Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The new feeder

A week or so ago I ordered a bird feeder that could be mounted on a pole. I wanted to get the birds off the BBQ and feeding from a place where they would be safer from cats etc. Today it arrived and my son got busy and set it up for me in the garden. It was interesting to see just how long it took for the birds to trust that it was safe to eat from.

To start with they kept going back to where the food used to be and looked somewhat confused or annoyed, not sure which. Then they started quick a flyby of the feeder to see what it was about. Next was the flyby with a hover in the middle. This was cute to watch but almost impossible to photograph as they were so quick! It was just 15 minutes before I saw them perched on the feeder eating the bananas again.

I can hear the chicks demanding to be fed but so far today they have eluded the camera. Preferring to hide up in the trees where there is lots of foliage. I am sure I will get another chance at capturing them being fed, but if I don't then I am happy with the shots I got yesterday. I am really enjoying having the birds flitting about. It's like watching fish in a fish tank only much better!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Newcomers to the garden

Last night I spotted a newcomer to our garden. Yet another bird that has found that we have food out so hopefully will become a regular. It was a goldfinch and it didn't mind my photographing it on its first visit. It was back again today so I guess I didn't scare it too much.

The other newcomers to the garden are two balls of fluff!  The waxeyes have bought their babies to see us and they are of course always hungry!  I am getting to know the calls of the different birds now and the sound of these babies is very demanding! It's no wonder the parent birds look smaller than their offspring, they are worn out feeding all the time!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Playing with white-balance

Hopefully this Summer is going to be spectacular weather wise because I have plans and they all involve good weather! Next weekend is the PSNZ Central Regional Convention and I am looking forward to it. We are planning to stop by Waikanae estuary and one or two other spots on the way there, so hopefully will come back with lots of photos to post about when I get back.

Today I had a play with the one setting I tend not to change that much. That being the white balance. It has been a cloudy dull day and when I previewed one of the images I shot this morning I was less than impressed with the colours, so I had a play with the white balance settings. I started out using 'cloudy' in the early part of the day, and then as it brightened up I changed it to 'daylight'. I am much happier with the resulting colours.

I know there are no birds in this post, but I did photograph some, I just thought you all might enjoy a break from them. I get really obsessive about my little birds and I need to remember that there is other stuff out there to photograph too!

Up close and personal

We didn't really have much planned yesterday so most of the day was spent mooching around the house and photographing the birds. We decided against going to the firework display when the wind got up and the rain came down. Instead I put the camera near the window and watched the birds some more.

The tree that is in this set of images is pretty much right beside the house. In fact we have to trim it all the time to stop it rubbing its branches on the roof. The window I was using is a small up high window that if I stood on the ground I probably couldn't see much from and not being terribly steady on my feet at the moment, I needed a flat steady platform to stand on. So the treadmill that I haven't been able to use for some time (it's for sale if anyone wants it) became my viewing platform.

If anyone had come visiting while I was standing the treadmill with camera, monopod and big lens pointed out the tiny window, they would have thought I had lost my marbles! Maybe I have but I can't resist these little birds, they make such lovely images.

 I am finding myself getting way more fussy when it comes time to process them though. Being a sharp image just isn't enough any more, I am looking for light, character and impact as well as sharpness. The birds are proving to be very useful as a learning tool.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The communal puddle

Before I was able to park my car in our garage, I used to park it on the lawn. After several years of doing this, there were a few holes in the lawn where the ground got a bit soft and muddy over the winter. All that is left now is one dent in the lawn that fills with water whenever it rains. The birds love it! So much so that sometimes I will put a bucket or two of water in it for them to play in when there are been no rain.

So rejuvenated the puddle this afternoon with a bit of water and within minutes I had a huge number of birds splashing about in it. There were blackbirds, starlings, chaffinches, sparrows and waxeyes all in there together! It made for a very crowded puddle. The puddle is the one place where I haven’t seen any of the bird hierarchy that I witness in the trees and feeding stations. They just share the puddle without a care.

The waxeyes are very cute when they are wet, their feathers look so bedraggled and their big eyes just look so forlorn and sad. Either that or they catch me watching them and turn into angry birds! They give me such faces, as if to tell me that their privacy is important and I am violating it! I take no notice at all and carry on photographing them.

Oh on the blackbird front, we have a nest with eggs residing on the side of our fence in a clematis bush. Unfortunately I can’t get the camera in there or I would be recording their progress, but I can see them which is kind of fun. I just hope none of the neighbourhood cats find it. I don’t think they would be able to get in easily so they should be pretty safe. 

Moving the goal posts

Now that I have the waxeyes coming on a regular basis to feed, I thought I would start experimenting with what and where I fed them. Ideally I would like them to come as close to the house as possible so that no matter what the weather I can still photograph them through the windows. To this end, I put half an orange onto the tree trunk just outside of the house and waited patiently.

Within about five minutes they had found it and by the next morning it was completely eaten out. I replaced it with half an apple this morning and after having one go at it, the apple was ignored. I am thinking I need to wait with the apples until they are a bit softer and sweeter, because I have had them eating apple before.

