Archive for the 'Birders' Category

Bird photography

Cattle Egret in walk through aviary at Adelaide Zoo

Photos on this site

I must admit that this site would be much poorer and quite uninteresting for readers without the photos I include with most of my posts. The vast majority of the articles I post here are illustrated by at least one photo; sometimes as many as 4 or 5. In fact, the photos I take are usually the reason for posting an article, that is, the words result from the photos taken.

Early photographic attempts

In my early years of birding I bought a cheap SLR camera which took reasonable scenery photos, all in 35mm slide format. This was in the pre-digital era, the 1980s. I also invested in a telephoto lens in order to take bird and wildlife photos, along with a cumbersome tripod. The results were mixed – many taken with the telephoto lens were poor and mostly unusable here. (As an aside, my son has recently completed scanning all of these early slides into digital format. I plan to use the best of them on this site later in the year.)

First digital camera

In the late 1990s I acquired my first digital camera, a very basic Kodak point and shoot. It gave me a renewed enthusiasm for photography. I can’t remember much about the details of this camera, but a little research found the user’s manual to the Kodak Easyshare CX4200 digital camera which was a 2megapixel point and shoot. It only had a 2x digital zoom, virtually useless for bird photography.

Canon SX2 IS

In 2005 I was preparing to go trekking in Nepal. I upgraded to a Canon Powershot SX2 IS. This was a huge jump forward because now I had 12x optical zoom and 5megapixals to play with. It was lightweight, easy to use and took some fabulous photos of the Himalayas. It also opened up many possibilities for bird and wildlife photography. It was about then that this bird site commenced.

Canon SX20 IS

In 2011 my wife and I were preparing for another overseas holiday, this time in Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain. While the main purpose was to visit our daughter who was teaching in Ethiopia, it was also highly focussed on doing the tourist thing. Bird photography was not the main aim; any birds seen and photographed along the way was an incidental bonus.

Well before the trip I upgraded to a Canon SX20 IS and my wife took over the SX2. Between us we managed about 8000 photos in six weeks, including some great bird shots. The 20x optical (plus 4x digital making it effectively 80x) zoom on my new camera gave me so much more flexibility and is proving its worth almost every day while taking photos in our garden, and around our district. I am planning several more major caravanning trips this year, and these will always be where I can get more bird photos.

And as an added bonus, the camera is perfect for taking great shots of my two grandchildren, age 4 and 17 months.

An excellent article

Yesterday I came across an excellent article on using point and shoot cameras for bird photography. Interestingly, the author also uses the Canon SX50 which has a great 50x zoom. Mmm.. I wonder if my wallet can stand another assault? I almost feel the need to upgrade. You can read  the article Birding with a point and shoot camera here.

Further reading:



Birding with the scouts

Galah, Swanport Wetlands, Murray Bridge

Two weeks ago I spent an enjoyable day speaking about local birds. About 130 Scouts from all over the state were camping locally, and on the Saturday they were allocated into groups of 7 – 10 for a variety of activities at the Swanport Wetlands on the eastern side of the River Murray near Murray Bridge. These included bird watching, making nesting boxes, taking water samples and so on.

I was the leader for the birding groups. Each birding activity took about 20 minutes, so there was a quick turnover of groups. Most of the children attending showed a pleasing interest in the bird life of the area and saw the relevance of making nesting boxes for the parrots and other species present. Nesting hollows are in short supply in the area, so that activity was also well appreciated. The simplicity of the nesting box construction has inspired me to make some for our own patch of scrubland.

While the day was a success, and the activities interesting and relevant, the weather was not. The previous day we’d had gale force winds and pelting rain. On the day of the activities the weather started out fine but deteriorated quickly as we got under way. Persistent drizzle can be annoying but the groups soldiered on; it seemed that the rain and cool conditions were taken in their stride as all part of the adventure.

Because of the conditions and several other factors, the birding on the day was not brilliant, and I was not able to get many photos. Overall I would regard it as a successful day, but I was very pleased to spend the evening in front of a warming fire.

