Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Simply Flying Magpies

As the rain and hail swirl round outside in strong freezing gusts of wind it has been time to sit in front of the computer and work through my backlog of images left from last year. This seems even more sensible given that I am just getting over a nasty cold.
The weather is getting rather frustrating now as any time there is any glimmer of light it seems to be accompanied by gale force winds. I hope it will settle down soon as I am aching to get out and do some photography. This is particularly the case as after some selling of old kit and saving I managed to get my new long lens and am looking forward to giving it a really good testing.
So this post is just dedicated to flying Magpies, which have been taken as part of my long running work on capturing various corvids in flight. Magpies are not a greatly loved species, blamed for also kinds of avian atrocities. However, they are opportunistic birds and nature is about survival so if available they are going to exploit an easy meal by raiding a smaller bird's nest of its eggs or young.  You often hear people say 'oh I had a lovely woodpecker in the garden' but never are such words spared for a magpie. However, woodpeckers can also be surprisingly predatory as is evidenced by the number of nest boxes that suddenly become empty and the entry whole 'mysteriously' enlarged.
To me the old counting magpie rhyme does not start by painting them in a good light. 'One for sorrow' in my mind should really be 'One for Pleasure' because they make a superb bird to photograph. This is particularly the case when in flight when their striking plumage is displayed in its full glory.

They are not the easiest of birds to photograph in flight as they tend to be quite erratic and difficult to track with the camera. Of course the black and white feathers also require careful exposure control of the camera and vigilance of subtle changes in light conditions. My photography of these birds has required quite a concerted effort with continual feeding of a particular site over a number of years. This has resulted in it being now quite easy to get the birds where I want them which is half the battle won.
Now if I were to ask most people about the colour of a magpie they would say that it was a black and white bird. Looking at the first five photographs on this post it is easy to see why they would think that. However, it is the back of the bird where the colour are. The blue of the wings and a tail that is green turning to purple at its tip that glows like a rainbow in the right light.
Now in my head I have an image of a magpie in flight that I am hoping to capture one day. I already know that it is a difficult photograph to capture and only persistence and a bit of luck will see me rewarded. The best colours of a magpie are displayed from a rear view when the tail takes on it spectrum of hues.
However, on these occasions, as above, the bird's head is facing away from the camera and I want something that gives the viewer of the photograph a bit more of an intimate contact with the bird. I know I will never take this rear view image with the magpie looking back towards the camera as it would be a foolish bird that flies without looking where it's going! The only hope is to get the bird banking in front of me with a full dorsal view and its feathers splayed. A difficult proposition but one day it will happen and that's what keep me going back to photograph these wonderful birds.


Laurence Butler said...

That last shot is absolutely stunning Rich. It makes the Magpie look like a mythological creature

Charlotte said...

Fantastic photos, I rather like magpies (though not in large numbers as they can be rather devastating to other populations). Their plummage is just stunning.

José-Elías Rodríguez said...

The most beautifull pictures of magpies I've seen. Excelent!

Michael Gehrisch said...

Excellent shots!

Noushka said...

I have just discovered your blog, you have stunning and lively pictures here!
The iridescence on that Magpie's feathers is beautiful, it shows the importance of getting the light right too!

Ben Porter said...

Cracking images Rich. The iridescence that you've managed to capture on the lower three is just superb.
Hope you get over your cold!

Monedula said...

Congratulations to your impressive work, the magpie images are outstanding!

All the Best
Chris Falk

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Here is hoping that you are feeling all better and I never can say quite enough about how marvelous your images always turn out. Just absolutely stunning!

Rich Steel said...

Thanks for your comments and thoughts. It always bring pleasure to show a common bird in a new light and hopefully make people look at them with greater appreciation in the future.



Linda said...

Hi Rich,

Greetings from Montreal, Canada. Your photos are just gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing your amazing talent.

jeanne Marklin said...

Hi Rich, we don't have Magpies in Massachusetts but I've seen them in Ireland. The flash of iridescence is so striking and so hard to catch! Your photos are very impressive. I'm an artist working in fiber and I hope to use your photos as guides to the colors of the common, but oh so elegant Magpie.
Thank you for sharing them with the world!

jeanne Marklin said...

Hi Rich,
Thank you for these amazing photos! We don't have Magpies in Massachusetts, but I have seen this species in Ireland. The flash of iridescence is such a surprise the first time, and then so gratifying if you are lucky enough to see it again. I'm a fiber artist and hope to use the colors of your photo's as inspiration for a piece celebrating the Magpie. Thank you for the patience and professionalism it takes to catch these beautiful birds.

jeanne Marklin said...

Thank you for this image! It is always a gift to actually see the iridescence on the feathers as the Magpies are so quick to avoid being close to humans. I'm an artist living in Williamstown, MA, and we don't have Magpies here. I saw them in Ireland and have wanted to pay homage to them since then, so I'm using your images as touch stones. Thank you for the patience and incredible eye it took to capture these striking birds!

Louisette said...

Congratulations wonderfull captures


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