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The Early Bird
Early evening in the Linyanti region of Botswana, this Southern Red-Billed Hornbill was the “Early Bird that catches the worm”. It swooped down, grabbed the worm and then flew up and onto a branch where he proceeded to bash it about before finally swallowing it whole.
Southern Red-Billed Hornbill - Tockus rufirostris
A fairly small Hornbill with a rather short red bill. It has white-spotted wing coverts, pale face and white throat.
Nikon D5 with Nikkor VR 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens and a 1.4x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm1/3200 sec @ f14, Auto ISO 4500
Photograph by Trevor Woodburn
These two oceanic Blacktip Sharks were competing for sardine pieces at the surface. They are resident off the KwaZulu-Natal coast of South Africa and is a regular attendant at the Shark feeding and diving venue, Aliwal Shoal, 5km offshore of Scottborough bathing beach. Divers can interact closely with these Sharks without the need for a cage provided they comply with behaviour styles so as not to incite the Sharks to think they are food. These Sharks have grown large as a by-product of the Tiger Shark baiting programme.
Oceanic Blacktip Shark - Carcharhinus Limbatus
This a common Shark which is distributed throughout the coastal tropical and subtropical waters around the world. The species is known to grow to a length of 2m. The Shark has a strong streamlined body with a fusiform shape and long pointed snout with relatively small eyes. The gill slits are long and they can have black tips or edges to their pectoral, dorsal, pelvic or caudal fins. They are extremely fast, energetic predators sometimes breaching the surface and swimming erratically when hunting fish.
Nikon D300 Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX, 10mm F13 at 1/50th sec, ISO 200, Sea & Sea Housing and Two Sea & Sea YS250 strobes on ¼ power. Taken on scuba at 1m at Aliwal Shoal, Kwa-Zulu Natal , South Africa
Photograph by Andrew Woodburn
This clan was rising from the desert night in summer amongst the dew wet grass. Many had damp fur and were drying out in the morning sun as they stood collectively looking for danger. Tentatively at first but with increasing confidence the pups soon emerged to join the generations of their mob on the red sandy mound outside their burrow. They played and rolled around at the feet of their parents before days foraging began
Meerkat Mob –Suricata suricatta
The meerkat is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family (Herpestidae). Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan". A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild. The meerkat is small, weighing on average about 0.5 to 2.5 The meerkat uses its tail to balance when standing upright, as well as for signaling. At the end of each of a meerkat's "fingers" is a claw used for digging burrows and digging for prey. The patterns of stripes are unique to each meerkat. The underside of the meerkat has no markings, but the belly has a patch which is only sparsely covered with hair and shows the black skin underneath. The meerkat uses this area to absorb heat while standing on its rear legs, usually early in the morning after cold desert nights.
Nikon D2Xs, DX format, Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 APO DG OS lens @ 150mm, 1/320th sec @ f6.3, ISO 560
Late afternoon in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, this male Red Lechwe darted across a wet floodplain kicking up a spray of water droplets as it splashed through the water.
Red Lechwe -Kobus leche
A sturdy, long-horned antelope that lives at the water’s edge. It has overdeveloped hindquarters, hooves elongated with wide splay and adjacent naked skin, that are aquatic adaptations.
Nikon D5 with Nikkor VR 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with 1.4x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm1/2500 sec @ f13, Auto ISO 57000
This Wildebeest had just been sand bathing in a scrape in the red Kalahari sands post the rain. The red dust stuck to it like a woman’s makeup coating his hair and providing a colourful evening sight as well as a useful way of getting rid of parasites and defending its hide from flies. It added even more to the comical appearance of these animals who seem to be made up of a mixture of parts from various antelope species.
