December on the run.

December is always my busiest month of the year birding wise with it ending with our epic annual Christmas sojourn.
So much has happened this year that I have decided to write a separate article later covering this Christmas away.
December started in much the same way it always does each year …..namely on the 1st day of December, same as last year.
All was relatively quiet with Steve and I concentrating on  our Spotless Crake hunting abilities, until the word came in that there was a ruru, or Morepork family living in a patch of bush an hour’s drive away.
This caused no small amount of excitement for the local birding enthusiasts, myself included, so it was no surprise I found myself with a mate Chris Helliwell, stalking through the bush looking for these ruru or New Zealand Night Owl.
By the way just out of interest, in case you have noticed when I use maori names I don’t use capitals as the maori language does not use CAPITAL letters.
Anyway back to the rurus, after some effort we were deep in the jungle, Chris and I  were ruru-less and I was starting to think we would not meet up with the birds, when I spied a fantail nest ahead of me.
In my haste to investigate the nest, I failed to notice a young ruru perched in the tree right next door to the nest and it flew feet from me only to land in the perfect spot to be photographed.
The focus was now firmly transferred from Fantails to ruru and the session commenced with the sound of shutters clicking , trees were  being used as makeshift tripods because the light although good for in the woods, it was quite  slow even for ISO 1600 on the 1DX.

For a bigger image just click on the image

The rather bemused young ruru

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After we  got enough shots of the juvenile ruru we left it in peace with a bemused look on its face and went to investigate a pond that is in the same area.

First in the viewfinder was a pair of pango pango or scaup resting on a low flax stalk just high enough to be out of the water.

A pair of pango pango resting on a flax stalk.

pango pango or scaup--5
I love these birds, soft colours, always looking happy little chappies , they seem to cheer me up.

Next up was a close up of a friendly little shag.

little shag-
We spied a female Grebe using a man made structure to stand on and entice her hubby to go forth and multiply.
It worked they now have 2 fine youngsters to feed and look after.

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Up the Kapiti coast we went where we found a mother pied shag feeding her ravenous youngster on the water.

As you can see the young shag is a real mouthful for the poor mumma.

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Next up a Black Fronted Dotterel and the day was looking like a ripper.

Black Fronted Dotterel-
A brave male Banded Dotterel guarding his nest was next and our day was over.

A proud father to be.

Banded Dotterel-3870-Edit
The next outing saw me shooting a White faced Heron feasting on sea worms

Yummy worms  lol

white faced heron-

Are those really my feet ?

white faced heron--6

Next up was another   crack at the ruru as we knew there was adult birds we had not seen yet, so the hunt was on, this time I was with Steve and we met up with Louise a member of my Facebook group  and we  enjoyed the ruru , this time we saw the parents as well.

I had to climb a tree to get this shot much to the amusement of the ever funny Louise.
Many helpful hints on how to climb through the thick branches  were dished out and I became known as the tree sloth lol

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-4981-Edit

The Bigger female ruru

ruru  or Morkepork-4312-Edit
The rather smaller Male ruru

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The growing youngster

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I believe the male is the smaller of the adult birds.

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-4954-Edit

We also managed to catch a Shining Cuckoo out in the open .
This image is a prime example of colour and how the lack of, can steal the bird of some of its brilliance.
I will do a short article later this year on complimentary colour and how it enhances an image.

The lack of colour from the background kind of steals the birds colour.

Shining Cuckoo-5213-Edit

 

Shining Cuckoo-5226-Edit

Mr kahu  or Hawk was my next subject a week or so later.
kahu get whiter with age so this one is getting on.
Im very pleased with this image.

Mr kahu doing the famous FLAIR that hawks, Eagles and Falcons do when they first spot you beneath them.

kahu the Australian Hawk--2

riroriro or Grey Warbler were up next.
These critters are hard to nail, they never sit still and you need a very fast shutter speed and good light to get a sharp image.

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Good light helps to nail them.

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Yellow Hammers are gorgeous in good light and this one was no exception.

Yellow Hammer-
This action kept us busy until it was time to go up north to really get serious about getting some birds we had been targeting lately and were on the top of our wanted list.
More on that later.
Hope you enjoy the images.
I also hope everyone had a great and safe Christmas break.

All ready this year is looking very exciting .
Ya just dont know whats round the next corner or tree lol

ruru  or Morkepork-4324-Edit

A November to remember.

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.

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white eyes--4

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.

Tui-
Mr tui in his tux

New Zealand Tui

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

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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.

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The day came to a close with some images I was very pleased with.

Banded Dotterals-
A Male Dotterel guarding his territory loudly.

Banded Dotterel

 

  

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.

pipiwharauroa-shining-cuckoo

 

These birds look best on overcast days

pipiwharauroa-shining-cuckoo

 

Native Wood Pigeons (kereru) were also out in good numbers

peskey shadows kind of spoilt this shot

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kereru

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.

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Cleared for landing

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Light and contrast makes an image, always look for these two components

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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

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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

Common Tern--3

The Little Tern

Little Tern-2076-Edit

 

All lined up for their group photo.
From left to right.
White Fronted Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern.

three tern species
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.
The Launch

matuku the Australasian bittern --7

 

matuku the Australasian bittern --7

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

bittern n-
Its mid-December, as I write this and already December is stacking up to be a great month for us as well.
I hope you enjoy my write-ups.

Boneys November News

Typically November through late March is the busy time for Boney Whitefoot and equally typical is the lack of an end of the year report as I am up to my neck,  either out shooting images, or sorting and processing gazillions of them.
So I have come up with a cunning plan, Im going to do my end of year report  before the end of the year, how’s that for logic 😀
This year has been insanely busy for me. At the beginning of the year I decided it would be good to start a new bird photographers Face Book group for beginners and experienced alike, where we can all share our images and adventures.
The plan is to network likeminded bird photographer enthusiasts throughout the country and to form a family friendly community online.
The group has been an amazing success due to the enthusiasm of our members and the friendly environment and has seen people who are long term Face group members that belong to very few groups on Face Book join ours.
I feel that as an honour and a reflection on the way the members of our group behave with respect and humour towards each other.
This was my intention from the start.
We now boast over 400 members and growing every week, not bad for a group of bird nutters 😀
You don’t have to be a Kiwi (New Zealander) to be a member and we wont bite your head off for posting birds that don’t come from New Zealand, so join us.
NZ bird image share
In addition to the Bird group I also started up a page for Boney Whitefoot where I post a few images most days and give out tips on how to improve your photography.
This too has enjoyed good patronage, so if your looking for a few handy tips or just to enjoy some New Zealand scenery, pop in for a look see.Boney Whitefoot Photography

We enjoyed around 6,000 visits to the blog last year so I hope it will be around the same this year.
Its been so much fun meeting new people through the group this year and I’m really looking forward to meeting a heap more over the upcoming summer.
I will still try and do the highlight’s for 2016 early next year but it won’t be a biggie.
Next year I hope to step up the workshops  as we have had a very positive response from those who took part in the workshops we ran this year, most have asked us to re-book them for the next step up , so that’s a pretty good sign.
its been a great year and I thank all you people that have helped make it so.  ❤

NZ  fur seal pup