Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Bird Tree

I get easily bored of doing the same thing over and over. I know that is what I have to do to achieve the perfect shot - practice makes perfect and all that, but sometimes you just need a change.  Today I did something different!

I have created a bird tree!  Or at the very least a branch of birds. I have found that the sparrows just love millet, so I pegged some in the tree to see what would happen when I tried to photograph them at it. I am really happy with the results - if I could change anything it would be to move the tree but that is easier said that done.

The afternoon sun creating a nice back lit effect to wings spread in semi flight whilst struggling to get a grip on the millet was a great deal of fun to photograph.  You can expect to see many more like these until I get bored again.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Capturing fast flight

Juvenile Starling - I was quite taken with the spots :)
So after all my efforts to capture the fast little waxeyes in flight, I have decided the shots don't really excite me all that much. I prefer the image with more character. They are such quirky little birds with the cutest of faces that just make you want to go "awwww", but when in flight they are just another bird flying. How sad is that :)

Female Sparrow
Over the last few months that I have been photographing the waxeyes in my backyard, I have come to know some of them.  There is one that has small white feathers sticking out on the side - she seems to be a prolific breeder as we have seen several clutches of chicks from her since spring - and there is 'broken beak'. Broken beak is named because of one of his deformities. He has half the bottom of his beak broken off, and he is missing a couple of claws on his feet. He comes daily for food and is probably only alive because of the easy food supply.

'Broken Beak' leaping to another perch
Broken beak is also no stranger to the camera. Whenever I am striving to get a particular shot of the  birds when it comes time for processing nine out of ten shots will be of him. He is not as flighty as the others and will sit longer on the tree branches before jumping up to the feeders. He waits his turn and in that time I get to fire off the camera. I can't see it is him from a distance so end up taking huge amounts of shots of the same bird, which of course I don't want to do!

'Broken Beak' again during lift-off

I must do some research on the life span of the waxeyes, as this little guy has obviously decided to make this home and expects to be fed. I am sure winter would be harder for him than right now when there is an abundance of food about - time will tell as to whether he keeps visiting the feeder or not.

'Broken Beak' in flight

'Broken Beak' in flight

Friday, January 25, 2013

Still in flight

I am still doing my best to capture flight with the waxeyes. Today I thought I would treat them to a bit of home baking too. I have been buying some food blocks from the pet shop that the birds just go nuts over and I figured they couldn't be to hard to make at home. I found a recipe on the web and today I made some out of dripping, peanut butter, wild bird seed and breadcrumbs.

It was only a matter of minutes and the block I put out was totally cleaned up so I guess they were a success. I have another half dozen blocks in the fridge so they should last a wee while. It is amusing though, the birds hang around like there is more coming and there isn't. Some of them get impatient and try to fly inside to encourage us to give them more!

I had better luck with the birds in flight today as you can see but I also have high expectations for tomorrow. I have the most awesome friends, and tomorrow another one of them is letting me have her camera for the day so I can have another play.  Now my husband is worried that I will rush out and buy a new camera...  maybe... not yet...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In flight

One of the things that I have struggled with while photographing the Waxeyes, is capturing them in flight. They are very small birds and move really really fast!  So I end up with lots of images of bird on branch, then no bird on branch and I continually miss that millisecond in between when there is lift off.

So I try and anticipate their take offs using continuous shooting but alas, the same happens because my camera can only take 5 or 6 shots before it has to save and even then the bird can disappear between two of those continuous shots. They are just that quick. I have come to the conclusion that I have a need for speed!

A friend came to my rescue and has let me use her camera a couple of times. It is a Canon 7D and is built for speed. At 8 frames per second and bursts of way more than six shots, while still difficult it was possible to capture the take off.  I am now patiently waiting for the Canon 7D MkII to come out and I will then be the first to the store to purchase one.

And a cute sparrow shot to finish with :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Second round of chicks

When spring first showed itself we had lot of chicks showing up in our garden and then for a while the bird numbers dropped again. Now we are on the second round of chicks. Sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and waxeye chicks are all bouncing around in the trees looking for food from their parents.  It is not often they get into a position where I can photograph them feeding but the other day I was lucky!

