BIRDS 111 – LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL

 

 


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This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window. and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

Lesser Black-backed Gull – giving me quite a fixed stare!  The medium to pale grey upperwings are typical of this bird, and the dark markings on the white head appear in winter.

This is one of the common, larger gulls in the UK, being found around coasts and lakes, and also as a scavenger in towns.  I grew up alongside gulls in a seaside town and have always liked them and viewed them as a normal part of the landscape, but many think otherwise, both because of the mess that these birds can make around human habitation, and for their sometimes aggressive behaviour.  Walking around south Bristol, taking photographs for this blog’s Outer Suburbs series, I sometimes have these gulls come down to have a look at me, but as I’m never carrying/eating any food there’s no problem – although I do always invite them to come down and try their luck – if they’d like a spot of bother, that is …

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in APS-C mode to give 450mm; 800 ISO; spot metering; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 18 Oct 2019.
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BIRDS 110 – MUTE SWAN

 

 


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This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

An adult Mute Swan rests beside the waters of Chew Valley Lake, Somerset – while keeping a watchful eye on me!  It was a stormy day, dark clouds, rain and bright sunshine following each other in quick succession, and I was drawn by the way the light washed over this bird, creating shadows and highlighting textures.  Adult swans have white plumage, but this one’s head and neck are tinged pale brown due to the bird up-ending in the lake’s muddy waters when feeding, and the underparts are also slightly darkened.

This is the swan commonly found in many parts of the UK, sometimes becoming semi-tame – as here – around inland waters and also harbours.  Two other species of swan are wilder and less common winter visitors.

Birds are big with me >>>  I was a highly committed birder 1967-2002 and, while a photographer of many things now, I have never lost my love for our feathered friends.  In this instance though, that love is tinged with respect: these swans can weigh up to 11.5 kgs (25 lbs) and have wingspans up to 2.2m (over 7 feet), and they can on occasion be distinctly aggressive.

One of the many fairy tales (aka imagined realities) that help provide the foundation of Our Great Nation is that all swans belong to the monarch.  Well, maybe there is actually some piece of legal paperwork somewhere stating just that, but having fairies at the bottom of my garden seems an eminently more realistic and desirable alternative.  However, for those believing differently, I do have an exciting range of bridges for sale/lease.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in APS-C format to give 450mm; 800 ISO; spot metering; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 18 Oct 2019.
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ARCHIVE 423 – EARLY MORNING 21

 

 


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Dawn mists rise above Lake Nakuru, central Kenya; January 1978.  The large, white birds with huge bills in the foreground are White Pelicans.  In the lake behind them are the trunks of trees that, flooded by the lake, have been killed by the high concentration of sodium bicarbonate in its waters. Cormorants (the same species as in the UK) perch on these dead trunks, and a nest of sticks is also visible.

This lake is over a mile above sea level and so, particularly after a clear night, the whole place can be pretty chilly by first light – standing around taking pictures, waiting for the sunrise, we were well wrapped up!  At altitudes a little above this – and right on the equator – frosts can occur.

Other images in this Early Morning series – from both rural and urban settings, and from Kenya too – are here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 .

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

Technique: Vivitar 400mm telephoto on Olympus SLR, mounted on a tripod; colour slide film.
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ARCHIVE 419 – WARBLER AMONGST ACACIA THORNS

 

 


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Small warbler – perhaps a Cisticola – amongst fearsome Acacia thorns, any one of which could so easily transfix it; probably in Nairobi National Park, in the late 1970s.

The Cisticolas are a group of small warblers that that all look very similar to each other; they are the archetypal “small brown birds”.

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

Technique: OM-1 with a Vivitar 400mm telephoto; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO; Lightroom.  This would have been taken from the window of my car, from one of the tracks in the National Park.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 390 – EARLY MORNING 4

 

 


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Looking into the distance as a day begins.

Other images in this Early Morning series are here: 1 2 3 .

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Landscape v2 profile; looking out towards Hay Moor from Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 2 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 385 – EARLY MORNING

 

 


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Looking into the distance as a day begins.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 1600 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait v2 profile; looking out towards Hay Moor from Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 2 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 373 – MEADOW PIPIT SINGING

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Feeling tired after an early morning start, I’d just slumped down into the car’s driving seat, thinking about the drive back to Bristol, when this little pipit landed on a gate post right in front of me and burst into song.  Pictures through the car’s dirty windscreen clearly weren’t going to cut the mustard and so, leaning carefully sideways – using the car as a hide – I managed to poke the business end of the telezoom through the gap between the car’s open door and its bodywork.  It was the lens I’m married to (the new version of it) the 70-300 Nikkor zoom and, putting the camera into APS-C mode gave me 450mm = x9 magnification.  I started carefully squeezing the shutter button, taking care not to make any sudden movements.

