Sunday, 19 May 2013


Texel (pronounced Tessel) is a small island off the north-west coast of Holland, accessed by a short ferry ride from Den Helder. It's only about 15 miles long, mostly flat as a pancake, and mostly agricultural. However, there are plenty of good birding areas, with an extensive coastal dune and wetland system on its west side, with other small wetland areas scattered around the rest of the island. It's position on the north/south migration route makes for a great species list, and there are some significant breeding species such as Spoonbill and Bluethroat that make a visit well worthwhile.
I was there late April on an "Instructional Photo Tour" with ace American bird photographer, Arthur Morris (, whose blog I follow regularly, as it gives great advice for bird photographers as well as showing his great images. It's the first trip I've been on that was dedicated to photographers, rather than birders trying to get as big a list as possible, and it was great working with a bunch of like-minded people (6 Americans, 1 Dutchman, and 1 German). We all got some good advice on technique in the field, as well as some useful "Photoshop" tuition, and, despite my advancing years, I learned a lot. I particularly learned to keep shooting despite inclement weather (the coldest Spring on record in Holland meant birds were few), and that nice images can be made with common species (common to us Europeans, that is - a Black-headed Gull is a new species for most Yanks!). Here are a few images that survived Artie's critique!

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) in Summer plumage.
There were plenty of these around, some still in winter plumage, some moulting, and some in this wonderful Summer plumage.

Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) mating.
Because of the cold Spring, most species (apart from the Avocets) hadn't started nesting, but the low temperature didn't put these two off getting started.

Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis) attempting mating.
The same applies to this pair.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) in flight.
There's always a good chance of flight shots around a Tern colony. In the original image the bird was too far to the right in the frame, but by the use of the Move Tool in Photoshop, a better position was achieved.

Common Gull (Larus canus) in flight.
You need both the sun and the wind coming from behind you, and a liberal supply of bread to get flight shots that aren't plagued by shadows, although the belly and part of the under-tail could be a bit lighter here.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) in Summer plumage.
Plenty of bread, again!

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus), Summer plumage, close-up.
Despite being a "dirt-bird" to us, they are actually quite smart.

All images were made with a Canon EOS 1D Mk IV and 500 F4 Mk II lens, (with 2X converter on the Godwit and mating Terns), except the Common Gull, which was taken with a 100-400mm zoom.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


If you like your birds with a bit of colour, there's nothing to beat Bee-eaters. I tried many years ago in Gambia to see Carmine Bee-eater and failed, and I need to see one before I die! These images were taken in Sri Lanka this February, where the good light enhances the fantastic colours. They are the three common ones, with European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) being the only other one as an uncommon migrant. Because they are catching insects on the wing, they usually return to the same branch, and being reasonably confiding, they are a pleasure to photograph. All the images were taken with the Canon 1D Mk IV and 500mm L IS MkII lens.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus).

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti).

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater.

Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis).

Green Bee-eater.


I can't seem to stop seeing Bitterns (Botaurus stellaris) just lately. After excellent views of two birds at RSPB Blacktoft last August, I've since seen them recently at Far Ings (just over the Humber Bridge - a Lincolnshire WT reserve), Minsmere RSPB reserve, and Hickling Broad (a Norfolk WT reserve). Today I hear there is one on Filey Brigg!

Images 1 -3 Minsmere.  Canon 7D and 100-400 L IS zoom, somewhat against the light.

Images 4 and 5 Far Ings. Canon 1D Mk IV, 500mm L IS MkII and 2x converter. Better light.

It's great to know these spectacular birds are making a bit of a comeback, and, with luck or patience, are becoming easier to see. A small triumph for Conservation.

Monday, 4 March 2013


Bright sunny days seem to be a premium in the UK of late, so it was a real pleasure to have a holiday in Sri Lanka during early February, and miss the snow and freezing conditions at home. Although we did get some wet days there, the light was always good, making photography a pleasure rather than a battle with the elements! Here are a few selected images from the trip, taken with either a Canon EOS 7D and 100-400mm zoom, or a 1D Mk IV and 500mm F4.

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis).

Spot-billed Pelican (Pelicanus philippensis).

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus).

Great Thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris).

Orange-breasted Green Pigeon (Treron bicinctus).

Black-shouldered (-winged) Kite (Elanus caeruleus).

Sri Lanka is a superb place for a wildlife holiday. More images to follow.

Friday, 1 February 2013


When there isn't much to photograph around Scarborough, you can rely on our winter visitors, the Mediterranean Gulls at Holbeck car park. All you need is a camera (not necessarily a big one!), and a packet of plain crisps. I had seven around today, in a mass of Black-headed Gulls. The sun was actually shining, so conditions were perfect for a change. Some of the Meds are beginning to acquire more black on the head, and one was definitely feeling the joys of Spring, displaying to any other that came near.

All images on Canon EOS 1D MkIV and 500mm F4 IS USM Mk II. Hand held or monopod.

This is a second winter bird with black in it's primaries.

Display involves throwing the head back and opening the wings slightly whilst calling.

As long as you keep throwing the Walkers Ready Salted, they'll keep coming!

500mm is a bit too chunky for close flight shots. I need to go back with a shorter lens.

After I'd run out of crisps, I went to see the Water Rail at Northstead Manor Gardens. It showed very briefly on two or three occasions, but too quick for me to get any shots off. The light was wrong, so I went to Filey Dams. Quiet there too, but the ever faithful Tree Sparrows were performing.

Sunday, 27 January 2013


Shooting into the sun can give some interesting silhouettes, but it can also give some interest to the background if there is a nice colourful sunset. The images of the Short-eared Owl here were shot into a setting sun, and give a pleasant "half-silhouette" with a peach of a sky. The image of the Great-black Backed Gull were taken with the setting sun to the left, and give a nice tint with the brown background complimenting the fading light - a bit more interesting than the usual black and white bird against a blue or white sky.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


It's been nearly four months since my last post - lousy weather being the main reason for a lack of output. I did spend two weeks in Germany seeing my daughter get her Ph.D but didn't get much birding time, and the weather there was no better than here. We returned mid-December to find a Council worker had put his JCB through the telephone line to our village, so no 'phone, internet or e-mail for the next 10 days. Then it was Christmas, New Year and all, and, since then we've had one sunny day!
In desperation, I went to the harbour this afternoon to photograph our flock of Purple Sandpipers. The light (or lack of it) was depressing, but with the aid of a bit of white-balance adjustment and a fair dose of 'shopping, I got some half-decent images, but no sparkle from the sun.
The problem with the Purps is that they go there to roost at high tide so just sit there asleep with heads tucked under their wings. You just have to hang about until one moves!

All images were taken with a Canon EOS 1D Mk IV, F4 500mm IS II lens and 1.4 Mk III converter on a Gitzo tripod.

1/30th sec @F14,  ISO 1600.

All other images 1/250th sec @ F5.6,  ISO 1600.