Invasion of the road Buzzards

Still bubbling over with excitement after our Rock Wren encounter, we held an executive board meeting and it was decided we would strike out west, then head south down the coast, so we jumped in our covered wagon,  pressing the go button we geeeeed up the  horseeeees and westward we went.
Eventually, we were faced with a huge puddle of water known as the Tasman Sea. With no way to get around it, we turned left and scooted south with the rain once again hot on our heels.
We wanted to get to Haast that evening so with the rain catching us up and pelting down at times we didn’t stop much on the way, however one place we did stop was at Whataroa, home of the famous kōtuku or White Heron colony for lunch.

I have made it my lifelong mission to search for the best feed of fishinchips in New Zealand  I have come close to that perfect meal a few times and the shop at  Whataroa  is now in the top ten bestser-rist fishinchips in the country. That is according to the  Boney Whitefoot scale and that counts.

For the uninitiated, this is a Kiwi  feed of “Fishinchips”

Hokitika-

 

Okarito

With the Rock Wren already in the bag, we were now on the hunt for Yellowheads, Tit Mouses (Brown Creepers) and South Island Tomtits.

The drive down to the estuary and historic boat shed/museum at Okarito is well worth the extra 40-minute detour if you’re heading down the West Coast.

Okarito Boatshed

 

On the drive out to the boat shed, we found a suitable place to pull off the road and try our luck with a few TiT Moose calls.
We saw nothing at first but then a Black  Fantail turned up.
This was a serious situation for me as I had never seen one let alone had a worthwhile image.
I stealthy stalked in on the bird using all my ninja skills, ever closer, pressing the shutter button while still on the way in, keeping that bird in the centre of the viewfinder as it flittered around all over God’s creation. I’m sure any special ops soldier would be impressed with my style and If this was a hard paragraph to read, actually doing it was much harder.
However, I was very pleased with the end result of that encounter and now had two lifers for the trip.

My first ever Black Morph Fantail and what a great specimen.

Fantail or Piwakawaka,

 

Then Mr Tom Tit turned up to a Bellbird call just as they do in the North Island, in fact, we seem to have more success with Tomtits coming into the Bellbird call than their own. it was not long before  Mrs Tomtit came in to see what all the fuss was about.

Mr South Island Tomtit

Male ngirungiru the South Island Tomtit

 

Mrs South Island Tomtit might not be as colourful as Mr Tomtit but I think she is pretty.

Female ngirungiru the South Island Tomtit

 

Suprise Suprise a Female Bellbird came into the Bellbird call all covered in rata tree pollen

korimako the New Zealand Bell Bird

Followed by a very solid Mr Bellbird

Male korimako the New Zealand Bell Bird

 

Invasion of the Road Buzzards

Then we had our first, but certainly not last, encounter with Road Buzzards.
Let me explain.
Road Buzzards come in a few different species.
The main and most common species on the west coast this time of the year is the Asian variety, they travel around in mobs. Tightly packed in they travel around in a bewildering array of ‘for hire vehicles’.
Now the last thing you want when photographing birds off the side of the road is a gaggle of excited terrorists crowding in around you chasing the birds away.
They don’t speak English, so yelling at them  to ‘GO AWAY’ and shaking your fist at them will not drive this species back into their vehicles, in fact it seems to be a secret  signal that activates them, bringing them to a level of excited hysteria causing  those still inside their vehicles  to spill out joining the others already surrounding us.
They did spent a fortune getting to this country and they ain’t gonna miss out on nothing. When they see a car parked on the side of the road, they are compelled to stop and find out what it’s about and no amount of yelling at them, swearing or shaking a fist at them is going to stand in their way.
Road Buzzards normally only migrate here once in their lifetime for a short period of time but man do they come in numbers and are widespread.
I got my own back once when I had my caller hidden away in the bushes, the sound drew the Buzzards in like honey does to a bear and they crowded around a little bush looking for the bird that was calling its heart out.
Eventually, I tired of watching them and retrieved the call much to their amazement and some strange kind of ritualistic dance commenced, patting each other on backs laughing their heads off, pushing and shoving each other around. Then as fast as they came they jam-packed themselves into those vehicles and roared off down the road leaving us in peace for a few moments before the next mob of buzzards turned up.

Other species of road buzzards spoke English mostly Germans and Americans and understood what I was saying but something must have been lost on them.
They became offended at my thinly veiled threats and wild gesticulating arms and looked upon me as some kind of offensive retard, still didn’t stop them from chasing away our birds though.
At one stage we were left alone so we tried the TiT Mooselet call and what would you know, some came in.
They came in fast and chattering, never still for long . I had never seen these birds before so they were my third lifer (a birding term for a first ever sighting of a species)
These birds came in, buzzed around and never came back but what a thrill.

pīpipi the Brown Creeper or Tit Mouse

pīpipi the Brown Creeper

 

pīpipi the Brown Creeper

By the end of this trip I had come to grips with my emotions and mostly learned to ignore the Buzzards and get on with it, MOSTLY that is.
I WILL do better next time.

We hit the road south heading for Haast with two more birds on our most wanted list ticked off.

It was a long day and we were relieved to find this cute little cabin in Haast to spend the night sheltered from the showers that were still dogging us.

Accommodation in Haast

 

Winter Workshops

May will bring the start to our Winter Workshops in the greater Wellington area.

For more information clikerty click here 

Waikanae sunset

waikanae sunset-900

 

Our local King Fisher is often a willing subject this time of the year, so get in touch with me via the contact page and let’s get out there and learn some things.

kōtare the Sacred Kingfisher

 

 

 

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The Otira Rock Stars

Slowly my internal computer system booted up for the day. The synaptic connections in my brain were fizzling and spluttering, fading in and out but fired up once a solid connection was established.
Once upon a time I could leap out of bed and hit the floor running.
Nowadays it’s not even a controlled stagger, I’m more like a drunken dancer, lurching and weaving around the bedroom until my error correcting software runs its diagnostic program, ignores all my missing and damaged sectors on my hard drive and fools me into thinking I’m running just fine and dandy.
Coffee in hand I walk out on the balcony of the two-story Otira Hotel and I am confronted by the weather trying its best to behave its self, but sadly not having much success.
Drizzle and fog permeated the landscape, but no breeze, so two out of three ain’t bad according to Meatloaf.
Today was to be the big day out there yonder in them there mountains.
Just kilometres up the road lay a beautiful alpine Valley where two tiny little birds lived and we have to find them. I mean how hard could that be?
The very reason we, Steve and I have come to the South Island was to find and photograph the two little Rock Wrens that reportedly live up the Otira Stream.
We are excited to get going, so up to the Otira summit, we zoomed, to have breakfast among the clouds with the local Kea population, hoping that the cloud will lift and give us a great day.

The Kea is a smart bird but also gorgeous.

Kea

 

The Otira Stream

Slowly the clouds lifted revealing a huge valley and steep sides but what looked like a gentle grade for most of the way up the stream so off under the now beating down sun we went.

Hmmm two tiny, little birds live up yonder in that, there valley somewhere, how hard can it be to find them?

Otira Stream

It did not take long before the fact that neither of us had prepared for this walk. Sweat is leaking out everywhere all over my body, but onward I push, wishing I had another spare pair of lungs to connect to my blood system. We never really appreciate oxygen till we are running really low on it and my body was using it all and faster than I could suck it in.
I  huffed and puffed my way up that valley towards an area known as the Rock Garden where these little birds can be seen from time to time.

