NEW BOOK made more available… Birds, Words, Creatures & Features

Finally I have gotten my first book, “Birds, Words, Creatures & Features” into PDF format that may be downloaded by anyone, and not restricted to Apple users outside Asia… Yehey!!!
It took a while, but we got there in the end!!! smile emoticon … CHECK IT OUT and hope you like it!

https://payhip.com/b/NKBu

Front page

New Birds, Words, Creatures & Features Book Launched!

FINALLY! My book, Birds, Words, Creatures & Features is on the Apple Bookstore in 51 countries.
Cover
Other Asian Countries will follow using an alternate solution in the coming week or so.
The book is in sections with photographs and photography strategies for different families of birds,
WP Chapter

KF Chapter

together with Trip Details (and associated photographs)
Birding Trips

and Photography Mantras I keep in mind to help get better shots.
 Mantras

The locations span 4 continents and if you’d like to improve your nature photography or merely learn about species, with accompanying photographs, then this book will be interesting to you. The version is especially for iPhone, iPad and Mac versions, with a PDF version coming out shortly. Happy Days!
The link below is to the US Apple iTunes site and for others simply search for the book title or ISBN 9781943730230 …https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/birds-words-creatures-features/id1014438656?mt=11

Sometimes it is good to get a good hiding…

A trip to Malaysia in April was on the radar for some time and eagerly anticipated, and at the end of it I bought my first portable hide. In May, however, I was treated to an early birthday present which was a trip to a farm in Worcestershire, UK, that had a number of hides set up to both observe and photograph wildlife.

Exciting! ESPECIALLY, as the two hides I had selected were to photograph Kestrels and Little Owls. Both of these species were high on my list of favourite British birds to see, let alone photograph, so this was a treat indeed. I awoke at 4.30 am on the day, having had little sleep owing to sheer enthusiasm and unbridled excitement. The first hide I visited was the kestrel hide. I’d planned to spend an equal time in both hides, subject to the birds actually showing up. The hide was a tad “vertically challenged” for a guy of my height and so making my way into the height took on some strange postural positions. At the time I imagined to an observer, I most likely would have looked like a diseased John Cleese and auditioning for Monty Python’s famed “Ministry Of Funny Walks”. Thankfully, no one was around to witness my contortions and heavy metal-less ‘head banging’. I set up my gear, Canon 1DX body, 600mm f4 lens and bean bag – there was no room for a tripod really, despite me being the only occupier inside the hide.

A39T7761The bird appeared not too long after getting set up, a male kestrel, in stunningly attractive and well conditioned plumage. I’d tried to prepare for Bird In Flight (BIF) shots, yet the proximity of the hose to the bird precluded these, as wings were not accommodated within the viewfinder and subsequent shots.

The bird was truly magnificent and despite me having set up the camera for BIF photography I had taken care to position myself to give a good opportunity for good bokeh.

I wasn’t disappointed and some folks have suggested that i have photoshopped the background. I haven’t… this is straight out of the camera and achieved by shooting with the lens ‘wide open’ for minimal depth of field (this corresponds to high shutter speed and I had selected that in light of trying BIF shooting and the requirement to freeze the wings.

The owner of this place that organised the hides had pointed out probable perches for the bird and i hoped it would be possible to photograph the bird with some prey. My wishes were soon granted as the male kestrel appeared around half an hour later, to make short work of a mouse that it held firmly in its talons.

A39T7922I was lucky to have the bird in front of me and with wings spread, in decent light.

Given the opening for my lens and the range of movement i had with it from the hide, I had resigned myself to the likelihood that my goals for BIF photography were merely aspirational as opposed to realisable. Nonetheless the bird appeared with talons gripping a rodent and I managed to capture a few shots with which i was pleased.

A39T7917The bird used its wings to provide lift whilst its talons held the now dead prey firmly, as if it was thrusting upwards to rip the prey apart. After each “thrust” the male kestrel then proceeded to wield that flesh tearing bill with much gusto, effectively ripping the rodent apart, piece by piece. It’s rare that I get the opportunity to photograph my favourite birds and this was an absolute treat. The bird was visiting in near proximity – not at the minimal focusing distance of my lens, but within a distance where a 600mm prime lens requires managing in order not to cut off part of the bird in the frame.

A39T9008In the early afternoon I went to the Little Owl hide. I did not expect this bird to appear when the sun was still vigorously warming the earth and casting shadows that were extremely short. Unsurprisingly the first bird I was able to photograph was not a little Owl, or any other kind of owl. A male Greater Spotted Woodpecker put in a welcomed appearance and started drumming old logs, posts etc., in search of grubs or whatever food it could find. once food had been obtained, a pattern of behaviour emerged… savour the caught food himself, and then proceed to gather and hold in the bill, accumulating quite a mouthful at times. This always led to a flight, one direction, across an adjacent field. Trademark woodpecker flight undulation was exhibited, with three wing flaps, an undulating down and up ‘dip’ (with wings pulled in), followed by this pattern repeated. Each time the woodpeckers would follow thus route ad the terminus was a bough in a tree around 150 metres away.

