Red-knobbed coot

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.

Pied Avocet, Marievale

I like the harmony and balance, the silent concentration, in these photographs of pied avocets with their swooping bills wading in the waters at the Marievale Bird Sanctuary.

Time for a break, I thought, in the Spanish series…

 

Blacksmith Plover

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.

Blacksmith Plover.jpg

Pied Kingfisher

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.

Pied Kingfisher.jpg

Coot Chicks

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, ┬ábeside 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.

 

Bird on a Wire

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.

 

Black-Shouldered Kite

Against the light

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.

Against the light