Blue Wildebeest –Connochaetes taurinus
The Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), also called the common Wildebeest, White-bearded Wildebeest or Brindled Gnu, is a large antelope. This broad-shouldered antelope has a muscular, front-heavy appearance, with a distinctive robust muzzle. Young Bblue Wildebeest are born tawny brown, and begin to take on their adult colouration at the age of two months. Both sexes possess a pair of large curved horns. The Blue Wildebeest is a herbivore, feeding primarily on the short grasses. It forms herds which move about in loose aggregations, the animals being fast runners and extremely wary. Blue Wildebeest are found in short grass plains bordering bush-covered acacia savannas in southern and eastern Africa, thriving in areas that are neither too wet nor too arid. Three African populations of Blue Wildebeest take part in a long-distance migration.
Nikon D7000, DX format, Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 APO DG OS lens @ 250mm, 1/400th sec @ f6.3, ISO 6400
Early morning in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, this Back-Backed Jackal was seen running through the long grass when he suddenly crouched down and peeked through the beautiful dry grass seeds using these grass blades as camouflage.
Black-Backed Jackal -Canis mesomelas
Handsome jackal with a distinct saddle of black and silver hair, also known as Silver-Backed Jackal. Weighs around 7 to 14 kg and is reddish brown to tan, redder on flanks and legs; saddle of raised black and white hairs; black tipped tail; underparts and throat are white.
Nikon D5 with Nikkor VR 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with a 1.4x Teleconverter, effective focal length 500mm1/3200 sec @ f14, Auto ISO 3200
Stingray Swim by
This Blotched Fantail Stingray sometimes known as a Bull Ray was found flying effortlessly over the deep reef looking for a sandy patch to settle down on and dissapear beneath the seabed. These Rays rest by day and are more active hunting at night but in this case it was quite curious about the divers wanting its photo. The motion of swimming by moving its round disk makes it seem like a magic carpet waving in the wind and while it seems tame and effortless this is the type of Ray responsible for Steve Irwin’s death by using the sharp barb at the base of its tail.
Blotched fantail ray - Taeniura Meyenie
The common name for the Blotched Fantail Ray comes from its coloration and tail flap. The upper surface is a pattern of black, grey and white spots and blotches which ends abruptly at the edges of the circular-shaped body. The pattern continues along the tail to the one or two spines where the colour changes to black or dark grey. The very edges of the body disc are white like the belly. This Ray lives throughout the coastal waters of the tropics. It is common on coral reefs where it feeds on bottom-dwelling animals. While the Stingray is approachable and at times curious, it should be treated with respect; at least one human fatality has been attributed to this ray.
Nikon D300, AF Sigma 10-20mm D lens, 10mm, 1/20th sec @ f5, ISO 200 Sea & Sea Housing and Two Sea & Sea YS250 strobes on ¼ power. Taken on scuba at 41m at Deep Pinnacle, southern Mozambique
In the desert of the Kalahari where the arid region bakes for much of the year, the rain is scarce and a miracle maker. Flowers and insects all flourish post the rain for a short period when the life cycle of most species needs to complete in short order. The colours and smells are intense and so is the need to feed and reproduce in Tswalu reserve during dusk.
Armoured Ground Cricket – Acanthoplus discoidalis
The Armoured Ground Cricket is a wide-bodied, flightless species that typically grows to a body length of about 5 cm. The pronotum bears several sharp, conical spines. The mandibles, or main biting jaws, are powerful; they can inflict a painful nip and they permit the insect to feed on material such as tough herbage or carrion. Another defense against predators is reflex bleeding (also called "autohaemorrhaging") in which the insects squirt haemolymph from pores in their exoskeleton, achieving a range of a few centimetres. Especially when their diet is deficient in protein and salt, members of the species commonly become cannibalistic, so much so that when their populations peak in autumn and some of them stray across roads and are crushed by traffic, cannibalistic conspecifics congregate around the casualties and feed until they, in turn, are killed.
Nikon D300, DX format, AF-Nikkor 105mm f 2.8 Macro lens, 1/80th sec @ f11, ISO 800
Later afternoon in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, this Leopard climbed a very tall dead tree and chose a comfortable branch on which to lay and survey the panoramic view before him. While he lay there the moon was seen to slowly rise and peer out from behind the some misty clouds.
