The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico is the easternmost of the Greater Antilles. It is a dependency of the USA, uses the $USD, and is reached by many daily flights from the US mainland and some from other West Indian islands. There are some exciting endemic birds, many common and fairly to see and photograph, including two hummingbirds, the Green Mango and Puerto Rican Emerald, Puerto Rican Tody and Puerto Rican Woodpecker, and others which are a little harder such as Puerto Rican Parrot and Screech-Owl and Elfin Warbler. Several good reserves lie within easy reach of the capital San Juan, such as Laguna Tortuguero, a coastal area of forests and mangroves, about an hour to the west. There are no large wild mammals on the island, but plenty of colourful butterflies and flowers.
Owls are very popular birds, of course with birders, but also with non-birders and many wildlife photographers just love them as subjects. There are around 250 species globally (depending upon which taxonomic order is followed), occurring on every continent. Owls range in size from the huge Eurasian Eagle Owl, often 75cm long, to the tiny Elf Owl at 12cm. Females are usually bigger than males. This is a Eurasian Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum, in the Austrian Alps (by kind permission of Thomas Hochebner).
There are several species of sloth, all found in C & S America. They are said to be the slowest mammals on earth and once spotted are thus easy to observe and photograph! This is a Three-toed Sloth Bradypus variegatus in Costa Rica.
There are probably around 240-250 species of woodpecker in the world. They are found on all the main continents, but not in Oceania, Antartica and the Arctic. South America and South-East Asia are the two regions with the most woodpeckers. Woodpeckers include, wrynecks, piculets and flickers, in addition to the 'true' woodpeckers. Most are arboreal, but not all are as attached to wooded places as one might expect, some live in lightly wooded deserts and some are decidedly terrestrial, feeding mainly on the ground. Woodpeckers are not always easy subjects to observe and photograph, certainly not those that live in dense forests. Photo of this spectacular Crimson-bellied Woodpecker Campephilus haematogaster taken in Peru by Gerard Gorman.
Toucans are often favourite subjects for bird photographers in C & S America. Something to do with their impressive colourful bills perhaps ? This Keel-billed Toucan Ramphastos sulfuratus brevicarinatus was taken in Costa Rica by Gerard Gorman.
The Woodland Brown Lopinga achine is one of Europe's rarest butterflies. It is quite widespread but now rather localised. This was was photographed in the Aggtelek National Park, NE Hungary, in June this year (Gerard Gorman).
This ranch (could also be called a wildlife lodge) is an great, comfortable base at the start of the Cave Creek Canyon, Portal, in SE Arizona. It is decidedly bird and birder friendly, with feeders attracting all kinds of birds. Photographers will be satisfied here! Birds like this Acorn Woodpecker are regular visitors. But note that meals are not provided, strickly self-catering, or eat in nearby Portal. Contact the ranch via: www.cavecreekranch.com
The Yellow-bellied Toad Bombina variagata is not uncommon in uplands in Central and Eastern Europe. They dwell in shallow pools, slow running waters, temporary puddles and water-filled wheel-tracks. Photo by Gerard Gorman taken in the Zemplen Hills, Hungary, May 2014.
The Cuban Trogon Priotelus temnurus is the national bird of Cuba, and indeed is only found in that country. It is quite widespread in woodlands and not uncommon. This one is puffed up as it it in full voice! Photo by Gerard Gorman.
The African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer is a quite widespread and locally common bird of prey south of the Sahara. This impressive bird is also quite vocal, as its scientific name vocifer suggests. Photo by Gerard Gorman taken in Tanzania in February 2014.
The Spotted Hyena Crocuta crocuta (also known as Laughing Hyena) is often portrayed as a lazy scavenger, but that is not the whole story, as it often hunts for its own prey, alone or in packs. This one on the prowl was photographed by Gerard Gorman in the Ngorongoro NP, Tanzania, in February 2014.
Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus is often described as having a 'clownish' face, and it is indeed a strikingly-marked woodpecker. It is also a social species, living in extended families and some populations are famed for storing acorns and other food items in holes in trees called 'granaries'. Acorn Woodpeckers occur from the western USA through Central America to the very NW of South America. Photo by Gerard Gorman.
Before joining any wildlife watching or birding tour, wherever in the world, try to establish if the travel company you are considering booking with operates in an environmentally friendly, responsible manner.