Scarlet Robin, attack of the mirror birds

I’ve been looking for some places that are easy access and where we could spend a few hours, as we did at Woodlands, without having to commit a day to the travelling.

We took a trip down the the eastern side of the You Yangs and found foot access from a fire track, and it opens up into quite an interesting open woodlands.  At the end of the road leading to the gate is a small car turnaround and carpark.   So with Mr An Onymous, and EE for company I took a trip down the road and parked.  It was one of those glorious mornings that photographers really dream about.  A little mist rising from the ground, brilliant sunshine and lots of lovely old gum trees in open paddocks, to make the most wonderful landscape scenes.  And of course, I’d left the shorter landscape style lenses at home.   So I struggled with the 300mm trying to get some decent framing.

We parked in the carpark area, and as I was getting out of the car I heard the distinct call of a Scarlet Robin, and looked about.  Then as I opened the back of the car to get the cameras out, a streak of red flashed by, straight to the mirror of the car, and began flaying away at the bird in the reflection.  Stunned and cameraless we watched as he made several passes, first on one side of the car, then the other.  Satisfied that honour had been done he sped off.  Only to return a few minutes later and repeat the process.  But we were ready this time.

Then out came his extended family, another 3 males and 2 females.   They hunted over the carpark, sat in the sunshine on the wire, and watched too, fascinated by his ability to see off the mirror bird intruder.

The two females were a bit more circumspect and required a bit of careful approach, but they also allowed us some good shots.   Which was great, as although the males are such super colours, its the fine, muted, understated colours of the female that seem to me to be the more elegant of the pair.

After yet another bout of mirror butting, he decided it was time for a rest and retired to a fence line,  and he allowed me to get a close approach.  So close that in the end, I was on the limit of the focus of the camera. With the lovely early light still cascading over him, and enriching the background, it wasn’t hard to make suitable portraits.  EE also got a shot of me, from over my shoulder, working with him.

What a great start to a good morning.  We have no idea if they are permanent residents.  But they certainly were not bothered by our presence at all.  A guy walking his three grey hounds past by, and I was ready to put the camera away as the dogs would no doubt scare the birds.  But, all 6 held their stations. So I figured that perhaps they had done all this before.  Certainly the speed at which he attacked the mirror bird and the constancy of the attacks could only lead to the conclusion he’d done it all before.  He also seemed to immediately attach himself to the underside of the mirror, as though it was pretty much normal business.

Must try and get back for another look.

 

Beautiful morning light on old trees, add mist and stir for a great landscape
Beautiful morning light on old trees, add mist and stir for a great landscape
Where is that mirror bird
Where is that mirror bird
Bent over to gain momentum he is about to launch another attack on the mirror bird
Bent over to gain momentum he is about to launch another attack on the mirror bird
Gottcha!,  no room for both of us.
Gottcha!, no room for both of us.
Serious wing flapping and chirping.
Serious wing flapping and chirping.
Scarlet 1 Mirror bird 0
Scarlet 1 Mirror bird 0
Mr Mighty Scarlet,  defender of territory.
Mr Mighty Scarlet, defender of territory.
What, Its back again, this time in a bigger mirror.
What, Its back again, this time in a bigger mirror.
The concept of Snoopy verses the Red Baron began to emerge.
The concept of Snoopy verses the Red Baron began to emerge.
Time to rest for a portrait sitting.
Time to rest for a portrait sitting.
Its tough being a super model but someone has to do it.   Thanks to EE for the use of the image.
Its tough being a super model but someone has to do it. Thanks to EE for the use of the image. Panasonic FZ200

Using the new Panasonic FZ200 camera

Earlier in the year, Dorothy thought this photographing birds lark, might be a bit of fun and we started to look for a suitable camera. At first my choice would have been the Panasonic FZ150, as  it filled most of the ‘must haves’.  On looking about Nikon had released a super duper, little V1. This was light, interchangeable lenses and a larger sensor than the Panny.

It also had an adaptor that allowed it to enter the world of the big Nikon glass, and we thought that to be an advantage.  But.

In spite of her best efforts to make it work, the frustration level was high. In the end we had to conclude that the little V1 was indeed super duper, but not a super duper bird photography camera. It would be great for travelling about the markets in SE Asia, boating along the waterways in merry old England. Snapping the kids at the backyard barby, using the clever face and animal recognition features to key in your dog’s birthday, so it would be recorded with each image (??) and the like.  Maybe even a worthwhile real estate agent’s carry in camera. But for birds. Its for the birds.

Here are a few of the frustration points. (I know, I’ve heard them yelled out in the bush more than once)

1. Buttons and controls are too **@&&$& small.  It’s true. Just try to do something in a hurry in the overcast dark forest and it becomes obvious.

