Sunday 29 March 2009

Walmsley attracts the birds and birders

A warm Spring day filled both the Tower Hide and mini hide with birders today at this stunning CBWPS reserve. Following a bitterly cold Saturday, today was the opposite. And the birders present could not have been disappointed. A pair of Merlins, 30 Black-tailed Godwit, several Little Egrets, Water Rail, Snipe, Barn Owl, Shovelers, Gadwalls, Teals, Pochard, migrant Swallows and Sand Martins and aggressive swans and geese all added to the entertainment. Below are a selection of shots taken today.

Male Merlin photographed at about 150 metres. This was the best I could get given the distance and heat haze. The visisble spots around this tiny raptor are midges !

About 30 Black-tailed Godwits were flying round the reserve. The middle bird was well advanced into breeding dress.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Barn Owl at Walmsley

This delightful Barn Owl hunted along the border of the reserve for about ten minutes this morning and approached to within 30 metres.

EXIF Detail:Aperture Priority. Shutter Speed varies between 1/1000th second and 1/500th. Ap F/4.8 ISO250, Focal Length 700mm, varies between EV -0.7 and -1.3, White Balance: Cloudy.

All of the images were taken with the 300mm F/2.8 lens and 1.7x TC, in high speed crop mode, hence the high focal length of 700mm.

Thursday 26 March 2009

Not long to wait...

I've decided to break away from showing just birds on this photoblog and showcase some of my best images of butterflies. I'm not sure if they quite sit well here...opinions sought as always on this subject, but one can only marvel at their colour and pose. The image above is one of my overall favourites as it catches the Silver-studded Blue peeping through the Trefoil plant.

I took these images last year in Italy, where the early morning light is so intense and brings the best out of the colours. Early butterfly sightings are already on the Cornish forums, so not long to wait before we get another chance to find and photo these insects.

The above image is a Spotted Fritillary and was the commonest butterfly in the local area. Farming practices were fairly basic and as such, had little impact on the environment - there were literally hundreds of fritillaries, most of them posing like the one above.

The Bath White above was taken with the Nikon D3 and 300mm F/2.8 lens on a tripod. The 300mm lens is not a true macro but does have a reasonably close focus of 2.5 metres. With the lens set at F/4 aperture, some low depth of field images with nicely blurred background can be achieved.

The Small Heath shot above is typical of how I try to photo butterflies. It's far from easy, but talking to other wildlife photographers at the CWT photo group, the key is to eliminate background interruptions so that the image "focusses" solely on the insect. Not easy.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Happy couple at Walmsley

A fairly easy target to photo, one might say, but capturing the ideal angle is easier said than done. This cob and pen were constantly moving, touching, courting, caressing, turning, spinning, an attempt at mating, etc etc. but she wasn't having any of it. The above photo shows the closest that he got. My choice of five photos best shows the display.

The complete performance lasted about five minutes but consummation wasn't witnessed ! I'm assuming that they were actually a cob and pen...who knows in this day and age.

Sunday 22 March 2009

A day at Walmsley Sanctuary

The collection of various images below are the result of several hours spent in a couple hides at the CBWPS reserve. The site is looking stunning and the birds are fairly close too. Pick of the crop are some displaying Gadwalls and Northern Shoveler, a distant record shot of the wintering Hen Harrier, a showy male Pheasant and a very close shot of a Little Grebe. The highlight though was the steady increase of Sand Martins through the day... at dusk as we were leaving, I would estimate up to 1000 birds hawking insects on the reserve.
EXIF detail: Aperture Priority. Aperture F/5. Shutter 1/500th. ISO 320 Focal Length 600mm. WB Cloudy. EV 0.0

Northern Wheatears at Davidstow

Northern Wheatears have arrived in force this weekend with several delightful males and a couple females showing well on the disused runway at Davidstow. The shots below were taken from the car window with the sun behind me. I used a polariser filter to reduce the glare often found on white feathers in bright sun. Shutter speed reduces quite dramatically when using these filters but the end result can be worth it. The third image shows the bill open as it is singing!

EXIF detail: Aperture priority. Aperure wide open at F/4. EV -0.7. Shutter 1/1250th. ISO 400. Focal length 600mm. White Balance Cloudy.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Welcome back !