A39T8448The woodpeckers definitely had a nest there and chicks to feed.

Whenever “dad” had gotten food and left for the nest, “mum” would appear shortly afterwards, eagerly seeking out food for the chicks on surrounding tree stumps, posts and decaying logs that were on the ground. Once food had been gathered, then the male’s path was imitated with precision and stylistic accuracy.

I’ve always loved seeing woodpeckers, so my far was illuminated just enough to reflect my level of pleasure, but not quite enough to show birds outside the hide that a satisfied and keen observer was in his element.

The woodpeckers cam and went with what became predictable frequency, and I wondered at what time the Little Owl would appear. The farmer began herding sheep in the next field, ably accompanied and supported by a Border Collie sheepdog. What an awesomely skilled dog this was too. Ever rounding them, shaping them, corralling them, until eventually they’d all been accommodated per the farmer’s desires.

A39T9376Only at this point did the little Owl put in an appearance. Not for too long. But in any event, long enough for me to marvel at its beauty and ponder if I had the courage to take my eye off the newly arrived owl, as I began to visit the viewfinder and voce beauty into my viewfinder.

What a little stunning bird!

I’d heard them calling as a boy, on many an occasion. Had seen them take flight too, as they precluded me from close viewing and inspection.

But now, in my viewfinder, this gorgeous little bird as plain to see, my 600mm prime lens gathering detail of the bird, the camera sensor appreciatively subjecting the lens’s capture into a digital reference of the event. WOW!

A39T9377The owl may be ‘Little’, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in stature and grandeur. This bird brought gravitas to the perch and my camera.

I was amazed by the ‘hunting accessories’ and functionality that this bird takes for granted, most likely.

Those piercing eyes that have acuity that most any human would give their right arm for. That flesh tearing beak, singularly designed for tearing prey to pieces, as one might expect for such an accomplished hunter.

A39T9352And finally its talons… gripping and ripping is the name of the game for this piece of equipment…

So despite its seemingly ‘less than potent’ size, this bird is marvellously adapted to hunt at will, easily gaining meal from its choice of prey in general.

A portable hide was obtained. A visit to a farms’ hide made me feel ordained. What a treat! Happy Days indeed…

The sun sets on the breeding Whydah for another year…

What joy to see a male breeding Whydah displaying for it’s mate, with that aerial dance, that stupendous display, gravity defying and aeronautically bewildering.

I revelled in this sight. I revisited the place in Punggol where I photographed this beauty on Sunday, but I’d gone with the intention of shooting other waxbills if i am really honest. The location was awash with avid bird photographers. Many were seemingly far too near to the birds’ aerial stage. It was a lens rich zoo, to all intents and purposes. Others were taking shots with all manner of devices, including cell phones. One young girl that was there with a group was particularly annoying. She was in ‘let’s do selfies’ mode and then proceeded to join her friends for snaps with her, as if some natural beauty had reached unassailable levels. Beauty was indeed, all around her, but it came from a bird. She was merely, Wet, Wet, Wet. Had all the ability for noiseless behaviour as a male elephant briskly charging forward – on bubble wrap, underfoot.

5O8A2610I gave up trying to photograph the waxbills amid all this hullabaloo and noticed the sun was setting rather splendidly. Most of the noise providers had gone, leaving few photographers to try and capture the day’s final Whydah mating dances, before light called a close to further aerial displays of majesty.

I noticed the sun was getting pretty. Really pretty. And so I approached this birds’ preferred landing perches, and resplendent in camouflage clothing, lay down on the bare dirt where water once was in wetter months and now mere contoured reminders of evaporation remained. I waited. Patiently.

Watching a distant silhouette etch itself into the skyline, a rhythmic contortion of flight, aimed at a female showing abject disinterest.

5O8A2615-2I hoped the male bird would venture towards me. In pursuit of the female, most likely. And eventually they did…

I captured a brief mating display in silhouette and the female left as abruptly as she arrived, leaving the male alone, his outline framed by an ebbing orange orb set to soon slip away for the day as night emerges strong and shadows abound.

5O8A3035I won’t get a chance to photograph this male display again until next mating season perhaps. But what a show I’d seen, captured, and revelled in. So bye for now Mr & Mrs Whydah, as the male sheds respondent tail feathers until next year, when amorous pursuits recommence and aerial concerts once again, command the skies.

