Friday, 28 August 2015

Birds of the Reed Beds start to Stir

After several weeks of almost total inactivity at #RSPB Ham Wall, some signs of life yesterday! The Great Egrets were making occasional flights. This one ended up by landing in the reeds right in front of me. Here is a sequence of three shots as it approaches.

I just love it when I get lucky like this, especially if, as yesterday, I am waiting for hours and hours for anything to happen. It is a shame that you cannot see the originals of these shots. My new birds-in-flight combination of the Canon 400mm f4 DO II lens and the Canon 7D MkII camera is proving to be a killer combo! I always use it with the Canon 1.4x teleconverter and it is still light enough to carry around all day even if I am walking miles.

Having replaced the original version of the 400mm f4 DO with the recently-released MkII I am mightily impressed by the increased sharpness that I am getting. I read all the bad comments about the original lens but nevertheless generally seemed to get good results with it. I used it on the original 7D for about four years. The new lens however is a class above the original.

Of course, it takes time to come to a conclusion like that, especially with birds in flight. By the very nature of the activity quite a lot of the photos come out blurred to one degree or another, even with the best technology to help you. So you have to look at the good shots you eventually get and compare them with what you used to regard as good with the previous equipment. When I do that I am seeing levels of sharpness that I do not think I have ever really achieved before.

Sadly, even small improvements in quality come at very high financial cost. The Canon 400mm f4 II is not cheap, but I could not be without it. It was impossible for me to continue with the old one knowing that there was a better one out there. I just could not rest easy. Here is a nice sharp Grey Heron.

These shots are all the more amazing if you know what chaos reigns behind the camera when a bird suddenly shows after hours of nothing happening. Suddenly I am trying to do everything at once. Even getting the bird in the viewfinder is not easy. I just press the button and the technology then does the rest, focus and exposure. I am often amazed to see what it has managed to come up with!

Whilst we are talking Herons, here is an earlier shot taken in the winter whilst this one was fishing.

The reeds are their winter colour. I won't be long now before they start to turn from Summer green. Here is a distant shot of a Great Egret doing a bit of fishing too.

The other bird that put in occasional appearance yesterday was the Bittern.

At this time of year they just pop up out of the reeds, fly for about twenty seconds, then drop out of sight for the rest of the day. It is so frustrating as they almost always take me by complete surprise and I cannot even get the camera on to them. The one above though made the mistake of making a slightly longer flight and passing right in front of the hide. Even I had a chance.

Another bird which is usually easier to photograph is the Mute Swan. Trouble is, they almost always look pretty much the same floating along, so I was quite grateful to be able to snap this more interesting pose.

Obviously having a good stretch prior to doing something energetic, like paddling serenely along.

Finally a nice shot of Glastonbury Tor to remind us all that Ham Wall is in Somerset!

Actually, not quite the last shot as I would like you to know that I also got several distant Marsh Harrier sightings during the day.

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