Leopard -Panthera pardus
Leopards embody feline beauty with stealth, infinite patience and power. A Leopard will get to within 5 m of its quarry before pouncing, taking it completely by surprise. Tremendously strong, these cats can carry a 70 kg Impala to a feeding position up a tree.
Nikon D5, 20 megapixel resolution with Nikkor VR80 – 400mm f4.5 – 5.6G lens with Nikon 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 135mm, 1/800 sec @ f16, Auto ISO 2800
“Back-off, Big Boy!”
With evening rapidly approaching on the Chobe River, this plucky little Africa Jacana was sitting on eggs in its net which had been built on the floating vegetation. An old male Buffalo waded into the water towards the nest and threatened to destroy the nest and its precious eggs. The Jacana reared up with its wings spread out and it bellowed loudly in an effort to chase away the approaching buffalo who then retreated and waded off in a different direction.
African Jacana – Actophilornis africanus
This bird has a distinctive rich chestnut body, white neck, yellow upper breast, black and white head with a blue frontal shield. The Female Jacana mates with many different males who then incubate, hatch and raise the chicks.
African or Cape Buffalo - Syncerus caffer.Massive build with short, powerful limbs and cow’s tail. Broad head with wide mouth, moist nostrils and drooping, fringed ears. The size and shape of the horns reflect sex and age.
Nikon D5 with Nikkor VR80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with Nikon 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 390mm, 1/3200 sec @ f16, Auto ISO 22800
From Heaven to Earth
On the river banks of the Sabie river after a 44o Celsius day the thunder clouds of Cumulo Nibus storms were seen to be windblown towards the north. This vantage point allowed us to see the lightning flashing and reflecting of the rivers surface lighting up the sand and islands.
Lightning is a sudden electrostatic discharge that occurs during a thunderstorm. This discharge occurs between electrically charged regions of a cloud (called intra-cloud lightning or IC), between two clouds (CC lightning), or between a cloud and the ground (CG lightning).
The charged regions in the atmosphere temporarily equalize themselves through this discharge referred to as a strike if it hits an object on the ground, and a flash, if it occurs within a cloud. Lightning causes light in the form of plasma, and sound in the form of thunder. Lightning may be seen and not heard when it occurs at a distance too great for the sound to carry as far as the light from the strike or flash.
Nikon D300, DX format, AF-S VR-Nikkor10-200mm f 3.5-5.6 lens, Manual at 32mm, 30 sec @ f9, ISO 100
This Oceanic Blacktip Shark is resident off the KwaZulu-Natal coast of South Africa and is a regular attendant at the shark feeding and diving venue, Aliwal Shoal, 5km offshore of Scottborough bathing beach. Divers can interact closely with these sharks without the need for a cage provided they comply with behaviour styles so as not to incite the sharks to think they are food. These sharks have grown large as a by-product of the Tiger Shark baiting programme and are often accompanied by remora fish. The bite marks on the gill slits are from mating where the male holds the female during intercourse.
Oceanic Blacktip Shark - Carcharhinus limbatus
This is a common shark which is distributed throughout the coastal tropical and subtropical waters of the world. The species is known to grow to a length of 2m. The shark has a strong streamlined body with a fusiform shape and long pointed snout with relatively small eyes. The gill slits are long and they can have black tips or edges to their pectoral, dorsal, pelvic or caudal fins. They are extremely fast, energetic predators sometimes breaching the surface and swimming erratically when hunting fish.
Nikon D300 Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX, 10mm F16 at 1/60th sec, ISO 200, Sea & Sea Housing and Two Sea & Sea YS250 strobes on ¼ power. Taken on scuba at 10m at Aliwal Shoal, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Very late afternoon in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, this female lechwe enjoyed jumping over rivers in the flood plains and in the process created trails of water droplets as it flew through the air before landing on the opposite bank.
