The Marvel of Migration

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We have a godwit who visits us in Whanganui each summer, or at least has done for the last 10 years, as I have previously reported in my posts. I checked out the Whanganui River estuary yesterday and the 10 godwits there all look like they are ready to go, and among them our AJD flagged bird, now bright red/orange in colour and laden with fat, ready for the long migration to the northern hemisphere. Below is a picture taken on my phone through the spotting scope. It is a marvel how these birds know the exact time, as AJD usually leaves here on March 22 for Foxton, from where he migrates north on the 25th. I plan to be in Foxton for that date, as I have never actually witnessed his departure on migration.

 

LATER NOTE: AJD actually migrated this year direct from Whanganui, on March 24. I was fortunate to be able to photograph him just before he left, at around 5 pm, see picture below.

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An Unexpected Encounter

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The Royal Spoonbill is a very photogenic bird, a photographer’s dream subject. Over the years I have photographed many of them but almost always on the ground, usually at some estuary. Recently I came across some in a tree and what a great photo shoot. It is often the unexpected encounters that are so rewarding, and add to the fun of birding.

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Christmas bonus – Photos of two new bird species

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This has been a good summer for new bird species in New Zealand – for me, three new birds photographed in three weeks, not too bad considering some years there are no additions. The first was the Wilson’s Phalarope, as reported in my last post, followed by a trip to Miranda on the Firth of Thames where with difficulty I managed photos of two Pectoral Sandpipers that had been reported from there. While at Miranda I received a text from a friend in Napier saying, “You must come here ASAP as a place has been found where Marsh Crake are reliably seen”.  So a trip home from Auckland via Napier (650 km) was undertaken resulting in some beautiful pictures of Marsh Crake. This had been my ‘nemesis bird’, one I’d sort at every place possible where they were said to be, and always dipped out. Only once had I glimpsed one, but it was gone before I could ready my camera. So for me these are a great Christmas bonus, and thanks goes to those who first identified and reported these special birds.

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Chasing a MEGA rarity

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When word was out that a MEGA rarity, in the birding world, had shown up at Napier I was making plans to get there as quick as possible. Only the forth record of this species in New Zealand, a Wilson’s Phalarope was highly sought after by birders around the country. Arriving at the pond in Napier’s Ahuriri Estuary where the bird was said to frequent was a tense moment, as a quick scan revealed nothing, but with binoculars and spotting scope we soon located it. So small and camouflaged it was difficult to see, even at 50 metres. Another “lifer” for me and a great series of photos made the trip so worthwhile. How a bird that breeds in the USA and Canada, and migrates to South America, can arrive in New Zealand, is hard to fathom.

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Dunedin – Wildlife Capital of New Zealand?

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We are often in Dunedin due to having family there, and for me every trip must include some time on the Otago Peninsula. Things I associate with the area include albatrosses, penguins, shags, terns, gulls, sea lions and seals, as well as a castle and beautiful landscapes. Their claim to be the “Wildlife Capital of New Zealand” is well supported by the things to see. Our recent 10 days there were most enjoyable, and I kept my camera busy most of the time.

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Road trip – Raglan/Kawhia/Mokau

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We may have lived in New Zealand all our lives, but have we seen all our country?  This past week we visited an area where we had never been – the coastal area from Raglan down to Mokau in North Taranaki. A six day road trip was most enjoyable, visiting harbours, estuaries and small villages we did not know existed. The journey offered great photo opportunities of rural New Zealand, with lots of birding along the way.

At two impressive waterfalls I was able to test slow motion pictures (around 6th of a second) that give a smooth look to the falling water.

In total, a great week, good roads – and high recommended.

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Camera / scope photo comparison

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I had the opportunity at the weekend to try photographing birds that were half a kilometre away, with my Canon 1DX, 500mm lens and 1.4 converter, and using my Samsung Note 4 with my Swarovski scope at 60 x magnification. We were at Lake Omanu near Foxton, and across the other side of the lake were two “white” birds, just dots to look at with the naked eye. The test was to see which would give the clearest photo for ID. Without doubt the phone/scope combination gave me the best picture, as you can see below.

PS. The camera white balance was set wrong hence the unusual colour cast in that photo.

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Plant trees that attract birds

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Just a few years ago we planted some trees in our back yard, known to attract birds, and now it is paying off. I spent an hour last Saturday photographing tui in a flowering kowhai and am very pleased with the colourful pictures I obtained. Birding is a hobby that can begin at home, and planting the right trees is a good start to bringing the birds.

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Photographing white birds

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Winter is not a great time for bird photographers in New Zealand but this season does offer some opportunities that are unique. At river estuaries you find a different range of birds from what is seen in summer. It is also the time of the year when we are busy in the accounting office. At the weekend I braved the cold and checked out the Manawatu River Estuary and happened upon a white heron, right close to the sunset walkway. It gave me the chance to test my skills with a white bird, against a dark background. I often use centre-point focus, with centre-point metering and if the bird is in the centre of the picture a good photo is achieved. Otherwise it is best to stop down the camera a couple of stops to get the bird right even though the surroundings may be under-exposed. If you blow-out the white areas they are unrecoverable, but dark surrounds can be lightened in Photoshop. I was pleased with the photo below, where you see the heron with its neck fully extended, doing so to get a peep at me hiding behind a bush.

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Advertising – Wheel Cover

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With a new vehicle I decided I may as well use the wheel cover for some advertising – and it works. You take it everywhere you go. Several people have asked about our books as a result of seeing it and parking outside our offices every work day puts it in a place with a lot of passing people. Attached are some pictures from the weekend, when we spent a day in the back-country of Whanganui, enjoying the birds and bush.

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