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Friday, 27 March 2009

My Favourite Subjects have returned.............

I am pleased to say that the Kingfishers have returned to their 'spot', which is very close to where I live.
I am fortunate in that within 5 minutes of leaving my house, I can be observing these wonderful birds, and I see them most mornings whilst out walking my dog.

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours by the stream (without my dog !) - an hour waiting for them to come to where I was waiting and an hour observing.
At the moment, they are going through the mating rituals which involves lots of screeching, passing of fish 'gifts' from the male to the female and copulation. The picture above is of the female just after she's been on the receiving end of all of the aforementioned.

I have found that the Kingfishers, like all wildlife, will initially spook when approached but will, after a period of time, return to their favourite fishing spot and are quite tolerant provided you don't start waving your arms around and shouting 'Look at these'.

I took around 500 RAW's yesterday, so I've got my work cut out getting through this little lot.

I will continue my studies of these birds throughout the rest of the spring and summer and report back regulary on their progress.

Cheers for now.......

Local Patch - RSPB Rainham Marshes

Taking a leaf out of Dave and Martin's book, I've decided to write a few posts focusing on my local patch, which is Hornchurch in Essex, and the surrounding area.

Bearing in mind my location, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by country parks and green belt - such as remains in the South East - and I am 10 minutes drive from RSPB Rainham Marshes.

The reserve is a strange place, which can appear quite barren at first glance but I have to say that I have had some pretty reasonable results there, although as has been mentioned, it can be hit and miss.

This year for instance, I have had Penduline and Bearded Tit within 15 feet on the reed mace. And although I've not been quick enough, Water Rail literally right at my feet under the broadwalks. In spring and summer I've had Cuckoo, Little Grebe and various Warblers within a few feet, plus Reed Bunting and posing Stonechat too.
Kingfisher are resident and Water Vole if it's quiet enough. On the seawall, there are also Dartford Warbler resident, although I've not tried to capture those yet. The feeders also attact quite a few species. When you first arrive, the site can appear daunting - basically, it's a 2 mile circular walk - but take your time and talk to the wardens before you go out - they will tell you the best spots. I've had my best results by just standing in a spot and waiting rather than marching round as a lot do and missing everything.

Check out the RSPB site for Rainham - there is a Warden called Howard Vaugh, and he keeps the latest sightings updated very well.
Drop me a message if you'd like to know more.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Minsmere - 27 Feb

A friend of mine, Tony Coombs and I took a trip to Minsmere recently in the hope of seeing some Bittern activity and the Marsh Harriers.

Initially the day looked like it was going to be clear with good light, but after a very early start, a grey blanket of cloud moved over the reserve and stayed with us pretty much until we decided to leave (at which point the sun came out and shone all the way home !).

Our early start paid dividends though as the deer that usually are gone once visitors arrive in force, were showing well.

Having spent a fruitless couple of hours in the Bittern Hide (1 Bittern seen in the distance + 3 Marsh Harriers), we moved down to the Island Mere Hide. The Marsh Harriers were showing well, but only occasionally coming close enough to the hide for photo opportunities.

On the way back to the car, a Wren decided to appear, and posed well for the camera - a bird I'd not previously had in my library, so I was very happy to get some shots.

During a quiet moment, as Tony and I both have 1D MKIII's, with 500mm f4 attached and 1.4x converters we decided to test our kit.

On each shot, sitting next to each other and photographing the same goose using AV mode, Tony could only manage a shutter speed roughly 1/200 slower than my camera.

We continued to take shots of the same birds and again, Tony could not get the same shutter speed.We checked our basic settings - same mode, f stop, iso, focus point etc., but same result. We then went through all settings in the menu and Tony adjusted his to match my camera exactly. Again, the same result.The only difference between our gear was the 1.4x - Tony has the Canon version, mine is a Kenko.

This was interesting experiment, and possibly the difference between getting 'that sharp image', or not.

I appreciate that there are more precise tests that could be carried out - like swapping converters/lens etc., but this is food for thought for now.