Tag Archives: birding blog

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

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What a morning – birds young and birds new, birds followed and birds blue…

It was my birthday recently and for that birthday, my darling spoiled me rotten. I got a whole load of new bird photograph equipment and whilst I knew about some of it, the rest was a TOTAL surprise.

8D3A9192 - Version 2I had the chance to pick up this surprise equipment (video head for my tripod and camera body / lens stabilisation railing system) from a Malaysian based bird and landscape photography guide, photographer and online retailer – Liew WK.  Great guy and over the course of a few days had a great time with him. I am happy to now call him a friend and seriously respect what he does and the passion he has for it.

I was invited to join an informal group on a trip to Genting Highlands in Malaysia, just for a few hours,  to ‘put my new gear to the test’ and at the same time shoot some mountain bird species I had never seen before, let alone photographed before. Great people in this group and made more new friends… Happy Days :).

I followed the group to the place we were going to be shooting and had some excitement (my first time to not only try out the gear but also to shoot mountain birds in Malaysia – the chances were that most every species I’d see, would be a first for me – a ‘lifer’). I set the equipment up in a position I was advised would give good visibility and shooting opportunities. And I didn’t have to wait long before birds started to arrive…

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Very pretty – this one shot at distance… the others were almost under my nose!

Firstly, within 3 feet of me  came the prettiest little bird, and it was at eye level, in bushes to my left. I just smiled. The lens I had was as you see above, ‘not exactly a short telephoto lens’ – and I could have shot this little bird with a 70mm lens very easily, it was that close. A 500mm prime lens was a little over the top for this job :).

1
You can see why this birds’ “AKA Name” is the Spectacled Laughing Thrush

Next came, according to the other birders there, “predictably”, the laughing thrushes. I’d seen a couple of those species before, in Singapore and also in Central Vietnam. But these were a first for me.

3So whilst others may have thought that this bird was less than interesting, I merrily snapped away, enjoying seeing these for the first time.   Yehey!AND, I was getting to give my new gear a ‘workout’ too, so all was well :).

LN2Next came one of the bluest birds I have ever seen in my life. It was stunning. Not rare. Just STUNNING.

A whole family of these beauties showed up. On the left here is the male, AKA “Dad”. I was thrilled to be able to shoot this bird up close, and then his mate came…

LN3She was less vibrantly coloured, as if often the case in the  world of birds, but nonetheless she was pretty.

She was a little slighter than the male, as is to be expected.

LN5After around 5 or so minutes, a merry chirping led my ears and then my eyes to see the youngster in this group.

Looks like a male and with the “full blue” regalia yet to be complete, this mottling of browns with such rich blue is very beautiful indeed. I think the juvenile is probably the prettiest of them all, and that’s very unusual as juvenile birds rarely can compete with adults when it comes to plumage and colour.

LTS2I was as “happy as Larry” with these species so far. What a treat for me! Then a bird I had seen earlier, which despite its’size had been displaying much agility to feast on moths, showed up on a perch. Nice! And to make sure the moment was enjoyed fully, another of the same species, a Long Tailed Sibia planted itself on the same perch. How accommodating! 🙂

The other birders in the group left to go to other places, but I thought I’d hang around for a while.  I didn’t shoot any more species in this place, but i still enjoyed seeing ones I had seen already, and I happily clicked to my heart’s content.

Later that day, we descended from the mountain heights; still within the hills, but not as high. What we saw there was very special… but that’s for another post, on another day.

So new equipment was tested and much appreciated. New friendships were commenced, And new species had been seen, and photographed, in an extremely nice place. I’ll go back there in the future, I’m sure. After all, I know of more exotic species that can be shot there, if you’re lucky. And if I’m really lucky, maybe some of my new friends will be going too.

Happy Days 🙂

It doesn’t always work out great – Such a great bird and not enough time…

You know how it is… you’re a mad keen bird photographer. Almost to the point of it becoming obsessive as you seek to improve as fast as you can. Always striving for the best shots. Always looking to present the shot that tells a story about the bird and its’ behaviour, habitat et al. But, and here’s the reality… you have a full time job as well. How to balance these two things? Especially if, work wise, you also are mad keen about what you do and are just as obsessive in trying to always be the best that you can be at work, as well as at play.

