Tag Archives: Birds

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.

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…

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Happy Days 🙂

 

Wah! WA… new dawning, nice morning and camera sensor adorning…

The Wyndham Resort & Spa had a nice breakfast to be availed of, which, to me at least, was about as useful as a misogynist at a beauty pageant. I’d got a hotel with bird photography awaiting around it and something as important as breakfast wasn’t going to interfere 🙂  .

Day two morning I awoke later than I’d have liked and my darling had made fresh coffee to reignite my senses. I revelled in this caffeine jolt and hoped my camera sensor would get similarly awakened that morning. I wasn’t disappointed…

Morning birdsong was in full  swing, with a truly melodious, singular birdsong cutting its’ way through what to a hangover victim, may well have been a tad too raucous. To me, the symphony of chorus was compelling, drawing me to finish coffee quickly and rush out to locate the singing virtuoso amongst the other choralists who were comparatively merely ‘warming up’.  It took me a few minutes before I located the songster and I waited a few more before the bird emerged into an unobscured view, so that I could photograph it…

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A Mangrove Golden Whistler was found to be the master vocalist and that voice in and of itself was already beautiful enough. I didn’t expect the bird to match the song’s beauty, but as you can see, nature matched these very well.

I wandered on after the Mangrove Whistler had whistled his last in my earshot and taken fight to delight others afar. I saw what I thought was an Oriental WhiteEye and it sure looks like one. in Australia this bird is called a SilverEye and it’s not a stretch to see how it got its’ name. This bird was examining the trappings of a spiders’ web, doubtless unashamedly seeking to obtain an easy meal after the hard work in setting the trap had been done by another.

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The gardens around the hotel led onto a lake, as mentioned, and then on to a pristine beach of considerable expanse. It was here that I noticed movement, at the periphery of the beach proper, where vegetation ceased and mere sand continued. It was a lizard, for sure, but what a strange looking creature.

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Research has since confirmed to me that this is a Shingleback Lizard and that its’ tail really is that short. Kinda cute and if it had been upset or annoyed, I may have seen it’s vivid blue tongue. This fella seemed very unperturbed by my presence. I am not much of a beach person so walked back towards the lake.

There I spotted an Intermediate Egret.

A39T3352This bird is distinguished from its’ close relatives the Great Egret and Little Egret quite easily, if you know what to look for. I didn’t, at last not certainly, so had to consult my Birds of Western Australia Field Guide that I’d picked up from a local bookstore (I recommend this book if you’re in need of field ID’s of WA birds… it’s well put together and photographs are more than good enough for species ID)…

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I kept the Egret in my viewfinder, wondering which one it was at the time. Whenever i look at Egrets, I think of a friend some years back who cracked a joke whilst singing.  He sang, whilst looking at a member of this family of birds, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”…

“EGRETS, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”… LOL.

It tickled me pink at the time and I cannot ignore the smile this memory brings whenever I see an egret. Upon checking the recommended book (above) it’s clear that this is an Intermediate Egret… Yellow legs are a giveaway; the Great Egret has a comparatively extended neck, whilst the Little Egret has dark legs and yellow feet / toes. Here an Intermediate Egret happily discovers a prawn or similar, for breakfast…

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I saw a few other birds at the lake and didn’t shoot them much as lighting was again in an unfavourable position… even the egrets above were hard to shoot being so heavily backlit in an intensifying sun.  It was quite amusing as after this prawn treat, the egret proceeded to completely ruffle, and then settle, its’ feathers.  This was quite a sight…

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I hear more choral splendour and went in search of that instead. A warbling call, lyrical, familiar and yet not. Upon investigating I located the bird that added to the auditory landscape,  a White Breasted Robin. This was truly ‘robin shaped’, unlike Siberian Blue Robins or Oriental Magpie Robins I’d seen recently in Singapore…

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I approached to shoot this bird in shadow, as despite the rising sun, this avian vocalist had decided to avoid direct rays, at least for now. I neared some more but the bird took flight – seemingly not because of my proximity but because it had other things in mind. I followed to assess its’ intentions, which quickly became clear. It perched on a nearby wooden fence for the briefest of moments, only to hop onto the floor. I was able to catch the robin there with relative ease.

