Travel for successful wildlife viewing requires groundwork. Not only is your location choice important, but timing is critical, so target species are on location. Even then, nature can be whimsical, and environmental conditions can create species arrival delays, weather issues, or population diminishment, even for well-strategized travelers. Tips on where and when to travel to nature event hotspots – locations well-known to provide extraordinary wildlife viewing and photography opportunities – are valuable, even critical, information resources for eager wildlife travelers and successful photographers. Check out this list of five, extraordinary global hotspot locations, well-targeted to spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities, and explore its special resource links to empower your natural explorations with delightful success!
Viewing nature’s spectacular events adds stunning awe and sobering knowledge to one’s perspective. Accept William Wordsworth’s eloquent, simple invitation, “Come forth into the light of things. Let Nature be your teacher,” and joyfully connect with nature by visiting one of the world’s unique and memorable global hotspots.
Spectacular locations with great accessibility
- Látrabjarg Cliffs in Iceland for puffins – Imagine walking up to high sea cliffs, where colorful Atlantic Puffins court and nest! In western Iceland, Látrabjarg Cliffs has breeding colonies of charming puffins as well as immense seabird colonies of razorbills, northern gannets, and guillemots.
- Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland province, Canada, for northern gannets – Newfoundland and Labrador’s accessible and spectacular rookery reserve is home to 24,000 Northern gannets, elegantly white birds with wing spans up to 6 feet as well as thousands of kittiwakes, murres, razorbills, guillemots, and cormorants.
- Haines, Alaska, for eagles – At the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Reserve, a unique, warm water upwelling in the Chilkat River creates a salmon run feast for eagles. At the “Council Grounds of the Eagle,” congregations can swell to over 3,000 eagles, gathering along sand bars and cottonwood trees to create easy access to a winter spectacle.
- Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, for sandhill cranes – At Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, thousands of tall, long-legged, gray sandhill cranes winter in corn-planted fields, marshes, ponds, and riparian forest located along the Rio Grande.
- Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming for elk – In the spectacular Rocky Mountains’ heart, Yellowstone National Park is a site for all seasons with geysers, wildlife, geology, and sheer natural beauty. Autumn brings blazing color and the breathtaking elk rut with huge bulls bugling and sparring in an ageless battle for mates.
Special hotspot tips for Iceland’s puffins and birding rookeries
Summer at Látrabjarg Cliffs, the most accessible of Iceland’s three, largest bird cliffs (Látrabjarg, Hornbjarg, and Haelavikurbjarg and the farthest west it is possible to stand in western Europe, is a site that ranks #1 on Lonely Planet’s listing article of ten of the greatest wildlife spectacles. The ideal time to visit is in the summer, and unlike many rookery locations requiring sea access, the location can be reached by car off Iceland’s iconic Ring Road. Learn more, see site photographs, and garner specifics at “Eco-trip – Photography and birding at Iceland’s Látrabjarg Cliffs” and “Iceland’s Ring Road holds natural wonder.”
Special hotspot tips for Newfoundland’s breathtaking ocean cliff rookery
At Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, the southernmost colony location for Northern gannets in North America, it’s possible to walk up to sea stacks and cliffs filled with nesting birds. The summer months are when seabirds, nesting and feeding, fill the ocean air with a cacophony of screeching calls and flapping wings. Close access is a key asset, but photographers should allow an extra day at this reserve as the region’s fog can affect effective light and viewing. Learn more about travel and access as well as enjoy seabird images taken at Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve at “Asounding nature — walk up to thousands of Northern gannets.”
Special hotspot tips for massing of eagles in Haines, Alaska
In mid-November, often the peak of the gathering of eagles, Haines and the American Bald Eagle Foundation host an event-filled, annual Alaska Bald Eagle Festival. Gain resource links and see delightful photographs of the “Council Grounds of the Eagle” at “Go photograph ealges in Haines, Alaska”
Special hotspot tips for New Mexico’s premiere sandhill crane location
A twelve mile auto loop, rustic farm roads outside the refuge, and observation platforms bring ease at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Reserve to viewing tens of thousands of beautifully white snow geese and wonderful flocks of majestic sandhill cranes with six to seven feet wing spans. Breathtaking fly-ins and fly-outs at dawn and sunset create memories and images to cherish. Bosque del Apache’s sandhill cranes arrive in November and depart in February.
Each November, the Bosque del Apache Festival of the Cranes provides viewing opportunities, photography workshops, birding tours, a Fine Art Show, and more. Learn more about visiting this premiere national wildlife refuge and view a slideshow of Bosque del Apache images at “Experience the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache.”
Special hotspot tips for Yellowstone’s autumn elk rut
Top locations to view Yellowstone’s autumn elk are at incredible Mammoth Hot Springs, where the elk create traffic jams in town, as well as the more natural, Madison River Valley area, where bull elk defend their herds against challengers. Learn more at two, well-linked articles with resources and slideshows at “Ecotrip – Early autumn’s spectacular elk rut in Yellowstone” and “Astounding nature brings elk rut adventure to Yellowstone.”
Glean information from online images
Ansel Adams indicated that photography presents “intuitive observations of the natural world.” Built on an image-based, digital pin board experience, Pinterest, especially on boards well-linked to travel or photography resources, can serve as an inspiring and informative planning tool. The “Go Photograph!” and “Travel: Birding and Wildlife Viewing” Pinterest boards provide both inspiration and linkage to travel resources. Additional inspiration can be found on the World of Wildlife Travel boards at http://www.pinterest.com/wildlifetravel/ and at FlowingEvents’ list of special Pinterest travel boards.
Additionally, wildlife viewing websites offer information on nature spectacle events. Wildlifehotspots.com is an excellent, well-organized resource with strong images to offer a true reflection of a location’s opportunities. The Digital Grin forum taps you into a thread where photographers share favorite hotspots. Tim Laman, a wildlife journalist, offers images specifically linked to biodiversity hotspots.
Knowledge is key
To gain the most from nature’s unique, spectacular events and hotspot locations, knowledge and preparation are critical. Wildlife’s biological clock doesn’t adhere to human itineraries. A change of seasons and environmental conditions will transform living events at nature’s key, hotspot locations. But, when natural events and splendid locations combine, the breathtaking rewards create superb, inspiring opportunities and deeply cherished memories. Visit wildlife hotspot locations to enlarge connections to nature, for as John Muir indicated, “Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”
Find the take in this article to be helpful? National and International Travel and Recreation as well as National Education and Industry materials come from a husband and wife creative team, who travel extensively as photonaturalists and writers. One is an experienced, research scientist with a doctorate in Material Sciences and background in optics research. The other is former Vice President of GKE (Global Knowledge Exchange), who served as a US Web-based Education Commissioner during the Clinton administration, and was a former US National Tech&Learning Teacher of the Year.
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