I am learning the different behaviours of the birds and can pretty much predict what comes next when I see them doing something. It is pretty easy to see which chick is going to get fed next and to have the camera focused and ready. They just have to be in a position that is free of obstructions and where I can focus on them clearly.  The ponga fern just outside the door was the perfect spot as far as I was concerned!

I am still struggling to get some good flight images. I have managed a few but none that I consider to have that wow factor and that is what I am looking for. While the birds keep visiting I will keep trying. I can only get better with practice.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The birdbath on a hot day

Some days it is just too hot to venture out into the sun, so I take to my arm chair by the open french doors and watch the birds play. This young black bird was particularly fun to watch. It would hop along the lawn inching closer and closer to the birdbath, watching for danger with every hop and then jump up onto the birdbath and splash about for a few minutes before flying off.  This was repeated several times so I had plenty of opportunity to photograph its antics.

We have put stones in the birdbath to give the smaller birds a chance. They didn't seem to like it when it was too deep, but now they are happy to splash about in there also. The things we do for our art!

Saturday, January 12, 2013


After so many months of birds, today I have something different to post. Damselflies!  Summer brings out these tiny creatures and they are so much fun to photograph. This time I used the 150-500mm to capture them as I only had the one lens with me and I was out looking for birds.

Initially I wasn't sure it was going to work because I had to get so far away from them to be able to focus, even had to go to manual focus which is always a worry with my eyesight! But I managed some really interesting shots.

These little guys were at the reserve at Pauatahanui and there were heaps of them all over the bushes. I would have stayed out longer with them but the sun was going behind the clouds and because they are so small I needed the sun to highlight them in the shot. This won't be the last you see of damselflies here!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Starling

The starlings fly in a flock. They arrive in a flock and they make enough noise to scare off anything other than the sparrows. Their chicks are very aggressive and bully their parents constantly. That being said, it is the starlings who are most timid in the water bath. I find this rather amusing because when we head to the beach you can often see the starlings scavenging for food at the low tide mark, so they are not afraid of water.  Today's post is devoted to the starlings and their antics in the water bath. They splash so much water about I almost need to refill it after each one!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Last day of the holidays

Today has been a pretty relaxing day. We are back at work tomorrow and our visitors are returning to Auckland.  Life returns to normal, whatever normal is. We broke out the marco lenses today and some more dandelion seeds. I was determined to master the art of getting the reflection in the water drop no matter how tiny it was and I believe I did!

Macro has never really been my thing so I have had no real idea of how to achieve what I wanted to do other than reading about it on the internet. Unfortunately I am not one that learns that well from reading - I have to do it to learn. I am happy to make mistakes along the way but unless I physically give it a try it will never happen.

I am really happy with today's results. I know a bit more about my macro lens and how it works and that is always a good thing. I am confident that I can recreate the image if I want to and no doubt probably will to try and improve some more. After I got past the frustration of my flash not working well it became fun!

Petone Estuary

After such a successful morning at Pauatahanui yesterday we thought to continue the day with a trip to the Petone estuary as well. As usual the campsite was set up - camp chairs, light stands and umbrellas for shade. This time there were four of us so the campsite looked even more impressive. So much so that one of the local boatshed owners popped over to say hello and bring us some nice cold drinks! Ah the life!

Unfortunately the birds were not as obliging so not a lot of photographs were taken. I got a few more of the heron but with all the weed and rubbish about most were not worth displaying here. It's a shame that such a great place can get so full of litter and rubbish so fast.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pauatahanui - White faced herons

We drove round the inlet this morning to see what was about. The Canada geese were floating about with all their goslings. It was surprising how different the goslings were after just one week of growing their feathers. Their adult colours are not far away now.

We watched and photographed them for a bit and then we had a nice surprise. Two white faced herons flew in to the water right in front of us and proceeded to have breakfast!

Shrimp and crab was on the menu this morning. I managed to shoot a huge amount of great images but have chosen only some of the more interesting ones for this blog post. I don't wish to bore you with lots and lots of the same bird, so this selection is of the two birds fishing for breakfast.