Jays, Photography, Our Nature Reserve, Wonderful Experience and The Story Behind the Photo

April 29, 2016  •  2 Comments

As you will have noticed I have changed the Colours of the background and the font, also I have made the font a size larger so it is easier to read. Please can I have some feedback as to whether this is good or bad, thanks. 

I informed you in last week’s blog that we had 3 Jays in our garden feeding on the fat balls. Well whilst watching the jays during the week we had a “streak” fly in and snatch one of them. I could not tell you what this “streak” was because it happened so fast. One second the jay was on the hedge and the next it was gone with just a single feather floating in the air. Nature is cruel, not as cruel as humans, but it will go and feed another bird.


The weather on Dartmoor in Devon has been great for the past few weeks, especially in the evenings, and I have been out on several of them getting photos of Stonechats, Chaffinches, Yellowhammers, Dunnocks and Meadow Pipits all on flowering gorse. The yellow gorse flowers in the evening light photographed against a darker background is making for some great images.


Whilst I was working on our nature reserve on the edge of Dartmoor next to the river Tavy, cutting branches to let in more light and clearing a path down to the river, my wife was down by the river planting a few plants that attract more insects to the area. Whilst she was doing this she saw another, smaller, newt in one of the ponds and saw a dipper collecting food and feeding on the river Tavy. When she completed this task she started walking back up the hill towards the field and accidentally disturbed a Tawny owl which flew past her, brushing her face with its wing, before flying further down into the wood. My wife had great delight in telling me this as it adds to the ever growing list of wildlife seen on our nature reserve.


YEE HA! I was out early this morning walking my dog on Dartmoor in bright but not sunny conditions when I spotted a Cuckoo being harassed by a couple of Meadow Pipits. It was nice to see it back albeit a few weeks later than last year. I will be back later and over the weekend with my camera trying to get some photos of the cuckoo. Whilst out on my walk this morning I had a wonderful experience. There was a lot of birdsong in the air coming from everywhere and I was watching a male Stonechat on top of a gorse bush. It flew to the ground so I quickly got in front of the gorse bush I was hiding behind for a closer view. I had just settled there with my dog when it reappeared on top of its bush. I stood there watching it chirp away flicking its tail, such beautiful little birds, when a shadow flew above me. I looked up and there, a few feet above my head, was a Buzzard just floating in the updraft. I’ve noticed that buzzards, Crows and Rooks all like the area I was standing in, on the side of a hill facing the Devonshire town of Tavistock, so they could float, glide and play their games using the updraft on the side of the hill. I know buzzards are small compared to Eagles but this one above my head blocked out quite a bit of light and the markings under its wings were superb. It floated there for quite a while and when it moved off I returned to view the stonechat but it had flown away. On my way back to the car I heard a bird singing and it sounded like an out of tune guitar string being plucked. It was a little brown jobbie but I could not get close enough to view it properly and see what it was and I did not have my binoculars as they have been sent back to the manufactures for repair this week.


What is the biggest difference between wildlife photography and any other types of photography? Well with any other types of photography you can control most of what you photograph. Landscape photographers have got the view but wait for the light, studio photographers have got the model and the light, even war photographers, if they see a scene they like they get the people to re-enact it to photograph it in better light or in a better photographic position. Wildlife photographers can control nothing. Well that's not entirely true because you can set your camera settings to be roughly correct for what you think you might need. If you are photographing a bird then you need about 1,000th second shutter speed if you are after a shot with a sharp body and a bit of blurring on the wings for example. That’s about all you can do before you go out. You cannot even guarantee on fitting the right lens for the situation that might happen that’s why telephoto zoom is great. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have been out with my camera and some wildlife action has taken place in my presence but I did not get any photos of it because I was too close for my lens to focus. Before I carry on I must remind you how most of my photography is carried out so you don't get the wrong idea about me being too close. First I reconnoitre an area for wildlife and areas I can photograph taking in the light direction and the background then I either set up my hide or try to blend in with the surroundings by wearing suitable clothing and then wait until the wildlife comes to me. So if the wildlife is too close for me to focus that is their doing not mine. I like doing it this way because it gives me time to relax but mostly because I let the wildlife do its own thing and it appears it is more relaxed doing it this way rather than chasing it around the countryside trying to photograph it. Also there is a great uncertainty doing it this way because you never know what will show itself and what will happen and that gives me a real buzz. If something happens whilst out and about wildlife photographers have to take the shot whether the light is right or the background is right for the situation. This is why a lot of real wildlife photographs aren’t 100% correct according to camera club judges. These judges want perfect images and unless it’s staged real wildlife photographs are far from perfect as there could be bushes, trees, branches, grass and any other “blemishes” in the way. Not only has the wildlife photographer got to contend with these problems he / she has also got to contend with problems with their equipment. Take for example the image I have uploaded to Facebook this week of a Short Eared Owl with a Vole in its mouth. Just before this shot was taken I was clicking away, as it was flying around quartering the area, oblivious to the fact that I was fast running out of space on my memory card. The short eared owl dived to the ground and my camera stopped working. After a couple of rude words I noticed that my memory card was full so I switched the camera off to change it. This took a couple of seconds but whilst I was doing this the short eared owl collected its vole and took flight. I quickly switched the camera back on and the image I posted was the first one to record. I had missed, according to Henri Cartier-Bresson, the decisive moment when the short eared owl was facing me, eye contact, with the vole in its mouth. C’est la vie.



Steve Williams(non-registered)
Like the larger font.
I rather look forward to reading your weekly blog and progress on the "nature reserve". Keep up the good work.
Paul Willis(non-registered)
Great blog as always. Agree never have the right lens unless you plan . Tend to use my cannon EF70-300 when walking around and always leave set up on the lounge table to catch any garden action. Normally use my Tamron 150-600 when I plan to go to a hide. Prefer the background colour and the larger font.
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