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…
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.
Now here’s a thing. Going through my photos from Marievale, I came across a nice sequence of images of a squacco heron marching through the reeds. You can almost hear the martial music – tum ti tum ti tum ti DUM – as it crashes onwards and finally, clumsily, launches into the air.
I was going to say something also, tongue in cheek, about the perils of anthropomorphism, and how, Once Upon A Time As A Young Man, I would have scowled and protested at this characterisation. Animals are animals, I would have stated, with self-possession and authority. Don’t confuse them with humans.
One grows gentler, perhaps as one grows older, a little more tolerant. And I am able to laugh now at that righteous young fellow, and enjoy, without guilt, that marching band accompanying the heron. The point is, I do know better. And it doesn’t matter.
But then I came to this image, the last of this particular sequence, and realised it was in a different league altogether. Out of the window went the photo-story, the sequence of images going tum-ti tum-ti-tum through the reeds, and instead here is simply the one particular image I want to present to you. The chosen one.
This little fellow, I think, has the confidence to speak for himself.
Photographed from a hide at Marievale, with the Nikon D500 and Nikon 200 – 500 mm lens. The more I shoot with it, the more I love this combo!
On my left, as I drove slowly onto the causeway that crosses the marsh, was an expanse of dry reeds. Amongst the reeds, away in the distance, was an African Sacred Ibis, going about its business.
Some of you may not see the point of this photograph – it’s not the conventional “portrait,” nor does it give you an up-close view of the bird in its environment.
But for me, you see, this is exactly what I wanted to show: not just the bird in its environment, but the ibis as part of the same flat, two-dimensional space. I am also attracted to the grey charcoal dashes of the reeds, licked about with orange tongues of flame.