Wildlife photography has been my hobby since 1960. Since then I have built a collection of thousands of memorable images that I captured in the wild around this beautiful planet we inhabit. This collection resulted in a 200 page coffee table book titled “Odyssey into the Wild” which was published in 2014. The book gives a greater focus on the big cats of the animal world. However, during the last few years, I concentrated mainly on bird photography and have travelled extensively to countries such as Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, Columbia, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Japan, China, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia and was able to capture excellent images of many bird species, some of which are endemic to each country or to the region.
According to most birder checklists used by bird watches as well as by scientists, the documented number of the bird species found in the world are around 10,000 while more new species are discovered and added to the checklist all the time. Interestingly, new research led by the American Museum of Natural History has come up with the opinion that there are about 18,000 bird species on our planet. I have given priority to search for Kingfishers where possible. There are around 120 species of this beautiful bird found all around the world, except for the polar regions. Most species of Kingfishers are found in Asia, Australia and Africa in wooded tropical areas near water.
It was during the months of May, June and July 2019 that I visited China, and Indonesia followed by Papua New Guinea for bird photography.
In China, my tour was planned from 25th May for five nights, covering a few nature reserves and birding locations in Baihualing, Nabang and Yingjiang in Yunnan province. On this tour, over 85 bird species were sighted. A German national named Mr Thomas, who is a birder I met during my first birding tour to Papua New Guinea in 2018, was very helpful in organizing the tour. He is a teacher living in Kunming. However, out of all the bird species that I spotted, the only Kingfisher we sighted was the very colourful Oriental Dwarf also known as the Three-toed Kingfisher.
After a very successful photographic tour to Yunnan province in China, I flew to Manado in Indonesia on the 31st May to continue my bird safari for the next two weeks. This segment of the tour was well planned and assisted by Irawan Halir, a birding guide from Tangkoko in Manado. On the 1st June, we boarded a flight from Manado to Sorong in West Papua, followed by a ferry ride to Waigeo Island in Raja Ampat on the same day for a three night stay. The main attraction here was the Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise which is endemic to Raja Ampat island. Two species of kingfishers; Common Paradise Kingfisher and Rufous-Bellied Kookaburra were also photographed.
We flew back to Manado on the 4th June and took a two hour drive from the airport to Tangkoko, where we stayed for the next four nights. Most of my time was spent in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve. I was able to photograph six Kingfishers namely Collared, Green-backed, Lilac-cheeked, Sulawesi Dwarf, Great-billed and Ruddy Kingfisher in Tangkoko.
On the 8th June we flew from Manado to Ternate. We stayed overnight in Ternate and the following morning took a hour long speed boat ride to Halmahera Island. During our three nights stay on the Island, four more Kingfishers were photographed namely the Little, the Blue and White, the Beach and the Sombre.
We returned to Manado, the capital city of North Sulawesi on 13th June. The night was spent in Tomohon in the mountains, an hour’s drive from the city in search of the Scaly Breasted Kingfisher, endemic to central and southwestern Sulawesi in Indonesia. It took almost an hour by foot in the Mahawu mountains in search of the bird when Irawan and his assistant managed to spot it. I was able to photograph both the male and the female.
During my two week tour in Indonesia, I photographed thirteen species of Kingfishes and sighted at least another 100 other bird species including the Ivory-breasted Pitta and the North Moluccan Pitta. Most of them were new to me.
There are 43 known species of Bird of Paradise in the world while 38 of them are found in Papua New Guinea (PNG). In mid July, I spent two weeks in PNG focusing on Birds of Paradise, mainly the Blue Bird of Paradise, the bird I missed to photograph during my first visit to PNG in 2018. In addition, I was able to sight the Brown-headed Paradise, Azure and the Yellow-billed Kingfisher.
During 2019, I would have photographed over 30 species of Kingfishers; more than 25% of the total number of Kingfisher varieties found on Planet Earth.