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Welcome Everybody

Hello - Welcome to my Blog. This Blog suppliments my website to provide a diary of my experiences photographing wildlife and nature throughout Australia and abroad. I hope you find the Blog interesting and the content and images cause you to reflect on how important it is preserve natural places and their inhabitants.

For me photography of the natural world is more than just pretty settings and cuddly animal photos. It's a concern for the environment and the earth all living creatures must share.

Note that images appearing in journal posts are often not optimally processed due to time constraints.

You are welcome to comment on any post.

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Entries in Arctic (4)

Saturday
Nov132010

China Bound To Receive Photographic Award (Thomson Reuters) - Gold Prize - Environmental Section - Photo Journalism Awards

I returned two days ago from a three week diving photographic trip to eastern Indonesia to find an urgent e-mail waiting for me from Thomson Reuters United Kingdom and CHIPP (Chinese International Press Photographers).

I had been notified that one of my images of a polar bear had been selected for the gold prize in the environmental section of the photo journalism awards.  The e-mail was an invitation to attend, at their expense, the award ceremony in Shanghai, China. 

Although The People’s Republic of China is not on my list of places to visit, I have decided that I will attend the ceremony which is being held on November 18.

The photograph selected by CHIPP was of a male polar bear (Ursus maritimus) in the act of consuming a polar bear cub that it had killed earlier.  Infanticide and cannibalism occurs throughout the animal world including polar bears.  However, what is noteworthy is that the frequency of infanticide in polar bear populations is increasing. 

A possible reason for the increase in infanticide is a change in the time of the formation of sea ice. Sea ice is paramount to the polar bear’s survival and the sea ice is forming later each year.  Consequently, many polar bears, including mothers with cubs are being corralled into a small geographical area waiting longer for the sea ice to form.  During this time the bears are very hungry and the usually solitary apex predators are been forced into close proximity with each other.  Once the ice is solid enough the bears disperse and roam out onto the ice in search of their favoured food – the hooded seal. 

There is a hypothesis that the increased frequency of infanticide is correlated to the change in global weather patterns and consequently the delay in sea ice formation.

The photograph, which was taken in the Arctic region of Canada last November, has created global interest and in addition to being purchased by several newspapers and used in scientific journals was also purchased by Thomson Reuters for global syndication.   

The photograph was entered in a number of photographic competitions and has received the following recommendations:

  • Gold prize first place in the Environmental  Category – China International Photo Contest (CHIPP)
  • Nature picture of the year – PGB Photographic Award (Europe)
  • Honourable Mention – National Press Photographers Association

To read an early Blog thread on this topic click here.

I intend to spend a week in China.  After I return, I will be in a better position to update this blog regarding my diving in Indonesia.

Friday
Dec182009

Polar Bear Cub & Mother Marching in Time

Recently when in the Arctic, I came across these two polar bears - mother and 2nd year cub making their way across the snow.

I watched them for some time and became transfixed by the symmetry of their walking.  It reminded my of two soldiers maintaining the same distance from one another and "walking in time". 

They continued to walk like this for sometime and appeared to showed no apprehension towards my presence - although I am quite sure they new exactly where I was at any particular time.

LEFT:  Polar bear mother and 2nd year cub make their way accross the snow in Canada.

 

Wednesday
Dec092009

Photographing Emotive Situations - Polar Bears

Cute and Cuddly

For the most part people want to see photographs of animals that are pretty and show the animals at their best.  The image of a koala comes to mind.  We have all seen photographs of this adorable furry animal sitting calmly in the tree.  Likewise, many of us have seen beautiful images of polar bears and other apex predators such as tigers and lions.  If it has fur, big eyes and is cute and cuddly, then it's often loved and adored by the masses. 

But, everything on planet Earth must eat, and unlike you and me (for the most part) who calmly purchase pre-packaged food and products from the supermarket or convenience store; most apex predators don't have this luxury.  They must skillfully hunt and kill what they wish to eat - or die! 

Often this spectacle of animal behaviour is not pretty.  People watching from the sideline often barack for the small gazelle that is running blindly away from the pursuing lion, giving little thought that the lion must kill and feed on the gazelle if its life, and the lives of its cubs are to continue.

Image Left:  1st year polar bear cub checks out photographer.

 

 Capturing the Images

Photographing such an event, whether it be a feeding frenzy underwater or a wolf killing and eating a elk, is always psychologically disturbing;  the often cute and fuzzy image of an animal is transposed into an animal killing another to survive. 

Image Left: 1st year baby cub makes its way through snow drift following mother.

