BIRDS 131 – GREAT WHITE EGRET

 

 


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Great White Egret, a member of the heron family, on the edge of a reed bed in Herons Green Bay, at Chew Valley Lake, a reservoir just south of Bristol.  Two things make this photo rather special to me.  First, this was one of the places where two school friends whom I am still in touch with – one in The States, the other in Australia – got me into birding in 1967.  Herons Green Bay looks much the same as it did all those years ago, and its good to go back there now (less than half and hour’s drive away) and see this part of my birding roots more or less as they were.

The other thing is that the presence of this bird shows just how things can change because, back in the 1960s, this was a very rare bird in the UK, whereas now small numbers breed in the UK and there are usually a few individuals  at Chew Lake.  I imagine this is somehow related to climate change.

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

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; Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 7 Dec 2020.
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BIRDS 117 – EGRETS ON THE SOMERSET LEVELS (MONO)

 

 


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Great White (the two larger birds towards the left) and Little Egrets, feeding in the mud and water of old peat workings on Westhay Moor, on the Somerset Levels.  (For info: egrets are in the heron family)

Climate change?  I started birding, not too far from where these pictures were taken, in 1967.  And, as a friend from those far off birding days says, if we had submitted records of such a gathering to the Somerset Ornithological Society in those days, we would have been treated with total derision, with doubts about our honesty / mental health probably being thrown in too.  In 1971, anxious to see a Little Egret, my first in the UK, I had to travel all the way to the far west of Pembrokeshire, in Wales, for the treat.  And the Great White Egret has changed its status from being a rarity in the UK late in the last century, to being quite common now.

So, is this climate change?  I don’t know, is the simple answer; although, equally simply, I do believe that climate change is taking place.  But, from my mapping of the ranges of Kenya’s bird species, I know that factors other than climate change can influence bird distribution.  What is certain though, as my old birding friend said on seeing these pictures, is that this is not the Somerset that we used to know, 50+ years ago.

And of course, although we are seeing dramatically increased number of these egrets, numbers of many, many other UK bird species have fallen dramatically over these 50+ years: climate change may have had an effect here, but intensive farming practices are probably a bigger culprit at the moment.

Other recent bird pictures are here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 .

Click onto each 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 at 300mm; 12,800 ISO; jpegs produced by in-camera processing of raw files, using the Graphite profile; no further processing; Westhay Moor, on the Somerset Levels northwest of Glastonbury; 25 Oct 2019.

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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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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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