Thursday, April 30, 2015

Up with the Larks

A key piece of equipment for successful bird photography is a good alarm clock. First light is a busy period in birds' lives as they are often hungry from their overnight roost and need to build energy levels back up. The other benefit of course is that you also get that soft early light that shows the birds off to the best and the day has not warmed up enough for the focus ruining, wobbling air of heat haze to kick in. Of course at this time of year, and going into the summer, with the every increasing day lengths this can be punishing on a person's sleep regime. You have to be on your sight as the sun is appearing. So if you take in to account getting yourself up and out of the house (which includes a mandatory coffee) together with travel time, you end up having to set the trusty alarm clock to times when some people are just coming home from a night out.
Despite it being a struggle to get up at these unsociable times with usually results with you feeling later in the day (the mid-afternoon zombie time) like you have never slept in your entire life,   I do love these early mornings. A joy to travel along empty roads and the dawn period often has a wonderful stillness and freshness with the main sounds being just the wildlife around you.

Photography of skylarks definitely seems to benefit from an early start. Over the years I have spent a good deal of time with these birds but never seem to tire of what for me is the harbinger of spring. When images of skylarks start appearing on the back of the camera you know that spring is just around the corner and the first of the arriving migrants the Chiffchaff, the Wheatear and the Ring Ouzel will not be long in arriving.

Most people associate Skylark as a bird of flight as the flutter upwards in song until they nearly disappear from sight before descending to the preferred rough grassland habitat once more. However, photographing these birds in flight is a real challenge. Rather than fly past, which they only seem to do when chasing rivals in rapid twisting fights during periods of setting up their territories, they tend to go vertically straight up. Unless you are in close proximity to the bird when it goes up or down then your chances of getting photographs are slim. Of course they use the wind to aid them in their vertical liftoff and so the breeze needs to be blowing in the same direction as the light to get front lit photographs of the birds.

I have had some success with photographing them in flight previously and thought I would give it another go this year. Wind, light and birds all came together one morning for a memorable session which produced a good number of images.  Certainly it produced enough images, a few of which are here, to satisfy that early spring craving for these wonderful birds for another year.
Next year? Well may be I will try and capture some of those territorial mid-air battles between rival males which would be a big photography challenge. Mind you it wouldn't be so fun or rewarding if you didn't have to work for it, at least that's what I tell myself when fumbling around for the alarm off button at 4am.

4 comments:

Barbara said...

Beautiful!

Lasse said...

Great photos !

Betty said...

your pictures of the skylark are spectacular.

Carl Bovis said...

Stunning photo's Richard! Must learn to try and get up early myself! Means going to bed early too!!

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