Snapshots: Hangin’ out the Sheets with Eloise

This gracious lady is currently settled in to the K Road Cliffs area at Werribee.  There is a horseshoe bend in the river and it obviously suits her fishing style. Not being a fishing sort of person, I don’t understand how the fish run up the estuary but suspect now, that it is more likely on the turn of the tide as the water flow out. Today that would have happend around sunup, and most likely she had hunted on the early morning light.
By  the time we, and 10 or so of our new close personal friends, rocked up after breakfast, she was well fed and/or the fish had gone as she showed little inclination for hunting.

However she did manage to make the photographers smile. On a tree close to the river edge, and in full sunlight.

So given an appreciative audience, she ran through the entire preening process, making sure every feather had a lick, and was back in the right place.  By 10:30 am, it was all over she packed up the sheets, took a long stretch and headed up river for her own reasons.

I thought I’d post a small selection, as I can quickly see that I am going to end up with days of work that don’t get sorted nor published.

So prepare for a few more blogs as the days progress.

Enjoy.

Hangin’ out the Sheets

One of my favourite activites with raptors is that ‘zipping’ up of the tail feathers.
A quick shake and all are back in place

 

After stiting in the hot sun for several hours she was panting and drooping out her wings
She is folding up the sheets, and I rather like the look of the power and depth of the wings shown here.
Time to turn around. A delicate process and a test of balance and wing work
A final big stretch of wings, tail, body and legs. It must be time to go

 

Feathers, feet and tail hard at work to regain equilibrium

 

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Saturday Evening Post #16 The Violin and the Camera

Came across a quote from David DuChemin the other day—yes, I’m still reading his book(s).

“For most of us we picked up the camera because putting the viewfinder to out eye and expressing ourselves through the photo was the most magical thing ever”.
Of course he is talking to photographers that may not have the same background, intent or purpose that i have when I go out to photograph birds.  Yet, at one level, looking through the viewfinder and see the amazing actions, beauty and story of these feathered creatures applies in some way.

Sometimes it getting the best possible technical picture of the bird, sometimes its the challenge of making the hardware perform, or using the right technique or choosing the right sliders in the software to enhance our meagre vision.

But, in the same way that a violin does not play the music itself, a camera does not make a photo by itself. Yet sometimes as photographers we begin to think the new camera, lens or software will finally give us the golden images in our journey. i wonder if the master violinist would treat their beloved instrument the same way we seem to deal with our technology.
“Oh, look there is a new 10megamusic  violin, and it comes with built-in memory.” Every musician rushes for the new instrument.  “Hey, look they’ve just released a 24megmusic model, its got bluetooth and dynamic range speakers” Suddenly last year’s model is not longer being played.  “Announcing the breathtaking new highly advanced 46megmusic with interchangeable neck and internet upload capability.”
The skill of the master musician is not only in the music, but also in their use of the instrument. A new model does not make up for the many years of patient, dedicated and sometimes exhausting practice that they have put in to hone their craft. To make it art.

So I ponders, to meself, and then to blogosphere, and of course you dear, suffering reader, why will the next great breakthrough in camera technology increase the hit rate I get.  Or should I instead be working on resonance with my subject.  Self-answering question.

As someone once said, “If I’m more interested in the destination than the journey, I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t get there immediately, and disappointed when I do.”

The Tao master Lao Tzu said it this way, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Forget the end result When you arrive, you’ll start a new journey”, or something pretty similar to those words. 🙂
Nature it seems never forces anything to grow.   Yes step by step, tiny bug, by tiny bug, the juvenile Dusky Woodswallow will emerge as an adult. Ready to start its own journey of discovery.

Good luck.

 

 

High Day in Elegance

I received a note from my Flickr mate David Nice. “An Osprey has been seen feeding at K Road Cliffs”.

So I dropped plans of going to look for snipe the following morning and loaded up to go to K Road.

