BIRDS 92 – HERRING GULL

 

 


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Adult Herring Gull, Porthleven, Cornwall; 18 Oct 2016.

A big, meaty bird, a bird to be taken seriously – and particularly so if its trying to steal your lunch!  The dark streaking shows it to be in winter plumage.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click again on the larger version to further enlarge it.

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 305mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom.
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BIRDS 91 – BIRD OF ROCKY SEASHORES

 

 

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Turnstone in the main car park, Penzance, Cornwall.

Turnstones are birds of rocky and often wild seashores, where they live up to their name by using their bills to turn over stones in search of food.

But here in Penzance, in the main car park beside the harbour – and along the promenade in nearby St Ives too – they regularly come up amongst us humans when the tide is in, searching for scraps.  In St Ives especially, people are intrigued by these little birds scurrying around their feet, thinking them youngsters because they are so small.  I bought a pasty on St Ives seafront, sat down to eat it,  and had several around my feet within moments – it was delightful to have them so close, and they gobbled down every scrap of food dropped for them.

Technique: as an ex-birder and someone who will always have an intense liking for birds (for me, their presence unquestionably boosts Quality Of Life), this shot is partly of ornithological interest – here is a little denizen of rocky and often wild coasts, usually observed only distantly, that has taken to foraging openly in a very busy, completely artificial, human environment.  But to me also, in terms of composition, this image says something else too – here is the Natural World, very much overshadowed by, and under threat from, the requirements and encroachments of the Human World.

There are other pictures of these Turnstones, all from St Ives, here, here and here.  Turnstones are mostly brownish above in their winter plumage, but beautiful orange-brown tints appear on their backs in the summer – traces of which can be seen in a couple of these images.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.  If your browser allows two stages of magnification: choose the larger.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 280mm; 800 ISO; 20 Oct 2016.
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BIRDS 90 – JACKDAWS OVER TADHAM MOOR

 

 

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Standing out on the Somerset Levels, before sunrise.  Enjoying the (freezing!) moment, the stillness and quiet; a camera inert, itself freezing, around my neck.

All at once the silence was cut by harsh, garrulous calls – “TJACK! … TJACK!” – and, looking up, a small, dark and nebulous mass, shaped like a misty lozenge, was powering towards me high above that flat landscape.  To an ex-birder like me, the calls proclaimed the callers, Jackdaws, small black crows with white eyes, flying out from their roost at first light to feed.  They would have spent the night as a flock, perched safely up in tall trees, occasionally shuffling, occasionally calling, enduring the sub-zero temperatures of the long January night.  Some, of course, may not have made it through that ice box of a night, some may have succumbed to the deeply penetrating cold, and toppled silently from their perches, to lie frozen through now on the rock hard ground below.  But the rest, now, at dawn and with the sun about to rise, had left their roost and set off across country, to an area where they could find food to replenish the ravages of that stark darkness.

The camera, the Fuji X-T2, with its much trumpeted reputation for speed, was around my neck, switched off and with the telezoom at minimum.  Having appeared from nowhere, the flock was almost over me in an instant, there was barely time to do anything – in one movement my forefinger switched the camera on, got onto the shutter button and for the briefest instant held it half down for focus, and then fired off two frames – managing 1/350 at f4.5 and 25,600 ISO in the poor light.

And here is the result, which can be viewed in three ways.

First, and most trivially, it serves as a crude test of the X-T2’s start up and autofocus times.  The birds are more or less sharp, with some blurring of their flailing wing tips – and that’s good enough for me – I want the moment, not technical perfection.

Then second and far more valuably, this is an instantaneous picture of the Natural World, of relatively small, warm blooded creatures that have weathered many hours of darkness and sub-zero temperatures, relying on their feathers and whatever fat reserves they may have to ward off the biting, sub-zero temperatures.  Now they are out over that flat landscape, hungry, needing food to survive, and powering towards somewhere that, yesterday at least, there was food.  What can I say?  The Natural World never ceases to interest and excite me.

And finally, thinking more abstractly, this image shows a variety of bird shapes, silhouettes, set against a grainy blue background.  Perhaps it might serve as a pattern for a table cloth, curtains or an arty blouse, such is our world.

There is a much closer image of a Jackdaw here.

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Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; 1/350, f4.5; crop shows just over a third of the total image area; 27 Jan 2017.

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BIRDS 89 – YOUNG HERRING GULL

 

 

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Young Herring Gull on West Pier, St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016.

This the bird already pictured here.

There are other recent gull shots here and here.

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D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO.
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BIRDS 88 – GULL YAWNING

 

 

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Gull yawning; St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016.

This is most probably a Herring Gull.  The brown speckling on its plumage shows it to be a young bird, probably now just about to enter its first winter – it hatched from its egg this summer.

It was perched on the wall of the West Pier at St Ives, “loafing” as birdwatchers say.  Which means that it had had some food, that it wasn’t desperately hungry, so that it was just hanging around – while still no doubt keeping an eye out for any chance meal that might present itself.

I leant against the wall and, very gradually, inched my way towards it, keeping silent, compact and low.  It shuffled a little, it wasn’t quite sure about me (sensible bird!), but then it relaxed, and I started gradually capturing images.  I could have wished that the D800’s shutter was quieter but, on the plus side, its reliable autofocus did its usual excellent job, and I was able to concentrate on the images, rather than on whether they were sharp or not.

There are earlier images from this recent gull series here and here.

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D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO.
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BIRDS 87 – HERRING GULL 2 (MONO)

 

 

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Herring Gull, an adult in winter plumage, beside the harbour in St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016 – the bird already shown in colour here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Fine Art High Key preset.
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BIRDS 86 – LITTLE EGRET

 

 

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Little Egret, fishing at low water in Porthleven harbour, in the far southwest of Cornwall; 18 Oct 2016.