Yes indeedy how hard could it be lol  I was feeling a little overwhelmed at this stage.

Yeah whats hard about finding two wee birdies among that lot lol

Otira stream

We knew once we made the bridge an hour into the walk it was going to get harder and steeper and the track became more like a murder mystery trying to kill us every chance we gave it.

The bridge marked the end of the easy stuff.

Steve might look a bit pregnant here but he had Binoculars and goodness knows what else stuffed down the front of his shirt.

Otira

Now the clouds were passing overhead coming and going and the temperature was doing the yo yo. One minute it was so hot, the next very cold and dark.
Once we reached a certain rock that we had to squeeze past to keep our feet dry from the stream, we knew we were not far from the Garden, so we made our way on jelly syndrome legs upstream, then parked our bodies where we could look over the Rock Garden.

Welcome to the Rock Garden

 

Part of the rock garden, If you look carefully you will see Steve using his binoculars.

Otira

Steve stuck to the bottom of the Garden with his binoculars searching the rocks while I made short sorties up and around the tops of the garden above the big boulder,  hoping to flush them out.

One hour turned into two hours and then three. NO birds were seen.
Then cloud turned to rain and Steve found a rock shelter for us to hide our gear in out of the wet and keep us kind of warm and dry, the time moved slowly, still not a bird in sight.

The rock bivvie, our shelter from the weather. 

Otira

Still, we kept an eye out through the rain and even got a few photos as well

Otira

 

The darkness before the light

Then it got really crappy and cold as we sheltered in our little rock bivvie.

Otira

At one stage on one of my walkabouts, I spied a green bird fly past quite away, away and convinced I had spotted a Rock Wren I sped as fast as I could, bounding like a young Gazelle risking life and limb over the boulder field only to find it was a silver eye.

Rock Wren

We were now into our fourth hour camped in our little bivvie with rain showers passing through I was was running out of hope of ever seeing these birds.

We decided to give it another 40 minutes and then we would pack it in and come back tomorrow for another go, if we could get our legs working again that is.

Ten minutes to go, I turn to go on my last walkabout and Steve says I can see them.
Now normally I would have said something like BS,  but I saw the expression on his face.
I know that look, I’ve seen it so many times while out hunting on many a mates face as they see a Stag coming through the bush to our call, you just can’t fake it.
I did not have binoculars, I forgot mine I could not see the wee birds at first.

The birds slipped out of sight so we slowly snuck in on where they were last seen.
They were right here says Steve, then a Female Rock Wren popped into view right in front of us.  What an adrenaline rush, at last,  here was the bird we had planned to photograph if we got the chance for many years.

The wee bird popped up on a rock right in front of us

pīwauwau or Rock Wren

Clikerty click went the 1dx , remembering the drill for such occasions, take  2 shots, move closer, 2 shots move closer and closer we moved in.

The bird did not seem to mind us much at all, it must have been dinner time because that bird bounced over the boulders looking for food almost completely ignoring us.  We had to jump, hop, trip and crashing to the ground among the huge slippery wet boulders, then heave ourselves upright and jump and hop a bit more trying to keep up with it.
We stayed on that bird for 30 mins getting some great shots in the lovely overcast light.
We knew we had good shots so we left the bird to continue terrorizing  the local insect population and headed back to our gear
We had our gear all sorted ready to leave when Steve turned around behind us  and said “look” and there was the male bird which we had not seen, spying on us only 10 meters away. Well, that started our manic ballet act all over again, but it was so worth it, we got some great shots of him.

pīwauwau The Female Rock Wren

pīwauwau or Rock Wren

The Male Rock Wren is much more colourful than the female.

pīwauwau or Rock Wren

 

pīwauwau or Rock Wren

We put our packs on absolutely overjoyed with our success and made out way back down to the car.
A huge thanks has to go out to Mike Ashbee for giving us the information on where to look for them and Yahweh for getting us back down the creek in one piece and looking after us.

I will give the last word to Mr RockWren

LATA DUDES and DUDESSES.

pīwauwau or Rock Wren

 

 

 

 

and with our cameras bulging with images we left him in peace and we made our way back down that valley .

Southern Rock Shuffle

230am, I hug my pillow closer and tighter to my good ear, but no amount of pressure can shut out the loud, excited babble coming from a small group of bikers parked right outside my window.
Looking through the glass I can see them huddled around one of their bikes loaded up with saddles and other carrying accessories and the owner proudly showing off his pride and joy.
Road tripping around the South Island is almost a religious right of passage in this country for motorbike enthusiasts.
Trucks clattered up the ramps, the mixture of sea and diesel fumes fills the gloomy night air.
Sleep will never come, I know that from past experience, but hey, that won’t stop me from trying. But really I know I will have to wait until we can board the Inter-Islander Ferry and I can find a quiet place to spill out onto the carpeted floor before I can let my mind drift off as best I can.
Travelling between Our 2 Islands is best done in the middle of the night, you get to sleep on the 3 hour trip between the two Islands where ever you can find a space on the floor or a comfy seat. I prefer a semi-hard floor where I can stretch out, to a padded seat that has you scrunched up on. When you hit the South Island 6.am in the morning, you can roar off the boat refreshed and you’re on your way.

The Plan

This was the second part of our two-part annual photographic road trip.
Having been forced to postpone this second part, TWICE, due to pesky tropical cyclones, we were finally on our way, all be it 8 weeks late.
We had decided to split this year’s adventure into two halves, two weeks in the Central North Island and then two more in a mad sprint circumnavigating 3/4s of the South Island.
Our three main objectives were to photograph the pīwauwau or Rock Wren a high altitude bird, followed in order of importance by the Yellow Head or mohua and Brown creepers, pīpipi, or New Zealand titmouse.
Seriously ……..a bird named a titmouse?  Who comes up with these names?

After the big three was a small list of birds we had already had photos of but wanted more.
New Zealand Falcon
Crested Grebes
Kea
TomTits
Rifleman
Weka
Black Stilts.
Then there was the Landscape side of the trip, the list will unfold as I post more in the coming months.

As day broke over the Sounds, the ferry smoothly made the wharf at Picton and off we went heading into the weather moving up from the south.
Our first destination was to be Otira in Arthurs Pass for the number 1 priority and the very reason we planned this trip, the Rock Wrens, or pīwauwau, I had never seen one let alone photograph one.
Black threatening clouds, turned to wet grey clouds and the drizzle was periodically interrupted by hard out downpours, this kept the window wipers feeling useful.
4 hours later and we were on the road to Arthur’s Pass.

Arthur’s Pass is a high alpine pass that divides the East from the West coast of the South Island , one of three mountain passes,   we were to cross two of them three on this trip, plus the Buller Gorge which cannot be classed as a true alpine pass but does cut across the Island giving access to the eastern and western sides.
As we headed towards the Pass, weka started showing up on the side of the road making the most of the wet soft ground to peck for bugs and worms.

weka

Ole muddy beak

weka

 

Otira

Otira Stagecoach Hotel.

Otira Hotel

Our first and second night, if needed was to be spent at the famous Otira Stagecoach Hotel.
The Otira Hotel has pretty much kept its 1700 century atmosphere and is not unlike like a small museum that you can stay overnight in. The Hotel is cluttered with so many interesting objects from days gone by and other oddities, it would take 2 days just to go over all the fascinating objects and photographs that fill the bar, lounge and every space in between.

