BIRDS 102 – WOOD PIGEON

 

 


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Adult Wood Pigeon amongst the autumn leaves and raggedly cut grass on our back “lawn”, photographed through the double glazing of the kitchen window – opening the window even a tiny bit would send these birds rocketing frantically away!  Here I tapped very, very gently on the inside of the window to attract their attention and, after a brief glance towards me, they carried on foraging.

A small flock of these pigeons have taken to visiting our back grass, and its a real pleasure seeing them there.

This is in fact an agricultural pest, a bird that anyone can shoot.  And this is a species that I’ve actually eaten but, well, that was nothing to write home about – and anyway I’d far rather be looking at them!

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it yet again – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Bristol; 23 Nov 2017.
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BIRDS 101 – CHICKEN 3

 

 


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Another bird from the little flock that live on the traffic island garden in the village of Stanton Drew, in the Chew Valley south of Bristol.

As ever, my love of getting in close to living creatures.

Other pictures of these birds, and context, are here .

Click onto this image to open a larger version in a separate window and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.

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STILL LIFE 170 – THREE HERONS (MONO)

 

 


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Left to right, a Little Egret and two Great White Egrets – three herons – processed with Silver Efex Pro 2.

And good news!  Google acquired Silver Efex Pro 2 (and the other Nik Collection plug-ins) sometime back, but had ceased developing them and was plainly losing interest.  The situation has (hopefully!) now been saved by DxO, who have acquired these plug-ins from Google, apparently with a view to further developing them.  I’m very happy with SEP2 and Color Efex Pro 4 as they are, and so just knowing that they’re not going to disappear will be a big thing.

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

Technique: the X-T2 firing at 200 ISO, and really quite a tribute to what this APS-C format camera can achieve with distant subjects.  X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Strong Infrared Low Contrast preset; Capture NX2; Herons Green Bay, Chew Valley Lake; 24 Nov 2017.
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BIRDS 100 – AN IMAGE CLOSE TO MY HEART (MONO)

 

 


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So, my 100th post on birds, creatures that have in so many ways had a profound influence on my life.  I have many images that might have filled this 100th slot, but here is one, a very simple one, that has a very special place in my heart.  It shows a male Blackbird, a species of thrush, sitting on wires down a little country lane.

I have of course been a lover of birds for a long, long time.  But, beyond that, I am in love with natural things, with Nature itself, and to me this image powerfully evokes Nature’s elemental drama and grandeur.  Why?  Well, when I look at this I see this little creature, sure of himself, perched on his territory and singing powerfully to assert that fact.  And not overawed in the least by the stark and wild vastness of Nature all around, but actually eminently at home in it, a part of it all, and in his way just as wild as all the rest.

The original text for this image is given below:

Blackbird on telephone wires along Swanshard Lane, southwest of Wells, on the Somerset Levels; 21 Mar 2012.

I was out on the Somerset Levels again early this morning, toting my ungainly Nikkor telezoom once more.  My first stop, to try and get awake after the not too long drive via large infusions of hot coffee and marmalade sandwiches, was along Swanshard Lane, a little, winding back road north of Polsham.  This lane just allows two cars to drive past each other in places, but in other places it really is a better idea if one vehicle stops and gets up close and personal with the hedge, while the other vehicle moves carefully past.

And, of course, this is spring and the birdlife is really going for it.  Wonderfully active rookeries were dotted around, and a veritable crescendo of calls included Buzzards, Wrens, Green Woodpeckers, Pheasants and Blue Tits.  And the first Chiffchaffs, little, unobtrusive warblers, are back from sub-Saharan Africa – having flown across the world, they are very probably nesting in the same tree or bush they nested in last summer.

And as I turned a corner, there was this male Blackbird – all black with a bright yellow bill – sitting on wires and singing his head off.  As he caught sight of me he stopped singing >>> but he didn’t move – he was on his territory and he didn’t feel like being shifted!  So, very carefully, in slow motion, I brought up the 400mm, took a spot meter reading from the sky to produce a silhouette, and started carefully firing frames.

I might have been able to get him larger in the frame, either at or post-capture, but just left of him there was this big, shaggy tree trunk, a very exciting silhouette, and I knew at once that I wanted that in the picture too.  So here it is: down an English country lane, early on a morning in spring.

Click onto the image to see a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D700 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 400mm; 800 ISO; converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro 2.
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BIRDS 99 – CHICKEN 2

 

 


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I’ve mentioned this little flock of chickens in the village of Stanton Drew before.  They live on what is almost a traffic island, that is raised up to around human eye height above the surrounding roads – so that it is fairly easy to view them eye to eye, down at their level. 

And I’ve always liked to get in close with my wildlife pictures, getting a flavour of the creatures’ characters, maybe filling the frame with them, rather than taking a standard portrait.

