Monday, 26 October 2015

Birds in Flight - Bittern Bonanza!

Well, this is where I ended up by the end of the day ...

... but the visit to RSPB Ham Wall started off quite differently.

Note that any of the photos in this particular Blog will get bigger if you click on them.

In fact nothing much was happening. Just an atmospheric shot of a female Marsh Harrier floating against the background of Glastonbury Tor.

 And then a bit nearer:

Then there was the episode with the Little Grebe catching a fish, and eating it.

I had never seen that before. I thought that they caught much smaller animals, but this one had relatively little problem with that sizeable Perch.

Walking on, I came to an aerial tussle between a Crow and a Buzzard.

But the real excitement only started once I had settled in the Tor View hide. For a while, nothing. But then I spotted a Bittern that had come to the edge of the reed bed. It was standing on some reed stems that it had bent over. You can just make it out in this shot.

I alerted the other three or four photographers in the hide and we did our best. What we were all waiting for of course was for it to take off and fly to the other side of the water channel, something I had seen Bitterns do before at that spot.

For all the clatter of camera shutters, very few good shots were obtained. It is just so difficult to keep the bird in view at that relatively close range. The shot above was probably one of the better ones.

Normally, that would have been that for the rest of the afternoon. Bitterns usually just stay put. But this one was obviously not happy. For fifteen minutes or so I heard it growling and grumbling to itself from the depth of the reeds. I just knew it was going to fly out again, so I trained my lens on the reed face and waited. Sure enough, it eventually took flight and I was prepared for it. I got this rather spectacular series of shots.

Needless to say perhaps, I was over the moon with them. You should see the originals! The Canon 7D Mk2 autofocus was set up exactly as described in one of my other Blogs at

So it all just goes to show that you have to keep faith. Even if nothing is happening, keep calm and patient. One day you will get a stroke of luck! Guaranteed!

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Monday, 12 October 2015

Make your bird photos beautiful!

My most popular Blog post to date has been on "Birds in Flight with the Canon 7D MkII". You can find it at the link below and you will be in good company because many hundreds of others have already visited! I have just updated and improved it a little.

But however technically good your shots may be, I think it is important to seek out beauty and portray it wherever possible.

I was out on the Somerset Levels yesterday and somewhat despondent because I could not get a look in as a crowd of other photographers jostled to take photos of a flock of Bearded Tits. I retreated to a nearby hide and gazed at the empty waterscape in front of me.

Nothing moved for a while but, eventually, a family group of Mute Swans swam slowly into view. There then followed an extensive bout of water games as they splashed, displayed and apparently played together. I was the only one watching. I fired off some shots and started to hope that some of them might look nice.

The best ones were where the circling Swans happened to make accidental beautiful shapes as they passed by each other - as in the two previous photos.

Even the individuals offered striking poses, and it is always lovely to see the water drops sparkling in the autumn sunlight.

So although I mainly missed out on the Bearded Tits, I did not feel too hard done by in the end. Actually, I did get one or two photos of them too. Here is a female on a rail.

And here a scruffy shot of a male without a tail. I will have to visit again and have another go.

But anyway, I digress. I was talking about beauty and, really, Swans are hard to beat. This dramatic against-the-light shot presented itself as I was walking home.

And here they go as darkness gathers.

Other simple shots can also have a strong visual appeal, at least to me. For example I rather like this sparse shot of a Little Grebe ploughing a sparkling furrow across the still water.

I also like the following one of it making off into the distance. It is probably the sparkling water that attracts me to it again, but the still calm of the water surface is also appealing to me.

Some birds also bring drama with them. This shot of a Bittern skimming the reed tops is so typical at this time of year. These secretive birds spend hours at a time motionless in the reeds only to burst out when least expected. They only make a very short flight before disappearing again amongst the stems. Unforgettable though.

In your constant search for beauty and drama, do not ignore the common birds. They are so easy to overlook and I know I have said that before. I am largely talking to myself as I am a serial offender when it comes to passing them by.

Finally, watch out for these dramatic fellows, Cormorants. Another common but easily ignored bird. They are most effective if you can catch them flying towards you, like this.

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