During the last couple of days I have been watching the fishing behaviour of a female kingfisher at a set location on a local pond and today I decided to set up my camera on a tripod and use remote camera firing to get close enough to record her movements, The weather was very up and down with rain and storms one minute and bright sunshine the next so I had to use a degree of exposure automation to compensate for lost control while working away from the camera, I had been under cover for around four hours when the kingfisher repeated its habits of the previous days and I remotely fired off around 150 images over the coarse of about four to five minutes to record the behaviour shown below,
Portrait of the Kingfisher arriving prior to fishing,
Returning to post with its first fish
Resettles at the same perch point
Shaking the water out of its beak before swallowing the fish
Down the hatch !
A complete body shake-out to remove trapped water droplets
And a final beak clean off before repeating the whole exercise over again
Fishing is a sport that goes very much hand in hand with wildlife encounters, Early mornings and late evenings come up with lots of wildlife opportunities around the water line. Swallows are in abundance during the evening, skimming the water in numbers as they flock up prior to migration, last night I watched as a female sparrow hawk took on the challenge of trying to catch one on two occasions. It failed but what an amazing spectacle to witness.The resident Kingfisher often puts in an appearance fishing from favoured perch points both AM and PM . The Moorhen both young and old have taken very kindly to hand outs of Bakers dog biscuits that I use as floating bait and they can't wait for me to leave before scavenging the bank for stray biscuits.
Other wildlife often seen include Squirrels and Green woodpecker and during September there is always the chance of a stop over to feed for migrating Osprey so watch this space, Not forgetting the fishing ! The portrait of yours truly with a 1lb Roach was taken by Peter Tonkin, The trio of Golden Rudd and Roach below weighed in at 1lb to 1.5lb and the Roach below that was my best fish last week at 2.25lb
Anyone that has observed a Cormorant Fishing will know just what a skillful and efficient predator they are, Last year early AM one morning I watched one bird dispatch six eels from Longrock pond in as many minutes, Not everybody's ideal breakfast perhaps but two resident Heron just stood and stared in envy as the Cormorant filled its belly full of wrigglers before departing, While on a fishing trip yesterday a passing Cormorant showed some interest and circled the pond and landed in the thin foliage at the top of a willow tree, Those large webbed feet are not made for tree landings and the bird went through a wing flapping balancing act until it found a secure branch to steady itself. It was wet presumably from fishing in some other local pond and was now just looking for somewhere to digest its breakfast and dry out its sophisticated looking plumage in the morning sunshine, I took several images as the bird rotated periodically to expose different areas of its plumage towards the drying sunshine and I guess the last classic Cormorant wing spread shot is the one that shows off the bird's intricate wing formation at its best
When it comes to achieving good portraits of Barn Owls in the wild,Two things tend to stand in your way. The early morning and late evening restricted light availability being a nightmare for good exposure being the first. And secondly the fact that you are dealing with a subject with acute senses of both sound and vision, The use of long lenses, camo gear and good field skills seems to be called for here but camouflaged clothing is a bit like ivy and tends to grow all over anything that does not move, Judging by the images below I might have been sat in this hedgerow a tad to long....
But if this is what you have to do to create close portraits without disturbing your subject then so be it, I have posted some results from the last few days below along with some details of the setting required to achieve reasonable exposures in the prevailing conditions.
17.40Pm F4 ISO 5600 1/1250sec on Nikon 500mm lens,
Early AM at Ryan's field I watched as a Bank Vole sauntered four to five feet from the hedgerow vegetation down the beach to the current tidal waterline, following a bit of limbering-up it purposefully dived into the water, swam out too and twice around a projecting kingfisher perch then it swam back to the shoreline, where still half in the water it conducted a bit of a wash and brush up before sauntering back up the beach to disappear into the vegetation again, I found myself ( Not for the first time with wildlife) saying to the photographer next to me ' Well I've never seen that happen before'
Could it be a vole on holiday or perhaps just copying the crowds of tourists that are in our midst at the moment
The hunting skills of the adult male Barn Owl that I have been working on are second to none and Brown Rats seem to be high on the owls hit list which perhaps normally would favour voles and mice but the young owls are being very well provided for, This in turn should help create an increased population of owls in our area for the next few breeding season,
This morning I watched a young Barn Owl fledgling leave the safety of its barn, It was on a learning curve trying to develop its hunting skills over the rough grass field, It slowed to a clumsy hover then dived into the grass after prey that it had heard or seen but its hearing and sight were better than its flight skills and it missed the prey but proceeded in hops and flapping jumps in the long grass trying to trap its escaping prey, No joy there either so perhaps there is a bit more skill required to this self catering than it thought, At this time one of the adult birds returned to the roof of the barn so the young fledgling decided to go looking for easier Hand-outs instead,
The dawn and sunrise on the north coast was spectacular yesterday morning, The image below was taken from above Clodgy Point looking across St Ives bay towards Godrevy with dark rain clouds balancing off the silhouetted foreshore
I moved on around towards Hayle to check for any early Kingfisher sightings at Ryan's field, I was in luck and capture the next two partial silhouette portrait images before the light increased,
With improved sunlight the kingfisher started to catch fish and I noticed that this female bird had a habit of swivelling her neck through at least 180 degrees prior to swallowing her catch and I'm not quite sure why she would do this, Any Suggestions ??
I revisited the Barn Owls last evening working on the principle that the previous evening had probably been two wet for them to have had much hunting success, This seemed to be the case as the owls were busy way before the sun set creating good opportunities to capture active hunting shots, To complete the portfolio below I have compiled a sequence of Six consecutive images into a Barn Owl hunting montage to try to demonstrate the Owls low flying silent hunting skills, The two that I watched were successful in taking prey on four occasions during the hour that I was there,