As soon as I got out of the car, I heard two distinct ‘Tcluck’ calls and figured she must be there somewhere.

But despite looking with the Binos from the carpark, I couldn’t get a spotting anywhere.  Was just about to think of walking down along the river, when the remainder of the morning shift turned up.  David, Gilbert and his friend all dragged out the big lenses and we began the search.
After about 15 minutes we were still none the wiser, but I spotted a Nankeen Night Heron leaving the water and taking to the tall gums alongside the cliffs.  And as they say, “A night-heron in the tree is better than an osprey you can’t find”, so we went to have a look. After a few average shots, we walked the little extra along the edge and down some steps, and someone spotted the osprey in the tree on the far bank.  Took a bit to work out among the various branches and twigs. But.

Yes, there she is. Fish in claw, and enjoying a freshly caught breakfast.

The rest of the story is pretty much boring. 3 hours just goes so fast, we sat, and stood alongside the river edge as she polished off the fish, polished up her feathers and took a little nap to let the meal go down.

We had been working most of the morning with rather average overcast light, and by late morning, the sun began to break through and her true colours became evident.

No doubt this is the same bird from previous seasons, and as the mullet are running up the river, it must be a fair assumption that this bird follows the shoals of fish. And of course it raises so many questions about where she is during the year, does she have a mate, or is she a ‘single girl’.

But what  pleasure to have such a lovely lady to work with. No doubt as the short season moves on we’ll have a few opportunities to work with her in action, and do some portrait sessions.
So be ready for a stream of blogs featuring the fine lady Eloise.

Enjoy.

1901-23_dwj_1256
Hello, welcome back fine lady
1901-23_dwj_1291
Looking for a table with a view to enjoy breakfast
1901-23_dwj_1343
That will do nicely
1901-23_dwj_1542_nx2-2
Toe tapping to relieve the pressure on the muscles
1901-23_dwj_1493
A wing stretch and dangling out the grappling irons
1901-23_dwj_1696
Airborne
1901-23_dwj_1707
Time to go. And then I looked at my watch and 3 hours had disappeared.

 

 

 

Postcards: Confessions of a Serial Event Attender

Our friends in the Conservation Dept. at Hobson’s Bay City Council, were running a bus tour through the Cheetham Wetlands.  An area that is off limits to public use. We, Mr An Onymous and I had secured seats, so rocked up early to be sure we’d not miss a moment.

As I was entering the Point Cook Coastal Park, carpark, I noted a Brown Falcon at rest in a usual lookout spot.  It was quite close to where they had nested earlier in the season, so it was good to make a reacquaintance.

 

The rest of our group turned up, some new faces, and several other friends.  I’m beginning to feel like a Serial Event Attender. Open the gates, and I walk on in.

Bernie the local Parks Vic ranger was on hand to guide us about for the day, and to explain lots of the interesting parts of the former Cheetham Salt Works.  The need to control the water flow through the old ponds is a major part of his work, and it’s always interesting to learn how he works out the levels.
We also had the chance to meet Cristal from Latrobe Uni who is running a programme with the Red-capped Plovers that not only roost in the area, but in spite of what appears harsh conditions regularly nest on the salt flats over summer.  Her programme at present is working out the various calls between the parents and the chick in the egg. Cristal, (hope I got the spelling right), has all sorts of high end recording equipment out with the nest sites across the area.  She was happy to announce that several young had been successfully hatched in the past few days.

So we set off. Andrew, our ‘uber driver’ at the wheel

We stopped at the ford that separates the salt water of from the ocean and the freshwater run off from Skeleton Waterholes Creek, (both the Skeleton and Waterholes part of the name have a most interesting history, but for another day) . There had been reports of an Australian Spotted Crake, in the area. Andrew had thoughtfully provided a great Nikon Spotting Scope, and not only was I keen to try it, I was trying to work out a way how to smuggle it home!

