Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

April 27, 2009

Bird Photography Warren 090407

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , , , , — steve_happ @ 12:23 am

Bird Photography at Warren 7th April, 2009

I left Newcastle about 1pm on the Monday and drove to Singleton then Merriwa along the Golden Highway(86?). Stopped at Mendooran where there is a good rest area with BBQ, lights, and toilets. I drove on through to Gilgandra and slept at a rest area about 30 kilometers west of Gilgandra.

On Tuesday morning I awoke about 6:30am and it was freezing cold, so I put on the flanny, a jumper and some long pants, as well as shoes and socks. That is how cold it was! I took some photos of the sunrise then drove to Warren for breakfast. On the way into Warren I saw that there were heaps of raptors hanging around the sewerage runoff just outside town. So after breakfast I went back for a good look.

Black Kite

Not a bad site, hey? There were a few black kites hanging around the dead trees near the water. I got onto the mounds and had fantastic views of the birds.

Black Kite

Also hanging out on the dead trees was a Juvenile White-necked Heron(Ardea pacifica), also called a Pacific Heron. Note the spotted neck. Some of them have red spots on their wings. This one did not seem to.

Juvenile White-necked Heron

Anyhoo, back to the Black Kites(Milvus migrans), which i could not get enough of.

Black Kite

And another, this one was checking me right out.

Black Kite

There were also a pair of Black Falcons(Falco subniger) flying around and roosting in a big eucalyptus tree at the end of the water hole. They are a spectacular bird and I was very stoked to see them.

Black Falcon

Some of the other members of the HBOC saw a lot of waterbirds over the road, such as blue-billed ducks, musk ducks, pink-eared ducks, etc. But I missed out on all those. I saw a couple of grey teals and some swamp hens, and that was it. In the trees around the water hole there were various birds such as White-plumed honeyeaters and Spotted Bowerbirds.

On the road from Warren to Carinda on the Way to Willie Retreat, I saw a couple of Wedge-tailed Eagles flying off road kills, but did not manage to get a decent enough photo of them.

Bird Species LIst, Warren area, 7/4/09

Black-shouldered Kite
Eastern Rosella
Noisy Miner
Red-rumped Parrot
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Black Kite
Rock Dove
Juvenile White-necked Heron
Black Falcon
Nankeen Kestrel
Whistling Kite
Crested Pigeon
Spotted Bowerbird
White-plumed honeyeater
Wedge-tailed Eagle

March 28, 2009

Bird Photography Ash Island 090327

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — steve_happ @ 11:13 am

Bird Photography at Ash Island , 27th March, 2009.

I went out at 3pm to Ash Island for a couple of hours of bird photography. It was pretty overcast and for a little while it rained a bit. Today was raptor day at Ash Island. I must have seen about half a dozen different raptors. They were everywhere. Mostly they were low on the ground and flew off before I could get any shots off.

Anyhow, this first photo tells a story. There was what looked like a Whistling Kite on the road chewing on something. It flew off a little way with the kill and then came back again. I stopped to watch it but it flew off before I could get any photos of it. I walked up to the kill and had a look at it. I think it was the carcase of a chestnut teal.

Raptor Kill

It is a bit gruesome, but that is reality. Raptors are predators that kill birds to eat. End of story.

I took a circuit around the pond, and over the other side there were various raptors flying up but this Australian Hobby was the only thing that came close enough for a photo.

Australian Hobby

He perched on the power lines and checked me out. I quite like the lines on this photo. It is something a bit different.

Australian Hobby

On the way out I surprised a Swamp Harrier who flew low over the swamp and off to the north east.

Swamp Harrier

March 22, 2009

Birds in Flight Photography

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , , — steve_happ @ 11:47 pm

Ash Island,  20th March, 2009

Today was a bit of a dud when i went to Ash Island. There was a White-bellied Sea-eagle sitting on a power pole and he flew off but I did not get a decent shot of him, and he was flying away from me, anyway. The only thing around were the Black-winged Stilts and the obligatory Swallows and a flock of what I thought were Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, but they were too far away on the other side of the pond to get any good photos.

So, I just practiced my Birds in Flight(BIF) photography. Here is what I do.

Black-winged stilt

I use the back focus button and I have the AutoFocus(AF) set on AI-Servo. It is best to have the bird coming along ways rather than straight at you. And try and get the light so that the bird’s face is lit and not in shade. Try to photograph the birds in flight from the front, rather than going away from you.

Normally I use Manual Exposure. For dark birds, I overexpose about 2 stops and for white birds, i will overexpose about 1.3 stops.

