Saturday Evening Post #010 Gone at the Speed of Light

Latham’s (or Japanese) Snipe.

Not a bird I have to say that I’ve spent much time pursing. Given they are a skulking creature around wetlands and the only real time I’ve ever seen them is when someone flushes from a “Snipe Count Day”.  And from that I learned they go fast.

Fascinating creatures that have the ability to hop from northern Japan to southern Australia in less than a week. There is an apocryphal story I can’t track down tonight of one, fitted with a satellite tracker that may have achieved the journey in three days.  And just before you reach for the pocket calculator or uncle google, that is about 7,000km.

There are a number of sites on the web about the research projects and this one seem among the best.

In a wetlands in the very heart of Werribee township, at the Heathdale Glen Orden wetlands to be precise, a number of Snipe have taken up residence. Perhaps 15-20 by a moderate conservative count.   And down the road a bit at Harpley estate another wetlands holds perhaps as many again.

So suitably armed with appropriate Snipe photographing equipment, I have the past few Friday afternoons ventured out to Heathdale Glen Orden.

The wetlands is in a flood retarding basin with houses and football grounds, swings and slides around its periphery. Once the main water channel becomes full, it overflows across the surrounding low-lying land and of recent weeks has had between 10 -20cm of water among some lovely low grass tussocks, and mud.  Ideal for your visiting Snipe it seems.

They feed in the early morning and late afternoon and then squat for most of the day. But walk past one, and it takes the air with a rasping “Chakzak”, and well, its gone.
Irritatingly for the average in flight photographer they zig zag as they go making it next to impossible to keep them in the viewfinder.

To be honest, they are not a bird I have info on, other than what I can google and chat to a few folk who have done serious bird counts.  More of that to follow I suspect.

So to Friday.

We have have had a couple of day of torrential rain. As much as 60mm or more over the two days.
And Friday morning looked like it was going to continue.  So I put aside ideas of a trip down to Heathdale Glen Orden.  But by lunchtime it had cleared up and blue skies were the order of the day, and with a cheerful heart I grabbed the D500, the 300mm PF and a pair of gumboots.
But, and you knew that was coming.

But, by the time I arrived, and its only a 10min trip, the sky had gone leaden. Still, I concluded, I was here and I may as well go look see.

And as I wrote on Flickr the other night, you’ve got to picture old dude, with camera sloshing about in gumboots in 20cm of water and really sticky mud, looking for an impossible find. When Chakzak, there goes one. Swing camera, locate bird, wait for for D500/300PF to do its thing. Bird gone. Oh.

Take two sloshing steps.  Chahzak, there goes another, Chahzak, oh, now two, and I can’t get the beasts focused no matter what. Except I’ve some nice sharp shots of the lignum they flew past.
Chahzak, and another and another and… well you get the idea.

It’s the zig zag that does it. They have an ability to turn at speed, that has to be seen to be understood.

This is from a previous week with sunshine

And as I worked my way across the waterlogged landscape the light began to turn to porridge and the shutter speed went down, and that wasn’t the only down as a light rain began to hiss out of the darkening clouds.
The next couple that took off gave me a chance as they ran along a fence line with plenty of open space, and the camera/lens combo kicked into life.  And the raindops became larger and more frequent, and I was now about 10 minutes from the car.
One last Chahzak, and a brief view in the finder and it was over.  Slosh back to the car.

Funny really, old dude, water, mud, rain.  No wonder the little 8 year old kid used to love to follow Magpie Larks around. Although then we called them Muddies for obvious reasons. Still among my fav birds. All very Taoist to have returned to the beginning.

By the time I was back at the car reality had set in and the raindrops were now serious.  In the 10 minutes to home it turned into a major downpour, and I’d only put the kettle on for a cuppa when the thunder and lighting began, and the rain gauge began to fill up for the first time in a very long time.

More work to be done on Snipe.  Just needs some good light and patience.




Eynesbury Gems— Take #2

You can guess that it is raining here today. ‘Cause I’m stuck inside and I’ve cleaned the cameras and formatted the memory cards, (twice) and charged the batteries.  And its still raining.  Beaut really as it will freshen up a very tired bush.

But on the other hand the only thing left on the todo list is to finish off the Eynesbury Series.  So here is episode #2.


Not much to add from the previous ramble so here we go with eight more shots from the day.


Varied Sittella, showing off its usual pattern of going down the tree in hunt for food


Brown Thornbill. Not often I get a shot of it out in the open. Usually only just hear them or see a movement in the bushes


Speckled Warbler, and this is as good as it got. There seems to be four or more pairs at work in various parts of the Grey Box. Hearing them is one thing, getting a view another, but photographing them an whole new ball game. Still it keeps us going out


Striated Pardalote


Pretty excited with this find as its the first Sacred Kingfisher that I’ve seen in Eynesbury. Given the number of “Pee Pee Pee” calls I’d be certain of a number of them being in the forest.


