The Pantanal

Hyacinth macaws. (Click to enlarge.)

If you’re only vaguely familiar with the Pantanal region of Brazil, that’s understandable—it’s been a tourist destination for less than 15 years. Ricardo Casarin, the guide assigned to us for the Pantanal portion of the trip, told us that the region was originally known for its great sport-fishing, and then in about 2006, fishermen started reported seeing jaguars—jaguars!—along the river banks. There aren’t too many places where you can see those in the wild. Word spread, tourism grew, and today if you Google “Pantanal jaguar tours,” you’ll find plenty of tour operators eager to take you out on the rivers to find the big cats.

National Geographic has a good overview article on the Pantanal, which it calls “Brazil’s best-kept secret.” The Pantanal is an enormous wetland, 10 times the size of Florida’s Everglades. It floods in the rainy season, and most people visit in the dry season—roughly May through September—when it’s more marshy and more accessible. Plus, when the water recedes in the dry season, the wading birds and other wetlands species crowd into the water that remains, which makes the wildlife really concentrated and Read more

Parrot Portraits

A salmon-crested, or Moluccan, cockatoo.

A good bit of the learning at the annual NatureVisions photo expo in Virginia takes place in a classroom or auditorium, where a talented and respected photographer gives a PowerPoint about, say, photographing landscapes or wildlife, or about Photoshop or Lightroom techniques. But another feature of the weekend that’s especially appealing is the chance to do some actual shooting. Last year I signed up for a session where we photographed birds of prey; this year I signed up for that session plus a new one: a chance to photograph parrots.

The parrots were provided by a rescue operation called Ruffled Feathers Parrot Sanctuary, which is based in Hanover, Pa.—actually in the North Hanover Mall. (Kinda funny to imagine a parrot sanctuary located between, say, a Dick’s Sporting Goods and a Burlington Coat Factory, but that’s where they are.) One of the rescue’s co-founders, Gil Stern, and an assistant brought in a colorful collection of macaws, cockatoos, conures, and other parrots for us. Read more


While I’m pretty pumped about hosting the Alumni Association’s trip to Antarctica next January, I’m also in the beginning stages of salivating over a vacation I’m planning for next July: to Brazil. I’m signed up for a photography trip to the Pantanal region with Glenn Bartley Nature Photography.

The Pantanal is a ginormous wetland area—like Florida’s Everglades, but 10 times bigger. And it’s teeming with wildlife, including caiman (similar to crocodiles), anteaters, monkeys, and giant river otters. You’re also almost guaranteed to see capybara—the world’s largest, and perhaps cutest, rodent:

Capybara. Photo by Dagget2.

The Pantanal is also one of the few places left where you can see jaguars—and, for many visitors, that’s the main draw.

Jaguar. Photo by Dagget2.

But what interests me most are the birds: hyacinth macaws, spot-billed toucanets, jabiru storks, several kinds of kingfishers, tanagers, and more. To spend the better part of two weeks photographing all of that is my idea of the perfect vacation.

To get an idea of the beauty of Brazil’s birds, Read more