I posted the first of these images, along with the Stanton Drew series, but my good colleague Lynn (another ex-birder) at bluebrightly, suggested they might fit better amongst my bird pictures – and here they are!  I was a birder for many years, 1967-2002 or thereabouts, and in those days it was my primary interest, although I was taking pictures too.  Now I retain a strong love for birds, I see them as a very integral part of all land/cityscapes and, as with butterflies, I’m sure they boost my quality of life.  But photography is my prime mover now and, despite the fact that I’ve made very nearly 100 bird posts here, most of my posts are not about birds.

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it – tho don’t blame me for getting nightmares if you do!  A farmyard Jurassic Park?!

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, using the Classic Chrome film simulation; Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.
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BIRDS 98 – JACKDAW (MONO)

 

 


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How I love crows! >>> this was a very lucky, very quick shot – the bird was perched on the church’s rooftop cross, I raised the camera – and, instantly,  it flew!

Another recent picture of Jackdaws, on a building nearby, is here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended >>> in this enlarged version you can just make out the bird’s pale (in fact, white) eye, which is one of its identification features.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv);  3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Contrast and Structure preset;  Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.
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BIRDS 97 – THE LOVE OF JACKDAWS FOR CHIMNEYS

 

 

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A bright moon on an icy morning,  just at sunrise, and a pair of Jackdaws are on the top of a chimney in the village Stanton Drew, not far south of Bristol.

Jackdaws are our smallest crow, they pair for life, and they are often around our houses – and especially our chimneys – in which (amongst other places) they nest.  They are sociable, garrulous and often quite accepting of man, and I have a lot of affection for them – but then, I have a lot of affection for wildlife generally.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Stanton Drew, near Bristol; 6 Nov 2017.

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BIRDS 96 – SWAN, PREENING

 

 


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Mute Swan reaching back behind its wing to get at an itch or readjust its feathers.  This shot was taken moments before that shown in the black and white Still Life 102 post.

Click onto this image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it yet again – highly recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom; Herriots Bridge, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 3 Apr 2017.
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STILL LIFE 159 – ASSASSIN (MONO)

 

 


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Perception can so often be a matter of viewpoint. 

To our eyes, this may be a beautiful, even elegant, wild creature, the sight of which lifts our spirits and, indeed, our quality of life.

But in the real world, that thick, serpentine, muscular neck, and that dagger of a bill, are the tools of a precise and eminently stealthy predator – and any small creature moving under the water, if it sees this killer at all before being struck, views it quite differently.

Another picture of a Great White Egret at Chew Valley Lake, the first picture of this bird, is here.

Click onto this image to open a larger (and grainier) version in a separate window, and click onto that image to marginally enlarge it further.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 1 preset and adding a light coffee tone; Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake; 6 Oct 2017.  This is a huge enlargement of an APS-C image, with the X-T2 working at its highest quality, native 200 ISO.
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BIRDS 95 – GREAT WHITE EGRET – AND A NEW BIRD FOR MY UK LIST!!!

 

 

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Last Friday, driving home past Chew Valley Lake, I saw a white heron out of the corner of my eye and automatically assumed that it was a Little Egret, a bird that was very rare here in my youth but which has flooded into southern Britain in recent decades.  But, all in an instant, it hit me that it looked far too big for a Little – and my car swerved across the thankfully empty road, I grabbed the bins, leapt out and, well, here it is pictured above – it is a Great White Egret, a bird of warmer, more southerly climes and, as far as I knew, a great rarity – tho not new for my UK bird list, as I’d already seen one on Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, in the 1990s.

Well, I will summarise what happened next.  I immediately met a birder from South Wales, a chap of my age, and as we looked out over this small part of the lake – the Herons Green Bay that I’ve often spoken of before – we found 18 Little Egrets, 12 of these Great White Egrets – and a single Cattle Egret, a bird I’d never seen in Britain before, but which I’m very familiar with from 12 years in Kenya.  Unfortunately this new bird was too far away for anything like a decent photo – I wished I’d been carrying a full-frame Nikon and 400+mm of telephoto reach!

I’m not a bird lister these days, its simply a type of collecting, and while I was reasonably into it during my birding decades, 1967-2002, a great chunk of my life really, I now have a far more relaxed attitude to birds.  I still enjoy them hugely, I love to see them and they certainly significantly raise my Quality Of Life – as do butterflies.  But I am now out the frenetic race to see more and more bird species – I’ve moved on, as the current phrase goes, and I’m different now.

But, nevertheless, seeing a new bird for my UK list so unexpectedly was quite a (nice) shock – and this welcome feeling was only enhanced by the setting, because Herons Green was one of the Somerset locations where I started birding all those years ago.  I’ve travelled quite a bit I suppose, including living in Kenya, but now I’m happy to be, more or less, “back where I started”.  Is it a “coming home” thing, well I don’t know, although I am now very close to where I grew up – but I do know that ending up here in southwest England – Somerset, and sometimes Dorset, Devon and Cornwall too – feels right.

Click onto the image to open another copy in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Chew Valley Lake, south of Bristol; 6 Oct 2017.
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