The restaurant.

Otira Hotel

The Bar

Otira Hotel

The Lounge Bar

All sorts of famous characters have stayed at Otira and some of them have never left.

 

Otira Hotel

Once we had booked in and unloaded our gear,  I went for a walk around the adjacent Otira Railway station. Shrouded in mist with drizzly rain, it had real West Coast character

Otira

The Railway line joins the city of Christchurch on the Eastern side of the South Island with the Western coast mining town of Greymouth.  Huge trains carrying coal are pulled through the 8-kilometre Otira tunnel and over the pass, but unfortunately, I got no chance of photographing one.

Huge trains need huge pulling power, here four engines provide the muscle to haul the coal train through the pass.

Otira

The West coast of the South Island is famous for its wet climate and today was true to form

Otira

 

We wanted to photograph the Keas up at the Otira lookout, these birds are wild birds but love entertaining the tourists and fellow bird photographers so it was up to see them before the light faded.

Kea Facts

Kea are on a serious decline in New Zealand.
Kea are considered by some to be the smartest bird in the world.

Watch this if you don’t believe me.

 

On the way to find Kea, one thing that stood out from the muted colour’s of the wet bush rocks and trees, the amazing bright orange moss that grows on the river rocks in all the streams in the area.

Otira

 

Slowly we ground our way up the steep grade to the Otria lookout

Otira

When we got there, the Mumma and junior were in residence.

The Mumma

Kea

Junior, notice the yellow around the eye

Kea

 

The rain made getting photos of these birds a bit of a test but we persevered and got some to take home with us.

Kea

Dinner time

Kea

The local Dunnock seemed to accept the weather conditions.

Dunnock

 

The next day would be the most important of the trip as the Rock Wrens, just 2 of them live up the Otira Stream.
Two birds the size of  Tomtits up that great big valley,, I mean no worries the success of the whole trip depends on us being able to find them right 😛

Otira

The invasion of the baby bandits

With the Christmas season over and the new year well under way, it’s time to get back to work and finish last year off with Decembers adventures.

We start December off with an amazing day out at the Wairio wetlands on the eastern shores of lake Wairarapa, hunting for the elusive matuku or Australasian Bittern.

Ducks Unlimited have put in countless hours and moneys into bringing the Wairio Wetlands to life with huge success, creating wide open swamps where water fowl and birds like the matuku can go about their business.

Ducks Unlimited is New Zealand’s leading wetlands and waterfowl conservation group.
They work to save our wetlands through protection, funding, technical aid and education so
that the flora and fauna of our most endangered ecosystem are a legacy we can pass
down to future generations. and they do a great job to see more information about their work please  click on this link

Feeling safe is the major consideration for water fowl and being able to see danger approaching from a long way is how they like it. The once Willow choked wetlands have been cleaned out and clean, fresh, oxygenated, water now flows through the system and the whole place has come to life.

Just as the sun poked its head over the horizon providing enough light, Steve and I were right on the spot, searching for the elusive Bittern and it wasn’t long before we spied our first one out in the middle of the wetland where it had the advantage of seeing us approaching for hundreds of yards.  We enjoyed it through our binoculars for a time, admiring it before we moved on.

Mr Bittern is safe from us way out there in the open

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Waterfowl wheeled in great flocks around the surrounding wetlands , hundreds  of them, mostly Grey Teal in this image.

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Hot as it was, we made a plan to walk the Lakeside of the wetland, hoping to pick up a Bittern that wasn’t paying much attention or one with a subzero level of intelligence.
We found neither, but when we flushed one into the sky ahead of us, an amazing thing happened, it was joined by 6 other Bitterns from all corners of the wetland and then they flew right over us. A total of seven bitterns over head , I could not get them all in the frame at the same time. No matter what I tried and the best I could do was five.

matuku the Australasian bittern

By now the sun was high in the sky  and beating down on us so we beat a retreat back to the wagon and home.

Baby Bandits

Next up  was a trip to Peka Peka Beach to look up on some old friends of ours, a local pair of Blackfronted Dotterels to see how they were going.
They were acting in a way that could only be explained by having a nest close by and although we had a quick look see, we could not locate it.
Once I got home I contacted, Louise my human bird tracking  device and put her onto the task of finding it, which she did.
Being much shorter than me, she has an advantage when it comes to finding nests on the ground.
I call Blackfronted Dotterels Bandits because bandit is easier and quicker to type than Blackfronted Dotterels. No not really,  they have a black mask across their face hence the name Blackfronted.
Earlier this year the bandits had, hatched a single  chick, a  first for Peka Peka , but sadly it died, We  think it was due to the inexperience of the parents so we hoped better things for this next attempt.
Louise had surrounded the nest with sticks and logs to protect it from being run over by people using the beach as a rally track.

The birds adapt instantly to the new arrangement.  

Black Fronted Dotterels

 

We  waited impatiently over the next few weeks to see how events stacked up.
Meantime life further down the coast was well, … lifeing.

Next up,Chris came down from Tauranga to join me for a two day workshop and that first evening found us out on the Waikanae spit.
We spotted the two rare New Zealand Dotterels That we had found a few weeks before, both females who had laid  6 eggs in a communal nest. This was the first time NZ Dotterels had been recorded this far south on the west coast of the North Island.  Sadly the eggs were not fertile we waited for weeks for them to hatch which they did not but it was still exciting all the same.

Certainly something you don’t see every day, six Dot eggs in one nest and NZ Dots too boot.

tūturiwhatu the New Zealand Dotterel

 

Variable Oyster Catches ( Sand Pirates ) were raising their young out on the Waikanae sand  spit

tōrea pango the Variable oystercatcher

 

We had an awesome time running around in the golden light of early evening photographing the birds. I wont mention nothing about driving all the way from Upper Hutt and getting  nearly to Waikanae, an 1 hour 20 min trip,  only to turn back because someone named Chris realised that he had  forgot his camera and it was back at my flat, no we wont mention that  lol

A New Zealand Dotterel in the last of the sun.

tūturiwhatu the New Zealand Dotterel

 

A Sand Pirate, I love back lighting

tōrea pango the Variable oystercatcher

 

Nite nite, sleep tight.

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The next day we were up bright and early and off to Zealandia for the day
Our first bit of frenzied activity came when we discovered  two herds of Californian Quail chicks on the path and we got to work trying to get some photos of them as they zig zagged on and off the path ahead of us.

After so many years of trying to get a really good Quail chick shot it happened , they ran up a bank through the broom, stopped and looked back and that was that.

Californian Quail

 

That day Chris was to find out how to shoot birds in the bush. Little birds, little birds that never sit still. The day passed quickly as we tried to keep those blasted little birds in the view finder  LoL.
Chris went home with more questions than answers, but that is the nature of the game.
Bush bird photography is the most hardest discipline.

 

Bush Birds don’t came much harder than the pōpokatea or Whitehead.

pōpokatea the Whitehead

 

With our bandit nest being kept under almost constant surveillance, eventually the day came when two tiny baby Dots  were spotted by Louise just on dark, so the next morning I was there to capture their first full day.

