The first time we saw the Okavango Delta was in May 2013 when we arrived by small airplane at Xakanaxa (ka-ka-na-ka) Camp, located in the Moremi Game Reserve north of Maun. The camp is situated on the Xakanaxa Lagoon and is surrounded by leadwood trees. There are twelve tented rooms for up to 24 guests, and the camp is considered to b a traditional safari camp with individual tents and centralized dining and relaxation.
Our experiences were generally positive, with a good assortment of game, decent food and accomodations, qualified guides and pleasant company. The primary negative about the camp is it’s location within Moremi National Park. Offroading and night driving is not allowed. In addition there are several nearby lodges, so we did encounter more vehicles than one would in a private reserve. Overall however the experience was a great introduction to the Okavango Delta.
Hamilton Greenbelt is a local park here in Lakeway, constructed on land given to the city by Jack and Myrtle Hamilton and opened in 1990. The park has several miles of trails which meander through the woods and along both Hurst and Yaupon Creeks. The park is maintained primarily by the Friends of the Parks, a volunteer organization. The Friends recently constructed a well placed and nicely constructed bird blind which we have utilized several times recently. Here are a few images taken a few days ago.
I have become an avid bird photographer. Capturing birds on a digital camera is quite challenging for a number of reasons. First, it is difficult to get really close, so a substantial zoom lens is essential. I have settled on the D500 Nikon body with either a 200-500 mm lens, or a 300 mm fixed lens with a 1.4x teleconverter. Second birds are likely to move quickly, or are in flight. So one needs a fast shutter speed (I prefer 1/1000 or faster), a wide open setting like f4.0 in order to diminish the background, and an ISO setting above the minimum. I have set my camera to auto ISO and a minimum shutter speed for that purpose. I have also found that a single point focus is best; try to focus on the eyes of the bird in order to get the sharpest pictures.
Where do I take photographs? A favorite site is my own backyard, through the rear window. We have crepe myrtle trees overhanging our spa, and I prefer to capture the birds in the trees or on the spa run-over. Locally we have access to a nicely laid out and situated bird blind in the Hamilton Greenbelt in Lakeway, and this is becoming another favorite site. In addition, when we travel, I often find friends or relatives have bird feeders, and I have taken some neat shots there as well.
While there are certainly lots of vistas including magnificent mountains to see in the area, I love to check out the ponds and small bodies of water for bird like. While we did not see a huge amount, we did spot a few swans, ducks and geese.
The National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole is a 25,000 acre area just north of town where the elk winter. As many as 4-5000 elk gather here each winter to feed on available grasses and rear their young. It is also common for other wildlife to be seen, including eagles, coyotes, foxes, bison and sometimes wolves, as well as trumpeter swans, ducks, geese and a variety of other birds. The combination of wildlife and some of Wyoming’s most scenic landscapes, including the Teton Mountain
Range, makes the Refuge sleigh ride a great experience.
On the east side of the refuge, one can drive from Jackson Hole for about 1 1/2 miles between the mountains and Miller’s Butte. Often herds of bighorn sheep can be seen in this area. It is not uncommon for these animals to come up to your car and lick off the salt.
Mike Jackson has a passion for barns. He has taken photos of many, and is always on the lookout for more. He will research ownership and take years to get permission to photograph privately owned properties. So when we did a day long photo shoot, we spent a little time looking out for some interesting and accessible barns. I should note that the iconic Moulton barns were not reachable in January as the roads are not cleared. Here are a few we saw.
I was fortunate to find Mike Jackson on a recent trip to Jackson Hole. He has a photographic guide service and , as a long term resident and avid photographer, he knows where to look for scenic and wildlife image opportunities. His work can be seen on his blog “Best of the Tetons”. Mike and I met at the Jackson Hole visitor center early one morning. It was overcast, so sunrise shots of the Tetons from Snake River Overlook were out. So we headed to Gros Ventre Road through the town of Kelly looking for wildlife. Just north of Kelly – a neat little town with interesting photo opportunities – we encountered a small herd of moose in the drifting snow.
After getting quite a few shots, we headed further north along Ditch Creek and encountered a pair of buffalo trying to root through the snow for grasses to eat. We watched them for some time, waiting for one or the other to raise their heads.
This area was quite pretty, with patches of trees, a few old buildings, the creek and lots of fresh snow. We had seen about 10″ the day before, and at the time light snow continued.
We then headed back to Kelly for a few interesting shots. I particularly like the one of the old wheels with the Tetons in the back.
Mike then drove us over to Moose Junction and down Moose Wilson Road to a small pond created by a beaver dam. There were a few of Mike’s professional friends down by the pond watching the antics of a river otter. We trudged down about 150′ through knee high snow to get close to the pond. After a while we saw the otter swimming around, then eventually climbing out of the pond with a frog in its’ mouth.
We watched for a while longer, then headed back to town for lunch. Along the way, and after lunch, Mike showed me a number of Teton barns, which I will cover in the next post.