Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

February 23, 2010

Brazil – Pacajá day 2

Filed under: February — Hennie van Heerden @ 9:51 pm

The day started very early; 5 o’clock in the morning I started off with Benito DoSoura to go to the forest base camp of Cikel. Of course the ultimate goal was to find the notorious jaguar, a sighting that gets reported every once in a while on the forest roads. But I knew that it would be a very small chance. But still, you never know.

It was still dark when we left. The sun just came up when we entered the gates of the base camp deep in the forest. Also here, all of the houses were painted in those gorgeous pastel colors as in Pacajá. As it is rainy season in Brazil, the work in the forest has been stopped for this period as the rains make it impossible for heavy trucks to drive there. For those of you who think that modern forest management is still a guarantee for whole areas of forest cut down completely, think again! FSC membership guarantees a very sustainable method of selection, cutting and transporting trees. Immense projects of replanting, but also social programs for education, employment and housing of local people are in place. A meticulous chain of custody is mandatory. I’ve been in these forests, where trees had already been cut, and to be honest, I could hardly see a trace. The roof of the forest is still closed completely. Actually, the only signs of destroyed forest I saw were burnt down patches of forest by locals to gain agricultural grounds.

One of the reasons why we didn’t see that many animals was possibly the obviously preferred choice of music of our driver! 🙂 The volume was turned to the max and by the time we saw an animal, it had already heared us coming from a mile off. Must admit I didn’t have the guts to throw the bloody radio out :-). Still we saw deer, agoetis, lots of birds and howler monkeys that gave a deafening concert above our heads. No good pictures though.

The afternoon we boarded Benito’s boat again, and again I had the best of times. LOVED the silence! 🙂 Especially at the end of the day, when Hans was again waiting at the jetty but this time with ice cold champagne he had gotten for his 50th birthday (!), the day turned into a fantastic one. What a treat! The children that got their evening bath had meanwhile gotten used to our presence and gave quite a show for the camera!

February 22, 2010

Brazil – Pacajá day 1

Filed under: February — Hennie van Heerden @ 9:40 pm

For years Hans had been asking me to join him on a trip to Brazil. As he’s working for a Brazilian Timber company (FSC certified, of course), Cikel Brasil Verde Madeiras Ltda, he visits this beautiful country frequently. And as he had to go to one of the company’s mills in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest, there surely would be enough to photograph. It turned out to be fantastic.

Pacajá is a little village in the middle of nowhere. They have schools, little markets, churches, sports fields, all provided by the company. I was really impressed! Of course, almost everybody who lives there is employed with the company. Going there means flying with a tiny aircraft over the vast Brazilian Rainforest. From the air is seems endless… The green carpet is every once in a while interrupted by meandering rivers and and swamp like areas (it’s rainy season in Brazil now). White Egrets flying beneath you over the tops of the trees. It’s breathtaking. The landing strip consists of a long dirt road but the pilot put us down more gently than many touchdowns I’ve experienced with commercial airlines on smooth tarmac.

The first impression of Pacajá is one of color. All the houses are painted in different pastel colors: pinks, yellows, lilas and blues. Combined with the background of huge Mango trees it’s idyllic and pittoresk. Children in various stages of clothing are running around everywhere.
Immediately after arriving I went on board of Benito Dosoura’s little boat and he showed me around the Rio Pacajá. It was already late but we managed to see quite some birds, several of them unknown to me, like the Smooth-Billed Ani to the right and the little white bird with beautiful bright blue wing feathers to the left that I haven’t been able to identify yet.
Others were not so hard to recognize, like the beautiful Scarlet Macaw at the top. Floating through the little side creeks was heaven; the silence is unbelievable! Every once in a while we passed a little house on the banks of the river where the most adorable little children came out to see who was passing by. I enjoyed each minute!
Our little tour ended on the tiny jetty of the village where Hans was waiting with a lovely cold beer and children were having their evening bath. Fantastic to see them splashing around in the last light.

