What a difference a day Makes

This is the third post in my 2018 Christmas South Island Road Trip series with Steve Richards.


As I lay in my little tent, the cold slowly seeped through my summer weight sleeping bag and into my bones. The rain had stopped and the stars had come out and the promise of a fine morning meant a possible rematch with the Black-Fronted Terns.
But that was cold comfort for me at the time and man did I wish I had my winter sleeping bag with me.
It’s the 22nd of December for goodness sakes, it isn’t supposed to be this cold in summer.
Eventually, I drifted off to sleep and as what happens most nights, the morning arrived chasing away the darkness.
I crawled my way out of my tent to be welcomed by a pale blue sky.
Steve was all comfy in the wagon but it took little persuasion to get us back down the road to take on the birds. We were on a mission.


The Battle of the Birds

Unlike the abysmal light of the day before, this day we had much more light to work with.  However it still was not so easy, those birds were jinking and jiving all over the place searching the wet long grass for worms and Lizards. These birds are superb aerial acrobats and they really put us through our paces trying to keep them in the viewfinder.
We were in bird photographers paradise, we were in the ZONE, the contest with the birds wheeling ducking and diving around our ears kept the shutter count working over time.

A Black-Fronted Tern searches intently for fat worms and the occasional lizard below in the long wet grass.

 

The better light was a very welcome addition, faster shutter speeds and a deeper depth of field means everything to the bird photographer.

With our memory cards bulging we started to take more notice of our surroundings and soon enough it was time to go exploring, so we roared off down the road to see what Molesworth Station had to offer in the way of landscape opportunities.


The Transformation

With the Sun out, the day was turning into a ripper.

Molesworth was turning it on for us and we were going to make the best of it as the weather forecast was promising another wet cold front moving in overnight and thus that proved to be the case. But for now, we were making hay while the sun did shine.

It never ceases to amaze me how the weather transforms the landscape.

Looking up the Acheron River, Molesworth Station

We had a glorious morning that carried right on into the evening.

With the sun slowly setting the soft light was irresistible

Even the Hares had dried out

Unsure and nervous these Hare creatures are

Even the baby Rabbits came out to play

Happy to be out in the warmth after a very cold night

Soon enough the sun began to hide behind the hills, the darkness returned and it was not long before the clouds hid the stars from us.
Next day we were due to head south, but not before we visited another group of Black-Fronted Terns.

The next day was so cold I was dressed like an IRA terrorist.

Classy attire for surface to air combat with the birds in freezing windy conditions.

In my next post, we will continue our Christmas trip south and then west.
Meantime we can catch up with my current activities


The Kingfisher Craze

During the winter months, kōtare or Sacred Kingfisher tend to congregate around our coastal inlets where they feast on crabs and small fish.

It’s been six years since Steve and I put any serious effort into photographing Kingfishes in flight, this was because we have been focused on birds like Spotless Crake and Bittern over the winter months.
However this year, the craze for the perfect flying kingfisher shot has taken hold of us once again and the pursuit is on.
For success, all the right ingredients for the best results need to converge into a 2-3 hour period.

They are

  1. Good light an hour and a half both sides of a high tide
  2. An abundance of freshly (hatched/born) crabs
  3. Good light
  4. Plenty of hungry Kingfishers
  5. Good light

Not too much to ask for you one might think, but more often than not you would be wrong lol.

Without good light, you’re wasting your time trying to get really good images of these small fast flying creatures.
However, we have struck the right conditions a few times and slowly we are getting better at nailing these little blighters.

Kingfishers always look grumpy, I suppose I would be too if winter meant I was basically forced to live off Crabs

 

This one needs to work on its water exit strategy as his technique needs more refinement

 

Fast and flashy, catching these birds in flight takes some practice

 

The right light means colour when it comes to these birds. I love it when a plan comes together

With the rest of winter ahead of us, I’m looking forward to being out with these birds for the next few months.

 

A spectacular exit from the water after the dive deserves a 10 out of 10, but where is the Crab?

 

A Red-billed Gull diving for crabs kept me entertained between Kingfisher dives

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