Welcome to the temporary site for timhearnwildlife.com.

I'll be posting a few shots here while working on the main site, which is currently under construction...

Timhearnwildlife has been a long term passion and project of mine which is now reaching fruition. It is (or strictly speaking, will be) a commercial resource for wildlife and natural history photography and writing.

Over the last 10 years, I've been fortunate enough to travel extensively to all 7 continents, taking photographs and notes, and the site will showcase the results.

Please feel free to browse....

Wednesday, 29 September 2010


I attended the Wanderlust 'Guide of the year' awards last night at the Royal Geographical Society, to watch Bill Bryson be funny, and a very chicly besuited Abraham Banda scoop silver. Congratulations to Abraham for winning this prestigious and well deserved award. He's a credit to South Luangwa and to Norman Carr Safaris .

Although by his own admission lost for words, he made a great speech and we saw the preview of a new UK TV series that featured he and his solid and reassuringly rifle-toting scout John Saili prominently. High spot was a deadpan Abraham helpfully pointing out to the breathlessly excited and rather nervous presenter, "Getting trodden on by an elephant can really spoil your day". Thanks for the tip, Abes.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Well, I'm off to Zambia for the next 10 days, so there will now be a brief intermission. Looking forward hugely to seeing some old (and newer) chums out there, and visiting some spectacular locations.

The principle reason for the visit is to photograph the Carmine Bee eaters which gather in their thousands at this time of year to nest in the river banks. I'm no twitcher, but you've gotta love those bee eaters! I'm a sucker for anything brightly coloured, child that I am...

We'll be viewing them from Derek Shenton's hide, which is revered by wildlife photographers as being top notch. So I'm pretty excited by the prospect.

Other possibilities include the chance of African Wild dog, and the extraordinary sight of elephants standing on their hind legs to grab food from the trees, since they've pretty much demolished the lower stuff.

Dilly and I will be staying for some of the time at Old Mondoro camp, which we are really looking forward to. It's run by our friends, Etienne and Leana, and a good time is guaranteed. Etienne achieved photographic stardom a few weeks back with his amazing shot of the elephants doing just that, which was featured in multiple newspapers here. Good pachyderm work, fella!

Hopefully we shall return to the UK with some great new photographs and stories to share. See you then. And Etienne and Leana - if you're reading this, we'll see you next week!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


There are few things to compare with the sights and smells of a penguin colony. This one on South Georgia was home to about 750,000 King penguins. That's what I was told, anyway. Presumably at some point a scientist had counted them- that is after all what scientists do. But given that individual penguins look pretty much identical and that they are constantly waddling around and generally honking at each other, it's difficult to see how even the maddest of scientists could actually count them. It's my deeply held suspicion that some lazy boffin may have rounded this figure up to make his life easier. Also, I spotted a dead one, so it should really be 749,999.

King penguins are largely monogamous from breeding season to breeding season. One goes off in search of fish, returning to regurgitate it for their ever hungry youngsters, while the other stays behind to look after things. For a penguin, a fishing trip must provide a welcome relief from the packed, noisy and lets face it, fishy smells of the rookery. So they tend to be pretty jaunty on these trips. They enter and leave the water in groups, in case of lurking leopard seals or orcas.

This is an entirely new subspecies, discovered by me, which I named the short-ass king penguin. Or it may just have been an ordinary one standing in a dip.

There is a constant rivalry between king penguins and southern fur seal pups, who spend a lot of time niggling at each other. The seals are aggressive little tykes, fast on their flippers and with needle like teeth that they don't hesitate to use. The penguins have a sharp beak, the advantage of numbers and, as clearly seen in this photograph, fish breath.


Antarctica is without a doubt the coolest place in the world (pun fully intended). It's also, surprisingly, the driest. And the most inhospitable. It's a continent of superlatives. And it's really, really quiet. Only about 1000 people reside there at any one time, and they're all scientists.

For a photographer, there is quite simply nowhere better. The Antarctic constantly surprises you, not least with the colours it produces, some of which you will never have seen before. I kid you not.

This iceberg caught the first rays of the sun and turned bright yellow. It looked like an enormous floating pat of butter, and was one of the most stunning sights I've ever seen in my life. Three minutes later, though, the sun rose a little higher and the effect was lost.