A very young Pacific Black Duck. I’ve included it as its a rather special little duck. Somehow it has been seperated from its family. We’ve seen it from a very small duckling and each time have been a little surprised that it has managed to survive on its own. There certainly are other families of young ducks out there, but none that are at the same age as this loner. Good luck little duck.


And of course it wouldn’t be a trip without a visit to Jacky Winter. Shows how far I am behind in the Blogging business. They have since fledged the two young they were nursing. So there is two new Jackys in the forest. Will do a blog on their exploits in the not to distant future.

Saturday Evening Post #009

Had been looking forward to getting a second Eynesbury story to the blog this week, but sad, to say between bad weather, bad organisation, a day at Hanging Rock with Werribee Wagtails,  and a couple of family events, time just frittered away.


This is from my Enyesbury journal.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have been feasting among the black wattle now that the flowers have gone to seed. Plenty of work for a large flock, and each individual seems to have its own technique for dealing with the rich smorgasbord.
And because of their ability to deal with the human condition a close approach didn’t seem to be all that hard.  All I had to do was wait for the leaves to be in the right spot, and the bird ready to draw up the next offing.

I’ve been using the Teleconverter TC1.7 on the PF 300mm f/4 lens of late.  It makes it a bit on the slow side, but it is quite a light and easy to handle kit for many bush birds.  Not my favourite for inflights, but life as they say is a compromise.
I’ve done a few tests and while it is sharp, it’s not as sharp as the Sigma 150-600 Sport. But that kit is a lot heavier.
Just for the record, I think the TC 1.7 works better at higher shutter speeds and the VIbration Reduction (VR) turned off.  The net has so many arguments about how the VR performs when left on, but you’ve only got look at EE’s Flickr site to see how good it can be on the TC1.4  EE has had the TC 1.4 on from day 1 and the VR set to Normal.  Sometimes we get to be too gear conscious and miss the simplicity of working at the photo rather than extolling the equipment.  As David DuChemin says, “Gear is good, but, Vision is Better.


This shot is nearly a full frame, cropped only for effect.


Keep takin’ photos. We do.



Saturday Evening Post #008: Book Review

Normally I don’t do book reviews, nor equipment boosts and the like.  I also have refrained on this blog from entering into discussion on Politics, Religion or Sport.  Except of course for the occasional swipe at these hot potatoes.

So what is a book doing here?  Hardly birds.
And right you are.

However Obama an Intimate Portrait is by a photographer.  Pete Souza by name.  Not one the average birdo will have heard of, but stay with me on this and we’ll see where it goes.

First I’m not asking, suggesting or hinting you go out and buy this book.  Its big, bold and expensive.  Interlibrary loan is a good option. Worked for me.

I first found out about Pete’s work from The Online Photographer (TOP) blog.

Mike Johnston has been an editor I’ve followed for many a year, he used to be editor of a magazine called PHOTOtechnique, which used to explore some great photographic processes in the days of film (I refuse to call it analogue or Analogue).

Anyway here is Mike on the book,

And a link to Pete Souza’s site about the book.

For those who enjoy people photography there is so much to like about the book, and dare I say it out loud, but also to gain an understanding of the man at the center of the photos. Obama.
Pete spent most days, and many hours of the day with the President.  He collected over 2 million images.
And it began to dawn on this old brain, that had I not pursued my photographic path,  I might have enjoyed being able to photograph, not as a paparazzi, but working with people to make compelling intimate portraits.

And ding!!!!!

There is the connection.

Much of what I either show here or on Flickr or place as wall art, or calendar or book work, with the wide variety of birds that I have the privilege to work with, is to bring intimate portraits of fascinating moments in their lives.

Now, I’m not comparing to Pete’s work, just pondering the way roads diverge and converge at the most unpredictable times.

Obama writes the foreward to the book, and I’m going to take the journalistic license to quote one small piece.  See if it resonates with your own work, or your interest in birds.

“… what makes Pete such an extraordinary photographer, I think, is something more than his ability to frame an interesting moment. It’s his capacity to capture the mood, the atmosphere, and the meaning of that moment. And for all the unique and often historic images he captured, he never made himself part of the story those images told.”

You’ve probably noted the “No Shape No Shadow” trailer I added to the site. (a Tai Chi thing), I think Pete might have been happy to accept that as his working mantra.

Back to birds next week. Promise.

I really liked this spread as it shows the man, “POTUS”, as Pete nicknamed him, putting his foot on a weigh machine for one of his staff, and relaxing as any Dad would like to on the lawn with one of the kids.