The next thing I did today that was different, was to put out a small ceramic dish with coloured sugar water in it. I thought they would avoid it being as it was something new but it only took about thirty minutes before they had found it and were taking turns at sipping its contents. I replaced the apple with banana and they are back in the tree outside the house. The biggest problem I have now is the blackbirds!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Almost the weekend again...

We have a new comer to the back garden. This is the first song thrush that I have seen since I have been feeding the birds and encouraging them to visit the garden. I know it is a common bird but it's a new visitor to my garden.

I am ready for Summer time now. The wind can go and so can the cold, I am over it all. I want to be able to leave the doors open and be able to photograph the birds without having to put on several layers of clothing! Unfortunately Summer is never long enough.

Also only a few weeks away to my trip to the Gannets at Cape Kidnappers. In the past I have been there when there were no chicks, and I have been there when the chicks were quite large. This time I am hoping to find the chicks still small and fluffy and happy to pose for me. Hoping too that the weather is fine on the day we have planned there as there is no shelter to be had and we are out there for the entire day!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Still more Hamilton Zoo photos

Today I made a flying visit to Auckland for work, and yes I did fly! The flight there and the flight back couldn't have been more different! I was in the back of the plane on the way up to Auckland with my knees up round my ears to prevent them from being jammed up against the seat in front me. I couldn't even hold a book open without it hitting the seat in front. The only thing to do was to try and sleep my way through the flight.

On the return I checked in early and had some time to spare, so I sat by a big viewing window and watched the planes coming and going. It was very relaxing with the sun streaming in. I have to wonder though after listening to all the notices over the speakers... just what does "further and final" really mean? I thought final meant final. That's it. No more! But no, in airport land, final means they will call you about five more times before they remove your luggage and lock you out. Certainly doesn't instill any urgency into you if you know they will call for you again.

Checking in early meant I could change my seat from the back of the plane to row nine and to make it even better there was an empty seat beside me. I had room to stretch out my legs as I relaxed in the nice wide leather seats. A glass of wine was handed to me and some crackers and cheese to nibble on. A nice way to end a busy day. Now I am more than ready for the weekend... one more work day to go.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More from Hamilton Zoo

Yesterday I was talking about being at the Hamilton Zoo. Today is more of the same, however it is focused totally on the birds and the large walk in aviary. While I was there one of the zoo keepers came in to refill the feeding stations and she saw me photographing one of the Kereru. She pointed out to me that he was a little ugly around the head because some time ago he had flown into the netting and damaged himself.  He is now perfectly healthy; however his head feathers never grew back the same. He was however very keen to pose for the camera!

The white-faced heron was also quite happy to pose for the camera, so long as there was a mouse for him at the end of it. After being given one treat (mouse) he followed the zoo keeper about in the hope of getting a second one that she was carrying around. Of course he succeeded. He was fun to watch as he grabbed the mouse and then ran down the walkway to eat it in peace.

There were lots of kakariki in the aviary, both red faced and green. They were a bit more stand offish but when there was fresh food to be had they didn’t seem to mind coming in a bit closer. It was about this time that my card was full on the camera and I was busy changing it as two kingfishers flew to the ground at my feet fighting each other. I did my best to get the camera back together in time to photograph them but alas they were too quick or I was too slow.

The light in the aviary was quite dark and I did struggle with this a bit. I missed some awesome photos by having the settings not quite right for the light. There was a pair of kokako flitting about in front of me and trust me when I tell you they move fast! I didn't get the shot I wanted but I did get one or two.

 All the while I was sitting there watching and photographing the birds, I had a pesky kaka trying his best to get on my shoulder. If I shooed him away once I did it a dozen times but he kept coming back. In the end, thankfully, he decided my husband’s shoulder was much more interesting and started smooching about in his beard. The kaka was happy, not sure about the husband!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hamilton Zoo

We travelled to Hamilton over Labour weekend and visited the Hamilton Zoo while we were there. It is clearly the favoured spot for mums and toddlers because the majority of the people we saw there were in that age group. The zoo is very well set out for pushchairs etc. so I guess they have their eye on who their target market is also.

I was very impressed with the enclosures from a photographer’s point of view.  The glass viewing areas were clean and easy to photograph through without too many reflections getting in the way.  The meerkats were just gorgeous. In Wellington the meerkats will stand guard and they are seriously standing tall and watching out for trouble. The meerkats at Hamilton zoo was clearly on guard, but it was totally relaxed sitting in a position with a good view watching the world go by without a care. Very cute to see and to photograph!

The lemurs were also very interesting to watch. They had not long been fed so were pretty active while we were near their enclosure. Again glass windows made for easy photography and I am very happy with the results. The highlight of my zoo trip was the walk in aviary. It is an example of a native gully restoration and is fully stocked with birds. I sat in the aviary for ages enjoying the birds swooping about in front of me.  If the weather was better I might have set up camp and stayed there the entire day! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Visiting Photogs

Today was a holiday which is always welcome. Having had Friday off too, tomorrow is going to be very hard. The alarm is not going to be liked and it may take me a while to get back into work head-space. Oh well, such is life.  So getting back to the holiday part, I invited a few photographer friends over to meet and photograph the waxeyes.  The wind was up and it was cold but there were still a few waxeyes flitting about in the tree. These are a few of my images from today.