I’d set it up, and was just beginning to scan the creek line, and the first thing I saw was THE CRAKE.  The image of grown man, leaning over a scope, jumping up and down yelling, THE CRAKE, THE CRAKE, is probably worth forgetting.
Leaving the scope in more capable hands I moved off with the Sigma Sport 150-600 (yes, I still have it) and tried for a photo.(and I noted, that Andrew was quick to retrieve said scope and secure it back in the van, before I left anymore fingerprints for possible Id, should an equipment register review ever be necessary 🙂 Mind Mr An and I did a little preventative maintenance to the tripod attachment so that should count for something in our favour. 🙂

 

There were, further along a good number of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint and Bernie assured us large number of Curlew Sandpiper, although that must have been yesterday.

A Singing Honeyeater obliged with some good views, and it’s fair to conclude it was feeding young nearby.

Another pass by the creekline and we spotted a wader that took few minutes to id correctly.  A Common Sandpiper.  The flash of white under the wing being the best id.

Its easy to see how well they blend into the surrounds.

 

At the beach line Andrew discusses with Rob the finer points of sand distribution by wave action.  Interestingly enough Bernie indicated some rocks, now 30-40 metres from the current land edge, that around 30 years ago were on the coastline.

On the return journey we found several pairs of Red-capped Plover with young.This one had called the young into the bushes along side the road and was directing things from the safety of a nearby rock. We admired her babysitting abilities and moved on quickly. This one, I find particularly interesting as neither of the pair were banded

Thanks to Andrew, Bernie, and the team for allowing us to enter this fascinating area. Each trip always brings new insights.  Also thanks to the various councils, government groups and such like that made such an event possible.  The value of the area, as the housing developments keep getting closer, is even more important for the small birds that call it home.

 

Saturday Evening Post #15 Enjoying the Beautiful Moment

Been reading Ming Thein’s blog over the years. He has had a pretty rough year one way and another, and lamented the need to consider life beyond his photographic endevours.

His New Year’s Resolutions always make for challenging thoughts.

This one among other things makes a bold statement, “Few pros last longer than ( 5 years), and almost all the ones I’d met that had were really quite jaded and uncreative by that point – it was just a job”  Now I’m not going to take on his observation, and it’s important it is read in context.
But it got me to wondering.

We all go through creative periods when the juices seem to dry up and its hard to come up with a new challenge or vision.
I’m also reading some David DuChemin books at the moment, and as he went through a huge accident, was in hospital for quite a number of months in intense pain with the possibility of never walking again, I think there is little cross connection with Ming’s insights.

David says, “If you don’t love photography for the sheer act of trying to express yourself and will only find joy in it when youre a finally there, yours will be a most disappointing journey. Not only will you never get there, but you’ll miss how beautiful and exhilarating the journey itself is.

If you love the journey so much that you wish it had no  ultimate destination, you are in luck. It doesn’t have to.”

I had my first published picture when I was 14. The following two years I did several photo essay jobs. One I actually got paid to travel. And somewhere blind fate stepped in, and blinded, I took another direction in my life. And I reckon, looking back at everyone I know well, the same thing could be said to a degree or another.

But the one thing that never changed I believe was the excitement of “pressing the button to make the moment”. Sometimes just looking through the viewfinder in an inquistive way is enough.

And there we were in Ballaratt. Hot overcast day, with a Great Crested Grebe that seemed happy to bob and paddle around close to us.  Should have been a 10 second shot. Aim, focus, set exposure. Wait. Bird turns. Click. Now what’s next?

But.

As the bird moved back and forth, a whole new world of images began to open up. Shadows, reflections, shapes, settings, all seemed to roll by in an endless view.
So we sat. I posted quite a selection from that half hour or so, yesterday.  But some of them I had already visualised beyond a simple record.  It’s that kind of journey.

Feeling jaded.  Not a bit. Feeling it was a job. No. It’s a journey. A bit like the movie, “The Never Ending Story Part II” —See, I’m amused by a never-ending story that had to have a sequel 🙂

David D again. “Vision is everything you think, feel, and bring to the photograph.  You don’t bring it. It brings you. It’s your view of the world.”