Lechwe - Kobus leche
The lechwe have overdeveloped hindquarters, hooves elongated with wide splay and adjacent naked skins which are aquatic adaptations. The female weighs around 80kg and has a greasy coat with a distinctive small, shaggy neck mane. Their colour varies geographically, chestnut with white underparts, tail, throat and facial markings with conspicuous black markings running down the legs, and black-tipped tail.
Nikon D5 with Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with 1,4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm, 1/3200 sec @ f14, ISO 3600
Photograph by Trevor Woodburn
This group of pups was rising from the desert night in summer amongst the dewy wet grass. Tentatively at first, but with increasing confidence, the pups followed the adults from the underground den to join the generations of their mob on the red sandy mound. Many had damp fur and were drying out in the morning sun as they stood collectively huddled for warmth and safety. They played and rolled around at the feet of their parents before the day’s foraging began.
Meerkat - Suricata suricatta
The meerkat is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family (Herpestidae). Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang” or “clan”. A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super- families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12 - 14 years, and about half this in the wild. The meerkat is small, weighing on average about 0.5 - 2.5kg. The meerkat uses its tail to balance when standing upright, as well as for signaling. At the end of each of a meerkat’s “fingers” is a claw used for digging burrows and digging for prey. The patterns of stripes are unique to each meerkat. The underside of the meerkat has no markings, but the belly has a patch which is only sparsely covered with hair and shows the black skin underneath. The meerkat uses this area to absorb heat while standing on its rear legs, usually early in the morning after cold desert nights.
Nikon D2Xs, DX format, Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 APO DG OS lens @ 222mm, 1/500th sec @ f6.3, ISO 800
Mid-morning on the banks of the Chobe River, Botswana, a flock of Helmeted Guineafowl came down to the river’s edge to drink, creating a delightful reflection of colours as they dipped their beaks into the water.
Helmeted Guineafowl - Numida meleagris
A large, well-known game bird with blue-grey plumage, uniformly spotted with white. Head pattern varies geographically, but generally naked blue and red with check wattles and a pale casque on the crown. Males have a larger casque than females. Often flock in hundreds.
Nikon D5 with Nikon 80- 400mm f4.5- 5.6G lens with 1,4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 400mm, 1/2500 sec @ f11, ISO 2200
Late afternoon in the Ngala Private Game Reserve, a concession within the Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga, this young leopard was found resting in a tree and looking upward in a very pensive mood.
Leopard - Panthera pardus
Leopards embody feline beauty with stealth, infinite patience and power. A leopard will get to within 5m of its quarry before pouncing, taking it completely by surprise. Tremendously strong, these cats can carry a 70kg impala to a feeding position up a tree.
Nikon D5 with Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with Nikon 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 440mm, 1/1600 sec @ f14, ISO 45600
Mid-morning on the Chobe River, Botswana, this elephant waded into the deep section of the river to gain access to young water lilies which he then proceeded to extract with his trunk and, in the process, created a huge spray of water.
Elephant - Loxodonta africana
Elephants are the largest land animal, Africa’s true King of Beasts and weigh up to 6,000kg (male) and 3,500kg (female), with a height of 3.3m (male) and 2.5m (female). The trunk is a muscular extension of the upper lip containing the nostrils, and the tip is equipped with two finger-like projections for handling small objects. Huge ears, up to 1.5m, flap on still, hot days to help cool blood flowing through the network of veins on their back surface. Tusks grow continuously, weighing up to 13kg each and can reach a length of 2.5m.
Nikon D5 with Nikkon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with Nikon 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 220mm, 1/4000 sec @ f14, ISO 2800
Late afternoon on the banks of the Chobe River, Botswana, this Savanna Baboon was sitting silently with its head on its hand in a typically human pose. Apparently a baboon has 98% of human DNA which is reflected in much of its behaviour.
Savanna Baboon - Papio cynocephalus
The Savanna Baboon is a big monkey with a dog-like head with powerful build and shoulders higher than its withers, and sturdy limbs. A typical male can weigh between 30 and 45kg. They have close-set eyes below a prominent brow ridge, sizeable nearly hairless ears, a long muzzle and powerful jaws. Baboons are the most widespread African primate, a tramp species found through savanna and arid zones wherever water and secure sleeping places i.e. trees or cliffs occur.