The bird is a Meadow Pipit, Anthus pratensis if you want to know, a small warbler that lives and breeds on open grasslands, like the rough pasture here on Tealham Moor.  It gives its full song when in flight over its territory, but also uses perches like this to deliver partial versions.  Sitting or lying back in a soft, warm, summer field, listening to Meadow Pipits singing overhead – where there may be Skylarks singing too – is certainly not the least of Life’s simple and totally freely given pleasures.

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

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Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom; beside the Jack’s Drove bridge over the North Drain, Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 5 July 2019.

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ARCHIVE 410 – BARN OWL, ASLEEP (MONO)

 

 


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Barn Owl, asleep, at the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Newent, Gloucestershire; 2 July 2014.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 3200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Antique Portrait preset.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 356 – IT FELT GOOD TO BE ALIVE

 

 

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I’d driven down to the end of the little, single track road – Allermoor Drove – that runs out westwards onto Aller Moor, on the Somerset Levels.  It wasn’t actually the end of the drove as that continues onwards as a rough track, but my days of driving saloon cars off-road are long past and, indeed, far away, on another continent.  But, anyway, I’d turned the car around ready for departure, and was downing hot, sweet coffee while demolishing a thick, brown, bitter marmalade sandwich.

And beside me was a water-filled ditch – a rhyne – dense with summer’s lush growth.  And from that ditch was coming the loud, reeling song of a Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus if you want to know.  That small bird had flown – probably mainly by night – all the way from sub-Saharan Africa to breed in this little, wet ditch in Somerset.  Probably, it had bred in this ditch last year too and, if it survives, it will be here next year to do so again.  The Germans have a word for this, it is ortstreuer, this almost fanatical attachment to one small breeding site on a vast continent.

And as I stood there listening to that loud, reeling song, the bird shot up into the air several times in his fierce, hormone-driven, territorial frenzy, before dropping back once more into the safety of the ditch’s lush green depths.  And of course I know Sedge Warblers from before – those I encountered seeing out the northern winters in Africa’s warm, dense, insect ridden lushnesses – and those long before that, 50 years and more ago now, when I first started looking at birds, here in Somerset.

And as I stood there listening to that loud and lusty song, it felt good to be there with that bird, it felt good in fact to be alive, and I found myself talking to him – “Yes, come on, do it, go for it, go for it!!!”.  And that felt good too.  But then I often do such things when anything like in contact with the natural world.

Beside the ditch there was a field gate, with a long strand of orange bailer twine hanging from it, being blown about by the breeze, and a carpet of white wildflowers stretching out beyond.   And as I photographed that gate, the first, uncertain splashes of rain were cool on the back of my neck, and suddenly they were a downpour.

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I ran for the car, hunched over the camera, trying to shield it from the streaming water.  And so into the car, slamming the door, but the ******* electric window was down and I couldn’t find the car keys to switch the ignition on to raise it again – a plague on electric windows!!!  The rain poured into the car.  I cursed savagely and pulled my backpack over the two cameras on the seat beside me, trying to keep them dry.  The keys appeared, the window closed, I cursed some more, and the downpour drummed on the car.  And as I looked out through the streaming windscreen, the view before me – the trees, the sky, the little road – came alive and dissolved into a living, moving mass, and picking up the X-T2, I photographed that too.
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And, amongst all of that Nature, raw and real, it continued to feel good to be alive.
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Click onto each image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.

Technique: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens; 100 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Aller Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 14 June 2019.

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BRISTOL 138 – SHAFT OF SUNLIGHT, IN A GRAVEYARD (MONO)

 

 


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This picture is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

A day out together photographing in Bristol: Paula and I walked up the narrow St John’s Steep, heading into the Old City.  Street art and interesting facades and alleyways were all around, and on our left was a fenced and partly overgrown area with several obviously old graves – it was part of an old, disused graveyard.

A shaft of brilliant sunlight lit the scene, illuminating hosts of flowers that had run wild, and also some of the greenery around them. 

Then, a pigeon walked into the scene and was – for an instant – silhouetted against the glare.

Technique: Z 6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 180mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Neutral V2 picture control; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the High Contrast Yellow Filter and adding a moderate Coffee tone; St John’s Steep, in Bristol city centre; 3 June 2019.
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