Tuesday 31 January 2012

California Day 6

Another morning of sorting gear and images out and doing a blog before heading out, I decided to stay local and try for the goldeneye at the lake, I spent a very uncomfortable hour laying on my guy against a storm drain with little to show for my efforts, I did get some images but the weather was very against me, It was either very dark due to black clouds or very very sunny and this seemed to change every minute or so, I did struggle a little with exposure on the white and black goldeneye males due to the weather but soon realized that AV and matrix metering was better in those conditions that the spot metering that i had the camera set to, I gave up and decided to head to the baylands where i had some success before but there was a large school party there so i had to make some other plans, I decided to head along the 101 and check out some new areas and see if i could blag a few shots and if nothing else make some mental notes for the future, After a couple of unsuccessful areas i happened on a road that lead me back to the lake but at the far end, I slowly walked up to the lake and as i rounded a large bush there was some goldeneye and ruddy duck close to the bank, I quickly grabbed my gear and set the tripod at its lowest and snuck under the large bush with just the lens protruding-what a difference, the light by now had settled down and i had a great couple of hours, The ruddy duck female was never more than 30 feet from me the whole time and i even had a yellowlegs come up to me as a bonus, The bush worked as great for camo and the birds were totally at ease, Its a place that i will try when i return as last year there were horned grebe there, This time there was a good head of horned grebe all but in non breeding plumage and during my trip to CA this time i was lucky to get some great shots of these tiny birds

Common Goldeneye

Ruddy Duck


Horned Grebe

Yellowlegs-Lesser i think

All images taken with the Nikon D7000 with a Nikon 600F4VR, Most are full frame and some have small crops so you can how well that bush worked at getting the birds very close indeed, A few frustrating hours with little to show and then a great hour getting low and close up, I would say that perseverance was the order of the day, I also would like to mention that the Grebes eye was that color, I havent played around with it at all
Don't miss my next blog where i spend a day with Bull seals and have a couple of surprise viewings

Monday 30 January 2012

A great days Birding (and Hareing)

After I did the Big Garden Birdwatch on Saturday, I popped down into Gloucestershire for some more birding at the site I went to a few weeks ago.

Unlike last time, I was greeted with nothing initially ..... for quite a while. It didn't bode well.

Eventually a few Red Kites started to show, but never really came very close. So it was a case of patience.

I did spot a lonely solitary Ringtail Hen Harrier at distance quartering a valley of rough scrub, and watched it make a kill.

But nothing photographically at the first two locations.

Moving further down the road, I soon spotted my first Short Eared Owl, quartering a hedge at some distance. Too far though.

In the fields in front of me, to the side and behind I was rewarded with a count of more than 20 Brown Hare. I have never seen so many in one location. It was great to see.

My patience was eventally rewarded with a sighting on over 20 Red Kite that were ringing up together in the darkening light.

Another SEO showed, followed by another but very distant female Hen Harrier.

At one point, due to various birds flushing each other, I had Buzzard, Red Kite, SEO and HH all in the same binocular view - stunning sight.

I did manage to grab a few images of one of the SEO's, but in the rapidly darkening light and at (only ISO600), the images are not where I want them to be in terms of quality, and are quite large crops. But seeing them fly was the best bit for me.

The third image shows one of the Owls who really didn't care that I was on the other side of the hedge from him and he kept flying - this very out of focus uncropped shot shows him coming at me until I took my eye away from the viewfinder and saw him just a few short feet away from me. As he got to about 6 feet away - yes six feet, I said hello to him/her and it turned tail but not too far away and carried on hunting.

I was mesmerised by the sight and experience.

As I was just about to pack up, I got this record only for id purposes shot of a female Hen Harrier at distance as she hunted away in the just about set sun.

What a fab day. Just a shame the birds didnt fly earlier in the brighter light. I wouldnt trade the experience though.

Maybe I need that better quality Nikon AF and high ISO capability?


Sunday 29 January 2012

California Day 5

Last year i met up with blog reader Jim Lindenthal at his home in the beautiful Pacific Grove near Monterey where he kindly showed me some of his local haunts, I contacted Jim just before this trip and met up again for a days shoot, Jim is good company and having Nikon gear makes him my kinda guy so we met up and made some plans for the day which was basically to go down to the nearby beach areas where Jim knows the good bird spots and see what we could find, The coast line where Jim lives is stunning-nothing more to add and with the addition of good bird life with the bonus of otters and seals makes its a paradise for anybody who is lucky enough to visit, I have to say if i had anywhere to live in the world this would be in my top 10 and very close to the top, Doesnt matter what time of year that you are there its always photogenic and there are some is something of interest to shoot, This time i was lucky enough to get to see and shoot some new species for me in the way of Black Oystercatcher, Surf Bird and Black Turnstone, The Oystercatcher was one bird that i had wanted to shoot for a long time and not only did we get near a few we got some to die for images as well, The weather was bright sunshine and quite hot bit as log as we had the suns on our backs we kept the heavy shadows to a minimum,

