This November will be one I will never forget.
Bird photography is very similar to hunting in this country.
Planning and strategies are the same.
Effort is needed in finding areas that your intended trophy/target species lives in and perseverance, to return to areas known to be their home, again and again and again, until at last you succeed in your quest.
This November will never be forgotten as it ended a five year quest for a particular Bittern shot, but more on this later.
Breeding birds are in full swing in November and this November was no exception.
November started off with a morning with Toya a fellow bird photographer , shooting her New Zealand tuis and White Eyes out her lounge double doors into her back yard, then followed by a quick trip out to the south Wellington coast to search for some Double Banded Dotterels and their chicks .
White eyes or silver eyes as I know them are good practice , quick and nimble, never staying long in one spot.
The reason this image looks better than perhaps it is, is because of what I call complementary colours.
we will do a whole blog on the use of complementary colours one day.
A blustery cold Southerly greeted us on the exposed beach and fast moving, patchy cloud pretty much kept the light conditions changing all the time.
I always keep my camera settings based around my aperture, that way I chose the depth of field which is normally set at F.8 and the ISO on 1,600, That way the 1DX will then give me the fastest shutter speed available for those settings and light conditions.
In this way, no matter where I point the camera all over Gods creation, the exposure will be fine and Im getting the fastest shutter speed possible without having to constantly change or worry about my settings, all I need to do is keep my subject in the centre of the view finder and keep pressing the shutter button.
It wasn’t long before I spotted a small but very quick Dotterel chick zooming off among the rocks hot footing it out of there but not before I got one quick shot off.
Always heading away from me lol
Once these chicks get more than a week old they can move very fast and man this one was a contender for the 100 meter sprint for the next Olympics.
One shot was it and I gave up trying to keep up with it and choose to have a go at some adults flying into the wind and chasing one another out of their breeding territories further down the beach.
My next outing came the following weekend when Steve and I met up with another friend who had been hearing a few Shining Cuckoos where he ran his dog, so out there we went with high expectations.
Now shining cuckoo shots are hard to get and I have only had a few over the last 5-6 years we have been chasing them, so it was exciting to have at least 6 birds come into our calls that evening and we were able to get some good shoots of some of them.
These birds look best on overcast days
Native Wood Pigeons (kereru) were also out in good numbers
peskey shadows kind of spoilt this shot
I went to bed that night with little shining cuckoos flying around the ceiling of my bedroom as I relived the action until the biggest earthquake, 7.8 I have ever experienced had me rushing outside into the dark , not something I want to relive any time soon.
The following weekend we were off to Otaki to see if the Dotterel chicks we photographed 3 weeks previous were alive and well.
On the way we spotted some Royal Spoonbills in spectacular breeding plumage and Ideal light on them so it was out of the car and the big stalk across the mud flats getting quite close to them.
I love these birds, they are sometimes referred to as the clowns of the estuary and are always fun to photograph.
During mating season these birds grow long loving feathers on the back of their heads.
Cleared for landing
Light and contrast makes an image, always look for these two components
Once I had the shots I wanted we resumed our travels north to drop into to Otaki where we found one juvenile Dotterel that was cheerfully running around the place and more than capable of flying away every time we tried to get close.
Juvenile Banded Dotterel
The following weekend we were to meet up with Imogen AKA (Wonder woman) .
Known for her good fortune in locating rare and hard to find birds Imogen had given us the heads up on a Little Tern resting over in her local Estuary at Foxton So the following weekend we headed her way.
Saturday saw us meeting with Imogen and another friend Kath and her rather bemused hubby on the banks of the Manawatu River just up from the mouth and it was not long before we spied the Little Tern.
As we made our way closer we all became aware of another tern that looked different from the resident White Fronted Terns
Heart beats increased as it was confirmed to be a Common Tern.
Common Terns might be common in other parts of the world, but here, there has only been two individuals recorded in the country this year, this being one of them.
Imogen’s good fortune had delivered again and clickerty click went a heap of cameras as we celebrated the rare sighting.
Mr Common Tern having his say in things
The Little Tern
All lined up for their group photo.
From left to right.
White Fronted Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern.
Halfway through the week we decided we needed to visit a wetland in search of spotless Crakes and Mr matuku the Bittern that we knew inhabited the swamp.
Now let me tell you , there are many more Crakeless spots in New Zealand than Spotless crake spots lol.
As we sneaked through the swamp hunched over, moving slowly , a strong wind was coming from our right to left and we snapped a Bittern right out in the open to our left and he froze instantly 30 meters away.
Now the Bittern shot to end all shots is the LAUNCH shot, the one that every serious Bittern hunter wants.
Normally these birds launch directly away from the intruder but this time the wind would force him to launch into it and directly facing me.
I waited, I know he would not stick around much longer and wham I caught him in the launch and thus ended 5 years of missed chances, almost and not quiets, general stuff ups and out of focus, panicky attempts.
Looking at the images in the view Finder Steve was convinced I had nailed the mutha but I was nervous all the way home until I could confirm I had the shots when I saw them on the 30 inch screen, sharp and clear.
That was that, November came and went. just like that.
My pick for the month