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Quick as a flash it hopped forward with some determination, and thereafter I espied what the robin had been focused upon for this time. A juicy breakfast of an unsuspecting and unfortunate moth ensued.

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I’d barely chance to get this shot when the meal was gone with no remaining trace and with that, the robin made it’s exit too, with equal lack of attention to fanfare or ceremony. I wandered further to see what other bounties may be awaiting around the hotel gardens and lakeside. More birdsong was heard and I immediately thought that perhaps I was hearing another Whistler. Not the same, the song subtly different, yet not totally dissimilar. This time the bird was located with ease, though an unobscured clean shot of the bird was sadly not available before it took flight. This species was a Rufous Whistler and whilst perhaps not quite as vibrant in palette as the Mangrove Golden Whistler, was still a beauty in its’ own right.

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Sadly the bird never took up a position where shadows were not being cast upon it, so this image was the best I was able to get. I never saw nor heard it again in the remaining days we were there. Perhaps next time? 🙂

We decided to visit the Lighthouse at Cape Naturaliste and put my newly acquired Canon 16-35mm L f4 landscape lens through its’ paces, and experiment with Lee’s Neutral Density Graduated and Little / Big stopper filters and filter system. That’s for the next blog post 🙂

Happy Days 🙂

 

Joy in the Park, a sunset lark and stars after dark… great fun!

Having “reccied” the park previously, we thought it would be nice to revisit, stay overnight at the local inn (within the park itself) before heading to Margaret River region, shoot birds in the daytime at the park, catch the sunset at Two Rocks and maybe try and capture the starscape at the park that evening.

A39T7555-impThe first bird that really caught our attention were, unsurprisingly, Galahs.

I love the pink and grey colour combination of these birds and hoped to capture them with wings open and crests standing. Despite their commonality, they gave me much pleasure as it is not usual for me to see this bird – there are no such species in Asia, that’s for sure. It was early morning and ducks were in flight aplenty, though at distance.

A39T9192-impI kept my camera settings ready for BIF shots and was happy to see a flock of Grey Teal come into view, though not very close by any means. Those trademark, giveaway teal coloured wing bars gave away the species readily, but then a small group of Pacific Black Ducks winged their way onto the water.

A39T7349-impI was able to shoot these too and was astounded at how pretty the wing bars were – teal coloured too, though far prettier than the Grey Teals. What a lovely surprise that was!

A39T8963-impA White Headed Stilt proceeded to put on a show for me, posing nicely. There were plenty of them though in the main were at distance, so it was nice to see and shoot one a little closer.

A39T9275-impWhen it then proceeding to have a scratch and a stretch, this provided for some less than typical stilt shots…

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At one point a whole bunch of waders and ducks in the distance took to the air en masse. Evidently something had caused them to be disturbed and it was some time before I could figure out what may have done this. Then all became clear and eventually this gorgeous raptor came reasonably close to me, against an unruffled sapphire sky… a Whistling Kite had flushed the alarmed birds, and what a beauty it was too!

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Accommodation for the evening had been arranged at the Yanchep Inn and apparently there’s three levels of accommodation, including one that’s a tad ‘more luxurious’. I opted for that one and was glad I did… if that was luxurious, I shudder to think what the others would have been like. The important thing, though, was to be there.

During lunch at the Yanchep Inn we ate outside. This action alone seemed to provide an alarm call for some of the local birds, who were extremely awake and aware to the presence of humans and the offerings that may follow.

A39T8150-impA few birds came either up close or remained on the periphery, in nearby trees and grass, so see what scraps may be made available. Red Wattlebirds seemed to be everywhere. Pretty aggressive too, as they seemingly drove all but crows away when anything in the way of food had been seen.

A39T7769-impAustralian Ringneck parrots came from far and wide and initially took up situ in nearby flowering trees, proceeding to remove colourful buds and leaves with verve.  At this point we were having coffee after lunch and an Australian Ringneck came close and landed on a chair.

