The Friday Photo: The Story of the Pel’s

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The Friday Photo is a new series that we are running that tells the ‘story’ behind the photo. In our first blog we featured Caroline’s humorous tale of her time spent in a Himba village near Serra Cafema in Namibia. Today she’s chosen something a little different that’s close to her heart…

“I have a love for bird photography and I especially love owls. I have photographed so many but I still have one that has eluded me. The only remaining southern African species for me to photograph is the Cape-eagle owl.”

Caroline chose today’s photograph – she has a great love of the species, but also because of the unexpected nature of how the photograph came about.

If you have spent time in Africa, you may have heard of the Pel’s fishing-owl (Scotopelia peli), a large member of the owl family that eludes many birders. It’s the owl’s elusive nature that has made it highly sought after by many birding enthusiasts. Among the world’s owls, the Pel’s fishing-owl is the fifth heaviest and is the seventh longest owl in length. Its ginger colour makes it easy to identify and its dark eyes are almost black in colour.

The Pel’s is found throughout many parts of sub-Saharan Africa but is uncommon in arid regions, where water is scarce. They are found in forests along rivers and lakes, swamps and estuaries, favouring riverine forests with large trees. Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana and eastern South Africa are just a few of the places where Pel’s fishing-owls are found.

In Caroline’s story she did not go in search of this elusive owl… rather it came to her.

She says: “This Pel’s fishing owl completely unexpectedly decided to plop down in front of me after a game drive at Mombo Camp in Botswana! I just had time to focus my camera and with a little light shone by the manager helping me to auto-focus, this was the result! There was only time for this one shot before the handsome orange owl flew off into the night.”

Have you been lucky enough to see a Pel’s fishing-owl before? Share your story with us in the comments below.

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By Caroline Culbert

Caroline is the Image and Video Coordinator for Wilderness Safaris. In this capacity Caroline is tremendously inspired by amazing wildlife photography on a daily basis, while working with the Wilderness Creative Resource Team has taken her own photographic interests to new heights. "I have been generously encouraged by the talented team of copywriters, web and graphic designers and professional photographers with whom I work. I feel privileged to have been able to visit some of the most pristine wildlife areas in the Wilderness Safaris portfolio." Caroline's recent travels have taken her to the Arctic, exploring polar bear territory from Svalbard, and wild gorilla and primate tracking in Central Africa. Her other passions experienced in rather different climates include a love for snow skiing in the Alps.

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