Nikon D5 with Nikon 80-400mm f4.5 – 5.6G lens with 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm, 1/1000 sec @ f8, ISO 9000
Late morning on the Chobe River, Botswana, this Squacco Heron was foraging among the water lilies when it suddenly took off, displaying the beautiful patterns of its white wings.
Squacco Heron - Ardeola ralloides
A small, buff and white heron, with a heavy, dark-tipped bill. At rest it appears mostly buff and brown with white underparts. In flight, white wings and tail are prominent. Common resident and local nomad along vegetated lakes, pans and slow moving rivers, skulks in long grass and sits motionless for long periods.
Nikon D5 with Nikkon 80-400mm f4.5 – 5.6G lens with 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm, 1/3200 sec @ f13, ISO 2000
This tiny frog was found quite comfortable inside a yellow flower smaller than the size of my hand in the hedge of the airport while I waited for a plane that never arrived. This was due to the Tsunami that hit Thailand and hence I had plenty of time on my hands to peer into countless flowers looking for insects. The frog was perfectly camouflaged to imitate the colour of the flower, no doubt waiting for some sort of insect to pollenate the flower and become a frog snack. One can get a sense of scale by the drop of water above the frog to the right.
Reed Frog - Heterixalus
A small Heterixalus back is whitish with small black spots. Colour at night yellowish-brown, during the day bright white. A black streak runs from nostril to eye. Heterixalus is a species of frog in the Hyperoliidae family endemic to Madagascar. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, swamps, freshwater marshes, and intermittent freshwater marshes, arable land, urban areas, heavily degraded former forests, ponds, irrigated land, and seasonally flooded agricultural land which occurs in central eastern Madagascar. Snout vent length 23mm, head width 8mm; eye diameter 3.1mm.
Nikon D70 Nikkor 105mm F2.8 Macro, F20 @ 1/50th sec, ISO 200 Taken by hand in the hedge at Maroantsetra airport in Madagascar.
This turtle was found happily munching away on a sponge growing on an undersea ridge on Aliwal Shoal. The ridge creates strong water flow delivering food which the sponge uses to grow and the turtle seemed to have no problems holding his breath while tearing pieces off the sponge for a meal. One diver was even able to take a selfie next to the turtle whilst he continued his meal. After what seemed an age he lazily headed for the surface for his next breath only to descend and continue where he left off.
Green Turtle - Chelonia mydas
On the Green Turtle there are only four shell plates either side of the central row and these plates do not overlap – the loggerhead has five. Females are usually darker than males, the shell appearing almost tie-dyed in rich browns and ochres. The forelimbs have a single claw each and the bill is not hooked. Green Turtles are resident in southern Africa however, they do not nest on our shores. The nearest breeding grounds are on the islands of Europa and Tromelin in the Mozambique Channel. The females lay only 600 eggs each season in batches of 150 every 12 days. Adults feed almost exclusively on algae and marine plants often entering estuaries to do so. Green Turtles are under threat from hunting and egg collection. Nikon D300 Nikkor 10.5mm F2.8 Fisheye, F10 @ 1/50th sec, ISO 200, Sea & Sea Housing and Two Sea & Sea YS250 strobes on ¼ power. Taken on scuba at 10m at Aliwal Shoal, South Africa.
Late afternoon in the Okavango Delta, this female cheetah and her two cubs were found moving through thick bush that was covered in beautiful small blue flowers.
Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
A cheetah is a cat with a greyhound chassis. It is built for speed, is light boned, swaybacked with long thin legs and a short neck. Cheetah are tawny in colour with small, solid black spots; white underparts, outer tail ringed black and white, black ear backs, lips, nose and distinctive “tear stains”. Cheetahs are specialised predators on the fleetest of plains antelopes.
Nikon D5 with 80-400mm f4.5 – 5.6G lens with 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm, 1/1000 sec @ f11, ISO 720