It’s at this time that you must concentrate on acquiring the images with a steady hand and remove all emotion from the equation.  Often photographers become so caught up in the moment emotionally that they cannot function as photographers; their images are blurry due to camera shake, poorly composed and often lack technical prowess.  It takes considerable experience to turn off your emotions and capture the moment, but once you have mastered this skill, it becomes possible to photograph some amazing and spectacular events that are just as important as those cute and cuddly moments.

Why Am I Writing This?

So why I am writing this?  Since posting the images in the thread below and syndicating the images  worldwide, I have been sent several e-mails stating how unnecessary it is to photograph such animal behaviour.  I am hoping this thread will explain the reasoning.

Click the appropiate file in the U-Tube player to see a short video.

 

Monday
Nov302009

Polar Bear Infanticide & Cannibalism on the Arctic Ice - Global Warming

I've just returned from a few weeks in the Arctic observing polar bears (Ursus martimus).

During the time I was on ther tundra, I observed as  many as 12 bears at any one time which included large males, females, and females with cubs (1st and 2nd year).  I also sighted Arctic Fox, Arctic Hare, Silver and Cross Fox, and Rock Ptarmigans.

Photographs were taken in an assortment of conditions ranging from almost balmy conditions in full sun to downright frigid temperatures with 50 knot blizzard winds and falling snow.

Bear Congregation Waits for Ice to Form

From October to November there are many bears that have migrated from the more southerly regions to the shores of Hudson Bay; they are very hungry and have not fed for most of the summer.  The congregation is waiting for the sea ice to form to allow them to roam widely to feed upon their favourite prey - the ringed seal. 

Lack of Sea Ice

One of the most striking observations I made was the lack of solid sea ice.   Although the ice was slowly forming, it was still what they call grease ice, which is ice that is not suitable for the bears to traverse safely any great distance from the shoreline.  The sea ice is paramount to the bear's survival as without the ice formation the bears cannot move onto the bay to track and feed on seals. 

Cannibalism

On one day we observed a male polar bear feeding upon what appeared to be some type of carrion - perhaps a seal or a other small animal.  However, upon closer inspection it was revealed that the small carcass was not a seal but rather a baby first year polar bear.  The location of the feeding male was given away by two ravens which could be seen from some distance jumping and flying about.

Circling the male was a female bear which appeared to be in obvious distress. The female was not walking as polar bears usually do - steadily and surely, but instead had a stiff gait and was walking erratically.  Further, the bear's head was swaying from side to side and the mother was making low vocalisations.

Although cannibalism is not unheard of in the animal world, it isn't commonly observed amongst polar bears.  There are several hypothesis for cannibalism, however, all are unfounded.  Perhaps the male bear is removing future competition by killing the cub, or is killing the cub to cause the female mother to become 'available" again for mating.  Although these are plausible reasons, it's more likely that the male bear was exceptionally hungry  and seized the opportunity for nutritional gain by feeding upon the cub. As mentioned earlier the bears are congregating to feed on ringed seals on the ice.  If the ice is not forming earlier enough, then the hungry bears become starved and after reaching such a poor condition may seek alternate prey such as young bear cubs or other animals. 

Of interest is that the male bear did not consume the liver of the cub.  This is because the liver of a polar bear is toxic.  How did the male know the liver was toxic?

Mother Carries Deceased Away

After the male bear had finished consuming the carcass and moved away, the female bear approached the carcass, sniffed at it, and  picking it up gently within her jaws, she proceeded to carry it away – where to is unknown as I could not follow her.

Major Concern

What's a major concern is that this cannibalistic behaviour may become more prevalent if conditions favourable for ice formation are delayed, leading to fewer recruitment of a species that is already in decline. 

Scientists have documented the gradual reduction and delay in sea ice formation for several years and although some proponents believe this to be a normal event, others believe the cause maybe global warming.  Whatever the cause, the results speak for themselves - sea ice is not forming as rapidly or as extensively as it did.

Please note that this image is being posted NOT to discriminate or advance the perception that polar bears are fearless and uncaring predators, but to highlight a concern that global warming is altering the behaviour of specific species.

As I get time I will post a series of images I have photographed of the event.

For more information on the plight of the polar bear, please visit Polar Bears International

Images top to bottom: 

1: Male polar bear holds cub carcass looking toward circling mother bear.

2: Male polar bear trots across snow ridge carrying cub carcass to avoid contact with other bears in near vicinity.

3: Cub head, entrails and uneaten liver are dragged along the ice.

4: Carcass left on ice after male polar bear had consumed most of the carcass.

5: Male polar bear eating cub carcass.

6: Polar bear waits patiently for sea ice to form.  At this time of the year the ice should be more extensive.