Happy Days.

Whydah Heck would you want to photograph an escapee?..

SUPER early start for me today. AND, I’m far from a ‘morning person’. so what dragged me kicking and screaming from a super comfy bed and restful sleep you may ask?
A39T3561Hmm. Pin Tailed Whydahs. Not endemic to Singapore. Escapees. Probably have Permanent Resident status by now. So many might think, as mere escapees, WhyDah Heck would you want to go photograph this. Haha.I guess it’s about beauty. And behaviour that’s awesome to watch and compelling to photograph. “Whydah” is actually pronounced ‘widder’, phonetically, though you’d never know that from how it is spelled.

A39T2917Pin Tailed Whyndahs have elaborate mating rituals which may make one imagine that parenthood is taken seriously. It is taken seriously… these responsibilities are seriously DELEGATED to a surrogate pair of birds. I.E. the Whydah parents lay their eggs in the nests of other hapless birds, who then proceed to take on the parental duties and responsibilities of the Whydah, on a surrogate basis, and akin to the behaviour of a cuckoo.

A39T3757The mating process is systematic and whilst appearing wonderfully romantic given the elaborate displays that the male Whydah performs before females, actually has circumstantial process steps that either enable, or prevent, mating from taking place.

The ritual performed by the male Whydah is jaw-droppingly elaborate and joyous to witness, as flight patterns that are not typical of birds are performed with adeptness that defies all but spiritual consideration.

A39T2901Laws of physics and as an extension flight, appear to be subordinated to mere ‘considerations for other birds’, as the male performs manoeuvres that defy logic and feed the optic nerve with sensorial bliss for the onlooker. Dips and dives, with plumage a flutter – never a stutter, as descents are traded for ascents, a flick of the tail and gravity assailed.

A39T2899Only when the female has located suitable surrogate parents will she give herself to the male, and it is at this point that all that motion splendid aerial posturing may be even entertained, let alone considered.

A39T2892Furthermore, the male is then further vetted for suitability based on its choral mimicry ability – he has to be able to imitate the surrogate parents’ calls, in order to ensure the surrogate nest is not abandoned once egg placements has occurred.

When the female is satisfied that the male can suitably match up to all these criteria, then a mating session occurs and unwitting surrogate parenting ensues from unsuspecting birds of carefully selected species.

A39T2898What a convoluted process to procreate. One might say the male is led on ‘a merry dance’. And after procreation and the mating season ends, those resplendent tail feathers that provide such motion to the dance of passion, merely are shed until next breeding season.From my perspective, witnessing and capturing this display surpasses mere merriment and paints the sky with an aerial ballet that is lacking purely in the absence of music.

A39T3767If I were to add music to the scene, it would not be from a ballet. I’d choose Strauss, and By The Beautiful Blue Danube.

This music has crescendos, grace, an enveloping quality that simply draws you in and caresses your senses.

A male Pin Tailed Whydah’s display grabs me like that too. So WhyDah Heck would I get up so early before work to photograph this bird? Well now you know… and here’s some closer shots from earlier that morning… Happy Days.
Pin Tailed Whydah, Punggol, Singapore, April 2015.

 

 

Realised dreams and pretty in pink…

1974. That was the year which for Xmas, I asked for (and thankfully Santa delivered), the Collins Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. I read that book cover to cover. Revelled in species I had seen, and excitedly added new species I’d seen as time went on.