A quick trip into Nik Silver Effects Pro, find a suitable blend of my favourite cool filter, Cyanotype, (Used to make them in real photochemistry in another life).
And there it is.

A beautiful moment in a fantastic journey.  I’m not going to reach the destination anytime soon.

Keep takin’ pictures.  We do.

More on a life in monochrome and my affair with Silver Effects Pro  next week.

Ballaratt Grebe

We had to take a trip to Ballaratt on important business, that involved laying down money, (well credit card numbers to be more exact). Was only going to take 5 minutes, and EE suggested that Mr An Onymous might like a trip out for the day.
So let’s see.
Let’s choose the hottest day of the week for the hour or so  journey, and let’s go late morning to be sure we get the maximum benefit from the heat.
EE had allowed us at least a few minutes to ‘cool off by the lake’, and who knows we might find something to photograph.
‘Nuff Said.

Clever as, she also arranged a nice stop over for coffee at Ballan on the way up.  And wouldn’t you know it. How Do these things happen?  There was a fine looking clothing and jewellery store right next to said Coffee Shop, called the “Tin Plate” (here’s a link) for any who might want to follow in the tracks of such adventure. So while Mr A and I lamented over the fact that all the vanilla slice had been sold for the day, and an empty plate where a slice might have been wasn’t going to make up for it, EE was just a shop away shopping.

On to Ballaratt. It does seem somewhat incongruous to leave Melbourne in a pleasant 26C and head off into 37C, to Ballaratt. The place most folk would have on their list of cold places to visit. But there you go. Outside temp was well on the way, as were we.  Gotta love GPS and Sat Nav. Punch in the address and think no more about it.  Found myself on the way into the city, going, “If I was going to Dublin, I wouldn’t be starting from here,” but in the end circuitous or not we arrived.

The original plan had been lunch by the lake, but what with the heat, and that we were just around the corner from Wendouree Village, the lure of an air-conditioned sandwich bar was too much to resist.
But, by the time we’d lunched and chatted, and discussed the merits of Nikon AF focus, and how to use the old ‘Sunny 16 Rule’ of long-gone-bye filum days, the weather had changed to severely overcast, and the said rule was not going to be much help.
At the lakeside it was a distinct murky grey, (but still hot- now the clouds were keeping the heat in), and we’d dropped about 4-5 stops of light.

And most of the usual suspects were there.  We quickly located the pair of Great Crested Grebe, and one immediately took off down the lake to places far from human interference.  The other just lolled about snoozing among the reeds and grasses.

Here’s a selection from its activities.  Played a bit with the mono style as both the day and the surrounds had that sort of mood about them.

And if case anyone is wondering, the temp dropped about 15 degrees on the way home, and we arrived in pleasant cool(ish) conditions.
Enjoy

Is this my best side?
Awesome reflections needed just the right positioning, and it was rewarding to have the Grebe choose the best spots.
It was good to have a cooperative subject that offered so many interesting poses, moods and settings.
In the end, with so many interesting settings, what was going to be a few minutes lasted near an hour
Mighty mono to Selenium tone to set a cool mood
It is so tiring snoozing it makes you yawn.
When they tuck up like this and bob up and down they remind me of a little kid’s toy boat.

Postcards: Jawbone Morning

 

I showed some Swan Moments from our Jawbone trip last week, and now its the turn of the Great Crested Grebe and friends.
We lucked out a little with one of the Great Crested Grebe as it was feeding around the close edges of the lake by the housing estate and moved out into more open water later.  The second one, seemed to like the far, far, far side of the ponds and we only managed the most fleeting of glimpses.

Still there was plenty of other action—including the Swans— to fill up a memory card.