A39T9486-imp I thought nothing of it as there were no morsels to provide anyway as all the meal was finished. This didn’t deter the parrot who simply hopped onto the table and grabbed a tube of refined sugar from the saucer of the coffee cup. I was very surprised but didn’t expect the parrot to be able to do much with a sealed tube of sugar. How wrong was I?!!! He opened the tube with consummate ease and proceeded to enjoy the sugar with careless abandon. I had to chuckle at seeing this.

A39T8866-impI noticed a flash of white on the grass and caught sight of a Little Rosella. I’d seen a few earlier but as they were perched high in trees and against a sky background, couldn’t shoot them clearly at such distance.  This time proximity was less of an issue and aside from having a white bird lit by a brilliant sun (never a winner for bird photographers), I was able to capture this fellow.

It was time to make our way out of the National Park and visit Two Rocks, a nearby location where we thought an ocean backdrop may provide a nice sunset shot opportunity, if we were lucky. It wasn’t a long drive so we left late in the afternoon.

Two Rocks was a rock structure upon which many cormorants had come to roost. Shooting into the falling sun didn’t provide chances to capture them in detail and in any event, it was the sunset I wanted to shoot most of all. Landscape photography is totally new to me and I’d just acquired a new Canon L series 16-35mm f4 landscape lens as the reviews it had received were excellent – apparently this lens is reportedly sharper that the more expensive f2.8 version. I’d also equipped myself with Lee graduated Neutral Density filters and Circular Polarisers, along with all the lens adaptors. Had absolutely NO IDEA how to use all these properly, and figured the experimentation would be fun. It was…

A39T8536-impWe arrived at Two Rocks as the sun was beginning to leave us for the day, illuminating one of the rocks (shot at distance) with a 500mm lens – not exactly the typical landscape set up one might expect!

A39T8539-impI set up the landscape gear and proceeded down to beach level, with the main subject for the sunset foreground already being cast into shadow, revealing the cormorants atop. The sun began to descend quickly and whilst there were no cloud artefacts in the sky to bring greater depth and focal points to the shot, the sky took on beautiful changing hues as each minute passed. I decided to change the perspective of the shot and defocus the gap between the two sets of rocks, bringing into view more of the ocean and the wake of the incoming waves. It was a real “first attempt” at a landscape shot using the tools of the trade and I was desperately trying to recount the articles I’d read and videos I’d watched in order to get a nice rendition of the beauty before my eyes.

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I’d seen many shots taken of Two Rocks before and invariably the sun is depicted setting to the right of the rocks. Personally i liked the view above better, shot a little wider, and with the light from the ebbing sun and the lines from the tidal wash drawing you into the rocks themselves. Like I said, it was an experiment. I envy those that can “just see” the shot without much thought. I have to think a lot, which tells me that I either do not have much artistic ability, do not really know what I am doing with landscape photography, or maybe both. My money’s on both… LOL. Nonetheless, the shot above, whilst the foreground is a little underexposed, is pleasing to my eye. I simply lightened the rock artefact and haven’t changed the colouration or photoshopped the shot to death. A simple ND filter was used to balance the exposure disparity between the shadowed foreground / beach and the highly illuminated sky. It’s pretty much is how I saw it at the time. And it was, beautiful.

After dinner we thought we’d try and shoot “Milky Way” type starscapes at Yanchep National Park, where we were staying. I’d never tried this before, either. All I had done was read some tutorials and watched a few “do’s and dont’s” type videos, and had written key pointers down in the Notes section of my iPhone. After all, how much can any one person remember?

My darling kept reminding me that foreground subjects and artefacts were every bit as important with starscapes as with general landscape photography. And I forgot what she said. So I had lots of shots in the viewfinder of distant tree horizons and a starry sky. It felt bland, empty, lifeless. Nothing was drawing me to the stars when I looked at the shots. And then I remembered what she said – at exactly the point when she said “this bare tree may make an interesting  foreground” … haha. Oops. SO with notes and phone in hand, camera settings were adjusted to give base points for shooting, with experimentation to follow from there. It was a first try, so I had low expectations. But upon reflection, and given I’d never done, nor seen anyone else do this type of photography before, I was very happy what the “noob in me” had managed to capture…

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Sure it could have been better. Yup it would have been nicer if those ambient lights on the horizon, presumably from Yanchep town, had not been in the shot (i couldn’t figure out how to cause a general area power failure and NOT get arrested, LOL). But as a first attempt? I like this. I’m VERY happy with this to be honest. Not because it’s a wonderful picture, even though it’s pleasingly eerie to me. But because of the experience. Coordinating with my darling to make sure we shot at the same time and didn’t introduce any light to the scene at all. Taking note of things around you. Having your headlamps reveal kangaroos foraging in the darkness.