This is the Drake Passage on a good day. At some points, the waves were cresting 70', and the wind was gusting force 8. And we weren't doing it in a 20' lifeboat (see Shackleton, below). This ship is the Explorer aka the Little Red Ship. She was the first true expedition cruiser, and I was privileged to travel aboard her twice, both times to Antarctica via the fearsome Drake Passage- arguably the roughest piece of sea in the world.

Sadly, six months after my last outing on the Little Red Ship, she finally succumbed to the perils of Antarctic travel and sank near the Falkland Islands having been torn open on a low lying bergy bit (small iceberg). All passengers were safely evacuated, but the Explorer, which I remember with huge fondness, is at the bottom of the ocean.


Anybody who's spent more than 10 minutes or so in my company will almost certainly be aware of my deep attachment to all things Springsteen... but this Boss ain't him. This is the final resting place of the other Boss - Ernest Shackleton. Explorer, leader, hero, and copywriter of the greatest advertisement ever:

"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success. Reply E. Shackleton, 4, Burlington St."

Brilliant. 5000 replies received. To put that into perspective, it's about a million percent more replies than most small ads (or indeed big ones) get. Now, some believe that the ad is apocryphal and never actually ran in the newspaper. But this is advertising, and so what? 

But I digress.

Down on the incredibly beautiful subantarctic island of South Georgia lies the grave of Ernest Shackleton. A man who snatched glory from the jaws of defeat on his ill fated jaunt to the South Pole by crossing the sea in a lifeboat, yomping across the hitherto uncrossed South Georgia and eventually returning with help to Elephant Island to rescue every single man on his expedition.

When Ernest finally reached the whaling station at Stromness, South Georgia, the man on watch opened the door to the exhausted, filthy, wild looking explorer and (understandably, since everyone thought the party had long since perished) looked at him blankly. Whereupon Ernest looked straight back at him and uttered the coolest words ever to have been ripped off by Ian Fleming-
"My name is Shackleton. Ernest Shackleton".

That's why they call him the Boss. And that's why anyone visiting South Georgia is morally obliged to stand at his graveside and toast him with a tot of rum.

And quite right, too. Read his story of the trip - 'South'. It's a goody.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


As a rule, the arctic is a more difficult area to photograph than the antarctic. The wildlife is less prolific and tends to be more skittish. This can be solely attributed to mankind. Nobody lives in antarctica, so the animals have no reason to fear humans. The arctic, however, has been conquered by many, from Vikings and Inuits to Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear lads. And this makes the animals understandably nervous of humans. This polar bear in Spitsbergen took one look at our ship and took off like a rocket.

In Churchill, Manitoba ("Polar bear capital of the world...") however, it's a different story. The bears here have learned to exist alongside humans- or maybe vice versa. The bears gather in Churchill each year, waiting for the pack ice to form before going off and hunting seals on it. They pass the time by wandering up and down main street, doing a bit of window shopping and hanging out at the local landfill site. Which means that when in Churchill, you need to listen out for the bear siren, and then get off the street while the largest and most dangerous land carnivore on earth saunters past your bedroom window...

Polar bears are deceptive. Like many iconic animals, exposure to polar bear imagery can make you feel that they are cuddly and rotund fluffballs that wouldn't really hurt a fly. The late lamented advertising guru John Webster had them selling Cresta soft drinks in sunglasses and uttering the catchy phrase 'Rimsky-Korsakov'. But sadly, I've never known one to actually do this.

Actually, they are very large and formidable hunters, and fast on their feet. It's easy to forget that bears can move as fast as horses when they want to. They are sensorially (is that a word?) acute, with excellent smell and vision. A polar bear can smell a seal from a couple of miles off. Anyone still thinking that these animals are cuddly would do well to check out the claws on the paw shown below. And then run away fast.


Cruising the high arctic. As you get further towards the top of the world, the curvature of the earth gets more pronounced. The icebreaker was having no problems, as the ice was breaking up, and is continuing to do so year on year. This is causing big problems, however, for polar bears, as there are fewer floes that will support their weight without tipping. Polar bears are excellent swimmers, but in recent years more and more are becoming exhausted and drowning as a result of being unable to haul out.


Believe what you hear....this shot was taken in Svalbard. The captain gingerly edged the ship right up to the ice shelf until it was actually nudging it, enabling the hardier amongst us to take a , shall we say, bracing shower in the run-off caused by the melting ice. It's not until you see the sheer volume of meltwater that's running off 24/7, that you can start to get an idea of just how global warming is affecting the arctic and antarctic. This run off is just one of dozens along a single ice shelf, this shelf being a relatively small one at, I would estimate, about a couple of miles long and maybe 50m high. Of course, it won't be that size any more....