This bird was stalking through the shallows, thrusting down with its bill towards any fish appearing in the clear water.  The circular ripples from the most recent of these thrusts can be seen spreading out in front of it, swamping smaller ripples emanating from its moving legs.  The slightly blue-tinted play of light on the water makes a useful, abstract backdrop in the photo’s upper half.

I was a very active and enthusiastic birder for decades, from 1967 to 2002 in fact, and it really shaped my life – for example I went to Kenya “for a year or two” in 1977 to see African birds, and only managed to tear myself away from the place 12 years later!

And when I started birdwatching in 1967, this little white heron was a rarity in Britain – in fact I can recall travelling quite a long way in Wales, in 1971, to see one.  But now it is expanding its range northwards into the UK, and flocks of 10-20 or more often occur out on the Somerset Levels, for example.

Many wild birds have taken a real beating in my “green and pleasant land” during my lifetime, mainly due to urban sprawl, pollution and industrialised farming, but here is an example of a wild creature on the up, something which is very good to see.

This image is a substantial enlargement from the original – the bird was a long way from me – and I must say I’m impressed with this Fujinon telezoom’s performance at such long range.  This lens gives focal lengths very close to the 70-300 of my favourite Nikon lens, and I find it extremely useful.

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X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 800 ISO.
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BIRDS 85 – HERRING GULL, ST IVES – AND MAYHEM!

 

 

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Herring Gull, an adult in winter plumage, beside the harbour in St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016.

I’ve been using my new Fujifilm X-T1 camera a lot of late, but there’s no doubt that where speed and accuracy of autofocus are concerned, it simply cannot compete with the systems on Nikon’s full-frame cameras.  Fujifilm’s new X-T2 may address these shortcomings – but whether I want to lay out £1800+ to get an X-T2 plus the power grip that will of course make this diminutive camera bulkier, is another matter.

And so, having been down to St Ives a few weeks back and been frustrated by the X-T1’s slow autofocus, I took both the X-T1 and Nikon’s D800 when we did a second trip to the southwest tip of Cornwall last week – because, if we were going to St Ives again, I wanted 100% autofocus efficiency in order to tackle the fast-moving gulls and Turnstones that are always a feature of the place.

A visit to St Ives duly materialised, we were in the harbour near the West Pier, and there was an adult Herring Gull sitting on the roof of a car.  The bird looked quiet and composed, not fazed at all by the many people hurrying close by.  It looked good for a close-in picture, but the first thing to do was examine what was visible behind it because, although close-in use of a long telephoto throws the background out of focus, any contrasty elements in that background may still have the potential to significantly spoil the shot.  I edged myself into a position where the background seemed unobtrusive.

I put the D800 into DX (APS-C) format, which magnifies the 300mm end of my telezoom to 450mm (= x9 magnification), brought the camera up to my eye, and advanced very, very cautiously and intermittently towards the bird.  I shuffled forwards, very quietly sliding my feet across the smooth pavement.  I didn’t go on until the bird flew, but was surprised at how close I got – and it continued sitting on top the car, looking relaxed throughout, even when the D800’s rather loud shutter started up.

AND THEN FOLLOWED SOMETHING COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED:  We bought hot snacks from a kiosk and walked on up the harbourside eating them, my wife leading the way.  A gull that had perched on the keel of an upturned boat started screaming madly at me, like some frenzied demon from the netherworld.  Well, I grew up beside the sea where gulls were always around and they don’t faze me at all, so I promptly screamed manically back at it >>> whereupon it fell off its perch, took flight and immediately attacked my wife, knocking her sausage roll from her hand onto the ground before going down on the roll in a savage feeding frenzy.  Whereupon a second gull launched a similarly frenzied attack on the first gull and the roll, and the people around us scattered left and right to avoid the mayhem!  As I tried, somewhat lamely, to explain to my wife later, it could have happened to anyone …

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D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX format to give a 450mm telephoto; 400 ISO.
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BIRDS 84 – ROOK

 

 

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Rook; Truro city centre, Cornwall; 12 Apr 2016.

Well, another (slightly glossy) black crow, but that thin and pointed, rather dagger-like bill and the bare grey skin on the face immediately identify this as a Rook.  Unlike Carrion Crows, which are around our gardens and towns all the time, Rooks are more birds of open country, where they use that long, sharp bill to probe in the ground for small invertebrates.

But a few venture closer to us, as in a motorway services on the way to London, where they stalk around the parked cars hoping for titbits; and here in Truro city centre; and in a park just up the road from where I live in Bristol too, where a few come for the winter – they have just come back, last week – to probe and feast in the park’s mown lawns.

And I like Rooks.  They are jaunty, garrulous birds, full of character – rather like Starlings in this respect – and yes, as I have said about various birds before, and will no doubt say again, I would very much like to have a Rook on my shoulder, peering intelligently around and making deafening squawks in my ear!

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D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 800 ISO.
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BIRDS 83 – FERAL PIGEON

 

 

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Feral Pigeon Columba livia on masonry beside Bristol Bridge, central Bristol; 16 Sept 2016.

This is the pigeon familiar in many of the world’s towns and cities.  It is descended from the wild Rock Dove, which this individual closely resembles, which is now found in the truly wild state in the UK only in the wild and rocky country of the far west and northwest.  Due to centuries of interbreeding, including use as a food source in medieval castles under siege, the plumage of these town pigeons can have a great variety of other colours and patterns.

Start scattering bread crumbs in many city centres and you will soon have many of these birds as your firm friends!

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 6400 ISO.
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