I’m kinda lucky. I have a global role – and that means I regularly have webex’s and conference calls at stupid hours. Like middle of the night hours, when North America are in the wide awake club and here in SIngapore I’m in the “jeez I want to sleep club”. But I don’t mind – it’s what I do, and I love what I do. I guess few people can really say that and mean it. So yes, I’m very fortunate!  These very regular ‘out of hours’ work activities mean that at times I can, if I choose, sneak off for a little while to do something else. I usually do not do this. In fact I almost NEVER do this. But this morning I got up early and prepared to go shoot a bird I had heard was nesting in Singapore – the beautiful Blue Throated Bee-Eater.

A39T5320-impI’d shot this bird before and was fully apprised about how stunningly pretty it is. But my shots were ALWAYS at long distance. USUALLY against a “sky background” with the bird perched on high. And predictably the shots were not great.

Very average in fact, as you can see (left). In fact, kind of lousy if I am honest.

But today I had very high hopes.  Maybe at last I can get decent shots of this gorgeous bird? After all, I’d heard it was perching against green backgrounds. I’d seen shots others had taken, so knew this was true. Excitement reigned supreme.

Off I went, with camera and long lens in tow. I reached there full of excitement and it was before the working day had begun. Set up my gear to shoot this magnificent specimen. But couldn’t focus. The camera could, but I couldn’t, mentally. I couldn’t concentrate. Couldn’t remove from my thoughts that I have deadlines that absolutely positively have to be met this week. And so quite honestly, within a short time of having arrived, I wanted to leave. And I wanted to stay the whole day too.

A39T7997-impI decided to try and get a few decent shots of the bird and then leave within a short period of time, thus allowing me to get back and carry on with meeting my work deadlines. The bird was already in front of me, maybe too early. I got excited and was still preoccupied by my work deadlines. I couldn’t get my head around what strategies I needed to use to get the best shots. The bird was THERE… so “SHOOT it”,  I thought. My mind was awash with thoughts that were totally unconnected and not ‘in the moment’. This was about as helpful as seeing someone drowning and then describing the water.

A39T7586-impBut the bird was RIGHT THERE! Get the shot! Hurry! And hurry I did.

Didn’t have or take enough time to really watch the bird, and THEN shoot…

There were so many considerations I’d normally go though… but today my preoccupation was not helping and necessary thoughts about shooting strategies went out of the window. .. Where did it fly to perches from? At what height? Approaches to the perch will be in which direction(s)? At what distance(s) will it be slowing down to reach the perch yet still have wings fully open? Where’s the sun and how harsh is it? What will I need to do to expose images correctly? Shall I try and get good, detailed perched shots first and then try BIF (bird In Flight)? The other way around? And so on…

I KNOW these need to be thought though, yet all I had in my mind was that I had to be fast and didn’t have time. SO knowing and doing never quite came together.

A39T7601-impI tried BIF type setups and manually prefocused on certain spots.

This was VERY hit and miss. I had no real clue what the bird was going to do.

A39T8368-impSo everything was a major league bout of guesswork.

I looked at the LCD screen to review images only briefly, using my Hoodloupe to help view the images more clearly. But did I really take the time to review them?

A39T8226-impNope. I was too busy scanning the sky to see if the bird was returning. I didn’t have enough time to do otherwise and couldn’t afford to miss a chance to shoot the returning bird. So  I was clicking at breakneck speed.

My remote cable release was almost smoking from exhaustion. I had some FABULOUS shots of a bare perch. Tremendously detailed shots of grassland backdrops with no birds in them. LOL. Oops.

A39T8497-impBut I got the odd shot here and there that I’d consider as “record shots”…

Far from perfect, far from very good, but much better than what I’d previously achieved when shooting against a sky background.

A39T7544-impSo was the visit a complete disappointment?

Definitely not!

I’d spent a little over an hour seeing a bird so, so beautiful, and one which I had been waiting to observe for a long, long time.