Swanport Wetlands, Murray Bridge

Galah, Swanport Wetlands, Murray Bridge


Review: A field guide to the birds of Colombia

Colombia in South America is every birder’s dream destination. With well over 1800 species – more than any other country – its vast range of wonderful species is an attraction many find irresistible. With the relative stabilisation politically in the last few years, many birders are making this a “must visit” country. I wish I could join them. Maybe one day.

I bought a copy as a gift for a family member with close ties to Colombia. Before giving the guide as a present I must admit I spent quite a few hours browsing – and dreaming. Would I one day be able to afford to travel there and see some of the colourful birds covered by this guide?

Colombia has been without a modern field guide for some decades. This volume fills the void admirably, covering every species ever recorded there. The authors note, however, that the forthcoming Spanish edition may well have a few additions to this, the English version. Species are being added every year as new knowledge of the nation’s natural environment emerges.

The authors have done an amazing job covering every bird species in a country so rich in bird life. This guide, despite covering every species, is lightweight, compact, thin and would travel easily in a backpack – or a large pocket. It is arranged in an easy to use manner with every species illustrated, many with both male and female plumage as well as some juvenile plumages. Where helpful to identification, species are shown in flight. That’s no mean feat with over 1800 species in only 225 smallish pages!

They have achieved this compactness by keeping the illustrations small; most are 3 – 4 cm and are to scale compared with others on the same page. Most pages cover 6 – 8 species on average. In addition to the illustrations, the information is very succinct and basic:

  • Common English name,
  • Taxonomic name,
  • Size from head to tail (centimetres and inches)
  • A short one or two sentence description of its preferred habitat and diagnostic behaviours.
  • A tiny map of known distribution appears in each species’ box, including an altitudinal indicator which is especially helpful in the mountainous regions.
  • Some species descriptions also cover a brief indicator of the song or call.

All that in only 225 pages. Amazing.

I’d recommend this book just for the fun of looking at all the beautiful birds even if you are not planning a trip to Colombia. Warning: looking at this book may have you busily planning your next birding trip – to Colombia.

Authors: Miles McMullan, Thomas D. Donegan, Alonso Quevedo
Title: Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia.
Publication: 2010 by ProAves in Bogota, Colombia.

Lower Murray Bird Club

Last night I was the guest speaker at the Lower Murray Bird Club here in Murray Bridge, South Australia. I had previously showed bird photos and spoke about Australian birds to this group about 3 years ago. Thinking that the membership is probably fairly static over a relatively short period of time, I made up a completely new talk with more recent photos to show. Just as well, because quite a few remembered my talk from back then.

I’m not into keeping birds in cages or aviaries, preferring to see my birds in the natural state. All the same, it was good to speak to a group of people who are all bird lovers, no matter where one sees them. Out of the many thousands of bird photos I could draw on for my talk, I tended to focus on those I had taken in walk-through aviaries, especially those at Adelaide Zoo.

I was made to feel most welcome and the audience was very attentive to what I had to say. I think they also enjoyed the photos I had chosen. I only wish I had a small portion of their bird knowledge, especially in the care of birds. I could be so much more helpful to my many readers if I had a broader knowledge in this field. I am trying; recently I’ve added a few more books to my growing library which will help.

People living in South Australia have many bird clubs that they could join. While many of them do not have their own websites, there is a combined site listing names, localities and contact details. The site is the United Bird Societies of South Australia (Click to access).

If you are a member of a group which might like to have me as a guest speaker, don’t hesitate to contact me through my contact form at the top of this page, or click here.

Red Browed Finch

Birding in Western Australia

It has been far too many years since my last visit to Western Australia. In fact, I’m probably some 30 years overdue for a return visit. This is a serious oversight on my part. The country there is beautiful, the people great, he flowers amazing and the birding first class.

Sadly I don’t have nay photos of Western Australian birds to share with you today. (Note to self: scan onto my computer all those slides taken so many years ago.) What I do have to share is a new blog based on WA birds; it’s only a few weeks old and has already set a high standard for sites about our birds.

The site is called Leeuwin Current Birding: a Western Australian Birding Blog.