Just a couple of minutes from Jim house and there is a good variety of birds, Here are Whimbrel, Black Plover and Sanderling but on the same rock were Egrets and Oystercatcher
A Double Crested Cormorant catches some late afternoon sun
A Brown Pelican Skim the waves
The heavy swell did not seem to bother the cormorants landing on the rocks
Black Turnstones were new for me and pretty plentiful
A Pacific Gull has a stretch

Pacific Grove is an area where the Monarch Butterflies spend the winter so we popped in there for a look, We were told that there were around 10 000 there at the moment and although the light was harsh we managed a few shots

Without doubt the highlight for me was the Black Oystercatchers, Such a great looking bird, I watched then for some time and noticed some similarities to other birds and noticed that after a good preen they flick there wings up, It takes a split second and the first time it took me by surprise and i clipped the wing, We found a very relaxed oyster catcher later in the day and took a lot of very nice standard images before it started to preen, I set up and hoped i could catch the wing flap which is straight up, I left room above the bird and kept an eye through the viewfinder, It happened and i got 3 frames so at 6 frames per second it lasted just half a second and 2 of the frames were spot on

The image is full frame-uncropped and i judged it just about right, Maybe a tad more at the base would have been nice but i have to say i am very pleased with the oystercatcher images-very

So a huge thank you to Jim, I enjoy the time and company


Saturday 28 January 2012

Big Garden Birdwatch

Before I was back in the house after putting out more food and suet/fat mix, the birds were already coming down. A cooler couple of days has bought in a few more birds, and so at about 10.30 this morning, I set about my annual BGBW.

And the tally?

As follows;

3 Starling
2 x Song Thrush
2 x Robin
2 x Dunnock
3 x Carrion Crow
7 x Chaffinch
4 x Blackbird
3 x Wood Pigeon
1 x Wren
3 x Blue Tit
2 x Collared Dove
1 x Sparrowhawk
1 x Coal Tit
1 x male Blackcap (just at the end of the hour)

So a couple of surprises for me.

Firstly the number of species within the hour (14), particularly as bird traffic has been so infrequent lately, as I recently blogged,

And Secondly, to see the Blackcap at the end of the watch was great as we have not seen any Blackcap this winter until today.

How did you fair with your garden count? Let us know through the comments, it would be good to hear.

So with my results uploaded, I popped out again to the site where I recently got the Red Kite images and had a great afternoons birding, which I will save for my next blog.


Friday 27 January 2012

California Day 4

My last blog basically took me most of the morning as i downloaded and sorted through the images and then quickly processed them etc, In the afternoon i went to one of my favorite places here-The Baylands reserve, I did stop at a lake on the way where i shot an eared grebe last time and there were some more grebes as well as a good head of goldeneye, I decided as the light was bright to move further down the road to baylands and see what was around, There were plenty of birds especially waders and ducks, I stayed until sundown shooting both at low level and at birds in flight, There is one area where the water is protected by the surrounding marsh and is always good for reflection images and thats where i spent most of my time, The main problem is that its right next to the road so lots of people come to view the birds or the crazy guy sitting quietly in the grass, When this happens they tend to move off but soon return when the coast is clear, Patience is the key and i had yellowlegs, egret, teal, stilt and shoveler very close by. The light was bright but behind me and i was quite pleased with the end result, All images were taken with the D3s and 600 (with and without a 1.4x)

Snowy Egret

On my next blog i meet up with one of our blog readers and get some great results


Thursday 26 January 2012

Focus on Imaging

After Dave's great mega blog and fab photos of yesterday, it's just a short quickie or a quick shortie from me tonight to give our readers from the UK side of the water a reminder that it is not too long now until the photo extravaganza that is Focus on Imaging at my old workplace, the NEC.

If you have been before and registered you will no doubt shortly be receiving your automatic tickets. But if you haven't then check out this link which will give you all the details and information that you need to know.

Jac and I may well take a look in this year, as I haven't been in for a couple of years now. Not that I will be looking to buy any new kit, although I do fancy taking a peek at some of the new Nikon gear. Did I just say that out loud? Oops!!

One tip for you though , do check what else is on at the NEC in terms of other shows and plan around that. March is their second busiest month . The good news is that it doesnt clash with Crufts otherwise you would be in long traffic queues if you are driving.