I try to have at least a shutter speed of 1/1000 or more, maybe 1/1250. I do not think it is necessary to go faster than this. If I have enough light I will try and get the best ISO i can , and try and get an aperture something like f/8. But mostly I use f/5.6, because I like to keep a lower ISO. If you have a top end camera you can bump up the ISO and the inbuilt noise-reduction will sort out the jaggies for you.

Black-winged stilt

The photo above was shot at 1/1000, f/5.6 and ISO250.

What else is there? Oh yeah, I only use the center focus point, and not the nine points. That is my opinion, I think the center focus point only is faster and does not go tracking off onto other crap in the viewfinder. But try it for yourself.

Black-winged stilt

But herein learn the secret of Birds in Flight Photography. Dont worry too much about all the technical details. Get the basics down. That is your exposure, and make sure you have a fast enough shutter speed, ie , greater than 1/1000. The big secret is practice, practice, practice. Just keep doing it and doing it until you get competent at it.

The end.

March 17, 2009

Bird Photography Tomago 090317

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , , , , — steve_happ @ 5:34 am

Bird Photography at Tomago Wetlands, 17th March, 2009.

Today I went with the HBOC survey group to Tomago Wetlands. This is the second time I have been to Tomago Wetlands. The first time it was very dry. The weather was clear with sunny skies and a temperature of about 24 degrees Celsius. But, the big news is that I have seen four, count them 4, new bird species, with photos. The other big news is that it was officially raptor day at Tomago, with no less than than ten raptors seen during the morning. Australian Hobby, Black-shouldered Kites, Swamp Harrier, and Whistling Kites. As soon as I pulled up in the car, there was an Australian Hobby right where we met up.

So off we went into the wetlands and stop near the gates where we saw a heap of birds in the Casuarina trees. And the first new bird was a Shining bronze-cuckoo(Chrysococcyx lucidus). It may be also called a Golden Bronze-Cuckoo, but I am not sure about that.

Shining Bronze-cuckoo

Up towards the river was a Male Mistletoebird(Dicaeum hirundinaceum). I think there may have been a female one, but I am unsure about that. First time seen for me.


The next new bird was Dicrurus bracteatus, the spangled drongo. This bird is very easy to spot with its distinctive bifurcated tail.

Spangled Drongo

Along the flats there were a lot of grassbirds, Golden-headed Cisticolas and some Southern Emu-wren. We managed to disturb a Latham’s Snipe(Gallinago hardwickii) which took off into the air and flew quite a ways, more than they usually do.

Latham's Snipe

Going back to the parking spot, we spotted a couple of Whistling Kites(Haliastur sphenurus) and here is one of them.

Whistling Kite

So all in all it was a great day for me with four new birds – Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Spangled Drongo, Mistletoebird, and Latham’s Snipe.

Bird Species List for Tomago Wetlands, 17/3/09

Australian Hobby
Black-shouldered Kite
Whistling Kite
Swamp Harrier
yellow-faced Honeyeater
Southern Emu-wren
Shining Bronze-cuckoo
Spangled Drongo
Golden-headed Cisticola
Latham’s Snipe

February 27, 2009

Bird Photography Ash Island 090227

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , , , — steve_happ @ 2:01 am

Bird Photography at Ash Island, Newcastle. 27th February, 2009.

Today I went to Ash Island, again! When I pulled up to Wagtail Way, there were the usual Welcome Swallows and the pair of Black-fronted Dotterels at the beginning of the road. So I decided to test out using the Flash. So I put on the flash with a home-made diffuser made out of a milk carton. Here is a photo of a Welcome Swallow(Hirundo neoxena) taken with the flash.

Welcome Swallow

I carried on down the road and there was not much happening. I noticed that the Welcome Swallows were hovering for a longer time than usual so I decided to have a try at catching some in flight. It was extremely difficult to get any in focus, so I just fired away and hoped that some of them would be in focus. Not a recommended technique, in my humble opinion.

Welcome Swallow

Anyway, some of them came out in focus, sort of. The lighting was a bit direct and harsh and coming from behind the birds, so that was another hurdle that I had to jump. This one turned his head obligingly so that his head was in the sun. Thank you little fella.

Welcome Swallow

And here is the last one in this series. I shot so many duds today and I would hazard a guess that maybe I kept about thirty percent of the photos. Not a very good statistic, but these birds are very difficult to photograph in flight.

Welcome Swallow

The only other bird around was this Royal Spoonbill(Platalea regia). Good old reliable spoonbills, they are always obliging with a ready smile and a swish of the bill.

Royal Spoonbill

On the way home I spotted a raptor up in the sky but I am not sure what it was. I am awaiting an ID.


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