Enjoy

I’d not noted before how low it is in the water when at work.
Grey Teal
Blue-billed Duck (M)
Young Silver Gull waiting expentantly and noisily
Pied Stilt
Little Black Cormorant
Blue-billed Duck (F)
A quick shake to put the feathers back after a preen
Wing stretch
The simplicity of ripples
The legs are far at the back of the body enable them to get a real speed up

Postcards: Swaning About (as you do)

My WordPress friend, Ashley, over at Aussiebirder has written a post on “Mindfulness” while bird watching. Resonates quite well I thought with my meanderings on having a love for the bird and the craft.Sometimes we are in such a hurry, or obsessed, to find the next bird, that we overlook the around.

EE, Mr An Onymous and I had gone down to the Jawbone Conservation Reserve to look for, among other things, Great Crested Grebe. And as the day progressed we found both the birds that are down there. Jawbone also has quite a resident collection of Black Swans. One of the main reasons—not being a Swan, how would I know— seems to be that the arm of the sheltered Jawbone pond(s) offers a quiet resting place, perhaps out of the wind.

So while we looked for the best places to photograph said Grebe, the Swans kept us amused by their fluting calls, their preening antics and their airborne mastery and of course their barefoot waterskiing championships.

When I opened up the files in Lightroom (hah!, had to get the plug in, that’s plug in, not plugin), I was just a wee bit excited to find how many interesting moments of these birds that I’d managed during the morning and I wasn’t even trying.  I feel a photobook coming on.

Here are some to set the scene and get you into the ‘moment’.

Enjoy

Heading in from a great height
Synchronised style
Formation landing team
Neck outstretched for aerodynamics
Casually dipping the wing into the water
On touchdown
How easy is barefoot skiing
Splash down and time to fold the wings up
Trimming up for landing
Powering down the waterway
Feather Details
The shape that sings a melody.

Saturday Evening Post #14: Looking Forward, Looking Back

Noted Australian country singer Slim Dusty, wrote a song “Looking forward, looking back”.

It is often used at country funerals as one of the tunes played during the service, and if it’s like the funerals I attend when we travel back up to the family acres for such an event, usually accompanied by at least one “Truck Drivin'” song as well.

But no such use here.  “I’ve come a long way down the track”.  Yes, dear reader, its time for the annual introspective, retrospective “How’s the photography going, and whither away in the new year”.

Which is why Looking Forward is going to have a little Looking Back.

After nigh on three years, I’ve finally made a break from Aperture 3. My foto database of preference.  And have, with some trepidation moved to the ‘dark side’, and settled on Lightroom for the management.
Not I can tell you without, a fair degree of angst.  Once bitten… etc. So the past few weeks have been amalgamating all the various photo sets into one large ‘Cataloge’ as Lr calls it.

One of the first advantages, that I had lost after the demise of AP3 was all my images are together at long last.  Need a Black Swan, quick search, there they all are.  Need a series of Black-shouldered Kite, not a problem. How about all the shots from Eynesbury.  All the delights of the best of database search and I have to say that is something I’ll not be looking back on.

Which leads to the post the other day on the best 100 photo quotes.  Did you find any you nodded in agreement with?

Did you work out my second pick?  Well you only had 99 options.
In the end, this one got the next to best.

No. 76  You cannot possibly hit the shutter without leaving a piece of you in the image.Joe Buissink

But, I do have to say that if that had not been there, then  a quote from David DuChemin would have been my next pick. (PS it’s not on the list)
“Focusing a lens is not the same as focussing our attention!”
And that leads me to another quote from David, and the point of the title of our post.

“Make an image that is so compelling, so captivating, that no one is going to notice your technique. If Noise  is all the people see, Noise is the least of your Problems.  In years to come, no one is going to extoll your excellent use of ISO.”

