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.

Sharp in tooth and sharp in claw – Marievale Otter

We were standing on the side of the road that bridges the vlei, looking up and looking out – not down – at the birdlife when someone standing nearby on the back of his bakkie called out, ‘have you seen the otter?’

We hadn’t, but we did, and here are pictures to prove it.

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

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.

Whales, Walker Bay

We were in Cape Town last weekend, the Heritage Day long weekend, and on Sunday we took my mother out to Hermanus and Gansbaai to see the whales. On previous occasions we had seen them close in, near the Old Harbour, but not this time. We were lucky, however, to spot one or two far out, way across Walker Bay, so we drove round to Gansbaai, another 40 kilometres along the coast, in hope of a better view, and were just in time to see a pod of humpbacks quite close in, before they tired of us and slipped beneath the waves.

I’ve tried in these images to give a sense of their presence, in the wildness of the ocean. Which is a way of introducing the fact that I have plans for a new blog, focusing only on my photography, which I will run in parallel with this one – Keep Calm and Carry On – which will focus more on the friends, family and happenings side of things.

In the meanwhile, however, here are four black and white photographs of the whales in Walker Bay. They will, if you pardon the pun, in all likelihood resurface in my new photography blog, once I’ve got round to setting it up.

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.