And perhaps most of all? Because this is a type of photography I will now do again in the future. Whenever I see a foreground subject that is distinctive I’ll consider “what if I shot the stars above this?”

A new concept. A new genre. A new challenge. And enthusiasm rekindled anew 🙂  .

Happy Days 🙂

 

Wetlands hors d’oeuvres and more to observe… 90 minutes until the hunger pangs kicked in :)

Took a few days annual leave recently and decided to head out to Lor Halus, Singapore. I’d planned to be there the whole day but somehow the hunger gremlins gained hold at one point and hunger pangs needed satisfying.

I love Lor Halus. It’s like the place in Singapore that Forrest Gump’s mum would go to if she was into bird photography, a box of chocolates in tow. “You never know what you’re going to get” when you visit Lor Halus. So off I went, with no real preconceived ideas as to what natural bounty et al, might await.

A39T7354On the way into Lor Halus I DID expect to be greeted by one, or more, of Halus’s sentries… the birds that seeming stand tall, ever watchful from their perches and guardians of all they survey.

Sure enough, several White Throated Kingfishers were seen in small trees along the roadway, seemingly omnipresent and always vigilant.

I walked around the pools next to the main entrance this day, which I do not usually do. I’m unsure what possessed me to go take a look there, but in any event, I did.

A39T3207-impI noticed what I thought was  Little Tern diving in a nearby pool, so I hurried over to try and grab some of the action. I only managed 3 shots of this bird and the one here was the best of them. The bird didn’t hang around after that and I saw it diving in distant pools, never to return to where i was near. Oh well…

A39T8000-impNot much else was visible save for some nice water lilies.

One happened to have been happily used as a perch by what I believe is a Scarlet Skimmer dragonfly, and quite a nice pairing they make too. So the visitor centre part of Halus was left behind and off I went towards the famed dam and surrounding ponds.

A39T7576-impI decided to make a bee line for the ponds. No sooner had I arrived than a male Golden Backed Weaver was seen, with his carefully prepared torn off strip of foliage, to use for nesting purposes.

I thought I’d try and follow the bird along the pond, but with a camera, long lens and tripod to schlep, this wash’t possible.

A39T8763-impSoon after I saw a male perched (same bird?), and watched eagerly where he flew.

Off to the nest he flew and I quietly began to set up my tripod and camera equipment, to fire off a few shots of these pretty birds.

I’d seen males put on quite a vibrant ‘mating show’ previously, as the male seeks to attract a mate. A previous blog posting recounts this.

A39T7859-impSure enough, this male was also in ‘mate attraction mode’ and proceeded to visit a newly formed nest.

Again  the repeated and energetic flapping of the wings revealed those beautiful yellow shades of the underwings, and a yellow tinged outer wing respondent with the most gorgeous shades of brown and olive green.

A39T7561-impA nearby female, meanwhile, seemed unimpressed by all this ritualistic show of feathers, and then took flight. She’d clearly already made up her mind as to what nest, and mate, was her choice.

Much to my surprise, the male I had been watching briefly joined her and they flew off together. It seems the male had ‘gotten his mate’ and was now looking for another. What a cheek 🙂 !

A39T8773-impI left the weavers and deeded to go have a wander.  I noticed a water bird diving in a different part of this pool, and chose to await the re-emergence from beneath the surface. I thought I recognised the bird but wasn’t absolutely sure, then a little while later, a Little Grebe (or Dabchick as we all know them in the UK), made an appearance at distance. It was several minutes before this bird’s diving adventures brought it sufficiently close to photograph it.By this time I was getting hungry and decided to leave Halus for the day and go get a bite of lunch before going to shoot elsewhere.

