Over the last few days I have spent a few hours looking at and reading the birding blogs of other birders. There are some fascinating blogs out there on the net, some of them with some stunning photos of birds.
When I take photos of birds I use a Canon Powershot S2 IS. This has a 12x optical zoom which enables me to focus in quite close to the subject. One skill I am learning is being able to creep up quite close so I do not have to zoom in too much. Alternatively, I watch carefully for a spot where birds are frequently landing and then position myself within range and then wait patiently for the birds to come to me.
Digiscoping is an another method of taking bird photos. A camera, either SLR or digital SLR is attached to a telescope using an adapter. This method enables one to be quite a distance from the subject. It also produces much clearer, sharper photos – depending, of course, on the quality of your equipment and the patience you can muster up.
Today I came across Mike McDowell’s Bird Digiscoping site. It contains some amazing photos with stunning clarity and beautiful composition.
Mike also has a very interesting blog which includes many worthwhile tips on digiscoping.
Birding while doing the washing
I was hanging up the washing this morning and was aware of the many garden birds we enjoy here in Murray Bridge, South Australia. Often I have stopped and listened to the birds calling. More than once I have been distracted from the task at hand and followed a bird or two – or raced inside for the camera.
Possibly one of the best sightings I’ve ever had while doing the washing was a single Stubble Quail. This is a common and widespread species in this region, but it was the only time I’ve seen one in our garden.
This morning I was suddenly aware of twittering in the sky above. Two Welcome Swallows (Hirundo neoxena) hawking for insects above. Again – this is a widespread and very common species in this area. It is not unusual to see 100s swooping low over the water of the nearby River Murray, or dozens lined up resting on power lines. What is unusual is the occurrence of this species above our garden and five acre (2 hectare) property. For some reason we only see or hear them once or twice a week, sometimes even less often. I have rarely seen more than 5 or 6 here at a time. I can’t give a reason for this.
There was a beautiful item on ABC TV News in Adelaide this evening about Gouldian Finches, a highly endangered species of northern Australia. This stunning bird has been in decline both numerically and in distribution for some time. It is also one species I have yet to see in the wild. A friend used to keep some in an aviary; they are one of the world’s most beautiful birds.
The item on the news suggested that the Gouldian Finch is making a recovery. Evidently it has been seen in some localities for the first time in over 15 years. Colleen O’Malley, from the Threatened Species Network said that flocks of 200-400 are being seen which is vastly larger than in recent years. This is still far short of the sightings of flocks in the thousands in earlier days.
For the full story click here.
For more information, and photos which do not do the species justice click here.
A better photo can be found here.
I just hope the species not only survives – but thrives. I’d like it to be easy to find and photograph when I finally get to Kakadu, Arnhem Land or other parts of northern Australia.
Today I needed to visit someone in a part of the city I don’t normally frequent. This was quite close to Long Island Reserve, so I took five minutes out of my busy schedule to check out the birds there, seeing I hadn’t visited that reserve for about a year – maybe more.
Long Island Reserve
Long Island is a long island (funny about that) in the middle of the River Murray just down stream from the CBD of Murray Bridge, South Australia. It has extensive lawned areas for picnics, a small sandy beach, a jetty and a boat ramp. It is a popular place for water skiers and boating enthusiasts. The car park has been deliberately widened to cater for boat trailers.
Birdwise there was nothing much to report. Several Magpie Larks feeding on the lawn, a flock of about 40 Silver Gulls sheltering from the wind and about 6 Straw Necked Ibis feeding in an adjacent grassy area. Wasn’t even worth getting out of the car.
Rocky Gully Wetlands revisited
On my way home I made a slight deter past the Rocky Gully Wetlands. Last week I observed Royal Spoonbills there for the first time. Today it was a solitary Yellow Billed Spoonbill next to a White Faced Heron. Always nice to see spoonbills – and so funny the way they feed, swishing that odd-shaped bill through the mud.
Sadly – I didn’t have my camera with me. (Sigh)
I have subscribed to the Australian Geographic magazine for many years and enjoy the interesting and varied articles about Australia that they contain. I think that the photography contained in these magazines is brilliant. I particularly enjoy any photos and articles about birds, plants and other aspects of our wonderful flora and fauna.
The last two issues of the magazine have included a bonus DVD produced and presented by Sorrel Wilby. The current issue, which arrived a few days ago, included number 2 in the series and is titled “Kakadu & Arnhem Land.” It covers some of the flora and fauna of this wonderful region of the Northern Territory of Australia. Its main strength, however, is in the coverage of the culture of the local Aboriginal people. The commentary gives one a good introduction to the deep spiritual connection between the Aboriginal culture and the land we know as Kakadu.
The birds and plants of Kakadu
While this new DVD does not specifically cover the vast range of birds and plants present in the Kakadu and Arnhem Land region, it does feature quite a number of species, especially water birds, in several sections. The opening few minutes show quite an array of the birds one can see there. Several species of plants and insects are also featured but this is just a taste of the enormous range of flora and fauna that has been recorded there.
A special extra bonus on the DVD is a 4 minute feature on photographer David Hancock. He has specialised in photographing the Kakadu and Arnhem Land area. His latest article “Buffalo Rising” – about buffaloes in the Northern Territory – is included in the current issue of the magazine.
This beautiful new DVD will certainly give people a taste of what is to be seen in the Kakadu area. The photography is beautiful and inspiring. The introduction to the spiritual and cultural heritage of the region is interesting. Overall, it will inspire people who have never visited the region to put Kakadu on their “must see” list. Those who have had the delight of already experiencing the region will feel the urge to return.
Birders wanting lots of photos of birds may be disappointed. I would like to have seen more birds featured – but then, this was not intended as just another bird DVD. Its intention was to paint a broader picture, and has indeed, succeeded in doing so.
The main section runs for 52 minutes.
UPDATE January 4th 2008: Back copies of this DVD and others in the same series are currently available from the magazine by ringing 1300 555 176 Monday to Friday during office hours (Australian time).
Update Nov 2013: I’m not sure if these DVDs are still available.