A few hours from first light this morning at St Gothian Sands and I was treated to my first Northern Wheatear sighting of the year. The males are always first to arrive as they are eager to get on their breeding grounds early and establish territory. Females will follow through at the end of the month and into April. Wheatears and chats are one of my favourite families and the images of the birds below show the reason why. I have slotted in the Blackbird image from today as well, just because it was singing its' heart out and deserves a mention. Its not from Africa but is more than welcome !

EXIF Detail: P Program Mode. Shutter 1/400th. Ap F/10. ISO 800. Focal length 850mm. EV -0.3, White Balance: Cloudy. DX Crop Mode used. Distance from bird c30 yards.
EXIF Detail: P Program Mode. Shutter 1/400th. Ap F/10. ISO 800. Focal length 850mm. EV -0.3, White Balance: Cloudy. DX Crop Mode used. Distance from bird c30 yards.
EXIF Detail: P Program Mode. Shutter 1/400th. Ap F/10. ISO 800. Focal length 850mm. EV -0.3, White Balance: Cloudy. DX Crop Mode used. Distance from bird c30 yards.
Stonechat. EXIF Detail: P Program Mode. Shutter 1/250th. Ap F/8. ISO 1000. Focal length 850mm. EV -0.3, White Balance: Cloudy. FX Full Frame Mode used. Distance from bird c10 yards.
Blackbird. EXIF Detail: Aperture Priority Mode. Shutter 1/125th. Aperture F/6.3. ISO 1000. Focal length 850mm. EV -0.7, White Balance: Cloudy. FX Full Frame Mode used. Distance from bird c 20 yards.

Monday 16 March 2009

Up close and personal with a Glaucous Gull

This bird is the first year Glaucous Gull which has spent all winter in Newlyn Harbour. Given the size of this gull, it is approachable and remarkably docile, allowing ridiculously close views. So close that you can see its' eye brows and the living bugs near its' eyes. First year gulls can be aged by their dark eyes, with the iris becoming pale at adult. Newlyn Harbour is the best site in the region for rare gulls and this individual could often be seen with two Iceland Gulls that also wintered in the harbour.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Late photo opportunities at Stithians Demo Day

On what must have been the warmest, brightest and most still day of the year, came some stunning late afternoon sunlight. The optics demo day was successful with some 25+ people viewing through the best equipment on offer to date. By 4.30pm everyone had their fill, by which time the light was perfect for some eagerly awaited photography. The four shots below are the best of the day.
Male Reed Bunting. EXIF: Aperture Priority F/6.3 . Shutter 1/1000 th. ISO 400. Focal Length 420mm. EV -0.3. WB: Cloudy.
Coot. EXIF: Aperture Priority F/6.3 . Shutter 1/1000 th. ISO 400. Focal Length 420mm. EV -0.3. WB: Cloudy.
Goldfinch. EXIF: Aperture Priority F/6.3 . Shutter 1/320 th. ISO 400. Focal Length 420mm. EV -0.3. WB: Cloudy.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker. EXIF: P Program Mode. Aperture F/10 . Shutter 1/400th. ISO 400. Focal Length 420mm. EV -0.7. WB: Cloudy.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Ring Ouzel at St Gothian Sands NR

At long last, I have eventually caught up with the elusive Ring Ouzel in the Gwithian area. This bird is most likely to be the wintering male seen on at least two occasions this winter - once by Tim Twiggs in January on the dunes beside the pool and later photographed by Steve Sargeant in February. These are the only two observations that I'm aware of. A few years ago, one was also wintering around Godrevy, so the area is obviously attractive to the species, but it is a generally rare bird in winter and a prize find indeed. The majority of the population however, winter in the Atlas mountains in Morocco and move north again in late March and early April.

I have visited St Gothians about ten times this winter with the intention of seeing this bird. Tonight, I had all but forgotten about it, intending to find early Wheatears when it flew past me calling and landed on the green grassbank to the left of the gated entrance (SW Water treatment works side). It was incredibly shy and the closest I could approach was 75 yards. The dog walkers flushed it three times and I didn't see it again after 5.30pm. I only managed 15 shots and these two were the best of the batch. Both are heavily cropped and sharpened in Photoshop.

EXIF Detail: Due to low light, camera set to P (program) mode, as I couldn't risk getting it wrong! ISO 800. Aperture F/7.1, EV -0.3, WB Automatic, Shutter 1/200, Focal length: 800mm.