Which segues nicely to the header image, and the preamble
*HaH, told you this was going to be the disjointed annual ramble*

Looking back. While amalgamating the databases earlier this week, I came across the series with the Kestrel chicks from a few years back.
This was shot with a Nikon D200, and a manual focus, yep, you young’uns will have to look that up, manual focus  600mm f/5.6 Nikon lens. Ken Rockwell shows it here.   It still rates as the all time sharpest Nikon lens I’ve owned. (and I’ve owned a few in me time). I still have the TC 301 2x teleconverter in a box.  It made a super tele 1200mm f/11 lens.  With only a minimal loss of sharpness.  Just hard on the old D200 to see the focusing. So I used to have to watch the little ‘green dot’ focus point in the lefthand side of the viewfinder.  Too cool

Quite a backstory with this one. I had overlooked it initially.  Till one day my mentor at the time, one John Harris by name, was looking over a series and said, “What have you seen in this?”.  And as the image was a tad overexposed. Think 2-3 stops, I really hadn’t bothered with it.  “Look at the eye,” say he. “Oh,” says I. Long story short, a trip through Photoshop and things were looking a lot better.  John was suitably impressed enough to make me a super 32 Inch print from it.  And there we go again. Looking Forward.  The old D200 had a respectable resolution of 10megapixel. Yet is was sufficient for a large print. Still graces the wall. It’s ISO was bailing out at about 400ISO. Yet, Noise, handling of the old lens, old raw processing engine, skimpy Photoshop CS(1), and yet all that is left in the dust as what shine through is the expression of the bird.

Today, looking forward, we shoot at 1600ISO and think nothing of going higher. We shoot with D850 or Z7, or Canon 1D X Mark II and lenses that laser speed quick autofocus. Yet, John would not say to me, “Oh, you shot this with… and a setting of…  He’d say, “Look at the eye”.

Do we like new gear, of course we do.  But no one asks a surgeon, “Oh, what scalpel do you use?” as in,— If I buy that scalpel, I too will be a great surgeon.  But the first thing people say casually looking at the pictures, is, “Oh you must have a good camera!!!!”. 🙂

Had a great meal in a restaurant, or at home with a super host/ess.  Dare you to ask, “So, you must have a good frying pan?”

We do it with love. Love of the medium, love of the image, love of the subject, and love of the message to our viewer.

This Kestrel was one of two from that year’s clutch.  Both accepted my presence, and would land, sit, preen, eat on the branches of the old tree, while I sat on a log metres away. When I came into the paddock, they would readily fly toward the tree. Their gracious mother, (We called her Elizabeth), regularly hunted in the ground near my feet.  It’s pretty humbling to be laying in the grass, and have a full-grown Kestrel, ‘plop’ on the ground by my knee, so close I could watch the chest feathers going in and out as she breathed.

All of that magic, moment, meeting of the universe, is here. Distilled into the one photo.  And if technique, ISO and equipment were that important,:
“I’ve come a long way down the track.
Got a long way left to go
Making photos, from what I know

”

Looking Forward, so much to get involved with, so many opportunities to enjoy.
Looking Back, so many great people, views and gear that has got me this far.

Here’s another from the same series, just in case anyone ponders it was a fluke.

 

Casual enough to preen while I sat nearby.
Enjoy, and thanks for struggling to the end.
May your vision of the world around you bring compelling images that reach out to others.

 

Saturday Evening Post #013 Nankeen Night Heron

Been an interesting week of weather.  Yesterday in the mid 40s C, today just barely made it to 20C  Mind I’m pretty happy with the cooler weather. Then by mid-afternoon, lovely clear blue sky and a coolish breeze. Go figure.

Many of the regulars here are also members on Flickr.  Flickr seems destined to shoot itself in the foot and alienate the very people who have loyally stuck with it over the years. Who can forget the dreadful, Black Page Format, that nearly gave the viewer migraine, but we persevered.
Now it seems the new owners have no notion of the importance that many users—well, at least the ones I follow— place on the smaller sub-communities of likeminded folk who regularly post, comment and enjoy the work of their community groups.  Just like having friends on fb, but actually friends. And being able to meet them in person and travel to places with them makes it all the more interesting.

