Monday 25 May 2009

Skippers, Blues and Argus enjoy brief sunshine

Saturday and Sunday were the hottest days so far this year and the first broods of butterflies were making the most of the heat. A visit to Perranporth dunes proved worthwhile as I snatched a limited couple hours photography before the family barbeque took precedent. (Only married men will understand this).

The four Common Blue images above and below are different individuals - up to 20 were seen scattered about between 9.45am and 11.15am. If I had time, more would no doubt have appeared as the sun gathered heat.

All of the images were taken with my favourite lens set-up. Whilst the 300mm F/2.8 is not a true macro lens, its' close focus of 2 metres is good enough for some quite spectacular detail. I always use the tripod for ultimate stabilty to ensure best focus. That said, there is still about 50% critically out of focus when viewed later on the laptop.

I was pleased with this shot as the shadow of the antenna is mirrored on the stem. (Fluke of course).

The image above is a Dingy Skipper. About ten of these butterflies were very busy chasing each other. You have to be really quick to get into position with this species as they continually antagonise each other.

Dingy Skippers are locally common in Cornwall but not in West Penwith or The Lizard. They seem to prefer the dunes and woodland margins. Dingy Skipper has one unusual feature: when resting it resembles a small moth with wings outspread and curved back unlike any other British species.

Above: Brown Argus. The digital image EXIF detail is fairly constant with all the images above eg. most taken at F/9 or F/10 and exposure either 0.0 or -0.3EV. All images have a low ISO of 100, which effectively means that the picture can be cropped quite aggressively before any pixellating appears.

Adult female Northern Wheatear - St Gothian Sands

This female Northern Wheatear was one of four females at St Gothian Sands NR this week. Females normally migrate later than the males as the latter need to get to their breeding areas earlier and establish the territories. Wheatears do breed in small numbers in the county and these four could presumably also be local birds.

The image above was taken with the 600mm fixed lens with no converter used. Distance approx 10 yards.

EXIF Detail. Aperture Priority. Ap: F/7.1 Shutter 1/500s. ISO 640. Exposure +0.3EV. Saturation: Normal. Sharpness: Normal. White Balance: Cloudy. 33% zoomed in via Photshop.

Sunday 24 May 2009

Brown Argus

Brown Argus is fairly common in the dune systems in Cornwall, especially where there is associated damp grass. This individual was photo'd at Perranporth, though Gwithian can also be good for this species in May and June, then a second brood again in August and September. This is the first weekend that I have been able to photo butterflies properly as for once, there is no wind ! I took this shot with the 300mm lens only, (no converter) on a tripod. Depth of field was quite low at F/6.3 and this should really have been higher, but at the time it was not bright sunlight and the shutter speed required increasing. The ideal is around F/8 or F/10.
EXIF Detail: Aperture PriorityAp F/6.3 Shutter 1/640s. ISO 640. Exposure -0.3EV.

Friday 22 May 2009

No flies on me

It's not a perfect image because the foliage obstructs the bird but there's something interesting about the concentration in the staring eye and of course the dead fly. All Sylvia warblers have strikingly pale eyes when seen close up, as does this Lesser Whitethroat.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroats are widespread across Europe and into the Middle East and are the commonest Sylvias on passage in Cyprus. They are not like the British variety though - if anything, a shade duller without the strong black mask. This male paused for a few seconds in the early morning sunlight, just long enough to take a few pictures. The exposure was raised to +0.3. The photo was taken in a very bright, white desert-type habitat and as such the auto exposure would have naturally darkened everything down. To compensate and retain the natural colours, the exposure was manually raised to fool the meter reader.

Monday 18 May 2009

Ibis checks the gloss

Glossy Ibis' are stunning birds with a wide range of subtle colours, sheens and glooses within the plumage. This bird posed for about an hour on the flash-flood meadow whilst it fed and preened. Exposure is a nightmare though, especially in the midday sun.

EXIF Detail: Aperture Priority. Ap F/10. Exposure 0.0EV. ISO 200. Shutter 1/60s. Tripod mounted. Taken midday.

Thursday 14 May 2009

Enjoying your hobby

These Hobby shots were taken today at Walmsley. It spent about two hours hawking insects over the reserve, occasionally flying past the hide at eye level. I took around a hundred shots, the majority of which were out of focus but these four were about the best I could manage. Falcons are difficult to capture because they fly so quickly and erratically. Add in the small matter of exposure against a bright sky and the problems start to magnify!
Walmsley regulars will recognise the stump below as the one in front of the hide at about fifty yards. The Hobby landed on the stump for a second before moving on again. I managed to photo the landing and take off but not the static bird...I'm not sure how this happened!

