The early wagtail catches the worm. Marievale Bird Sanctuary.
Spain has saturated my posts and photographs for some time now; with this series done, my eye hankers after water, marsh, sky and birdlife. So the next few posts mark a return to Marievale Bird Sanctuary, and a trawl through the images from my last visit, in November.
There are flamingoes, widow birds, ducks of all persuasions, and of course coots – the common, humble, red-knobbed coot, ubiquitous and unremarkable.
Except that these two images, to my mind at least, say more than just ‘coot’ – they say something, I hope, about the stillness, the absorption, the quiet miracle of watching another creature go peacefully about its business.
From photographs of birds, taken during my recent field trip to the Marievale Bird Sanctuary, this blog will see a change of scene, to our travels in Spain – but only when we are back, Rob and I, towards the end of September, from Andalucia and Madrid.
Meanwhile here is one image – a blacksmith plover – to mark the spot, and signal a short hiatus in these posts.
This Pied Kingfisher was hard at work when I came across him, rising from a bed of reeds, hovering, swivelling his head this way and that, wings beating madly as he looked for his dinner. I took a million photographs, the first lot using a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion, and then a second set slowed down a little, to try and get the blur of the wing beats while keeping the body in focus. The challenge of course was selection: I wanted to find that one perfect photograph that captured the essence of the bird in motion. This is it, I think.
These little chicks are coot, you might say. I saw them, on the vlei at Marievale, far out on the water, at the furthest reach of my 500mm telephoto, and even then I had to crop the images severely.
The teeniest chicks, interestingly, were the furthest out – mere orange-beaked fluff, beside the black hulls of the adult coots, where the water changed colour. Closer in, an older and larger chick was a supplicant, scrounging like any adolescent. And then there was the solitary young ‘un, its oversized ungainly claw like a fifteen-year old with size ten boots.
Here’s a good one. A prisoner in a Turkish prison goes to the prison library, and asks for a particular book. The prison librarian replies, ‘We don’t have that book. But we do have the author.’
Signs of the times, you might say – the modern dystopia. History has not ended – in fact, it’s back with a vengeance.
I saw this black-shouldered kite perched on the power-lines on the way back to the gate at Marievale the other day. I was afraid it would fly off, so I stopped, a way back, and turned off the engine, and carefully opened the car door, and took a couple of photographs. The bird seemed unperturbed, so I drove a little closer, and repeated the performance. The kite had other things on its mind, so I drew still closer. Even so, this photograph is a radical crop, using maybe a quarter of the original image.
Says something about the image quality of the Nikon, and that big sensor.
The original, in colour, is simply a picture: ‘this is what a black-shouldered kite looks like.’ I wanted to show something more, of the bird’s brooding power, it’s fierce beauty. I hope this captures at least something of that.
From the corner of the hide, you looked out across the water, directly into the light, where the coots were squabbling and giving chase, and I knew at once that this was an image made for black-and-white. I took several photographs, aware of how tricky the light was, and struggling with the heavy lens to keep the birds in frame. This one came out best.