The balancing act of research, family and blogging has taken a bit of a hit on the blogging side. Nonetheless, on the research side I’ll be heading to Kenya in mid-December for some ivory-related business. So, lets take a turn from grading exams and writing papers to look at some local wildlife.
These pictures are a series I took at Aramoana where the wind was so gusty, the white-fronted terns were reluctant to attempt to fly. In fact, they all lined up directly to face the wind.
#1 Terns in a row
#2 Talk Talk
#3 Welcome to the wind tunnel
#4 Meet the Gang
New Zealand has two native pigeons, and the kereru is the species found on the main islands. It is a large bird, found in native forest, and for these reasons seems to be a ponderous flier. It is also an important seed-disperser. It consumes many native berries that are later deposited elsewhere. Sadly it’s also considered threatened as populations are in decline.
The main challenges to photographing keruru is they like living up in the tree canopy. If your goal is to take lots of photos of pigeon-backsides, as you look upwards into the branches, you’ll be very happy. To get photos of the bird acting naturally means finding a way to get both close and high.
I managed that this weekend, finding a position that got me right next to the ripe fruit of a cabbage-tree (or Cordyline). There’s a few shots to go through, and the canopy issue still means having to shot at a low shutter speed, but I got a few keepers. These shots were taken with a 300mm prime, and I’ve been close enough not to need to crop. Enjoy :)
One of the consequences of our fondness for beaches is pressure on native birds that live there. Whilst sea gulls may seem very robust, other birds are less so. One is the endangered NZ dotterel or tūturiwhatu. There’s only about 1700 birds left of this species, and the North Island populations are only found in the upper north. The nesting strategy for this bird is a simple scrape in the ground. This means the nests are easily damaged or disturbed by well, almost anything. This includes people, dogs, SUVs etc.
Close to where I live is the Okura reserve and there is an isolated sweep of beach (near the old Dancre cottage) that has a small population. Some days I’ve hiked out there with one of my sons and we’ve just sat, watching them through binoculars. I have for sometime, been trying to get some good pictures of them as well. Open beach is not easy to get close to birds with, and avoid startling or scaring them.
Last week I succeeded with a bit of planning and a bit of luck. One the planning side, I dressed carefully in stone or khaki clothing to blend into the beach. A stone-coloured brimmed hat finished the look, and I eschewed sunglasses. There would be no dark areas on my body or outline. There was also a large log washed up on the beach I could conceal myself behind by laying beside it. I had about an hour there, able to watch and take pictures. For the first time I ended up with a series that didn’t require cropping. In fact, the birds seemed curious about the shutter sound and came closer than I expected. Here’s a sample:
It seems odd that with sparrows Passer domesticus being a common (and introduced) bird here in NZ, I’ve taken so few pictures of them. It reflects I guess, my strong preference for photographing native birds rather than introduced. The population in NZ is based on releases in the late 1800s and sparrows flourished.
I guess the two main challenges is that they are a reasonably drab bird and they’re also relatively small. The first issue makes it difficult to take a picture that pops out at you. Rainbow lorikeets are much easier :) The second is you have to be very close to get a view of the bird that doesn’t require heroic cropping.
I managed both feats last week down at Lake Pupuke. Timing was in the early evening during the golden hour. And with no-one else around, the birds seemed a little less wary.
One female sparrow was reasonably photogenic, posing in some lovely early evening light. Shots taken with my a700 and 300/4 G lens.
Close-up of the bird
The tauhou or silvereye (or waxeye, depending on what common name you were acquainted with) is a recent immigrant to NZ. They established themselves from a population from Australia in the 1850s. With their natural colonisation (cross-Tasman winds) they’re considered a native bird. Many of our native birds do in fact, have an Australian origin.
What is better than one tauhou, is three :) Afterall, they usually move around in flocks. The shot has been taken in my garden using my a700 and 300/4 G lens.
The introduced Yellowhammer or Emberiza citrinella
The poaka or pied stilt is common around many of our coasts. It perversely, contributed to the decline in our native black stilt by inter-breeding and hybridising with it.
It has the one thing photographers- especially in the digital age- dislike. That is both black and white feathers. This generates a challenge to expose correctly, more so than if you were using a good negative-film.
The trick often with coastal birds is getting close enough for a decent photograph. Beaches offer little in the way of cover so both patience and luck are necessary ingredients to a decent photo
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The Variable Oyster Catcher or Torea-pango (Haematopus unicolor
) has forms that can be all black, or have white areas on the ventral surface.
It is a wading species of the family Haematopodidae. It is also endemic to New Zealand. It is a common species and not threatened.
These juveniles were on a beach at Waiheke Island. I used a kayak to drift close to their position.
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