Daybreak and I was just down from the nest site staring into the gloom, sniper Roge nicknamed because takes his camouflage seriously was to meet me that morning.
As I stood there looking into the gloom  a faint sound of, “Tony” drifted across to me in the breeze, I stared and stared in the half light trying to find the source of my name, “Tony ” the call was repeated over and over again. I could hear it but be blowed if I could see sniper Roge out there among the occasional tussock bushes and sand dunes. I walked vaguely in the general direction of the calling .
Eventually the calling was emanating merely meters away and then finally there hunkered down in a full camo suit, amidst a tussock bush was Roger, pointing excitedly below him, I hit the deck and crawled up close and peered over the edge and saw one of the adults with two chicks 20 meters away .
At last my first ever bandit chick.
We stayed dug in for a while watching from our lofty tussock knoll, then decided the birds were settled and crawled down a bank on our tummies and got a bit closer, They didn’t pay us any mind so we got some more shots as the sun came up.
These birds have proved to be extremely interesting . When approached at first they will flee while your still a good way from them. But if you sit down or even better lie flat on the ground, curiosity gets the better of them and within minutes they will be right back, up close feeding around you and carrying on their business but keeping a close eye on you.
So these birds were well use to us as we had been photographing them all early spring into summer .
Just so long as you sit still, don’t make fast moves or any noise the birds settle down and carry on with their busy lives.

Mum showing off her two new babies. 

Black Fronted Dotterels

The chicks are tiny, roughly half the size of a Banded Dotterel chick, not much bigger than a mans thumb nail.

Black Fronted Dotterels

 

The chicks are so well camouflaged that even if you think you know where they are, you can still stand on them if your not really really careful.  

Black Fronted Dotterels

 

Once I had my shots, so I left them to it .
Sadly one did not make it,  but the other is now looking like its parents and one can hope that it will return to Peka Peka with its partner and raise its own young one day.

Black Fronted Dotterels

 

Next up were the duelling Sand Pirate twins.
Apparently when baby Oyster Catchers get to a certain age they fight for one day to decide who will be the boss. I just happened to strike it lucky and got these two on that day.
They wrestled and fought for hours non stop, it was quite amusing to say the least, they were still going when I left them to it.

Locked in a wrestling match.

tōrea pango the Variable oystercatcher

The Karate Chick strikes

tōrea pango the Variable oystercatcher

Finally for the month, we visited a Royal Spoonbill colony where we saw  many new chicks and their parents up to their comical antics, they aint called the goons of the lagoon for nothing .

A Royal Spoonbill committee meeting .

kōtuku ngutupapa  the Royal Spoonbill

 

Flaps down  but coming in hot.

kōtuku ngutupapa  the Royal Spoonbill

 

Spoonbills may not look that smart, but this chick has its chin or bill rest sorted.

kōtuku ngutupapa  the Royal Spoonbill

Well that’s just a taste of what December bought us, by the 19th, Steve and I were on our way north for few days to try out the new boat on Lake Taupo but more on that in the next blog.
Bless ya heaps and heaps, I hope you peoples had a great Christmas break, a happy new year and a awesome January.  ❤

 

 

 

The heat shimmer blue’s

We are now into the beginning of Summer , for those of us who are now busy chasing after those birds that breed and raise families on our beaches and estuaries , our old enemy heat shimmer has raised its ugly head.
Once you hit the focal length of 300 mils and above, heat shimmer plays a major, if not the dominate role in robbing us of our beloved detail we all crave in our images.
Many of us love to get down low and shoot at the bird at about its head height as this often gives the most pleasing pose. Sadly this is where most of the heat is being bounced off the hot surface back into the air, this is where  heat shimmer is most apparent.
Sadly, often we cannot see the mirage effect through the view finder, esp if we are close to our subject and everything looks fine until you get home and load your beloved images into your favourite image processing program and desperation descends on you as you frantically search your images for one single sharp one.

So what does heat shimmer look like ?

Posted here is our  model Mr Steve Wass, demonstrating how heat shimmer robs us of clarity and detail and distorting the entire image.

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Notice the worst of it is close to the ground  and in the far background, so the closer you are to the ground and more distance between you and your subject the more heat shimmer effect will be visible.

So what does it look like.

This image below is an extreme example, nothing is sharp  even though the bird was very close.
I was low to the sand  which was rising slightly between the Dotterel and myself  resulting in nothing being pin sharp.

tūturiwhatu the Banded Dotterel

 

Here is another example
This could have been an awesome photo, it certainly looked that way through the view finder at the time . Sadly nothing is really sharp.

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A long range shot.
The Kingston Flyer out of Queenstown on a hot summer morning.

The Kingston Flyer

 

Other than hot concrete  Grass has to be  the next worse reflector followed by hot sand.
Even on a cool day here, the grass robbed me of sharp detail on this Hawk because the shiny grass makes for a great heat reflector, notice the effects further back in the image, the characteristic blotchy, squiggly, chaotic, mess  instead of a smooth out of focus background.

kāhu the Australasian swamp Harrier

 

Sometimes heat shimmer looks cool but mostly it makes you want to say bad, bad,  bad words.

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So what can we do about it ?

1. Shoot only in early morning is your best chance of avoiding the heat shimmer demon , even late evening  wont be enough to cool sand down.

2. Avoid  shooting from a low position when it warms up.

3  Go swimming and take up sun bathing over summer without a camera.

4. Try opening up your aperture as wide as you can.
Common wisdom says the least depth of field  or depth of focus  the less chance you have of distortion  ruining your image.
I have found this never to work for me but perhaps you will have better luck.

5. windy days have less surface heat but no guarantees, the  same goes for over water.

6 .  Get up early in the morning and shoot  when the light is best anyway  is the best remedy  then go swimming snooze or sunbath.

Bless you guys and gals heaps.

 

 

Wow October just blew past.

What on earth have I been doing.

Ive been very busy, either out in the field taking photos, or working away at home on my image gallery.
Im behind in my monthly updates  and the image gallery is a massive task as I am uploading hundreds of images for sale so I live in catch up mode.

Breeding is in full swing, with the first batch of chicks, especially our Dotterels and Oyster Catcher chicks racing around the  beaches keeping us busy and covered in sand.
Heat, wind, sand, sand and more blasting sand has been my constant companion for the last 6 weeks.
This is our windy season as the temperatures are rising leading  into summer and the heat shimmer has raised its ugly head (more on heat shimmer later in another post).

October Monthly update

The month started off with a trip to Staglands for a workshop.

Kath and Carolyn looking relaxed.  

Kath

 

Staglands  has a great variety of domestic and semi domestic wildlife .
Finding the birds is not hard, but photographing them is another matter all together, this makes Staglands an ideal venue for photographic  workshops.

A handsome Old English Game Fowl cock bird poses for me.

Old English game fowl-

 

The male Wood Ducks are always a star attraction because of their stunning colours.

Wood Duck

 

Next up we were entertained by the gold medal winning aerobatic red-eared slider turtle team .

Red-Eared Slider Turtle

 

A new batch of piggies also stole alot of attention.

Pigs--4

By the end of the weekend , we were all worn out  and went back home to our computers with memory cards bulging and more than a few days of sorting and processing to look forward too.

Next up  Steve and I got a chance to photograph  some pōpokotea or White Head.

The  pōpokotea or White Head occurs only in the North Island of New Zealand with a very similar bird the mohoua or Yellow head occurring only in the South Island which sadly I don’t have a photo of YET.

Small and zippy these bird can give you a very good work out trying to nail them.

pōpokotea  or Whitehead

 

Smudge

One early evening  Steve heard a ruru call just down the track from where we were scouting for Shining Cuckoos, so when we had more time we revisited the location, this time with the ruru as our main target.