A39T8777-impI’d almost reached the road when I saw a familiar shape. A lovely shape, and I have to say one of my favourite bird shapes.

A long tailed shrike was perched a little above longish grass and was carrying nesting material. I was keen to shoot the bird, as left, but was equally keen to see where the nest might be. I’ll never know; the bird flew deep into a wooded area which had no path laid out into it. So thinking of all manner of ‘nasties’ that may have been along that path, I decided to not follow the bird. You know what i mean by ‘nasties’, don’t you? Just natural  minor nasties. Like Cobras. Or Spitting Cobras. Trivial creatures like that 🙂 .

A39T8822-impOff I went walking back to the car, leaving he Shrike in peace and potential nasties undisturbed. I’d packed down the tripod and removed the camera from it, when some Baya Weavers showed up.

A39T8804-impThey were near too, so I thought I’d shoot them ‘handheld’, despite my 500mm prime lens causing suitable reason from me to utter audible groans and for my arms, after a while, to shake a little.

A39T7950-impNonetheless, I managed to get a few decent shots away and was very happy to have been around to see a mother weaver feeding her hatched fledgling. Happy Days :).

It seems some food had been left on the floor to feed dogs. I have no idea who’s dogs these were, they may have been wild as far as I know,  and all I saw were puppies periodically emerging to eat bread, dog biscuits and drink water that someone had left for them.  Once the dogs had disappeared, then the weavers would move in. the mother shown above was feeding the fledgling morsels of dried white bread.

All that feeding made me feel hungrier, so without further adieu I went in search of an early lunch. The afternoon was reserved for practicing BIF Birds In Flight photography, and that’s for a later posting.

But the brief trip to Lor Halus? As ever, a pleasing appetiser. Several species and Mrs Gump’s ‘box of chocolates’ were savoured fully. I may well have not known what i was going to get, but what was offered was definitely satisfying for all but the sweetest of teeth.

Happy Days 🙂

It’s Sunday in Singapore and it was Sunbird Saturday at Satay by the Bay

When you know that birds have been busy making nests, making out, laying eggs and finally rearing young, it’s always nice to go back to a place and see how youngsters are doing. Yesterday, I thought I’d go and see how Sunbird youngsters that had recently fledged were doing…. just for a couple of hours.

A39T0119-impIt amazes me how such a beautiful bird can construct a nest that’s pretty messy, AND with total disregard at times for the proximity of humans and their potential interference.  This nest (left) was suspended from a plant that meant the nest was literally less than 3 feet beneath an HDB ground floor apartment window, in Tampines.  Whilst I saw the ‘messy nest’ here,  out of respect for the birds and not wishing to disturb them, I made this nest’s location known only to the occupants of the apartment; that way their children could marvel at what was so near to them, and hopefully encourage them to keep the sunbirds and their nesting process ‘dear to them’. They hatched successfully 😉 .

So, back to yesterday, Saturday, August 2nd.  I made a quick trip for a couple of hours at Satay by the Bay, in Singapore, to see how youngsters that had fledged the nest were doing. Ran into a birding friend too, Vincent Ng,  🙂  . It’s great when you meet up with someone who is just as passionate about nature photography as you are and especially if you enjoy their photography skills. I certainly enjoy seeing Vincent’s shots.  So meeting him for the first time in quite a while simply made the morning even nicer as we caught up for a good old “chinwag” in between shots, sharing tips and tricks, places, faces and all… really nice 🙂 . Not all photographers are willing to share and when someone does, it’s kind of special… thank you Vincent, as always!

Aside from an impromptu catch up, the morning presented some nice photo opportunities. Nothing overly spectacular, but nonetheless most enjoyable. Those of you who regularly follow this blog will know how much I love sunbirds here in Singapore. They’re beautiful, have great character and are reasonably abundant; I’d say we are blessed to have such birds here and I have blogged about them a few times. So today I wanted to get a “little practice” with a new video head I had placed on my tripod and at the same time take a few shots of the sunbird ‘youngsters’ that maybe I’d see. I was in for a treat…

I threw all traditional “rules of ⅓ ” out of the window today. I thought it may be a pleasant change to show you these lovely sunbird youngsters ‘up close and personal’ given their relative proximity to where I was standing much of the time. In fact, the camera lens was most often set to minimum focal range, i.e. within 10 metres, for much of the practice shoot.

