Our first four CNP Safaris to the Chobe River have produced some very interesting sightings and good photography opportunities. All photography is done from our specialist CNP photography boats which allows our clients to shoot from a flat bottomed boat providing a stable platform for the telephoto lenses. Waterside photography is vastly different from shooting in the bush as you get many opportunities to achieve clean backgrounds and allows the photographer to get close to the subjects. In some instances you would be very hard pressed to get any decent shots of some of the smaller birds who live in the reeds and on the lily pads like the Lesser Jacana, African Jacana, Allan’s Gallinules and Lesser Moorhen, if you do not photograph from a boat.
The Chobe River has been running strong and the water level has been higher than the same period in 2013. As we left 2 days ago the water level had started to subside by about 10 cm off its highest level. This makes the Chobe River and photography interesting as there are so many areas that we can get to when the river is in flood and into areas that is normally dry land in a few weeks time.
It is in these flooded areas that you find the nesting Jacanas and where we were very fortunate to have found a number of Lesser Jacanas and had good sightings and photography of Allan’s Gallinules.
When we found the Lesser Jacanas we took advantage of this special sighting and our cameras clicked away whenever the Lesser Jacanas presented themselves against clean background or interesting poses. As we had not encountered and photographed them before it was interesting to watch their movements across the lily pads and how the fed. This all helps to build our own knowledge of their behaviour and habits, thus making photographing them easier in future as we can better anticipate their behaviour and movements.
This time of the year is then also a very special period in that the African Jacana chicks hatch and these small balls of fur make you look twice at your images to determine if they are sharp enough. To photograph these very small birds we use lenses with a focal length of at least 600mm and add either a 1.4x or 2.0x converter to increase the focal length further. These chicks are precocial meaning that they can feed themselves within 24 hours of hatching which for great photography as the lean across the lilies to catch small flies and other insects.
The male Jacana raises the chicks and is primarily there for their safety by keeping away unwanted visitors to their area and shielding them under his wings. The father would also lead the chicks to water if he needed to move them to another adjacent lily patch for the sake of food or safety.
While we were on the various safaris we visited a particular Jacana family on a near daily basis and saw how the 3 chicks were developing. We were very disappointed one morning earlier in the week when only saw 2 of the 3 chicks walking around on the lilies. The male Jacana made a big noise in a specific area and danced around with raised wings. Upon closer inspection we found a small crocodile hiding in the lilies and this was probably the perpetrator responsible for the dissappearance of the young chick.
On a previous occasion we also found a pair of Allen’s Gallinules very busy in raising their 3 chicks.
They would fly off within a 30 meter radius from the chicks forage for insects and return to feed their young. We were in awe watching these tiny chicks devour the huge meals the adults were providing. They were quite difficult to photograph as they were in the floating patches of grass, but every now and then would come into the open and provide some great shots.
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