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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Pure Gold! - on 2nd & 3rd December, 2012

On Sunday I set off for Calke Park, stopping at somewhere where I'd previously seen a likely-looking tree for Little Owl, and subsequently had confirmation when I sought permission to investigate. This day I was lucky and had my first (albeit distant) sighting - my new LO Site No.32!


Little Owl - my new Site No.32
In the park I had a closer encounter with a Great Spotted Woodpecker. The sun had gone down by then, and if the light had been better I'd have probably got some better images than those I got at ISO 1250 and 1/80 second. However, these are probably still some of the best GS Woody images that I've got to date.



Great Spotted Woodpecker - Calke Park
Before I departed I just couldn't resist another shot of a Red Deer stag. They are truly magnificent creatures!

Red Deer (male) - Calke Park
You might be wondering where "pure gold" comes in - you'll find out towards the end of this post!

Yesterday (Monday), lured by good weather, and reports of Velvet Scoter only about 15 miles (25 km) from my home, I went to Swithland Reservoir. There had been three of these birds seen (one 1st winter drake and two females). I arrived on the dam to find that the females had gone round the corner towards the viaduct, but that the male (I thought it was a female until I saw someone else's photos on the LROS website of a bird that looks the same, labelled as 1st winter male) was showing straight opposite the dam - at a great distance that would only allow record shots with a 500mm lens. It was good to watch this bird (a 'lifer' for me), and I was amazed at how long it stayed under when it dived for food. Although they are only record shots, It's my guess that I'll never see one of these again, so a few poor images below.



Velvet Scoter (female) - Swithland Reservoir
As the Scoter slowly drifted further and further away, towards where the other two had gone, I saw that a drake Goldeneye was approaching the dam by the weir. By the time I got to the tower the bird was quite close and in the shade of the tower. I took a few safety shots, and willed the bird to go further way, into the sunshine. It duly obliged and I took quite a lot of frames before it got too far away. It was only when I came to look at the images afterwards that I realised that I'd made a mess of things. In the bright sunlight, although the 'blacks' of this (largely) black and white bird were 'correctly exposed', the whites were completely burned out. One day I'll learn!

Fortunately the day was not lost as my safety shots, taken when the bird was in the shade, turned up trumps and gave me some images that, although far from perfect, are the best I've ever managed of a Goldeneye. The water that it's swimming in looks like Pure Gold!



Goldeneye (male) - Swithland Reservoir
This next image, taken when the bird was a little further away,  is not so good as far as the bird is concerned, but the gold water is rather better to my eyes.

Goldeneye (male) - Swithland Reservoir
As the Scoter was now quite distant I set off for Shepshed, where earlier there had been a report of 100 Waxwing. I'd already had a brief encounter with Waxwing this winter, but hankered after some better opportunities. Although the report was quite specific as to location, I arrived to find no sign of the birds, or even an indication as to where they might have been feeding. Either I wasn't looking in the right place or they'd stripped the tree bare and departed.

There was still a bit of daylight left, so I headed off to the place close to my home where I was watching the Short-eared Owls last winter. There'd been a couple of reports of brief sightings this winter, but it wasn't certain if these birds were passing through, or not.

Shortly after I entered the site, I saw pal Martin coming up behind me. We spent a happy hour looking for an owl, and had just decided that it was too dark and it was time to depart when a SEO appeared at 16:20. We got the odd glimpse of this bird in flight during the next ten minutes, but it was too dark for flight photography, and we didn't see it settle anywhere. We then gave up as it was fully dark by then. Just to prove a point, this record shot was made at ISO 3200 and 1/80 second - might have stood a chance it it had sat on a post at 10 metres range! At least I'd had my first SEO sighting of the winter!

Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch
Not a bad end to a somewhat satisfying couple of days!

14 comments:

  1. Outstanding collection Richard,love the Goldeneye,brilliant shots of the G.S.Woodpecker,the Red dear look amazing.
    What a great day.
    John.

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    1. Thank you John. I was pleased to find some good weather between the bad, so that I could do this. Wellies are still the order of the day round here, however, as everywhare is sodden.

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  2. Congrats on your Site 32 for Little Owl, also excellent images of GSW, Red Deer, Velvet Scoter (WOW),and ending with your 'Pure Gold' Goldeneye.

    All an inspiration to get out there again soon Richard, and thanks for showing us 'em.

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    1. Thanks Pete, for your kind words. There've been more than a few times recently when I've struggled to find the motivation to get out, but I've got the bit between the teeth at the moment! I guess Christmas preparations will soon bu**er that up!

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  3. Well done on the "tick", I got lucky and saw six when I first started birding, and the birder with me said "fill your boots you won't get many chances to see one again", 5 years on he was right. Like the GSW too fab details. With the bright light and the reflective water it's a mistake we've all made, never easy either exposing for the black/green head and white body.

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    1. Thanks Doug. Six Velvet's is more than a good score!! Lucky you!

      I tend to have great difficulty in photographing high-contrast birds in sunlight. I was once told that the solution was to under expose and then superimpose two versions of the same image in Photoshop:- a version of the under-exposed image from which all but the white areas have been erased, layered onto a version of the image where the exposure had been lifted to get the 'blacks' right. If I was a professional, I might attempt this, but it all seems like too much hard work for my lowly level of photography!

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  4. Beautiful serie Richard! Especially the pictures of the Goldeneye are my favorite.

    Best regards,
    Willy

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    1. Thank you Willy. I must admit that, although the Scoter was a very special bird for me, the images of the Goldeneye are my favourite too.

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  5. Someone told me for black and white birds to use "spot metering" for exposure instead of evaulative or centre weighted, then spot exposue on the whites, never got the hang of it :)

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    1. I suspect that I'll not get enough opportunity to test this idea out and learn the ropes. Also, it sounds like another adjustment that I'd make - and then forget to set it back to my 'normal' set up afterwards. This is something that a forgetful old git like me does too often anyway!

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  6. Beautiful birds, especially the Goldeneye, he is fantastic, and they all are.

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  7. Nice nice nice finds!!! Way to go. Love the Scoter and Goldeneye....I still have to find them yet....somewhere....out there. Scoters are such interesting birds to me. Very strange faces. Glad you found the pot of gold out there. Very special:)

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    1. Thank you Chris. Our Velvet Scoter is your White-winged Scoter. I see that you have the same Scoters over there that we see here - but they are rare in your parts! Incidentally, your Black Scoter is our Common Scoter. We both have the same name for the Surf Scoter.

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