A39T8093-impI got to watch this bird engaged in much activity and it was kind to me and the fellow bird photographers there, as it made very regular appearances indeed. That in itself was pretty joyous to be honest.

 

When I got home I raced to the computer to begin uploading the images. Did I have any AWESOME shots? Any real standouts?

Well, I looked at the images on the screen and I was a little disappointed. As in VERY disappointed. The kind of disappointment you’d have if you were an 8 year old boy, who’d been naughty the previous year, and on Christmas morning had just woken up with a letter of apology from Santa.

The bird on my screen filled the screen beautifully – after i  had cropped the heck out of the images. Oops. Not exactly maximum detail on these images. And no-one is going to use one of these images to lull themselves to sleep at night by “counting feathers”. What feathers? LOL. Oh well…

A39T8353-impSo will I try and improve on these images?… hmm… let me think… Like DUH! Of course I will.

But next time I’ll be a little more prepared to shoot the subject I’m going to shoot.

I will have a 2x teleconverter with me to bring me closer to the image. I’ll take a Canon 1D Mk iv to gain a 1 series capability with a 1.3x crop factor. I have a better idea now of the birds’ flight paths and can prepare accordingly. Build strategies for better shots, before I even get there. That would seem to be a good idea.

But it was still really nice to see this beautiful bird early this morning. What was also nice, was seeing a few fellow “bird photography fanatics” that I’d met before but hadn’t seen for a while. It was nice to see them and say ‘hello’. Additionally, I met two really nice guys that were visually unknown to me previously, yet I had communicated with them online in the past. So to put a face to the names was also really nice. And nice fellows, too, which is better yet :).

Anyhow, that’s all for now as my lunch break is over and it’s time to get back to ‘all things corporate’ and the realities of working life.

So for those of you that will be out shooting this week, Happy Birding, and for all others, just remember to have,

Happy Days 🙂

 

Don’t leave for home, without it… Get that one, last, shot!

A39T7351-impSo many times I have been out          photographing nature and upon deciding to go home for the day, for some reason have the thought “some of my shots are OK today… but not great – I’ll see what I can do to  get that one, last, shot”.  This thought has resulted in me getting quite a few pleasing pictures and so whenever I am out shooting these days,  and preparing to go home, my mantra now is

“get that one, last SHOT”!

Some simple thoughts I try and hold dear and tell myself when I am in ‘last shot mode’. and about to go home..

  1. Nature IS GOING to surprise you – Be Prepared!
  2. If my camera is turned “OFF”, that’s OK… as long as I have no more batteries. Otherwise, it stays “ON”. As in ALWAYS ON!!!
  3. Leave my camera in “P” mode (not fully auto – NEVER fully auto). One wheel spin to the left or right and I have either a faster shutter speed or more depth of field… FAST!
  4. Get the ‘one last shot’ first in “P” mode and switch modes later for creativity if your subject’s still there… get “the shot”, first.
  5. The photograph you want is there… you just haven’t found it yet
  6. Your subject is there – LOOK harder!
  7. Was that a sound?.. go find where it came from
  8. Did something move or did I imagine it?.. it was real – go find what it was.
  9. When I put my camera in the car, make sure I can get to it… quickly… even if it’s a body with a 500mm lens!
  10. ALWAYS keep a bean bag in the car that you can get to, so your car doorframe can be your impromptu tripod that is ‘good to go’,  for when your traditional tripod has been collapsed and packed away.

I hope these thoughts may help you get your ‘one last shot’ in future :).

Sometimes I’m walking with tripod and camera on my shoulder back to the car and get that last shot. Sometimes I’m driving from the place I have been shooting and my camera gear is in the car and accessible to get the “last shot”  (until I get home, I leave the camera and lens ready to go, turned on and in a backpack than can accommodate it without having to detach things). Other times I’ll deliberately walk back to the car a different and longer way, and see if opportunities present themselves. They often do. Not always. But often. Here’s a few examples of shots I have taken in just the last few months when really focusing to get that one, last, shot shot…

A39T7388-impWhilst leaving Pasir Ris Park yesterday, a pair of Laced Woodpeckers came out to play.

