Saturday 4 June 2016

Racing around the Pacific

Well this year has been another whirlwind so far, hard to believe we are into June already!  No way...yes way!

Since my last post on 1 Mar as I finished up a New Zealand tour for Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ there has been a lot happening...hence the delay in another blog post!  Although, it has been nice to spend a little more time at home between trips, and the last few trips have seen me at home for almost three weeks in between - a record I think, and something to strive for.  Makes the time at home more relaxing, and the time away even more special.

So later in March it was a trip to the Philippines with Zegrahm Expeditions, starting in Sandakan, and then heading up through some amazing places to Manila where we finished.  The islands of the Philippines are an amazing place to visit, and the people just an absolute joy to spend time with.  I managed to do a little birding, but was mainly involved in zodiac and snorkel operations, taking photos for the slideshow and book, and being a general naturalist.  The snorkelling (and diving) were incredible, with some incredible diversity and some really beautiful and isolated reef systems visited along the way - Apo and Tubbataha to name a couple.

Watching a massive seabird colony on one of the sand islands on Tubbataha Reef

MV Caledonian Sky in a spectacular backdrop

Snorkelling in gin clear water

Meeting the locals working the rice fields

Philippines tarsier roosting during the day

Snorkelling beside rainforests

Beautiful waterfall on Ticao Island

So had some time at home after the Philippines and then headed to the Kimberley in Australia.  I really love this area, and not just for the wildlife, the scenery is just incredible and every day there's more to see.  We started the trip in Broome and headed through the Kimberley to Darwin, again a trip with Zegrahm Expeditions. The geology is really old, but very intact, so in some of the areas the sandstones are almost 2 billion years old, but still perfectly horizontal and showing the beds that they were laid down in.  We encountered a couple of crocodiles - of course one of the critters that everyone wants to see on this trip - and a few birds as well.  But this wasn't helped but the VERY hot conditions still being experienced in late April, with temperatures up near 40 degrees C every day.  They had had a very dry wet season, with not a lot of rain, so it was going to be a long dry season with some pretty parched countryside.  We explored many of the usual spots along the coast, but also a few new ones, which is always nice.  And got out in the early morning and late evening, which always makes for some nice photography.  Again I was in charge of the slideshow and images, so spent a lot of time with camera in hand...we all know I hate that! ;)

Walking the roads near Broome Bird Observatory...look at that red dirt!

You just have to love the sunsets in the Kimberley!

Brown booby flying over to have a look at us at the Lacepedes.

Male lesser frigatebird scooping up some food from the water, not all food is 'stolen' from other birds.

Although some of it is -here a young frigate bird chases down a crested tern with a fish. It didn't get it!

Sun rising on the cliffs near the Horizontal Waterfalls

A view into the raging Horizontal Waterfalls at peak tide when the tides are big.

Two rainbow bee-eaters perched in the shade.

Stunning tilted sandstones in Cyclone Creek.

Up before sunrise to enjoy the amazing Montgomery Reef.

A white reef egret stalks prey on the exposed corals of Montgomery Reef - getting artsy against the light!

Heading up the Prince Regent River on a pretty nice day.

Looks kind of weird, but a shot up at the ceiling in a cave.

A male osprey returns to the nest with a fish.

A rock fig growing straight out of a sandstone boulder.

Another sunset, this time from a beach after a beach BBQ.

One of the beautiful icons of the Kimberley coast, a boab tree, as the sun goes down.

And the same tree from a different angle, again getting artsy.

Mertens' water monitor in the King George.

Estuarine crocodile 'smiling' at us from the shore, on the way up the King George.

Another tree growing out of the sandstone, this time a mangrove.

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