Thursday, 26 March 2015

Fifty Shades of Greylag - and some fish

Unusually, this blog is mainly about just one bird - the Greylag goose. Although they are not uncommon, I don't usually come across them. A few days ago however, a few condescended to visit the lake I was watching. Here are two coming in to land.


I like geese. On a mundane level they are big enough to make getting a decent photographic image fairly straightforward. More than that though, they speak to me of the Arctic Tundra. Actually, I believe that most UK Greylags actually breed here, but they still have a whiff of cold open spaces for me and they make a lovely honking noise! What more could you want in a goose?



These geese turned up the other day just when I was beginning to despair. I had visited various sites around the Somerset Levels and there was very little in the way of bird activity to see. After an empty hour or two in my final hide, I was just about to give up when this exciting honking sound brought me to attention. Suddenly, there was a pair of them flying low over the reed tops heading straight for me. Unless you have done this sort of thing yourself you may have difficulty understanding what a thrill this is. From dreamy lethargy to concentrated attention in less than a second! Camera waving about trying to pick them up in the telephoto lens, then a period of panic as the autofocus system tries to make up its mind whether or not to focus on them. Suddenly, there they are, crisp and clear in the viewfinder and you press the button to initiate a rapid-fire burst of shots.



Once the excitement is over and they are serenely paddling about on the water, I watch them like a hawk might. One of the tricks I have eventually learned as a wildlife photographer is that you have to try to anticipate what the birds are going to do next. With the geese, I am waiting for a sign that they are about to take off again. If you can spot this you have a chance of getting your camera ready to catch the take off sequence, a nice bit of action. With Greylags the sign seems to be some head movements then taking a drink or two of water then, often as not, they clatter and splash into the sky. Other species have different signs of impending flight, but head bobbing and looking up are common. Here goes this one!




Then the job is to try to follow them as they pass in front of the lakeside foliage and gain height. Most cameras find it very difficult to maintain focus on the bird instead of picking up on the leaves and branches behind them. The Canon 7D Mk2 seems to manage!






And then they are off at cruise altitude.




That was an exciting little episode and re-kindled my passion for birds-in-flight photography.

Otherwise I have been exploring new areas of photography in my garden, or more exactly in my garden pond. These two "Gold" fish are friends of mine.



Years ago we introduced some fancy fish of the normal orange colour. Over a year or two  a Heron started thinning them out. Unsurprisingly it ate for preference those that could be seen the most easily, i.e. the orange ones. Occasionally, some of the young fish hatched that year would have dark patches on them, or be entirely grey. This of course is classic Darwinian "selection pressure". Being orange was not good, whereas being entirely or partially grey gave an increased probability of living long enough to breed. Sure enough, over a decade or two, the colour of the entire population reverted to a natural Carp Grey tint.



I have also been trying to keep on top of the Garden-Bird-in-Flight project, seeking ever more extreme viewpoints to give some variety in my photos. Here is a Blue Tit coming into land and viewed from below.



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