2. Too many things are controlled by buttons that have multi multi multi functions. Nope she doesn’t stutter. Its true depending on which of the tiny buttons you are holding while you push another will depend on what is set or unset.
3. Too many real settings are hidden in menus.  ISO and EV being two I can think of, but I do believe there are more.

4. Auto focus that has a mind of its own. Point it at the subject and it immediately is enamoured by something else in the scene, the background, the highlights, the waving branches, the big black truck. Anything but the subject. For an evaluative system it certainly is.  But how about it evaluating what its pointed at?  !!  Now you’ve got to remember that birds sometimes perch on branches in trees, and trees have more than one branch. Which is where the V1 and its brothers and sisters over in the DSLR stable have a similar problem. Anything is more interesting than your subject, so the focus hunts and then avoids the subject. On this subject, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Nikon techs need to take the Canon techs to lunch and find out how a real auto-focus system works.  OR Nikon should re-hire the team that did autofocus with the D2 and D200 series of cameras. At least they can grab a subject and hold on to it like a terrier. Rather than the namby pamby oh, I’ll just check out a few more things and if I like them better I’ll focus there system in the current stable.

5. Lenses are ok sharp.  This is s non technical description of a lens that looks ok most of the time, but on closer examination of the  image, 100%, (that’s not pixel peeping, it called checking focus), the image bears a strong resemblance to Mum’s old box brownie. (C’mon Nikon you can do better than that. No one is expecting 105mm micro Nikkor sharpness, but really it’s only a tiny chip.  Or is it that the target audience for this wonder is unaware of what a ‘sharp’ image might look like. ) Don’t start me on Nikons Kit zoom lenses. Enough has been said.

6. Battery life is non-existent. We won’t venture out for a day without 3 fully charged batteries.  And each of them will be flat within about 2 hours of being in the camera.  This is a deal breaker.

7. “Oh, its too hot, I’ll just close down now- for an hour or two!!!!!” What?  We photograph in the bush on hot days, 40 Celsius is not uncommon in a mid-summers day in Oz mate. What white coated technocrat dreamed up this one.  Or is it only meant to be sold to people who photograph in 20 Celsius shopping malls? This was the final straw. I was watching a human being in total control, otherwise the V1 would have been sailing through the air to the other side of the forest.

Sooo after much angst.  Well not really, but you read about that stuff in blogs all over, we decided – note the “We” in that sentence, very important for the next part of the post. We decided the Nikon V1 was staying home, and if it was really lucky it might just avoid a trip in the big green dumper.

Canon have a really interesting kit called SX50.  It has a 50X times zoom up to 1200mm in the old 35mm way of looking at things. (Its all about Angle of View, but we don’t want to mess with the calculations here, so go with the marketing depts BS on this). Now Panasonic blasted out of the gate in about October with a FZ200. Only 600m of zoom but with an amazing F2.8 all the way. (the Canon does f 6.5 at the 1200mm spot. about 2 1/2 stops less light. Hmmm).

Rodger S of the Swallows in flight fame , “Swallows Are Us”,  has been impressing with his images of Swallows in flight using the FZ150 and now the FZ200.  See his Flickr set here. He also uses that super little Red-Dot sight, so there is no looking through the viewfinder trying to find the subject. It’s just point and shoot.

Da Dah!. One cha-ching later and we (remember “We” from the sentence above). were back in business, and back in the forest.

Ok, so its not perfect. At least I don’t think it is, as it doesn’t make cups of tea and put out the cat, but it does take sharp photos of birds. EASILY. And, it knows about focusing on the subject its pointed at. No discussions, no alternatives. Oh, the bird in the focus box. That’s it. Got it.

Thank you mr Panasonic.

Here are a few from the past few days. (C) Dorothy M J 2012.

They are all hand held. There is no additional software sharpening going on here. As out of the camera. She’s a photographer, not a computer guru.

Wagtails chicks is impressive enlarged.

Go on click on the image to get a larger view. You know you want to.

Eastern Yellow Robin male.
Eastern Yellow Robin male.
Willie Wagtail Overcrowded Nest. Out of five young it looks like she got four on the wing.
Willie Wagtail Overcrowded Nest. Out of five young it looks like she got four on the wing.
Eastern Yellow Robin and nest construction. Back lit so the camera has struggled a bit, but got the focus part right!
Eastern Yellow Robin and nest construction. Back lit so the camera has struggled a bit, but got the focus part right!
Brown Falcon with it's own pet Willie Wagtail.  This has been cropped in a bit. ISO 400.
Brown Falcon with it’s own pet Willie Wagtail. This has been cropped in a bit. ISO 400.