Saturday, April 26, 2014

Time for a Few Birds

I have been having a lot of fun photographing brown hares this spring and started feeling I had been neglecting the birds a little. This was particularly the case as I could feel spring gathering around me with various migrants coming through and arriving locally. So it was time for a bit of bird time. Also I wanted to get in a little bird practice as I am away to Romania in three weeks where the majority of subjects will be birds. This post is a small collection of different birds photographed recently from a series of often short sessions in various places.

Starting of with a trip down south recently to visit my parents which resulted in a brief stop-off in Bushy Park to break up the journey. The avian soundscape of the London Parks has been transformed by a flourishing population of Ring-necked Parakeets, with their constant sqwarking from the trees. Their vivid green colours certainly add a splash of the exotic to these park lands. This is a species of considerable debate given the suggested competition between these introduced invading species and our endemic tree nesting birds. The light was not great on the day so I was looking for birds in places where I could avoid the sky which either meant low down or with a tree trunk filling the frame.

On one of the ponds in the park there were three Pochard. This is a duck species that has frustratingly evaded by efforts to photograph it and as on this occasion I have only managed a few photographs. This pair of Pochard where in the middle of mating with the female getting half 'drowned' in the process.
Moving closer to home, I have undertaken the occasional early morning or evening session before or after work. My good friend Gerhard created, with quite a lot of sustained effort, an 'out in the wild' feeding station for Linnet. These are quite a flighty species and so it provided a good opportunity to get some photos and watch the birds up close.  His efforts paid off attracting increasing numbers of the birds, which were mainly young birds or females but there were a couple of better coloured males amongst them. They tend to be a slightly overlooked species  which most will associate with loose bounding twittering flocks, but a good coloured male up close is a fine looking bird.
It was nice to see good numbers of Skylark along the local coastal strip. There liquid song dripping down from their high display flights is always a pleasure to the ears.
Always a tricky subject in flight.
This next photograph was a completely unplanned bonus as the bird landed next to me in a bramble patch whilst trying to photograph some warblers. A male Reed bunting in all the finery of its full spring plumage.
Over the last week or so I have finally turned my attentions to the increasing numbers of arriving warblers. These birds really bring an area to life as the once silent reeds, scrub and brambles suddenly takes on a whole new life with the incessant whirling, clicks, and scratchy warbles of various species trying to lay claim to a breeding patch. To appreciate this at its best requires the alarm clock to be set to a very early time which will leave you feeling fuzzy headed with tiredness by the early afternoon. Its worth it though.

A Sedge Warbler establishing its territory over an area of brambles from four different song perches.
Another lover of the security provided by a bramble patch is the Grasshopper Warbler. Now I did intend to avoid these this year but then again I say that every year and was once again drawn in by that mesmerizing insect like song. For me watching these birds broadcast their song is one of the real pleasures at this time of year and no doubt I will find myself drawn to them next April.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Buzzin Round the Zoo

Now and again I like to make a visit to my local zoo at Chester. Is is a very good zoo and they a operate a large number of  important conservation and education programmes. This zoo holds many fond memories as it is one of the places I taught myself photography. I use to have a season ticket and so would pop in for an hour or two and go and spend some time at a particular enclosure. I think this zoo provide me with a valuable education as overcoming the constraints of the enclosures to produce natural looking images, taught me to think carefully about my position and how it effects the setting and composition and the importance of backgrounds. This is still important in my wildlife photography.  In those early days I would often rush around the zoo wanting to photograph everything, these days I take a more relaxed approach on my visits.

I prefer to visit in the winter when the zoo is quieter and if the sun shines it is softer. Mind you the low sun angle can create some awkward long shadows across the enclosures. This post is about two visits I have made in the last 6 months. The first was a brief afternoon back in November when I dropped my better half off in Chester to meet some friends for some retail therapy whilst I had a couple of hours wandering the zoo. High Street shops or looking at exotic animals, well there is not much competition there really.  So here are a couple of images from that first trip.

An adult cheetah prowling its large enclosure and one of the three youngsters rim lit by the low winter sun.
Staying with the big cats, the male Asiatic Lion nearly always provides some good photo opportunities, when he is awake, with this one given the black and white treatment.

Photographing in the monkey house is always difficult due to the limited light but can produce some interesting images with a bit of patience.

Crested Macaques

The dominant male Mandrill. I have always been fascinated with these large monkeys and found myself transfixed watching this one wandering what was going on behind those eyes.


My second visit was quite recently and unusually an all day one. My very good friend Andy Rouse, together with Andrew James, recently set up a very interesting photography website called Fotobuzz. They have tried to create something different and have put in a huge amount of work in to creating a very slick website with strong feeling of community and fun that is aimed at improving people's photography. I have been contributing to this on a monthly basis in a section about days out with your camera. Really it would take me far too long here to explain so here is a link Fotobuzz , if you want to see what it is about. This trip to Chester Zoo was the first Fotobuzz meetup with around 40 members from all over the UK attending. Given that it was just down the road I promised I would call in to help out. After an initial talk, accompanied by some coffee and pastries, about zoo photography, Andy went on to show some images and provide some background on his latest wildlife photography projects. Before being let lose with their cameras around the zoo, some help was given to people who had queries about setting up new cameras. A great day was had by all and I am sure many learnt some new techniques. There was certainly plenty of smiles when we all congregated together at the end of the day before departing. A few images from my wandering around the zoo that day are below.

Asiatic male lion again, this time in colour.

Emerald Starling in the Tropic Realm. Beautiful birds in their metallic green and purple colours. However, the colourful bird awards must go to the Nicobar Pigeon. Not all pigeons are equal and this must rank amongst the most beautiful.

A brief visit into the small aquarium and a Cardinal with an anemone.
Glossy Ibis and Black Vulture

The new Komodos.

My favourite images of the session was of one of the giraffes. The black background here created by some of that careful positioning I mentioned earlier.


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