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Male Olive Backed Sunbird some way along the journey to getting the renowned “iridescent blue throat”.

Our most common sunbird in Singapore is the Olive Backed Sunbird (OBS) variety.

It was little surprise that I saw so many and that the youngsters were doing well. Most were feasting on nectar from Heliconia and Ginger plants in the main.

A39T9468-impWhilst the male OBS (above) has gotten much of its’ blue throat in place, it was nice to see other males that were ‘not so far along that journey’, with those trademark blue hues only just beginning to emerge.

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Male Olive Backed Sunbird along the way to developing a vibrant plumage.

I saw quite a few males throughout the morning, in varying conditions of development and corresponding plumage development too.

At time those radiant hues ‘weren’t quite there yet’ for some of the birds.

 

A39T9580-impFor others, that transformation into sheer beauty had taken shape and so a spectrum of plumage development was seen… not perfect yet, but getting there.

On some of the shots, nature’s wondrously engineered sunbird tongue, specifically geared to extract nectar from chosen plants with supreme dexterity, could clearly be seen.

 

A39T9604-impAs the rising morning sun began to kiss the various plants, the sunbirds were extremely active in securing their energy needs, as more and more plants produced nectar under the sun’s encouragement.

The birds were flitting and skating to their hearts content, from one flowering bud to another, repeating that same pattern of relieving the plant of their nectar.

 

A39T9415-impFemale OBS’s were in abundance too, as you may expect. It was interesting to see them at various stages of their development too, and all  too often whilst they were in ‘nectar gathering mode’, a male would show up and they both would leave the scene together, aerobatically playing games of ‘cat and mouse’.

(Left) is a female about to take flight under the distracting influence of a male in proximity. If you look carefully you can even see that this startled female has lost some of the nectar droplets she was gathering.

A39T9274-impIt wasn’t long after that another (perhaps the same?) female arrived at a nearby ginger plant.

I expect this is possibly the same bird, having returned once the male’s attentions had been suitably dealt with by eluding him in the playful chase.  Whichever, the bird seemed unperturbed.

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This female bird stayed around a little longer, unharried by others, and took full advantage of this period of ‘solace’.  She was happy flitting from bud to bud, uninterrupted.

A39T9671-impA male OBS did put in an appearance after 5 or so minutes, but this time the female seemed less playful and merely retreated to a nearby branch and let out calls that surely confirmed a lack of engagement and a ‘leave me alone’ intent.

A39T9178-impOBS’s were not the only sunbirds to put in an appearance. I was lucky enough to see the Brown Throated Sunbird (BTS) variety too.

This species were also in the ‘plumage development phase’, as can clearly be seen (left). That gorgeous natural palette around the throat is some way along the path towards splendour, but as yet, the journey remains in progress.

A39T9595-impI only saw one BTS male; all other birds of this species were female.

They’re identifiable through the prominent ‘half eye ring’ and also the red eye itself.

Whilst vey young, it has to be said that female BTS’s have yet to become attractive. That red eye and evolving plumage presents a somewhat foreboding appearance to any observer. Several came and went whilst I was watching; they often chased off OBS’s yet that ‘male/female’ cat and mouse behaviour wasn’t seen with males of their own species.

A39T9787-impThe chasing was more of a ‘warding off’  towards OBS’s, in order to gain sole access to nectar providing plants.

Once the other sunbird species had been ‘encouraged to leave’, the BTS’s would arrive back at the ginger plant to begin their own nectar gathering.

A39T9766-impThey regularly ‘came and went’ as the morning progressed, though not with the frequency of the more common Olive Backed Sunbird variety.

So all in all the morning was very pleasing. It was good to catch up with a birding friend, lovely to see the sunbird youngsters flourishing and developing nicely, and a pleasure to shoot a few frames to share with you.

If you get the chance to see a sunbird or two today, then Happy Sunbird Sunday. If not, then have a great Sunday in any event and I hope your binoculars or DSLR are graced with some natural images to bring a smile to you.

Happy Days 🙂 .