Introducing Smudge, a female ruru or New Zealand Morepork.  so named because she lives in a very dark  gully where the low light means slow shutter speeds and getting sharp clear shots of her are a real challenge.

Female ruru are quite a bit larger than the male and don’t have the strong colour contrasting  in their feathering that the male has. 

ruru the New Zealand morepork.

 

Such a pretty gal she has given us a lot of joy photographing her.
She has been absent of late and we hope its because she is on a nest.
If you are a female ruru, you get to look after the nest and eggs all on your lonesome  as the male will not participate in raising the young until they leave the nest and become perching birds.

ruru the New Zealand morepork.

 

Next up was a trip back to Zealandia as both Kath and I wanted some more Whitehead shots so that is what we set out to do.
It was slim pickins on the Whitehead front, but all the other species  put in an appearance and in abundance.

tīeke the Saddle Back is a loud bird and lets you know you have entered its territory during nesting time.

tīeke the NorthIsland Saddle Back

 

hihi  or the Stitch Bird are amusing little birds, very stroppy and often come in with tails straight up , the feathers on their heads  erect and full of attitude.
If you were to go back 20 years, you would never have seen this bird on the mainland of New Zealand, but thanks to the team at Zealandia and a hand full of other peoples in other locations around the country, the hihi, once again is breeding and starting to thrive in some of our forests.

hihi  or the Stitch Bird

hihi the Stitch Bird

 

Finally we found a whitehead that was kind enough to let us photograph it.
pōpokotea or Whitehead are very seldom noticed by most people although they are far from rare.
They tend to stay in the tops of the trees and move around the forest in groups chartering much like a Chaff Finch at times. Males have a whiter head than the female

A Male pōpokotea or Whitehead

pōpokotea  or Whitehead

Fluttering Pheasants 

Next on the agenda  was  a little  project Steve and I have been working on for a few years now.
Photographing Pheasants is a hard enough challenge in its self, but to photograph a Cock Bird during its call with its wings beating wildly in the air and at an incredible speed is a different challenge all together. I have many photos from over the years but still none that I consider THE definitive photo, the quest continues.

We managed to find a Cock Bird on sentry duty and settled down to keep and eye on him as he patrolled his territory hoping that he would issue his challenge where we could photograph him.
15 minutes later he had positioned himself for his call and clickerty click, click went the 1DX.

Cock Pheasant

Even at 3,200 hundredths of a second the shutter was  not fast enough to freeze his wings perfectly.

Cock Pheasant

 

Next up  was a quest for one of our favourite birds the pīpīwharauroa or Shining Cuckoo.
The day was fading and it was last light, in a last ditch desperate effort we approached a tree we had photographed a Shining Cuckoo in the year before to give it a finale whirl.  No sooner had the call gone out than this bird landed right in front of us centre stage.
Often Bird photography is just like this.
All day nothing happens and one becomes reconciled with the feelings of disappointment only to have victory at the last possible moment and this folks, brings the bird photographer out after that hard to get bird time and time again.

To have this  Bird respond to the caller land right in front of us in wonderful soft light  was the highlight of October for me.
pīpīwharauroa, the Shining Bronze Cuckoo

pīpīwharauroa the Shining Cuckoo

 

I like the way the two branches frame this shot .

pīpīwharauroa the Shining Cuckoo

 

October was such a huge month this year so I have to leave out so many images I would love to post, but I will wind up this month with what became a labour of love involving a number of us.

Dotterel time

While Louise AKA Danger Mouse was out scouting for Birds on the spit at Waikanae she spied a tūturiwhatu or Banded Dotterel nest and shared the news among us local bird peoples and thus began a 4 week vigil, shared among 3 teams to keep an eye on the nest and report the moment any of the eggs hatched.
Why the fuss  about the timing?
Because once the chicks are more than a day old they can run like Olympic sprinters  and don’t stop untill there is a good distance  between them and us.
During those first few hours when the birds are fresh out of the egg, they tend to crouch and freeze when people are near by giving us a chance of getting close.

Mr Dotterel on nesting duty, exciting times are ahead.

tūturiwhatu the Banded Dotterel

 

Mr tūturiwhatu

tūturiwhatu the Banded Dotterel

 

Mrs tūturiwhatu, notice she does not have the black band around the base of her throat like her hubby ?

tūturiwhatu the Banded Dotterel

 

You peoples will have to wait till next months report to see how it all pans out  as we have reached the end of October.

Ooooooh one last thing, did I mention wind and the sand?

This is what one has to put up with, this time of the year, sand gets everywhere and I mean everywhere, considering that one tries to get as close to the subjects height  for  a good profile this means being low down in that mess .

Its a hard life but I would not exchange it for anything lol

sand and wind

 

I will leave the last word  up to Mrs Smudge.

Good night folks and God bless yas heaps and heaps.

ruru the New Zealand Morrepork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2017 Monthly Report

September 2017 Monthly Report   

Well September was a busy but wet month here in Wellington.

After a hectic August September, 2017 kicked off with a fine weekend set aside just for Steve and I to enjoy. I love running workshops and making new friends, but nothing beats going out with a mate like Steve. He knows exactly what he is doing with his rig and we work together like a team. I can relax and concentrate on the job at hand and immerse myself in my favourite activity. Our style is more like hunting, particularly bush stalking than one might first realise. We sneak through the bushes and swamps seeking our target species.

First up I manged to sneak up on this kōwhai flower.
Yellow is my favourite autumn colour and also my early spring colour too.

kōwhai

Kapiti/Mana District

Our first intended target were Pheasants. So we headed off up the Kapiti/Mana coast north of Wellington looking for some action.

Things were a bit slow at first. We were thinking about heading further north when we spotted a mob of one Cock bird with 5 female pheasants in his entourage. They were out in the paddocks some ten meters from the edge of some pine trees. So we put the stalk on them sneaking through the trees. But right at the last hurdle it became impossible to get closer without making our presence known. We were faced with a last minute scurry. bumble, stumble, up over and through a thick carpet of knee high pine branches stacked up right on the edge of the forest – meters from the birds. We made the best of it but the birds were on to us. However I shot this before the last hen departed from the main runway.

Often the Cock Pheasant gets all the attention. Nevertheless I think a female Pheasant is a very pretty bird in her own right.

Hen Pheasant

Time for a change of venue and do some swamp sneaking to find our star species. So it was further north for the pūweto or Spotless Crake.

Steve and I have spent so much time hunting this bird with good success at times that Steve Richards has been renamed Crake Richards. But alas today was not to be one of them days. However I got a wonderful shot of a kuruwhengi or New Zealand Shoveler Duck. It’s the bird Louise calls the Cock Pheasant of New Zealand Ducks because of its amazing colours.

kuruwhengi the New Zealand shoveler,

A warou or welcome swallow sat nicely on a steel post in lovely light so clikerty click went the shutter.

Welcome swallow

Staglands

The following week Louise and I had a training day out at Staglands Wildlife Reserve. While Nomad Kath and her sister Barbara accompanied us.

Louise was convinced if she just kissed this red-eared slider turtle it would turn into her charming prince.

She was disappointed lol.

Louise--13

Me old mate The Turkinator was lurking in the depths waiting for round 3.

Turkey

After a busy morning discussing how we can improve our workshops at Staglands we retired for lunch in the sun beside the bird feeder. The staff fed the birds while we enjoyed our food along side the feeder.

