Reflections about wildlife and nature photography.
Polar Bear Adoption?
Polar Bear Adoption? For Mother’s Day I wanted to share the story of a special polar bear mom. When we first came upon her in the sea ice we were excited to see a mom with 3 cubs. Seeing triplet cubs is extremely rare in the wild, partially because triplets don’t occur frequently, but also because the cub survival rate is low. In the early 2000's USGS estimated that only 43% of cubs survived their first year. These cubs are 1.5 years old so the odds of seeing triplets at that age are low but not impossible. After the sighting as we zoomed into our photos we realized that one cub had been tagged with a small white device in his ear. Our guides thought this was strange as a scientific team would tag the whole family. Based on a documented case of a polar bear adopting another cub they believed that what we were seeing was an adoption where the mom was taking care of another cub in addition to her own pair. Perhaps during an encounter on the ice a cub had mistakenly followed the wrong mom. After the trip one of the guides contacted the Polar Bear Institute who confirmed that they had not tagged only one cub in a family. While we will never know exactly how this family of 4 came to be it was still amazing to see this mom providing for 3 growing yearlings in a world of diminishing sea ice and shorter feeding seasons. All three cubs looked fat and healthy when we saw them in 2017.
Have a happy Mother’s Day!
If you would like to see more images from our trip see our website: Svalbard 2017
California Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) are one of my favorite birds. They combine a distinctive mix of graceful flight with awkward clumsiness on land that make them so much fun to watch. January is the best time to view them because they are particular beautiful in their mating colors: bright red pouches, yellow heads and dark brown necks. La Jolla Cove in San Diego, California is a stunning place to view the flocks that gather there.
Brown Pelicans Facts
One of the unique aspects of Brown Pelicans compared to other pelican species is that they can dive from as high as 60 feet in the air to catch fish. The pelicans are protected from impact by a special network of air sacs under their skin, however the fish aren't so lucky. These dives can stun fish for 6 feet underwater.
Pelican pouches can stretch to hold about 3 gallons which is 3 times the amount their stomach can hold. After catching a fish they will typically drain the water then swallow the fish head fir…
In one corner we have a crocodile - 1500 lbs, 80 tearing teeth, excels at surprise hunting attacks. In the other corner is hippopotamus 3000 lbs, a huge advantage in weight with thick tough skin. Who wins as they meet face to face?
We've all seen videos of crocodiles taking out wildebeest and zebras. Have you ever wondered how crocs and hippos interact? They both spend much of their time in the rivers of Africa. I had the privilege of learning first hand when a hippo died near it's pod. Crocodiles have an incredible sense of smell and over the next few days they came from miles up/down river to feed on the carcass. When they were done feasting they would bask in the sun on the nearby banks and sandbars. This hippo did not like the crocs resting in the area so he walked along the sandbar and one by one the crocs moved out of his way. This particular croc was bigger and stood his ground for a bit before deciding he could find another spot.
Not all wildlife photos have an interesting story behind them, but
when nature stories unfold before you it is an amazing experience. I
remember watching Wild Kingdom as a child and more recently National Geographic
or BBC documentaries. However, nothing can compare to multi-sensory
experiencing of being there. This photo represents the story
of a male leopard cub. The mother had hunted earlier that day and the partially
eaten carcass was in a tree - yes you could smell it. Below that tree the
female cub was eating one of the legs. The male cub had been exploring
but it was getting dark and he returned to the tree. However the female
would not let him approach the tree fiercely growling and hissing to keep him
away. Our guide indicated that this is normal and that when one of the
cubs feeds even the mom cannot get close. We started to hear hyenas off
in the distance. They are nocturnal and although they can hunt, in Lower
Zambezi National Park, Zambia their favorite food source is…