Friday, 25 December 2009

My best 20 Cornish images in 2009

Below are twenty of what I think are my best shots of the year of birds taken in Cornwall.  Naturally the majority of images are birds of coast and estuary.  Not all of them are out and out rarities but just nice to see pictures of local birds.  As the photographer, each shot brings memories of the day, the conditions and the circumstances leading up to the shot.

The Baird's Sandpiper at Marazion took me three attempts to get these images.  Luckily it stayed in the beach area around Marazion and Long Rock for a couple weeks. 

The Chough image was a pure fluke as I was concentrating on a Yellow-browed Warbler when this flock of five birds landed in a field behind me.  Full of character and colour, Choughs are difficult to get close to and the camera exposure is also tricky to perfect on these predominantly dark birds.

Waders are my second favourite family of birds.  Juveniles in Autumn are especially photographic with their perfectly clean and fresh plumage, as was the case with this juvvy Dunlin at Davidstow in September.

Waders at Marazion beach are usually confiding and again this juvvy Dunlin was particularly classy.

The Great Northern Diver below was taken in December at Newlyn Harbour, one of the best sites in Cornwall for close views of sheltering divers, grebes and gulls.

The Goldfinch shot was actually taken at the end of 2008 at Portscatho but is one of my all time favourites, so have shown it here.

Storm blown sea birds have been one of my targets this year and 2009 did not disappoint with several big storms in the early and latter part of the year.  A 600mm lens obviously helps to get closer to the birds but the condition of the gear after a session in a gale on a beach would make you weep.  The bird below is a juvvy Little Gull at Long Rock beach.

The Little Stint below brings back fond memories of our lovely summer...or not.  There were only a handful of Little Stints this autumn.  I found this young bird at Davidstow in appalling conditions.  I managed to swing the car round and take the shots through the passenger window (from the driver seat) so as to keep the lens dry.

The Little Stint below was taken at the Red River at Marazion.  I like the shot as the fast shutter speed has caught the movement of water and the pale body is set nicely against the dark colour of background seaweed.

Mediterranean Gulls are a regular sight in Cornwall now and Carnsew Pool is a good place to find them feeding nice and close to the footpath.  This adult came to within 20 yards.

This shot of a Pied Wagtail leaping up to catch a passing fly was quite popular among blog readers and attracted quiet a few comments at the time, so have included it here again.  It is of course a pure fluke to catch the fly and bird in focus.

Only taken just before Christmas, this Redwing in my drive feeding on cotoneaster is one of my favourite shots.  Redwing just oozes quality.

Hardly a "quality" bird but the shot brings back memories as I arrived at Davidstow before dawn, early enough to catch the dew on the grass and find some waders like this Ringed Plover busily feeding and, unperturbed by my presence.

Seabirds are a growth industry at the moment and I predict Cornwall to become THE place to visit next August.  With many Wilson's Petrels, several good Fea's Petrels, Black-browed Albatross and Madeiran Petrel this summer, plus easy mainland access, Cornwall will be the seawatching hotspot in summer 2010.  A series of Pelagics are also planned so bring it on!

The Manx and Sooty Shearwater shots were taken from a Newquay Pelagic in August.  Flat conditions allowed very close views of these normally difficult to photo birds.

This Yellow-browed Warbler was taken at Nanquidno in October.  I took a lot shots of this tame bird but this is my fave as the focus and exposure is perfect.  I like the autumnal colours and also the composure of the shot.

In a strong north-westerly wind in November, a visit to St Ives was rewarded with this Balearic Shearwater.  I like the shot as it shows the full underwing in a vertical position, highlighting the strength of the wind as the bird shears the wave.

Finally, not the best of shots, but this Pacific Diver is indeed a rarity though, and should be shown here. It is only the fourth record for UK but most likely the same returning adult, having first appeared in Cornwall  in 2007 and then again in 2008.

The Turnstone below was taken at St Ives harbour, handheld with a 300mm lens and the first of a series of shots with a new D3x.  (This was inadevertently the 20th favourite shot somehow missing from the list).