Anyway, it is a little way off yet but one for the diary.


Wednesday 25 January 2012

California days 3-Mega Blog

A big blog today-image wise anyways, Its taken a few hours to put this together but i hope that you think its worth the effort, Yesterday was a looong day, I had booked a tour to see the Elephant Bull seals and left in the dark and pouring rain, I questioned myself the whole way there and hoped that the shitty weather would put others off and give me more time-it didnt and we had around 15 people in out tour and the tours left every 15 minutes so quite a busy place at this time of year, The rain had subsided by the time we left but looked like it could drop at any time, Its around a 1.25 mile walk to the end of the point where the seals are although you can see them from distance in the sea, Now they do not do photographic tours so we had to keep stopping to learn about the history of the place, the vegetation and about the seals themselves-all very nice but not what i was after, My tour started at 8.45am and i was back at the car around 11am, In that time i was allowed around 20-25 minutes to take images and at some points we walked between a few seals that were way in the dunes but not allowed to stop, We could only shoot from the bluffs so the animals were below us which was not ideal, There were over 300 bulls and 1300 females and over 800 pups so a busy noisy place what could be fantastic for photography but the tours just didnt cater for that which was a great shame, The tour guide was great and very knowledgeable and the sight was a spectical so worth the effort, I used a big lens to try and' level' the drop and got some ok images, I hope to do better later in the week,

Radio Head, Female with tracking device stuck to her head

I carried the D3s with 600 on a tripod over my shoulder and in my backpack had the D7000 and 200-400, 24-70, Flash etc just in case, I have to say that every muscle in my body aches, Its not a flat walk either, some hills and then big sand dunes makes life difficult but overall a good work out, Just as we finished with the seals and about to walk back the heavens opened and we all got a good soaking just for fun, I think somebody up there had a damn good laugh, The good thing about the heavily overcast conditions was that there were no harsh shadows so all in all a good result from a short space of time
I left the seals and although i had booked another tour later in the afternoon i decided to go elsewhere and see what was about, I stopped at a lot of know areas for me as well a couple of new ones and managed some reasonable shots of birds of various types

I dont have my bird guide with me so somebody may be able to help me with the ID of this gull
Heermans Gull-what great eyes
Pacific Gull
Not what you expect to see amongst the rocks on the beach-Snowy Egret
Whimbrel, California has been good to me with these birds and the last few trips have given me plenty of chances with them, They become confident with you if you are slow and start from distance, This one came within minimum focus distance after some time and the frame below id full frame

Black Bellied Plover
Sanderling are always fun and a challenge to shoot
Common Loon-Full frame taken from a floating pontoon
Drake Bufflehead, A nice surprise, Taking a rest in the vegetation, Taken from my car
I stopped at one beach and could see a good group of birds in the distance, there were a few pople around but not many, The birds turned out to be Black Bellied plovers and sanderling, As i approached i could see that they were skittish so i dropped my gear down and over 20 minutes or so i slowly edged forward until i was with shooting range, I started to get some shots then notices 2 women with a small child coming my way, They let the child down and gestured for it to go to the birds as 1 woman got her compact camera out, It was clear what i was doing as i had the 600 on the tripod and was looking through the camera but no the kid run over and every bird took to the air, I stormed over to her and told her exactly what i though of her in no uncertain terms-they left, Now i dont own the beach but what they did was just bloody rude and inconsiderate-i dont think she will do it again if there is a photographer there,

I moved to another area and got some ground squirrel images

Then decided to call it a day, Time was getting on and i was a couple of hours from the hotel, The sun decided to come out and was nice and low as i made my way up the highway,My body was saying enough was enough but the photographer was thinking that i could pop to a great area for evening photography where there are birds but more importantly good sea otter opportunities in good light, It was a bit out of my way but i have done well there in the past so it had to be worth the effort and so it turned out, The sun was setting over my shoulder as i crept along the rocks, There were some otters around the bend so i slowly edged my way along, All of a sudden there was a loud hiss which made me jump back, There was a sea otter sleeping in the rocks and it shit the life out of me, infact i dont know who was more surprised, I was very lucky not to get a nasty bite, You can see how well it blended in

I carried on shooting until the sun was well and truly down getting lots of nice otter images as well as some birds as an added bonus, I got the hotel absolutely drained, It had been a very long and arduous day, I grabbed some food and hit the sack

Pigeon doing what pigeons do

It was a great and very productive day, I went through my images and have over 700 saved after the first cull, ALL the images were taken with the D3s and 600, some with a 1.4x