EXIF Detail: Aperture Priority. F/7.1 Shutter 1/400s. ISO 400. Exposure +0.7 . Focal length 500mm. WB Cloudy.
All images have been sharpened and cropped in Photoshop, except for the bird above the tree-line. The top image is a heavily cropped image from the "tree-line" set.

Two consolation prizes

The Dunnock and Reed Warbler shots were taken at St. Gothian Sands nature reserve yesterday, very early in the morning. The weather conditions were perfect for migrants but it seems I missed just about everything unusual, including a decent influx of Red Kites, Black Kite, Golden Orioles, Garganeys and Temminck's Stint. The best I could find were these two consolation prizes below. I even heard that I missed a single Red Kite at St Gothians later in the day! Perhaps the early bird doesn't always catch the worm.
EXIF Detail: Aperture Priority. Ap F/4. ISO 500. -0.3EV . Shutter Speed 1/160s. Centre weighted metering. Focal length 600mm.
The Reed Warbler EXIF is nearly the same except for : Shutter speed 1/200s. -0.7EV.

Sunday 10 May 2009

Farmland birding on the Lincolnshire fens

A weekend on the Lincolnshire fens produced some excellent birding, and some butterflies as well. Farmland birding is arguably a thing of the past in Cornwall though in Lincolnshire, the traditional species are apparently well represented. Grey Partridge, Lapwing, Curlew, Yellow Wagtail, Whitethroat, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Marsh Harrier were all present. Below are some of the highlights from the weekend.
Yellow Wagtails were calling from most oil-seed rape crops though this particularly bright male was delightful.

Common Whitethroats were calling and singing from hedgerows beside the crop fields, though this male decided to sing from the field. Although distant, the blurred background adds a bit of character to the image.
Tree Sparrows were common - this shot was taken a Scrub's Meadow where there is an eco-garden. Tree Sparrows were keen on the seed provided.
Male Marsh Harrier - up to eleven birds were seen near Lincoln.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the weekend was this Lapwing's young being taken by a Crow. Two little youngsters were present in the morning, though not to be found in the evening. The two adult Lapwings were even sounding morbidly sad.

Dingy Skipper - one of two seen in the day at Scrub's Meadow reserve.
Male Orange Tip.

Male Orange Tip feeding on Lady's Smock (or Cuckoo Flower).

Small Copper.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

A tame Collared Flycatcher

This male Collared Flycatcher was one of many seen this year in Cyprus. We saw more this year than all the previous years combined. Additionally, we also found a few Semi-collared Flycatchers, a tick for all of us. This individual was fairly tame - I managed to position myself at eye level and ensure that the background was clear. (Andy Rouse always recommends a slight movement of position and the entire photo aspect alters).

EXIF detail: Aperture Priority. F/6.3. Shutter 1/1250s. ISO250. -0.7 EV. Centre weighted metering. Focal length 500mm. Tripod mounted.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

A touch of sulphur

Above is a Blue-headed Wagtail type and below are some flava wagtail variants, as well as a stunning male Citrine. Flavas are tricky to assign to a specific type as there is so much regional overlap. That aside, they are stunningly bright and always make a good photo.

The above three images were taken with an older Nikon D2x and the three lower images taken with the D3x. All though were taken through the same 300mm lens. The difference in quality is obvious and clearly shows the recent improvements in technology.
Adult male Citrine Wagtail, above and below, same bird. (D2x)

Female flava wagtail below (D3x).Black-headed Wagtails below (D3x).

Monday 4 May 2009

Grass roots photography

Why grass roots? Well, I spoke to John Swann today at Nanquidno. He said he knew there were few migrants around as my photo blog had gone quiet ! How true that is. Apart from a handful of common waders and and a few Northern Wheatears, there is precious little to watch at the moment. It's time to get back to "grass roots" and start photographing the commoner birds - so here they are: a nice male Northern Wheatear at St Gothian Sands NR today and a plump Woodpigeon and Grey Heron, all with a bright green grass background.

Friday 1 May 2009

Migrant Swallows rest on Davidstow airfield

These Swallows were resting on this rock on the "highest point" on Davidstow airfield. Whilst the rock was only a foot off the ground, it was a welcome perch for these pristine Swallows. Presumably, they had just arrived after a long flight as they seemed quite docile and content to sit for a while. I checked my "library" of images and surprisingly, this is my first decent opportunity to photo Swallows - all the better in an unlikely location.
EXIF Detail: Aperture priority. F/7.1. ISO 320. -0.3EV. WB Cloudy. Centre-weighted metering. Focal length 600mm. Taken from car window.