White Eyes

I still had a fascination for peacock feathers so I tried to think creatively and came up with this.

Peacock Feathers

We visited the the local bandits.
Rocky was in fine form.

Rocky the Sulphur-crested cockatoo

Louise aka captain cuddles can’t resist the rabbits. She pounced on this one!

Louise

A Red Pole put in an appearance and that rounded off a pretty busy day for us.

Red Pole

Zealandia

Next up Carolyn flew up from the South Island having booked the whole last weekend of the month. So it was a very busy end for my September.

The Saturday was spent teaching how to shoot forest birds without the use of flashes. Using a flash takes away the natural look of the bird in its environment. It eliminates contrast, flattening out the image and can deaden the over all dynamic of the image.

Learning to get the best out of your camera in poor light conditions such as in the forest takes a lot of practice and patience. I put Carolyn through her paces and gave her a lot to think about and will be putting those new tricks into practice when she gets home.

Zealandia has the most amazing opportunities to shoot native birds in the wild. Opportunities that you just don’t find in the main forested areas of New Zealand. That’s due to the very heavy trapping of predators and supplementary feeding throughout the year.

Shooting in the Dark

My rig and settings for the day …

  • Canon 1 DX and a 300 prime with a 2x converter attached to it.
  • That gives me a focal length of 600 mills which is a handful to handle in a forest.
  • The converter stole 2 stops of light off me.
  • For each one stop slower means halving the shutter speed.
  • So at f2.8 I might be around 1,000th of a second.
  • 2 stops slower at 5.6 means 250th of a second.
  • Reality was I was around 80th-  40th of a second.
  • I set the camera to 2,500  ISO and f5.6 for most of the day. Most middle of the road modern digital cameras can handle these modest settings.

My main target was the tīeke or North Island Saddleback. Eventually I managed to nail this one.

tīeke or North Island Saddleback

Next up was Mr hihi or Stitch Bird.

hihi or Stich Bird

There is much to consider when one shoots birds in the forest. The background light can play a huge role. You need to be on your feet. Pay attention through the view finder and not let the background light compete with the bird.

I will go into greater detail on how to go about this discipline in a later article.

korimako the Bell Bird also gave us a lot of enjoyment.

korimako the Bell Bird.

kākāriki the Red Crowned Parakeet

kākāriki the Red Crowned Parakeet

Latest News

I’ve a huge overhaul going on with the website. I’m creating a totally new and comprehensive image gallery from the ground up. As a result people will find it easy to browse for the image they need. However this will take some months so I will leave the old image gallery up until I’m ready to launch the new one.

Upcoming Events

Our Pelagic trip out into the Cook Straight was booked out pretty quickly. If any person who booked a seat early with a deposit has to withdraw for any reason I have a short list of reserves.

This is the second trip Boney Whitefoot has organised. I limit the numbers to 13 people including myself. That means that there’s enough room on the boat to position yourself to get those wonderful shots of the Albatross and other open ocean birds.

Our next trip out will be in February. So if you don’t want to miss out I suggest you keep an eye on this blog and get in quick next time.

Time to wrap it up , sorry this report came a bit late but better late then never.
I hope you enjoy my photos and God bless all you peoples heaps.


A great big thank you goes out to Rosie for helping me with some gamma lessons, thanks Sister.  ❤

Peacocks and the rise of the Turkey Terminators.

August 2017 Monthly report.

Winter is now officially over and spring has sprung.

untitled-0002-Edit

 

House keeping announcement.

First up is an apology from me , as it seems we had a bit of a hiccup with the blog, which resulted in 2 false post notifications being sent out to some peoples and the emails playing up.

The month of August

August was yet another busy month full of adventures for me .

We, Steve and I started the month over on the Kapiti coast enjoying a glorious early spring day  chasing Grey Warbler’s  ( riroriro).
Even with it being very early in the season , these birds are already in their full breeding colours and already building their nests because  in late September early October the Shining Cuckoo will arrive in New Zealand.
Shining Cuckoos  target the riroriro, laying their eggs in the riroriro nest, leaving them to be hatched and raised by the  poor riroriro while the cuckoo summers over here without a care in the world.
However the clever little riroriro gets in at least one clutch and sometime 2 and raises their chicks before the bulk of the Shining Cuckoo arrive.

A riroriro with nesting material

The grey warbler or riroriro

The swamp where I love to shoot these birds is filled with raupō and at this time of the year a lot of last years growth is now dead and the stems and leaves turned light golden.
Shooting late afternoon means your going to get a beautiful golden background that really bring the colours of these birds to life.

After some great success and the sun sinking lower and lower in the sky we left the swamp behind, but on the way home  we spied a Cock Pheasant silhouetted in the sunset  so I just had to have a shot of it.

A beautiful silhouette of a Cock bird, even if I say so myself lol

Cock Pheasant

 

Stagland’s Wildlife Park

The following week it was off to check on the action out at Staglands with Nomad Kath.
I had not taken much notice of the Turkeys down on the farm before,  but today I was to learn just how awesome these birds really are as they come into their breeding season.

Being the person that I am, I have always talked to the animals, today would be no different and I could not giving the locals a   gobble, gobble, gobble.
Most times in the past I have received a pretty quick response from the local Toms, but this time what I got, was not what I expected.

 The colour on this birds face changed rather dramatically  from this.

Turkey

 

 In a matter of seconds to this.

untitled-9015-Edit

 

I was very intrigued, so more gobbles were needed which were enthusiastically  responded to.

untitled-9007-Edit

 

Next thing He posed and strutted around for me and for the first time I saw what a truly magnificent  bird the Turkey was.

The turkey strut

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A Ram looked on in mild amusement. 

untitled-9033-Edit

 

We left the strutting Tom to his girl friends and dropped in to see our old mate  Rocky where I continued his training.

Tony the bird whisperer training an attentive  Rocky .

untitled-0709-Edit

 

The Peacocks

Next up came the Peacocks.
Ive been taking photos of birds for years, but never much in the way of Peacocks and Peahens.
This summer the good Lord willing I’m going after them big time and I’ve been watching the tails grow on the males through out this winter.

Im still learning how to capture these birds in a way that gives them the credit due them.

The close up seems pretty peachy.

Peacock

 

But full frame shows off the whole deal.

Peacock

 

Or is the sweet spot somewhere in between ?

Peacock

 

Maybe a real close up might make a good  print on the wall.

untitled-8765-Edit

 

Or even  a  closer one?

Peacock

 

Every now and again in this game you get a shot that is one in a million I guess.
I was shooting a Peacock when a Peahen decided she was going to take the lime light , She waltzed in front of the Peacock  and fanned her tail out perfectly in front of the posing Peacock resulting in truly a remarkable image.
Its perfect.

Peacock

 

I am looking forward  the rest of spring and summer to work on Peacocks.

 

The Red Stint

Next on the agenda came about when word filtered down the pipeline that the Red Stint that visited us a few years ago as a juvenile was once again seen at the Manawatu Estuary and this time he was in his breeding colours.
Immediate invasion plans were formulated and executed promptly in case he decided to move on.

Nomad Kath did not have any images of Red Stints so we made it happen.

These birds are half the size of a house sparrow .

Mr Red Stint wearing  his best outfit.

Red Necked Stint--14

For a tiny bird He takes big steps 

Red Necked Stint

Red Stints love to hang out with Wrybills  and this bird was no different.