But the new 1,000 picture limit is going to strain the friendships I feel. Mind the  cost of a Pro account (and unlimited pictures) is only a few cents a day, and not much more than a pub meal night out for two, so it’s not a serious financial burden.
My disappointment with it, is I get nothing new for my extra investment. I don’t want to upload every photo I ever took.  I’m in the process of backing up my entire library as far back as 2004, (the earlier ones are on CD and DVD,  how’s that for old technology.  Some of those were transferred from SCART Tape Drives. (you young’uns will need to ask prof google about that).

I’m using GoodSync. And its all going to a NAS system from Western Digital.  And Goodsync has reliably informed me, that 5,203 hours are needed to move the images over the Gigabit network I’m using. But to be honest, I think the speed is an inherent problem of WD’s cheep NAS hardware/software.
Oh yeah, the point!

Well if I was to upload all those to a Pro Account and then try to search for them and do all the stuff I normally do in a week with my current pics, it might be as much as 3 days between images. Given that my NBN is not exactly scorching the cables to move data about.

So I’m —as they say— a bit ambivalent about Flickr Pro account.  Don’t panic, I’m not abandoning Flickr, just pondering if I can live with the 1,000 image limit. I still want to keep in touch with folk.

Anyways.

We have been working with Latham’s Snipe at the Heathdale Glen Orden wetlands.
The other morning we glimpsed a Nankeen Night Heron, and, well, EE managed a couple of good shots of it inflight.   ‘Nuff said. She’s good like that

We were back yesterday morning, before the heat, and I saw the bird go into a tree.  I had to wade about in the water to get an open shot, but reckon the result was worth the sloshing about in the mud.

Enjoy

Snapshots: Latham’s Snipe—On the Fly

Didn’t need a degree, (pun intended) in weather forecasting to know that Friday 4 January 2019 was going to be a “Scorcher”. 44 Celesius and that, as my Dad used to say was “in the shade”.  Standing in an open paddock photographing birds, would result in not much more than a badly burned chicken nugget going home.

So.

We had been pondering going to look for Latham’s Snipe at the local Heathdale Glen Orden Wetlands, and because these tricky little dudes mostly feed at night, and roost by day, and they are incredibly alert and super fast in the air, and the most important and possibly only element that we can control is the light.
A bright sunny day gives, plenty of light for fast shutter speeds, and also the best possible AF performance.   So we formulated what can only be considered a ‘cunning plan’.  We would load up the gumbbies and the cameras and get down there very early in the morning.  That way if it was a clear day then we could spend a couple of hours with good light and be on the way out for an early morning coffee-breakfast, just around the corner before the heat became opressive, and overwhelming and ugly.

Alarm goes Off!!!!

Look out window, still dark, but there are no clouds in sky.

EE grabs quick breakfast, and a cuppa to go, and we’re away.

It’s only a few minutes drive and by the time we arrived the sun was well above the roof and tree line around.  Looked good. Except we parked at the wrong end of the ponds for the light, no point in trying to catch them against the light. My Mum’s favourite, “Keep the sun over your left shoulder, dear”, was what was needed. So gumbbies on, we clump clump clumped down the footpath to the other side of the ponds.  And met, out for an early morning walk with his dog, the president of BirdLife Werribee, (Formerly Werribee Wagtails). Morning, Mr Torr, we acknowleged as we walked by.

On to the end of the pond, and a gate leading into a boardwalk, and as I opened the gate for yet another dude with a dog, there behind him was my Flickr mate, David Nice. Morning, David. The wetlands is David’s “Patch” and he was happy to help explain some of the likely spots.  Thanks, you’re a champion.

