botswana. The riverine forest comes alive with a mass of grey bodies shepherding their youngsters and hoovering-up vegetation and the remaining water.

Herds of eland, Africa’s largest antelope, also roam the plains of the valley. Like in much of their range, black rhino’s are here but they are hard to see. The larger and more common white rhino has become synonymous with the Limpopo valley since the discovery in 1932 of a little golden rhino at the World Heritage Site at Mapungubwe.

Even the birds here are big enough to make small children and dog owners feel wary. Black eagles rule by day, surveying the land for their quarry from a perch high up on a sandstone cliff or by soaring the thermals on huge wings. The floodplains are home to marauding secretarybirds, storks, ground hornbills and kori bustards, the heaviest flying bird in the world, while the night is owned by owls. The elusive and sought-after Pel’s fishing owl uses the large trees lining the river to roost in by day and hunt from by night. Also in the riverine bush, hunting silently on a two-metre wingspan in almost complete darkness, the giant (or Verreaux’s) eagle owl hawks for birds and small mammals.

But as rich in wildlife and archaeology as this valley is, it is a landscape under threat. If proposed coal mining in the area is allowed to go ahead, pollution is not only likely to threaten the local ecosystem but important sites further down the Limpopo River system in the Kruger National Park and Mozambique as well.

Plans for the mine at Vele, just six kilometres east of the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site, also threaten to derail proposals for a major transfrontier conservation area between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, a scheme committed to by the government. The Endangered Wildlife Trust and BirdLife South Africa are just two of the many organisations fighting the mining application. And while no-one can be certain what either the short-term or lasting affects of the mine will be on this overlooked and sacred corner of South Africa, with so much to experience in this land of giants, my advice is to go there and to go there now!

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

White-tailed Eagles, part 2

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2009 by Neil Aldridge

9M6J2897crop2I recently returned to Scotland to try and get the shots of white-tailed eagles I felt I was missing from my last visit. The weather was perfect on all 4 days, giving me the chance to capture the eagles hunting at a higher shutter speed and a lower ISO.

While all seemed rosy with perfect conditions for the eagles to feed their chicks, truth be known these were one of the lucky pairs after a spell of bad weather had hit western Scotland earlier this spring, meaning that many nests have failed this year.

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The weather I can put down to luck but the timing wasn’t by chance. I’d planned my visit to Skye for a few weeks after the chicks would be likely to hatch so that the adults would be hunting twice as hard to feed their growing chicks and to keep themselves in shape, providing me with more opportunities to get the shots I was after.

9M6J2769cWith some shots already in the bag from the previous day with the 1d mark3 and the calmest, brightest day of the lot upon us, the timing seemed perfect to try the new 5d mark2 with a 1.4x teleconverter and 400mm f2.8 combination. But, true to the unpredictable nature of photographing wildlife, the eagles didn’t want to budge from their nest, content with digesting the sea bird they had killed before our arrival on the scene earlier that morning.

In the end I had to be happy with what I’d captured on the first morning and this gave me the chance to see what other wildlife was thriving alongside the eagles on the island.

The trip provided me with my best views of golden eagles and one of my most memorable encounters with a pair of otters. Also, knowing that cuckoos are having a hard time of it at the moment, it made it all the more rewarding that by the end of the trip we’d seen 5 of these charismatic birds. In true Scottish style however, the warm weather following spring rains also meant one other thing – midges!

In all, it was again plain to see how important white-tailed eagles are to the local community. Sentimentality aside, a bad nesting season such as this one can have knock-on effects for tourism and the local economy and that came across in my conversations with those people whose lives are intrinsically linked to the presence of these magnificent birds.

White-tailed Eagles

Posted in UK Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by Neil Aldridge

What a week! To spend a week photographing in April in west Scotland and to not have any rain is good going, plus to see six white-tailed eagles and interraction between pairs at three of Mull’s nesting sites was something special!

The white-tailed eagle (also known as the sea eagle) is the UK’s largest bird of prey and the 4th largest eagle in the world. While I’m used to photographing large birds in Africa like the martial eagle, let me tell you…these birds are huge!

White-tailed eagles were persecuted to extinction in England 200 years ago and the UK’s last bird was shot in Scotland in the early 1900’s. It wasn’t until 1975 that a reintroduction programme in Scotland’s western isles was implemented using birds from Norway.

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Ferries carry hundreds of thousands of visitors to Mull each year and with eagle watching related tourism generating upwards of £1million annually for Mull’s economy, the reintroduction programme is clearly economically viable.

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After the success of the eagles on the west coast, a project to develop a population in East Scotland is now also underway. However, it seems that the English public will have to wait for further consultation and debate to conclude before they get the chance to see white-tailed eagles fishing Norfolk’s waters after plans for a reintroduction programme there were met with resistance.

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It is the threat to livestock, especially lambs, and amber conservation status birds like the avocet that concerns those opposed to the planned reintroduction in Norfolk. However, white-tailed eagles enjoy a varied diet, eating mainly fish and carrion. Based on experience of eagle management in Scotland, there is also a belief that wild eagles can be tought to feed on rabbits and other food rather than lambs by carrion being carefully situated.

wind turbineDespite their green credentials, the threat wind turbines pose to white-tailed eagles is a concern to conservationists and with further wind farms planned for the North Sea and east coast, any reintroduction of eagles to Norfolk could be affected.

Having seen how communities in developing countries in Africa deal with the very real threat of losing livestock to lions, leopards and wild dogs, I would really hope that the landowners, gamekeepers, conservationists and government of a modern, wealthy and forward-thinking country would be able to reach a responsible agreement over the reintroduction of a bird species. But you tell me…are white-tailed eagles too big for our skies? Cast your vote…