Wrybills

The classic close up portrait shot has its place, but also keeping back a bit and taking in the birds surroundings and placement in its environment adds yet another dimension.

The front bird is placed in the centre, right in  front of the bunch, giving symmetry.

wrybilled plover, ngutuparore

Now for the close up.

Mr Wrybill, l trying to get this sand out of his ear lol

wrybilled plover, ngutuparore

 

Mr Shoveler Duck was also out showing off his new attire for the year

Australasian shoveler or kuruwhengi

Once we had the Red Stint in the bag we were off home .
We had a trip back to Staglands  planned in the next few days and so it was to be.

 

The rise of the Turkey Terminator.

I had noticed there was 2  big male Toms at Staglands , each commanding a area of their own , The top bird up on the hill was pretty harmless and busied him self with showing off to his girlfriends, the other on the low lands was a different creature all together.

I had had a bit of a run in with him but he had kept his distance the first time we met although he seemed keen to get to know me on closer terms after I had talked to him a little bit, I was trying to get his face to change colour like his mate up on the hill.

When we met next time how ever he seemed to recognise me immediately  and launched an immediate  full on assault from 20 meters out.

Introducing the Turkey Terminator.

untitled-8805-Edit

 

I was fine if I met him being head on but as soon as I tired to get away and turn my back I was set upon lol.

 

Terminator attack courtesy of a laughing out loud Kath making suggestions from a safe distance as I battled for my life .

 

untitled-0736-Edit

 

Photo By Barbara  Kaths sister

Locked in Mortal combat,the bird was relentless .

Birds are not the only thing on offer for the Photographer as Staglands Wildlife Park.

There is always something to catch your eye if you look.

untitled-1602-Edit

 

Retiring for lunch we set up next to a tree where we knew there would be something to watch while eating .

A tui dropped in to say hi.

tui

 

Followed by Mr or Mrs  White Eye, I don’t know the difference.

untitled-9230-Edit

 

I could fill this post with hundreds of images but we must move on.

Kath is a Falcon lover, she sponsors 2 native falcons at Wingspan, a place where falcons are cared for when injured and where the public can have close encounters with trained birds .
As sometime happens the incredible occurs.
One day in the middle of suburbia Kath looks out her window and there perched in her kohwai tree four meters away sits a male falcon.
I was invited to come up and photograph this bird as it had made Kath’s place part of its daily food collection route, preying on the small birds that feed on Kath’s lawn and in her hedge.
These chances just don’t turn up all that often, we are truly blessed.

So here he is in all his glory , a truly magnificent wild creature, totally unafraid of humans.

kārearea or New Zealand Falcon

It’s such a blessing to encounter these birds .
these falcon are making an impressive come back due to heavy pest control in our valley, may they increase to bless us all.

kārearea or New Zealand Falcon

 

I think this is about enough for this post.
August was full on, so I will leave you with my favourite shot of the month  a riroriro and one that is destined for my wall.

This print will be available for sale later in September.

The golden background and soft light really complements the bird.

riroriro the Grey Warbler.
Bless ya all heaps peoples.

The grey warbler or riroriro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to improve your bird photography Part 3. Timing

The art of timing .

Timing is everything” so they say, this is true of any kind of photography, but is especially true of wildlife and landscape photography.

This photo below looks simple enough, but it took a wee bit of patience to get what I wanted.
I could see the burst of sunlight shooting downwards through a hole in the cloud and I could see a triangle shaped stack of drift wood on the sand  in front of me .
I could track that sun burst and  knew if if the cloud did not close over, it would shower down behind the stack setting it apart from the rest of the image, so I waited for more than a few moments to get the shot.
Putting some thought into the shot and being patient  can really give the photographer a great deal of satisfaction. The result  speaks for itself.

Sun Burst  

waikanae sunset-900

For landscapes the rule is get there early and prepare to stay late.
Sunset and sunrise

 

Bird Action .

I consider bird photography the most challenging of all photographic disciplines, esp small birds that never sit still for long .

Here is a perfect example  of one such species of bird, the Grey Warbler or riroriro.

Small, flighty, jittery, hardly ever still and in one place for more than a split second , very quick  off the mark, these birds demand your total  %100 concentration .

Whoops too slow on the shutter this time, the birds head is facing away from the camera, no score Tony.

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I timed it right and nailed  this one .

The Grey Warbler,  or riroriro.

 

Way too slow.

Well yes  this is  a lovely image of a stalk  but not much else , bad , bad boy, Tony lol

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This Time I was on to it , good boy Tony.

The grey warbler or riroriro

 

So how do you prepare for birds like the Warbler.

1.  pre-focus  your lens to where you expect your bird to most likely sit. This way the lens doesn’t waste time hunting  for the bird.
With little birds you expect them to be close so set your long lens 300mil and longer to focus on the 2-3 meter setting most lenses have.

2. get the light right, you want it coming from behind you over your shoulders, this can really help speed up the focal system to lock onto your target.

3  Don’t muck around with your shot. As soon as you know the focus system is locking on to your bird  fire off a burst of images at high speed.

Watching the light through the view finder.

Lying flat on the ground I was tracking this Wood Duck (below) in the early morning light.
The bird was moving and I was locked on to the bird keeping it in the frame and focused. Click went the shutter
The profile was awesome, the focus was perfect, but I had failed to notice that the birds head had moved in the shadows.
The light was now falling on the body of the bird, but not on its head.
Without light on the birds head this image is destined for the recycle  bin .

Wood Ducks-1520

 

The bird did an about turn and came back and I tried again, this time I got the lighting right but the birds posture was not as dramatic.

Oh well you cant win them all I guess.

Wood Duck

 

Once again I timed this shot wrong , not only did I not see the floating bird, but the focus locked onto it instead of my intended target.

red billed gulls--3

 

I stayed on the bird and tried again.

This is how we roll.

red billed gulls--4

 

 

Tracking and staying on target.

We have all seen the classic English Spitfire vs the German Messerschmitt 109 sequences at the movies.
The hero in the Spitfire hunts for his target , finds it, tracks it, locks onto it , fires away and eventually blows it out of the sky.

Photographing small flying birds is not that much different.
The trick is to get that bird in the centre of the view finder and let rip and keep shooting  while trying to keep that bird dead centre.
Just because the bird moves away from the centre  and goes out of focus, don’t give up, don’t just stop, keep firing and try and re-acquire the bird.

Below is a sequence , I lost the bird , a small Cape Petrel as it flew past very close but I stayed with it  shooting all the way,  until it landed, or in this case crash landed on the surface of the water.

Just wing it but dont give up.

untitled-7466

 

As the bird swung round the end of the boat I kept shooting,  catching up with it as it crash landed , had I not stayed with it, I would have missed out on this very amusing image.

Cape Petrel--2

 

When things go right because you pre-empt .

Getting to know your target species can give you some real advantages .
These four last images are a good example.
Ducks when washing  will dip their heads and backs completely under the water 2 -3 times before rising up and wildly flapping their wings.
When you see this behaviour you can get ready for the shot.

Here goes the dip.

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Now we are ready for the flap.

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Once again I saw the dip and prepared to catch the coming eruption.

