There’s a phrase in Hungary which is spelt ‘nem jó’, pronounced ‘nem yo’ and means ‘no good’. In this recent trip to Hungary I was it a lot when asked how the wryneck photography was going. I have never been so frustrated in all my photography years.
Wryneck in the UK are a regular passage migrant but you have to be very lucky to find one. With one or two breeding every few years in the UK, they are all but extinct as a UK breeder and are highly protected when they do so photography is out of the question.
To hear the news that a wryneck was nesting in the garden of where I was staying in Hungary you can imagine how excited I was. My imagination was running wild with all sorts of images I was going to achieve of this very elusive species. To cut a 7 day story short, the image I had in my head didn’t materialise. What I wanted to achieve was the image below but in much better light. This particular photograph was taken at 10.22, 5 hours after sunrise. The background light hitting a distant tree is extremely harsh even though the bird itself was shaded by a large vertical stump of the tree where the nest box was. The balance between bird and background was just too much. Had it had been overcast it may have worked better. I planned another 4 sessions in the morning and late afternoon but this male didn’t want to play fairly. I ended up getting on the plane with no images of this species in great light which should have been fairly easy given the circumstances. It has certainly been a learning curve and one that has left me inspired, although extremely frustrated at the time. Patience was certainly a virtue. Although I didn’t get the image I had planned it was fantastic to see such a beautiful bird every day and I’m glad that I achieved this image to show you all.
Canon 5D Mk3 with Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens, 1/400s, f10, ISO1600, on remote setup (hence the ISO1600).
An image of a Crested Tit taken on a trip to the Cairngorms in January. Although the weather conditions were far from ideal the 5D3 made good use of what was available. As you can imagine with such a fast, small bird and with shutter speeds of 1/160th at ISO800, there was a very small percentage of sharp shots amongst the very high percentage of blurry ones. That little red eye would have been nice in some sun! An excuse for another trip there I think!
Crested Tit, Lophophanes cristatus, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland.
5D3 with Canon 500mm f4L, 1/160th, f4, ISO800.
To complete February’s images off, todays image is of a Sooty Gull displaying. Watching your subjects can often reveal extra action shots that you wouldn’t normally achieve. Like most gulls when they call, they do something interesting. Watching this species of gull over a few days, I noticed that whilst calling they would often throw their heads back. Most of the time they did this out of camera range, but one morning, I managed to get close enough to this individual preening. It was just a matter of patience and hoping that it would call when it had finished. I wasn’t dissapointed. 😉
Sooty Gull, Larus hemprichii, Red Sea, Egypt, April, 2009.
Canon 40D with Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens
A very smart looking bird indeed, image 057 shows an adult White-eyed Gull. An endemic species to the Red Sea area, it can be found in small flocks along with the Sooty Gull (here). We usually encountered these birds along the stretch of beach just after sunrise, before all the holiday makers woke up.
White-eyed Gull (Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus), Red Sea, Egypt, April, 2009.
Canon 40d with Canon 500mm f/4 L IS Lens.
Another from Egypt, 053 is a Sooty Gull. The Red Sea in Egypt is the best place to see Sooty Gull and White-eyed Gull (Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus) in the Western Palearctic, with the White-eyed Gull being endemic here. It was great to see them in good numbers whilst we were there.
Sooty Gull, Larus hemprichii, Red Sea, Egypt, April, 2009.
Canon 40D with Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens.
With Christmas just around the corner it was time to celebrate early with a trip to see the female Desert Wheatear on Titterslee Clee Hill. Although finding it was a problem as it had decided to do a vanishing act about a minute before I arrived, I finally located it around 90 minutes later. Such an obliging little bird which allowed a very close approach. With the winter sun being so low in the sky, the lighting on the bird was perfect, giving nice saturation to the background vegetation aswell. I used an angle finder to help me compose the images and also to try and get the camera and lens either at eye level with the bird or slightly lower, making for a better portrait.
Desert Wheatears usually frequent North Africa and the Middle East so to see one in Shropshire is very lucky indeed.
Top: Canon 1d MkIV, Canon 500mm F4 L IS lens with 1.4x, 1/1000sec at f/7.1, ISO 800, tripod and angle finder.
Bottom: Canon 1d MkIV, Canon 500mm F4 L IS lens, 1/400sec at f/8.0, ISO 400, tripod and angle finder.
Also, if you want a laugh (I did when I saw it!) have a look at the image below. This was the first Desert Wheatear I saw whilst in Tunisia in 2004. It was taken when I first started photography using the digiscoping technique! It was taken with a Nikon Coolpix 4500 and Swarovski AT80HD telescope. Hopefully you will see a huge difference to the work I am producing now!!
I’ve always had difficulty with photographing bees but spending any time with any subject will always pay dividends. Sitting next to a Hebe bush for two hours in the neighbours garden photographing the comings and goings of all the insects was amazing. The amount of insects that were present was varied from really small aphid type species, to hoverflies and to the huge bumblebees. I created around 600 images of the various species and was very pleased with some of the results. I’m still going through them, but here are two that have already been processed. The top one is of a Buff-tailed Bumblebee and the second is a honeybee. Finding out the species of these bees was a learning curve as didnt realise that there were around 250 species of bee in the UK!! I must read more on these especially as they are in decline and some are even threatened with extinction. I found out about these species on the Bumbleebee Conservation Trust website which can be found here: http://www.bumblebeeconservation.org.uk/
The next two images were all taken from a local private site that I have access to. Its an amazing site, with a rich flora and fauna. I wanted to get some attractive images for cards and calendars so concentrated on this. The ladybird on a young orchid spike, and the Common Blue butterfly on an ear of grass I thought were particularly suitable.
Spending all afternoon till sunset at this site enabled me to get images of the local rookery coming into roost. Although the number of birds at this roost are quite low, it still made for some nice images. A perfect end to the day.
As always, all of my images are for sale, so please contact me if you are interested.