February 17, 2010

Amsterdamse Waterleiding Duinen (AWD)

Filed under: February — Hennie van Heerden @ 9:31 pm

Today I went Fox-hunting again with Edgar Thissen and Roeselien Raymond. The snow that had kept Holland under his white blanket for the last two monts (a new record I think) had melted away and the Dunes resembled the Serengeti savannahs. Dry, bleached and wintery. Even in the barren wintercoat, the Dunes are extremely beautiful. I don’t think I know of a National Park in Holland so diverse. It has dunes, forests, the savannah-like areas I mentioned, but also large water basins that store and filter the drinking water for the cities of Amsterdam and The Hague. It is home to an endless variety of animals but particularly known for the many foxes.

We started off at 9 in the morning and although we had some wonderful sightings of Kingfisher, Moeflon and Fallow Deer, no fox showed up. When we were about to return to the entrance, but decided to make one more stop at an area we knew foxes had often been seen, all of a sudden a beautiful fox stepped out of the bushes and allowed us shot after shot! A fantastic ending to a fantastic day!

February 16, 2010

Home

Filed under: February — Hennie van Heerden @ 9:27 pm

Not much going on today, except this beautiful young Roe Deer Buck visiting the fields behind my house to see if there was something edible. He starts to get used to me. I could get out of my car, go inside the house, get the camera and get back to the car without disturbing him. He looks up but that was about it. Holds a promise for next spring!

February 13, 2010

Bayerische Wald

Filed under: February — Hennie van Heerden @ 3:28 pm

On our way back home last saturday we made a stopover in the South of Germany – Bavaria. I had managed to squeeze at least one day of photography out of Hans on this crazy one-week trip that led us 4500 km through half of Europe 🙂

I knew that Bavaria harbors the wonderful National Park The Bavarian Forests (Bayerischer Wald), an area known for its vast forests, mountainous terrain and plentiful wildlife. (and the cuckoo clock! :-))

In that National Park there’s also a Nature Park, where the animals that still live in Germany roam freely but also the animals that used to live in Germany but are now either extinct or on the red list, find a last resort. There are two ‘Tier-FreiGelände’, where you can walk amidst animals like Red Deer, Wild Boar and Wisent. The more dangerous animals like wolves and lynxes are behind fences but live in such large areas that they are able to live an almost natural life.

Of course it is kind of tricky to go photographing with your husband, who doesn’t photograph himself, especially when it’s -8C and the park is covered in about half a meter of snow. The adrenalin of seeing these beautiful animals kept me warm alright and I must say that Hans only urged me to walk on when his toes were halfway of freezing solid! 🙂

The little Wild Boar piglet thought it was a good idea to use the tripod leg as a back scratching device. While Hans had a good conversation with the little one about the do’s and don’ts in practical fur-maintenance, mummy Wild Boar came to fetch her baby away from this horribly unco-operative man! 🙂

February 8, 2010

Camargue

Filed under: February — Hennie van Heerden @ 2:34 pm

Leaving on Sunday, driving through Belgium, France, Italy, Austria and Germany (a total of 4500 km) and returning home the following Sunday, then you know that there won’t be much time for photography. But both in France as in Germany I still got the chance to go out with the camera.

In France we stayed in the neighbourhood of Marseille, which is in the South of France. A very populated area but also close to the beautiful Camarque, a National Reserve known for its waterfowl and wild horses. As Hans had to work I drove the 70km to get there. Of course this winter season is not ideal as a lot of birds have migrated away for the winter but still there was plenty to see. I even encounterd the famous Camarque horses! There were a lot of great white Egrets but the birds seemed skittish and hard to approach. The little Blackcaps that were feasting on the ivy berries in the garden of what seemed an abandoned house were easier to capture! I also got a really nice view of the famous flamingos the Camarque is known for.

But still, I’ve had the best of times there. Although maybe hard to photograph, I saw a lot of wildlife. The highlight of the day, probably a strange thing to say, was finding a mother and child Nutria! They were swimming in the little stream alongside the road, when I saw them. I parked the car, got out and waited. After a few minutes mom decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the road and crossed it. The baby followed quickly. As I had never seen a Nutria this close and clear, it was a really exciting event!

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