Filed Guide

But I yearned. I longed… dreamt of being able to see some species which, if sighted in Britain, were only ever going to be in the South of England (nowhere near me). Even then, if these birds appeared, they’d be as accidental visitors if weather had blown them off course during migratory plights, or perhaps their equivalent internal SatNav had somehow gotten messed up. One such bird was a Hoopoe. Pink. And Black and White. Exotic crest. A curved bill which, for a non-wading bird, would surely rival the grandeur of any curlew. To me, a stunningly beautiful and exotic bird. Yet I never thought I’d get the chance to see one and largely dismissed the idea as a flight of fancy. Perhaps even a plight of fancy, if this quest I was ever to embrace. Yet stowed in my memory this bird remained. That colour plate from the Field Guide representing this bird with such vibrance in front of me, yet unattainable, was etched into my mind’s eye.
This week I took a flight on business to Dubai, which, research told me, my chances of seeing a Hoopoe was one I should fancy. I did my research. Located through umpteen birding sites with trip reports the most common places for seeing this bird, to take memories of coloured book plates and transform them in living splendour onto my optic nerve and camera sensor. Could I manage to locate such fanciful beauty?
I was in a position whereby if I did not use carried forward annual leave from last year, then I would forfeit it. And so I took a day’s leave on Thursday, hired a 4×4 vehicle and driver, and proceeded to inform the driver, via a saved Google map with more pins than a seamstress’s cushion, exactly where to go. I, was, blessed. Of the 8 places suitably pinned, I made merely four of them.
The very first place I went to and the very first bird I saw that was in situ (as opposed to being aloft and taking its flight of fancy elsewhere), was a Hoopoe. My goodness. Right in front of me. Lit by morning sun and shadowed by Dubai haze, the latter half from humidity and the balance as residue of recent aggressive sand storms. There it was. PINK. BLACK and WHITE. And with that famed curlew-challenging curved bill that surely belonged to a wader, yet apparently didn’t. I didn’t photograph this bird. I was stupefied. Didn’t position my tripod. Didn’t turn on the camera, even. Seemed disinterested to adjust camera settings et al. I just couldn’t… as I merely was compelled to watch. To ‘Just See’. As if an apparition of pink black and white had appeared before me, casting disbelief upon me, with resultant focus yet an inability to motor function. Able to take in what my visual senses perceived, yet unable to translate that to physical action. The bird was revered by me and dear to me. And I was a deer in the headlights of Dubai’s rising sun and the exotic majesty of this bird.
The Hoopoe took flight, without so much as a by-your-leave. Resplendent. Radial black and white as wings spread and the ground was left behind. And still I watched. As the bird left my field of view. Still gazed. Hoped. Would I see it again? I felt no regret in not photographing the bird. I’d seen it. And that in and of itself was a treat, akin to letting lose a 5 year old in a candy shop, armed with limitless funds and unbridled enthusiasm.
I’d gone to Dubai with a target list of 3 species in particular, though would have been grateful to see birds no matter what kind. I had in mind a Hoopoe, an Indian Roller and Greater Flamingo. Not because I was greedy. But to give my emotions a respite, should my Hoopoe remain a mere colour plate in my mind, after this trip. Seeing either or both of these other two would have been more than substantial compensation, should the Hoopoe not have been found and seen.

A39T7849

I’d no sooner revisited these thoughts when movement next to a nearby tree stirred my gaze towards it. 30 metres away. I saw Pink. And Black and White. I adjusted my tripod accordingly and set my camera up to shoot this beauty. Dressed in camo shirt and pants, with tripod and lens equally camo’d I hoped to near the bird without spooking it. I edged nearer. And nearer. Never letting the viewfinder leave my eye. Less than a metre at a time. And deliberately with foliage behind me, to assist the ‘melding in’ process. My viewfinder started to fill. With my dreams, made real. As the bird attacked the soil with its scimitar-like beak with the vigour of a woodpecker on bark. Digging. Then a stop to listen. A tilt of the head. Active listening. Followed by precise arcing of that natural sword, ever deeper, and with greater intent. Eventually the Hoopoe extricated an insect of considerable size. And held it tight in its beak. I shot this scene avidly, adjusting the camera like crazy, just to be certain I had enough depth of field, a correctly exposed image, all to safeguard that captured moment for all time.
I’d been out of the 4X4 for less than 15 minutes, and yet had travelled a journey of 41 years in that time. The bird flew. With its catch. and I reviewed my LCD camera screen, nervously, eager with anticipation and yet with profound trepidation, fully cognisant that my excitement could easily have caused me to have gotten the camera settings wrong – it had happened before, and I’m sure it has to you too smile emoticon . I let out a gasp. Nay a cry. I recall it now. A vigorous, resounding shout to the avian kingdom. One word. YES!!!

A39T8002

I went on that day and photographed several other Hoopoes. and many other species too, including my 2 species ‘back up plan’ in order to spare the Samaritans my potential call. I found those too, but that’s for a later post. Here’s the Hoopoe, FIM, (Food In Mouth), with a desaturated background from post processing the image – just to allow you to focus entirely on my childhood dream and the beauty of that realisation.

Happy Days Indeed!
Eurasian Hoopoe, Safa Park, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, first dreamed in 1974, dreamt until yesterday and photographed in March 2015.

Colour popped barbets, bittern and cuckoo… yahoo!

“Colour popping” is a term coined to describe a photograph that has had its’ natural background desaturated, and thus monochrome, leaving the subject ‘popped’… here are some recent shots with post processing treatment accordingly… respectively, a Lineated Barbet, Lineated Barbet “fly-by”, Yellow Bittern and Banded Bay Cuckoo… all Singapore in recent weeks…

A39T6208 - Version 3

 

A39T6861 - Version 2

8D3A0945-imp 2

 

A39T7786 - Version 2

 

Happy Days:)

 

Photo's, narratives and facts about Ade's encounters with nature.

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