Ashley Boon is an artist who sold his first painting when only 14, a photographer and a leader of safaris, but foremost he is an obvious wildlife enthusiast, especially birdlife. He leads trips to Brazil, Botswana and India, and it was the Pantanal in Brazil that he featured first of all. The Pantanal is a huge area of continuous wetland, covering over 40 times the area of Cumbria. It is almost completely inundated for a number of months but becomes increasingly accessible as the dry season progresses until the rainy season starts again. It is crossed by the Transpantaneira Highway, a 145 Kilometer dirt road that goes across numerous rickety wooden bridges and which abounds with wildlife. One of his first photographs was of a family of Capybara, the world’s largest rodent, lounging on the road itself but we quickly became immersed in a large range of incredible birds and animals that reside, and indeed are thriving, in this wildlife paradise. An exquisite Ocelot, looking down at us from the fork of a tree, a magnificent buck Marsh Deer, a Southern Tamandua or Lesser Anteater, confiding Hyacinth Macaws, the world’s largest parrot that seemed to spend their whole lives in affectionate bonding behaviour in lifelong pairings. Giant River Otters, hugely gregarious with continual vocalisations would hang about on the river bank or communally fish in the reeds; we learnt that when together they were a match for the magnificent Jaguars that was also shown, lazing on the river bank or sinisterly creeping under the vegetation overhanging the water’s edge. Birds were not outshone by these classic animals, huge Jaribou Storks, a variety of Humming Birds, night shots of Nightjars and many more.
We were then transported to Botswana in Africa with wonderful photographs taken in the wetlands of the Okavango Delta and the deserts of the Kalahari. We even saw the amazing lions in the Savuti that had been featured on television because of their unique habit of preying on Elephants including a sequence where a dozing pride simultaneously became super alert as a small group of Elephants approached, but didn’t stay for long! Shots from a helicopter, some of herds of Cape Buffalo forming patterns on the ground gave us an idea of the nature of the delta that is fed by the water falling on mountains in Angola, many hundreds of miles away, but which is eventually destined to evaporate as they reach the desert; a truly massive inland delta. Other predators in the form of Cheetah, Leopards and Hyenas were shown in brilliantly intimate close up with plenty of action captured. Especially memorable were Wild Dog pups playing in gorgeous early morning light, fabulous to see given that apart from the Ethiopian Wolf, this is Africa’s rarest predator. Again, birdlife was not forgotten with some particularly skilfully taken flight shots.
All in all a thoroughly entertaining and informative presentation, well received by all present. More of Ashley’s photographs and painting as well as details of his overseas trips can be found on his web site: www.ashleyboon.co.uk.
The next meeting on November 30th will be a presentation of pictures entitled “Seasons of Yellowstone Park” taken by Keswick’s very own Carol Minks, a photographer of wildlife and landscapes of high quality. Details available from the website www.keswickphotosoc.co.uk . We meet at Southey Street Methodist Hall, Keswick, (CA12 4HH), at 7.30 p.m. on a Wednesday. You will be most welcome to join us.