UPDATED 27 DECEMBER 2012
Clifford and Dawn
We have lived as independant full time Australian research zoologists, authors, photographers, and publishers for 30 years, specialising in the tropical Australasian region, while also working elsewhere, as photographers, authors, publishers and as academic zoological and ornithological researchers. Our main interests include studying and photographing tropical Australasian birds, particularly birds of paradise and bowerbirds. We have published more than 150 scientific contributions. We are privileged to be joint recipients of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union’s D. L. Serventy Medal for outstanding original contributions to ornithology.
Clifford is senior author of the 1998 book The Birds of Paradise: Paradisaeidae and he and Dawn authored the 2004 The Bowerbirds: Ptilonorhynchidae, both of the acclaimed Oxford University Press Bird Families of the World series. In 2008 we self-published Bowerbirds: Nature, Art & History and in 2010 Birds of Paradise: Nature, Art & History – both winning the prestigious Whitley Book Award of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales for outstanding publications. We have also written and photographically illustrated some half a dozen smaller books on natural history of the tropical Australian region as well as numerous articles in various magazines worldwide.
Our still photographs have appeared in many general and specialist books and magazines worldwide. Transparencies were taken with 35mm and 6x7cm format cameras but all photography is now 35mm digital. We have photographed birds Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Madagascar, South Africa, India, Chile (including Easter Island), Ecuador (including the Galapagos Islands), Peru, Bolivia, USA, Thailand, Malaysia, Europe, Falkland Islands, & Antarctica.
Our latest overseas adventure was a three month photographic trip to Western Canada and Alaska including a seven day visit to the Pribilof Islands where we photographed auks, murres, puffins and kittiwakes.
Parakeet Auklet Crested Auklets
Horned and Tufted Puffins Red-faced Cormorant
In late October we heard that Aurora Expeditions had a last minute cabin vacancy for their 13-day trip to the World Heritage listed Subantarctic Islands - one we had long wanted to do. Before departure we spent four days on Stewart Island photographing many rare and endangered bird species. We set sail from Bluff, near Invercagill, New Zealand for Snares, Auckland, Campbell and Macquarie Islands aboard the Russian vessel Akademik Sholakski. Much time was spent on deck photographing albatrosses and petrels. On land we saw and photographed many of the rare endemic island bird species including the teal Auckland and Campbell Island teals and the Subantarctic Snipe. The final highlight was on Macquarie Island where huge penguin colonies, including the Royal, abound. We disembarked at Hobart and then spent another 10 days (not long enough) photographing more rare and endemic bird species. It was an exciting trip and we added a good number of new species to our photographic library. See our web site.
Auckland Teal (pair)
Swift Parrot (male)
September - October 2012
Visiting Borneo had always been a life-long dream, and Sabah, because of its tourist infrastructure, was the obvious destination to photograph a suite of birds new to us, not to mention Proboscis Monkeys, Orangutans and Pygmy Elephants.
We soon learnt that photographing birds in giant equatorial rainforests is far from easy. We spent 10 days in the Kota Kinabulu National Park, with its highest altitude at 4095 metres a.s.l, hoping to photograph different birds restricted to different altitudinal zones. We restricted ourselves to the main park headquarters area (mid-altitude), Mesilau (higher altitude), and Poring Springs (lower altitude). Heavy rain prevented us taking many photos at the first two locations. Highlights included photographing a male Bornean Flowerpecker feeding on mistletoe fruits and, from the Poring canopy boardwalk, seeing a large Flying Squirrel gliding many metres down to a lower tree. From Kota Kinabulu we drove across the mountains, depressingly through seemingly endless oil palm plantations, to Sepilok near, Sandakan. Here we spent 10 days at locations we were told were good for bird photography: the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Discovery Centre But we saw few birds there except for ‘little brown jobs’ high in the tall forest canopy! - not even the rare Bornean Bristlehead that we were assured would be an ‘easy tick’! Luckily the Lodge where we were staying at Sepilok had its own lake, frequented by Stork-billed Kingfshers and a huge fig tree with ripe fruits being eaten by various hornbills including the Black Hornbill.
After Sepilok we met the water taxi at Sandakan for a three hour trip along the Kinabatangan River to reach Abai Lodge, where we spent four days and then went further upstream to Sukau for seven more days. Each day we spent three to four hours each morning and (thunderstorms permitting) three hours in the afternoon in our own motorboat with our boatman/guide. Along the riverbanks we saw and photographed Pygmy Elephants, foraging on riverine vegetation, as well as a few Orangutans, macaques, huge crocodiles and monitors. At long last we were seeing the ‘real’ Borneo and were able to take some photos including of Blue-eared Kingfishers, Grey-headed and Lesser Fish Eagles, Serpent Eagles, Storm’s Storks, including the Bushy-crested Hornbill which was a new species for us. One of the quieter waterways better for birding was Mennagol Creek where we glimpsed the rare Bornean Ground-Cuckoo and a male Crested Fireback displaying.
After our river experiences, we visited the huge Gomatong Caves - with vast populations of several species of swiftlets and bats and millions of cockroaches. The local security caretakers actually sleeps in the cave at night to protect the edible bird's nest from thieves - for they are worth their weight in gold. From here we travelled once again through vast oil plantations, extending up the steepest of slopes, to Tabin Wildlife Reserve (112,00 hectares of rainforest), renowned for its mud volcanoes, with a rich diversity of birds and a successful breeding programme to save the Sumatran Pygmy Rhinoceros. Highlights of our four days there included photographing the Blue-banded Kingfisher (female) at a small waterfall and amazingly a leaping fish appeared in one of the shots!
From Tabin we drove to Danum Valley for seven days to stay at a ‘five star’ luxurious lodge within lowland rainforest. Some 300 species of birds have been recorded at Danum, including several hornbills, trogons, pittas and of other bird groups. It was truly amazing - this being the best of Sabah birding locations. Every day for fours in the morning and at least two hours in the afternoon we walked the trails, with our guide Rafael, carrying our 500 mm and 300 mm lenses in rucksacks, camera bodies and tripod! It was so hot and humid that we each lost four kilos. The high canopy walkway was truly amazing and it was from here that we saw, but could not photograph, the rarely seen Bornean Bristleheads bathing in a pool of water in a tree knot.The highlight of our whole trip, especially for Cliff who had wanted to see this bird as a young boy, was photographing a pair of Whiskered Tree Swifts at their tiny flimsy nest with one egg atop it in the Lodge gardens. The staff built him a two metres tall ‘photographic platform’ near the nest. It was a good note to finish the trip on.
Whiskered Tree Swift
For a comprehensive overview of all subjects photographed see