Sunday, November 30, 2008

'Barwits' and Plovers

During certain tides, good numbers of Bar tailed Godwits ('Barwit')gather up briefly on one the local beaches. I have watched them for a while but never got down to actually having a proper attempt at photographing them. A plan was formulated to attempt to get close enough to this nervous flock to try and photograph them. The was going to involve getting covered in mud and getting the timing just right.

First birds to fall in the camera viewfinder were some grey plover which kept their distance but I thought I would take some 'environment' shots anyway as the winter sea provided a good background and this is a species I have not photogrtaphed before.
The Bar-tailed Godwit plan worked quite well (at least until the first beach dog walkers appeared)and I was pleased with the results from this first attempt.
The early morning light combined with the wet sand created some interesting lighting conditions. I must admit being embedded in amongst a feeding Bar Tail flock was great fun and an experience I hope to repeat in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Beach Runners

When it comes to photographing wading birds, Sanderling appear very high on my list of favourites. They can be quite confiding but are always constantly busy searching for food at the water's edge of an incoming tide. This gives great potential for some interesting action photography with the further bonus of watching the behaviour of these birds at close quarters.

The fun really starts when they are in full stride along the beach and these small birds cover ground very quickly.Airbourne without wings

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Battling with Time and the Elements

Unfortunately I have not had much camera time during the last couple of weeks as I have been very busy with work and the weather has not been great. In fact I have just got up early this morning hoping to get out and the forecast, not only for today but the whole weekend looks grim. No doubt as I step into the office on Monday the sun will shine!

The few odd snatched moments of time have produced a couple of photos. There has been a young Great Northern Diver that has taken up residence on the local marine lake. This is a big lake and the bird has spent a great deal of time out of range in the middle. I was fortunate to get one close swim-by on a very windy day.
Unusually on the same day I also had a photographic first, a duck also appeared on the lake which at first I thought was a Tufted Duck and it was not until I got the photographs home that I realised it was a drake Scaup. A pleasant bonus.
I also came across a lone male shoveler on a local lake

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lots of Knot

The local winter knot flocks have now reached large numbers which means that finding groups of several thousand birds is relatively easy. I though this year I would have a go photographing some pf the flocks, although I must confess I always find this type of photography difficult. Unfortunately the impact of these photos is reduced by their small size on the Blog, but they give the general impression.
A tightly packed flockTo watch them is an experience in itself due to the swirling synchronised movements of the birds
I thought I would also try some low level photos and lay on the local beach as the tide brought them in.
The sound from one of these flocks marching in unison is spectacular. I also have done a bit of experimentation, although only days with some slow shutter speeds when light has been poor. The idea in this shot was to try an isolate a stationary bird in the foreground while the others scurried around it.
Of course the other elements is these birds in flight.
and a couple of photos to finish off using the offshore wind farm to give a sense of place. I still have some more experimenting to undertake with the flocks and have some ideas using some wider angle lenses. If those ideas work I will obviously let you know.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Local Leucism

Leucism is a genetic condition when a animal has reduced pigmentation and is different from the albino state in that the bird or animal has normal coloured eyes. Leucistic birds are occasionally found but the only one I have ever seen was a pure white starling, many, many years ago. On one on my local lakes a pair of normal coloured moorhens have produced two leucistic young. Apparently they produced one last year but it disappeared, presumed dead. Obviously I was keen to investigate. Before I went to visit them, I did a bit of a search on the net and there are probably no more than four of these white moorhens in the UK which makes them somewhat special.
On arriving at the lake I had no problems spotting them as they really stood out with their glowing white plumage. Obviously not a great advantage when predators are about! I paid a couple of early morning visits to the lake before work to get some photos, of which a selection are posted below. For those of you not acquainted with the normal colouring of a moorhen....and now on to the leuistic version
Also instead of the usual lime green coloured legs these birds have orange legs.
Now if the estimate of four birds in the UK is correct, then this next photo contains half the UK population.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Testing the Canon 50D

I decided to take the plunge and pick up a Canon 50D body which I thought would provide a useful back up body. It certainly on paper has some advantages for bird photography 1.6x sensor, 15 megapixels (useful for cropping) and a reasonable frame rate at 6.5 fps. It comes with a host of other features. most of which I disabled before use except tuning it in with my long lens using the autofocus micro-adjust. So off I went to find some birds to photograph. The first session was in some very windy conditions on the local shore.
A purple sandpiper in some late afternoon light
...and a passing herring gull. The first thing I noticed is that the autofocus is very fast and quickly locks on to target.The next session was under much calmer conditions and the first test subject was some mallard.
My inital thoughts from these shots were:
  • The files are huge and you only get about 178 images on a 4 gig card
  • The images had more noise than my mk3 but it seemed to clean up well in a noise reduction program.
  • The main issue was that the only RAW software that I have which will open the files is DPP supplied with the camera which has to be near the bottom of my personal list when it comes to RAW convertors.

Back out for another session on the local coast.

Common gull in flight

and then a test on the local Egrets in some end of the day light
My verdict from the inital tests are that the camera performs reasonably well although I would not say the image is quality is as a good as the mk3, but then again the 50D is a 1/3 of the cost. Obviously I need to give it some more testing and it usually take me a while to settle in with a new camera body. I will probably also feel more settled with it once I can load the raw files into my usual Capture One raw software.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Autumn Storm Birds

I am fortunate to live in one of the few places in the country where the pelagic Leach's Storm Petrel can be blown into the shore with strong westerly or north westerly winds during the autumn. This is a bird I have not photographed before and during some recent strong winds some arrived, the first decent number of birds for a couple of years. They are very difficult birds to photograph, being about the size of a starling, and also due to the fact that you are trying to hold a camera steady during a raging onshore gale. Being dark birds they also really need the sun on them to show them at their best, which did not occur in my attempt for them but at least I managed to get some shots (although there is room for improvement but that will probably have to wait to next autumn now).
Its amazing to watch these tiny birds battling their way through ferocious winds and seas as they patter their way across the surface.
A couple of birds ended up being blown onto the beach briefly as they powered their way back out to sea.Hopefully the sun will shine when they hit the shore again and this brief encounter has provided me with useful experience for next time.


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