Monday, 13 September 2010


Cheetahs are cats with a problem. During the last ice age, numbers dropped to the point where a genetic bottleneck was formed, and resulted in a prolonged period of inbreeding. This means that their genetic variability is worryingly low, and they have problems with deformed sperm. In fact, the sperm count of the cheetah is so low that in other mammalian species it would be considered effectively infertile. The cheetah is actually a jaffah.

Namibia has the largest cheetah population in the world, and the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is doing a great job in research and education to help give the cheetah a future. There are also efforts afoot to reintroduce this charismatic cat into India. The last known cheetahs there were shot in 1947 by the Maharajah of Surguja. He also holds the record for the largest number of tigers killed, incidentally- 1,360. So he must have been a fun chap to have around...


This is the mighty honey badger, one of my favourite animals, and ignored by most visitors to Africa. Which is a shame, because the nocturnal honey badger, or ratel, is a really interesting critter. This animal is seriously tough. I mean, special forces tough. Sharon Osbourne tough, even. Honey badgers, though only the size of a small dog, have been known to see off leopard, hyaena and even lion on occasion.

Honey badgers are highly intelligent, and have been known to use tools to gain access to food. They are highly accomplished snake killers, with an iron constitution that enables them to shrug off even the bite of the notorious puff adder. In Pakistan, they have the reputation of raiding graves and removing the bodies to eat. Honey badgers have a wealth of myth surrounding them. And deservedly so.

Utterly fearless, they have a badger's tenacity and ferocity, large claws and a powerful bite. Their modus operandi is reportedly to go straight for an opponents genitals, savaging them in the first seconds of action. But should they be compromised, the skin at the back of the neck is loose, enabling them to twist around and look eye to eye with whichever misguided creature has them by the scruff of the neck, before biting and clawing again. Some books have claimed that this neck skin is tough enough to withstand shotgun pellets, but this, like so much honey badger trivia, could be just rumour and legend.

If you catch them in a bad mood, they will attack pretty much anything. I first encountered one during a peaceful morning drive in Botswana. It strolled nonchalantly round a termite mound, saw my jeep, and froze for a second before barrelling over and attacking the large metal intruder. OK, the jeep won in the end, but the badger gave a good account of itself, leaving the vehicle with several nasty scars.

Notorious for raiding safari camp kitchens by night, the mighty honey badger is treated with justified fear and respect by all locals who come into contact with it.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010



Lions are essentially night creatures. The vast majority of lion sightings are of them lying around and sleeping. They sleep with ruthless efficiency, for up to 20 hours a day. So while a lion sighting is always exciting, it's seldom very...well, exciting.
This is not the case at Duba Plains in Northern Botswana. Duba is, in effect, a fair sized island, surrounded by water except for a narrow strip of land. This means that animals like buffalo amble onto it, and then lose the entrance and get stuck there. Which means that the lions of Duba Plains are basically living in an enormous larder.
These lions are so confident in their plentiful surroundings, that they hunt whenever they feel hungry, day or night, in the knowledge that a good meal will always present itself. So if you want to see lions as the terrifying predators that they truly are, as opposed to snoring pyjama cases, Duba Plains is where you want to be.
Lions are possibly the most cooperative pack hunters in Africa, along with wild dog. Like all apex predators, they aren't successful on every hunt, but at Duba Plains, the percentage is much higher because of the sheer amount of potential prey in a limited space.
To watch lions hunt is an incredible thing. There is a high degree of intelligence working here, with total understanding and cooperation between the females (lionesses are the ones who do the hunting) and constant reaffirmation of bonds within the pride through physical nuzzling. Each lion knows its role in the hunt exactly, and their use of tactics is second to none. Unlike wild dog, who chase animals down until the  prey is exhausted, lions are cunning and tricksy operators, using guile, bluff and ambush techniques that are both inspiring and chilling to watch.


I can never make up my mind about zebras. On the one hand they are the brightly striped horses of the plains, beloved of small children and effortlessly iconic in their barcode livery. On the other, they're stubborn, bad tempered beasts with a vicious bite, an iron hoofed kick and an antisocial tendency to break wind whenever they feel threatened.  Which is often. Either way, as soon as you see a zebra, you know you're in Africa. And that, on balance, is usually a good thing.