Fresh from being dowsed in the rain, just like I had been.

To see them both was a thrill, if only briefly.

 

A39T5259-impDriving back from a birding trip in Malaysia at an expressway truck stop.

Not a place I expected to shoot birds. Or anything else for that matter.

But nonetheless this cutie put in an appearance. As my camera was in a backpack on the back seat of the car, still set up and ‘good to go’, I managed to capture this shot impromptu.

A39T2168-impWalking back to the car at Satay By The Bay in Singapore, this little guy put in an appearance.

This Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker was less than 35 metres from my car.

So cute, and so unexpected.

A39T8777-impSeveral times when leaving Lor Halus a ‘surprise opportunity’ has presented itself.  On the way back to the private road that connects the dam to the main road, this Long Tailed Strike showed up with a beak full of nesting material.

Only the briefest of moments were available to shoot this but the bird obliged with a nice pose.

I always carry a bean bag in the car so that if I’m alone, and driving before or after shooting, I have a “hide and tripod” ready to go.

A39T7953-impThe car becomes the hide and by leaning the bean bag on the car window for support, this becomes the tripod.

These Baya Weavers were shot this way, whilst driving out of Lor Halus. Here the mother is feeding her fledgling at the side of the road and at the edge of very tall grass.

A39T6195-impAlso at Lor Halus I was packing away my tripod in the boot of the car and espied movement out of the corner of my eye.

I shot this Paddyfield Pipit handheld, at relatively close proximity.

A39T3540 - Version 2-impA similar thing happened at Satay By The Bay. I was next to the car and my tripod was in the process of being collapsed, when two birds landed nearby on bare branches. A total surprise. Again a few quick handheld “last shots” captured these beauties before they flew off.

A39T8350-impSometimes a respite before going home presents the opportunity. I’d been sheltering away from seriously heavy rain in Pasir Ris, but had still got soaked en route to shelter. I just wanted to go home.  It was windy, and in Singapore terms was cool… I was starting to feel cold. This little guy seemed to not care about the downpour. On this occasion I’d turned the camera off as everywhere was so wet. I quickly turned it back on and got this shot before he, and I, sought a drier environment.

It’s not lways the case that birds show up to give me the last shot. From my perspective, if a subject is not human and has a heart beat, then the likelihood is that it’s interesting enough to shoot…

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This fella, in full breeding colours to attract a mate, was shot opposite Tampines EcoGreen in a small tree at the side of the road.

I was waiting for my ride home and had started dismantling my gear in preparation. Then a flash of orange caught my eye.

I enjoyed the vibrance of his colouration and hope he managed to seek out the mate he was in search of.

A39T9916-impAlso at the entrance to Tampines Eco Green, there are some plants that usually are in flower. I’ve no idea what plants they are, as botany is something I notice, rather than study.

Nonetheless I saw this butterfly.  It’s common here in Singapore, but pretty (at least I think so). So I took this shot ‘on the fly’ and noticed its’ eyes were looking at me when I had the image on a bigger screen.

So when nature is going to surprise you, and it will, be prepared.

Be prepared for that “one last shot”.

Happy Days 🙂

 

 

How do you know if a Common Kingfisher is male or female?

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Note the orange lower mandible… it’s a FEMALE

Having posted a picture of a Common Kingfisher on Facebook Nature pages (left), a lady asked me if my posted shot was male or female. I have to admit I wasn’t sure. It’s hard to tell from colouration because a CK’s feathers are refractive and so change colour depending on the position of the bird relative to the sun or light source, and the observer. So I researched and there’s a foolproof way of knowing. I got this from the UK based renowned bird society, of which I have been a member for decades now, the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). They say it’s best to remember that “the female wears lipstick”!

A39T2037-imp
The Bill is all black…It’s a MALE

What they mean is that the male CK’s bill is black whereas the female CK’s  bill has orange on the lower mandible.

So there you go! Just remember that the CK gals wear lipstick!

Happy Days 🙂