Wood Duck

 

My timing was perfect with this female Wood Duck

Wood Duck

I hope this has been helpful  to you peoples out there.
Photography can be a very richly rewarding hobby or obsession, its a journey of discovery and most certainly  one about ourselves .
How we go about that journey and treat other people that are on their journey says a lot about who we are  as people.  ❤

Up coming events :
Cook Straight  Albatross adventure

We still have a few seats to fill for our pelagic trip out of Wellington  on the 12th of November.
$150.00 per person,
Max 12 people on board, per trip.
7am – 2pm  , 7 hours on the water with the birds
1 hour steaming out and back with the birds chasing us all the way back in.
Roast Chicken lunch provided .
Snacks and tea on board on demand.
Deep sea fishing also available  for an extra $30.00.
This is a wonderful opportunity  to sea Albatross and a variety of deep sea birds right up close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July Monthly report 2017

July is mid winter here  in New Zealand , this means our  Rugby Season is in full swing and our national team the All Blacks are  furthering our designs on world domination.

While most of our country is in a fever pitch, warm at home in the comfort of their lounges, screaming at thier television sets , some of us more hardy souls venture out in the weather, tasting what nature has to offer, while trying to squeeze it all through our lenses and record it onto our digital sensors.

This July past, was no exception, the month started of for me with a Father and Daughter team workshop, at Staglands Wildlife Park.
Corinne, (Wren)  and her Dad, Adam, (The Blade), , had booked a sunny but freezing cold day with me .

Adam is a saw doctor, hence his nick name (The Blade) , thats saw, not sore doctor lol .

The Saturday morning  started out warm enough in the Staglands cafeteria.
We were parked up beside a large roaring fire, with cups of coffee resting on a warm wooden table.
All was very cosy as I drew diagrams of cameras and explained their mysterious workings and how we could go about fooling them into behaving for us.
It didn’t seem very long however before I ran out of words, coffee and diagrams and we forced to head outside to face the cold head on and try and put into practice what I had just been teaching  them.
This was not our first time out together as this dynamic  father and daughter duo had booked a workshop about the same time the  year before  and they got right down to business building on what they learnt last time.

Wren keeps her eye on her target, in this case a Kea .

Wren 2-

Mr Mute Swan  is always a popular subject for my clients  and he was next up.

Mute Swan--3

 

Sometimes I do take photos  of non birds, these mushrooms  grabbed my attention.

Mushrooms--2

 

Next on the agenda was Rocky the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.
Ive become quite good at coaxing him out of his warm nest box,  up on the hill  above the track . Most times I can get him to come  down for a few treats, where he can be patted and made a big fuss over.

Wren and Rocky the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

Wren and Rocky 2-

Once Wren and Rocky ran out of conversation we went off in search of something else to challenge us .

Mr Peacock has been slowly growing his tail feathers  for mating season in a few months time.

Peacock-5434-Edit

 

A visit to the Mandarin Ducks  was next on the agenda.

Mandarin Ducks

 

Soon it was lunch time so we filed back into the warmth of the cafe for a bite to eat  and then put in another hour before calling it a day.

This peacock was posed just too nice, to pass up on.

Peacock-5742-Edit

 

Mrs whio looked a bit grumpy as it was getting colder by the minute as the light was fading, so we packed it in and headed home.

whio-

 

Mid winter at Staglands is a real challenge for any  photographer, there is not a great deal of light available for most of the  day, however during the summer  the sun floods in all day long.

As we drove away we were being watched by a Silkie chicken, his hairstyle is very similar to mine lol.

Silkie  chickens --3

 

Thus ended a wonderful day out with Wren and Adam and as they had already booked for yet another adventure in 3 weeks time and  I was looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Pelagic Paradise. 

The highlight of the month was to be our pelagic trip out into the Cook Straight.

The boat launches from Seaview in the Wellington Harbour and is the only boat that I know of  that caters for Bird photographers.
In fact I think its an unbeatable deal for those living in the lower North Island  wanting to photograph Birds that inhabit the Pelagic zone.

What is The Pelagic Zone 

Twelve people turned up besides myself, for our event out on the wild sea.

The trip  lasts  for 6 hours, One hour steaming out and one back with an amazing  4 hours  where we would meet up with birds that never come ashore  save for breeding which is in the sub- antarctic regions of the Southern Seas.

This trip was going to be the highlight of the year for me personally and as it was the first event on this scale I have ever undertaken to organise, I was more than a little nervous.

I had nothing to worry about  as it turned out, as the quality of the people who came on the trip and the professional staff of the the fishing vessel Seafarer II made it  a very enjoyable excitement filled event indeed.

Most if not all of the people on board knew each other through my facebook page . 

The team for the day, two of which came all the way from the south Island .

the pelagic team

 

As day broke, our team embarked onto the boat, we given a quick safety talk and we were off .

Last year I was invited to go on a trip with 19 other birders out onto the Cook Straight.
I had a ball  but with 19 other folks on board, the boat was pretty crowded and most of them were birders but not photographers .
The trip was amazing, but as soon as I got home I decided I would organise  my own event next time  and  design it just for bird photographers and limit the amount of people on board .

The Birds

I have a gazillion images from the team to post, so what I will do, is post a full trip report in a few weeks time  showing off some of the amazing images  these enthusiastic people captured .

For now Im happy just to post a series of images of some of the species list of what we saw on our trip.

First up a Giant Nothern Petrel cruised past the boat.

Giant Petrel

 

Last year I saw lots of Buller’s and White Capped Albatrosses, but only one fairly weather beaten Salvin’s Albatross.

I really wanted some tidy looking Salvin’s this time out and they turned up in numbers, I was thrilled.

The Salvin’s Albatross. 

Salvins Albatross

 

 

Next up to visit us was the huge Southern Royal Albatross.
This is the heaviest bodied Albatross in the world  and only a fraction shorter in wing span from the largest, the true wandering or Snowy Albatross, by a very small margin.

Still being early in the morning, the light still has a soft pinkish glow to it.

Southern Royal Albatross.

Southern Royal Albatross

The close up

Southern Royal Albatross

 

From the biggest to the smallest bird for the day and another species I desperately wanted, the Fairy Prion.

These tiny sea birds are just stunning and so fragile looking,  yet they live  their entire life out on the open angry Southern Ocean.
To say I was over joyed with this shot would be an understatement, it made my trip. They hard hard targets to track up close on the moving boat, a real challenge.

Fairy Prion

Fairy Prion

 

Next up was the Black Browed Albatross

Black Browed Albatross

The close up

Black Browed Albatross

 

Next the Northern Royal Albatross

Northern Royal Albatross

 

The Northern Royal Albatross has heavy dark coloured wings that remain constant through out their life span , where as the Southern has a dark wing that fades from dark to white, from the leading edge of the wing towards the back, that increases as they age, until very little colour remains

Northern Royal Albatross

 

The cape petrels were next on the list  and these two came round like two little jet fighters on a strafing run.

Cape Petrel

 

Cape Petrel

 

Salvin’s, I just couldn’t get me enough of these birds that day.

Salvins Albatross

 

Albatross often have their wing tips  dipping into the water.
Its become a bit of a challenge to me to catch this behaviour.

Salvin’s  dipping his wing.

Salvins Albatross

 

A White Capped Albatross .

White Capped Albatross

 

These little Fairy Prions were a real challenge.

Fairy Prion

 

The trip was so successful we have immediately booked another trip  for the 12th of November and all ready we are half booked out.

 

That’s it for this month, I will leave the last word  to Mr Salvin’s

Later dudes and dudesses   ❤

Salvins Albatross