Monday, 21 December 2009

Redwing opportunities

The onset of cold weather is now the best opportunity one will get to photograph Redwing and other winter thrushes.  With good light the results can be rewarding.  These images were taken in the driveway on a tiny cotoneaster bush.  Hunger had overtaken fear for this bird.

These shots were taken at 4pm in falling light.  I used the 300mm lens with no converter, with the aperture wide open at F/2.8.  The curious blue background on the top image is caused by a car headlight moving past the bird as I took the shot.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Images from Walmsley Sanctuary today

Below are some images from Walmsley sanctuary today, including two adult Whooper Swans.  Duck numbers were reasonably high today with approximately 300+ Eurasian Wigeon, 3-400 Common Teal, 5 Gadwall, 3 Northern Pintail and 30 Shoveler.  Also 100+ Common Snipe were being chased by a female Sparrowhawk whilst three Peregrines were also hunting over the reserve.  The scenery shot above is the view from the hide looking eastwards towards the Cornish mountain range of Bodmin Moor (Brown Willy and Rough Tor).

Ad Whooper Swans above and below.

Female Shoveler below.

Male Common Teal, easily the commonest duck on the reserve.

Below are part of the 300 plus strong flock of Wigeon today.  The image also shows one female Shoveler.

All images taken with the 300mm F/2.8 and 1.4x TC, handheld.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Gulls at Gwithian today

These images were taken today at St. Gothians NR, Gwithian in bright, strong winter sunshine - always an exposure challenge. They were taken at about 10am so the sun was still quite low and directly shining on the bird (rather than above creating shadow). I was experimenting with exposure metering and the meter was set to Spot; thus only the inner part of the frame with the bird-subject within it is correctly exposed. I was pleased with the results - white gulls and bright water are quite tricky but virtually all of the 40 shots were exposed correctly so I guess I will experiment further with this in the future.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Jubilee Pool purple patch

The sea wall and rocks adjacent to the Jubilee Pool at Penzance are well known for the wintering flock of Purple Sandpipers.  At high tide a good number of birds will allow close approach .  I took these shots last week in good light.

Successful CBWPS field trip on the Roseland today

Stunningly bright weather and relatively calm conditions enabled ten of us to see some unusual sea duck, divers and grebes today in and around the Roseland.  Approximately eight Black-throated Diver, one Great Northern Diver, three Common Scoter, three distant Slavonian and a single Black-necked Grebe were found in Gerrans Bay.  We then moved to Cormerrans Farm overlooking the Carrick Roads.  Calm conditions allowed us to find a pair of Velvet Scoter, c.18 Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Diver and five Black-necked Grebe, the latter being the start of the build-up of the normal wintering flock here.

The image above was taken last year from Rosevine, Gerrans Bay and shows three envious Black-throated Divers watching a Great Northern Diver eat a flat fish.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Being chat-ted up

This pair of curious Stonechats investigated what I was up to on Marazion beach yesterday.  If they could talk, I reckon they would have asked what I was doing! They were as content as I was in the rare bright sunlight and approached to about 15 ft.  The sun was quite low and directly behind me, bringing out the full peachy-orange colour of these winter plumaged Stonechats.

The seaweed and general beach debris make an interesting picture of different colours and objects.  As regular readers of this photoblog will be aware, much of my photography is done in this area.  There is always something different here and when the sun does shine, the light is stunning.

EXIF Detail: Aperture F/7.1 Shutter speed 1/500s.  ISO 400. WB Cloudy. Focal length 510mm. (eg. 300mm F/2.8 + 1.7xTC).  Tripod mounted. 21 meg RAW File cropped in Capture NX2 software.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

At last a bright day for photography

Today is the first day in weeks where I haven't had to check the shutter speed.  The light has been stunningly clear today and gave me an opportunity to get to grips with a pair of Great Northern Divers in Newlyn Harbour.  Normally quite distant when feeding offshore, better photo opportunities can be found within the harbour walls.  Newlyn is one of the best of Cornish sites for close views of this impressive bird.

EXIF Detail: Aperture priority.  F/6.7  Shutter speed 1/1000s. Exposure 0.0EV. ISO 400. Centre weighted metering. Focal length 1000mm (600mm F/4 plus 1.7xTC).