For the birds

This business of being on my own, here in Johannesburg, is for the birds I think. Fortunately Rob will be winging (eish, that is crushingly bad!) her way back to South Africa from Detroit, via Toronto and London later this week, and I will be picking her up at the airport on Thursday morning. Not a moment too soon, I say.

But staying behind, after I returned two weeks ago, has meant she was able to attend her nephew Kevin’s funeral in Dearborn yesterday, and reconnect with her family, something hugely important to her, especially at a time like this.

But I will be glad to see her.

Ten days after she gets back,  we will be off to Madikwe Game Reserve, with Kath and Gareth and Thomas and a bunch (flock?) of their friends Рwildlife, campfires, the smell of the bush veld. I spent a little time this afternoon, trying out the Nikon 200-500mm lens I have invested in, for this and future birding and wildlife occasions Рthe subject, suitably enough, was a flock of rosy-faced lovebirds, who live in the eaves of the block of townhouses one up from us.

Here is a sample image.

Lovebird # 1.jpg

 

Spotted thick-knee, Marievale

We saw this Spotted thick-knee, otherwise known as a Dikkop, standing behind the car park at the Visitors Centre at Marievale around 10am on Easter Friday; it was still there, but lying down this time, when we left several hours later.

Amur Falcon Female

You knew at once, didn’t you, that this was a female Amur falcon? Of course you did.

Well, I didn’t, and though I paged up and down and sideways through Roberts and the SASOL guide I couldn’t figure it out. Until, of course, I posted the image on the SA Birdlife Facebook Group page, with a cry for help, and with minutes had my answer, from some far more knowledgeable soul who took pity on my ignorance.

It is, as above, a falcon, female, which I spotted on the fence just past the Visitor’s Centre, as we entered the Marievale wetland.

A good start, auspicious, to a perfect day.

And I rather liked the composition, too.

Nikon D500, Nikon 70-300mm. Processed in Lightroom and Colour Efex Pro.

Female Amur Falcon.jpg

Flight – Five Images

Little Egret – Marievale.

 

Marievale Bird Sanctuary, Gauteng. I left in the power lines and pylons deliberately, as well as traces of the reeds and the trees, as I wanted to give a sense of the complex environment – not stereotypical, picture-postcard countryside – in which these birds live.

Nikon D500, 70-300mm. Processed in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro.

 

Skittering across the water – the (un)Common Moorhen

Marievale Bird Sanctuary is a small area of wetland, bounded by farms, distant dwellings, power pylons, a highway, about an hour’s drive east of Johannesburg, and – despite its size – home to an astonishing variety and number of birds, waterfowl in particular.

The last (and only) time I had been there was about ten years ago, when my daughter Eve and I had ventured forth in the Landy, and spent a happy day in bird hides and in open country, watching and photographing the coots, cranes and other birdlife. On Easter Friday, Rob and I made a return visit.

Bird photography is notoriously difficult, and I have seldom been happy with my images, so in preparation for our day out of town I did some research, including into the almost magical powers of the Nikon D500. The upshot was that, the night before, I set the camera to burst mode and continuous focus, set a high ISO of 2000, and the shutter speed to 1/4000 of a second.

Thus prepared, I ventured forth with Rob – and I have to say, am more than happy with the results. This common, moorhen, for instance, skittering across the water.

Nikon D500, 70-300mm. Processed in Lightroom and Colour Efex Pro.

Not such good bird photos

Bird photography is one of the most challenging areas of photography, at least in my experience. Finding them in the first place – birds, I mean – and getting them to sit still, or hover in one place, just where you want them, is the damnedest business, never mind getting your images sharp and properly saturated.

Nevertheless, we spent one idyllic morning between two bird hides on a farm in the Karkloof, hoping to see cranes, but seeing instead grey herons, spoonbills, ibis, and – away in the distance, perched on the topmost branches of a tree before launching into the air currents, a jackal buzzard.

Here are some not-so-good images.