So we began. Snipe help by letting out a sharp “Yelp” as they take to the air. And that’s it. No second prizes awarded.
The big deal is getting the AF to lock on to the bird at warp speed.
I chose to use the D500, and the 300 PF f/4. No TC attached.  This gives about the best and fastest short of dragging out the big gun pro lenses, like the 300mm f/2.8  Also inspite of my usual, I set multi-burst, and AF to Continuous and selected the Group Focus.  This hopefully picks up the closest subject and well, perhaps Snipe aren’t in its database.  The other big changes, are M for manual and  set the hightest shutter speed I can manage and balance out the ISO around 800. Also I turn “Off” the VR (IS) as I know there is a bit of a lag on focus if the VR is guessing what to do.  Set lens to the limited 3m to ∞. Don’t want it looking for birds that aren’t there a few metres in front of me .

Primed up, with good light, and an open area or two to work in, and we are sniping.

No one said it was easy.

Enjoy.


This is how close they are to the nextdoor neighbours


 

Landing rights with a Minah

Off course it would be a treat to actually find them on the ground and feeding, but I’m working on that.

 

New Year’s Eve

-For some reason, I have to say, I’ve never really grasped the concept of the ‘celebration’ of passing from December 31 in one year to 01 January the following year.

I’m not anti party, and a good excuse to indulge in a tad of fun, mirth and frivolity is all good by me.  But, to make such a big deal about one more sleep, well, it just hasn’t firmed up enough to be a conviction. As Thoreau once wrote on another subject, “Moreover, I have tried it fairly, and, strange as it may seem, am satisfied that it does not agree with my constitution”.

So EE and I pondered our options.   Get on the train, got to the city and with hundreds of thousands of other like-minded folk, watch fire works, sing a Scottish song about times and seasons, and then fight for a seat on the train home, and get to bed by 4:00am.
Option 2.  Sit at home to watch it on the telly.
Option 3. Join in the street party celebrations that our neighbourhood party dudes had invited us to.
Option 4. Drink bubbly, eat food, and hopefully stay awake until “the Witching hour” with some people who seem to think a good time must include bubbly.
Option 5. Hang about around a table with some locals, consume way too much alcohol and ‘See which one of us can tell the biggest lies” —Cold Chisel.

Or perhaps, we could pack a picnic, throw in the deckchairs and go look for birds at Outlet 145W in the Treatment Plant.

Done. Why didn’t we think of it earlier.

With a minimum of planning that is the way went.
145W can be a great place for waders as the outflow has created quite a large flat sandy stretch that has room for thousands of waders.

So I came to the conclusion that sitting on a deckchair, listening to the wavelets lapping on the edge of the sand, the waders all chirping in the background and chatting with my very best friend as we watched the sun sink on the horizon, and the waders fly up and down did in fact, “Agree with my consitution”.

I’ve shown inflights from 145W on the blog before, and a couple of summers back, my Flickr mate Lynzwee sat on the same rocks and we used up several batteries and memory cards between us as the birds moved back and forth.

We managed this time to get to the beach right on low tide, and from there a constant stream of waders moved through the area as the tide turned.
Firstly, the little short-legged Red-necked Stints, then as the water rose a few millimetres, the Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Curlew Sandpipers moved in. The tide came in more, and the next group were Red-necked Avocet.  And a little later the longer-legged Pied Stilts took over.

I sat on the rocks of the outlet, it divides the beach into two. Flat areas either side.  The birds having flown 13,000km to get here for the summer, are not adverse to flying a couple of hundred metres along the beach for better feeding opportunities and fly right by the end of the outflow. Straight into my lens 🙂
Well if it were that easy anyone could do it.

These little dudes put on a turn of speed as they go by, and as they are so close getting them in the viewfinder and keeping them there is a challenge.
But fun.

So while others oohed and ahhed with fireworks, or bubbly, or sang songs, I watched—with my kinderd spirit— a parade of well-travelled birds enjoy the evening light.

Enjoy.

 

Mixed Flock

 

Here’s some Red-necked Stints

 

 

 

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers

 

 

 


 

Curlew Sandpipers

Red-necked Avocets