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Monday, 31 December 2018

Festive Bunting - on 29th December, 2018

Before I start on the subject of this post, I'd like to draw your attention to a couple of things:-

Firstly: I made a bit of a mess of publishing my previous blog post by hitting the publish button by mistake when I'd only got as far as entering the title of the post. This resulted in the post being registered on the Blogger system with the original publication date, even though I quickly did a 'revert to draft'. It seems some people saw I'd 'published' but couldn't find the post, so gave up. It was nearly a week later that I finished and published the post. I got quite paranoid about the situation when, after several days, no one seemed to have spotted the post. I realise now that it was chronologically listed with the original date, and so well down the list as soon as published. If you missed it and want to have a look, you can find it here - I think it was possibly one of my better posts, photographically.

Secondly: under my banner heading you will now find a menu. This will take you to information about the illustrated talks I offer. If you know of an organisation that might be interested in me giving a talk, please let them, or me, know. Distance is no object but I would want my expenses covered. If you do take a look, you can get directly back to the main blog from the 'Home' button.

Now to the subject of the post:

For more than two weeks there had been reports of a Snow Bunting (originally two) on the dam at Rutland Water. As I had been lucky enough to see Snow Bunting in Scotland earlier this year, I did not feel the need to dash over there. However, I have only once before seen Snow Bunting in VC55 ('my county'), and that was on 13th November, 2011, at Longmoor Lake, so eventually I gave in and took a ride over to Rutland water on Saturday. 

I arrived at Sykes Lane car park noting that the charge was £1.70 for up to one hour or £3.70 for up to three hours. I hastily made my way to the dam, having first set my camera up for the salient light conditions.

Almost immediately, I met a birder coming back over the dam who said he'd not seen the bunting and that the wind was blowing really strongly out on the dam, so he'd given up.

It was then that I made a mistake which would cost me dearly later. There was a Cormorant in the water, directly into the misty sun, and I drastically altered the settings on my camera in order to take some shots in those conditions.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Rutland Water
By the time I'd got quarter of the way along the dam, I was starting to get worried. It was blowing a hoolie, and there was an endless stream of people walking, running, scooting, and cycling along the dam, many with children who seemed hell-bent on crossing the dam on top of the wall, rather than on the causeway. 

I was about three quarters of the way across, and had almost resigned myself to missing the bird on this occasion, when it popped over the wall and landed about 15 feet (5 metres) in front of me. I dropped to my knees and started to take photos and it immediately ran towards me, ending up less than a metre from me!

At one point I noticed another birder about 100 metres away and spent around 10 minutes trying to indicate to him that I'd got the bird - eventually he noticed! All told I had almost exactly 20 minutes with the bunting, and fired off just over 400 frames, before departing in order to keep the car park charge down - yes, I'm tight fisted!

It wasn't until I got home that I realised what a pig's ear I'd made of the photography. The biggest problem was that I'd got an EV compensation of +0.7 dialled in, rather than the -0.3 which would have been more appropriate. The next problem was that the bird was so close that I'd pulled the zoom right back and the aperture had opened to f6 - at close range I really needed to close the aperture to give a greater depth of focus. Finally, because the bird was constantly running around and not stopping, and close, I've got too many shots with the bird badly framed for a decent composition, or even partly out of frame! From the over 400 frames I've kept just 18, all of which have required much post processing, and are now just about acceptable. Here are some of the better ones.








Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) - Rutland Water
Maybe I'll get another chance, and make a better job of it next time!
 
I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a peaceful 2019, filled with joy and wonderful wildlife experiences.

Thank you for dropping by.

24 comments:

  1. Beautiful Snow Bunting, yet another one that I haven't seen. Superb photos Richard.

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    1. Thank you, Bob. They can be difficult to find, although I have managed to have a few encounters at five different locations. Have a great 2019 - - - Richard

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  2. Snow Bunting is a common species here, Richard, but always delightful. Sometimes we see them in flocks of a thousand or more, generally with Horned Larks and a few Lapland Longspurs. One of the joys of winter. And given all of your photographic tribulations I think that your pictures turned out pretty well. If you are one of those who stays up until midnight, you will still be awake when this message is received. Miriam and I are raising a glass to you and Lindsay. All the best for 2019. With much love, David and Miriam.

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    1. I remember some of your past mentions of Snow Buntings, David, including a post which featured a guy that seemed to be dedicated to catching and banding as many of them as possible! Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs would be a rather special find here!

      This year, like last, we decided to head for bed at around 23h00, but read until midnight so that we could say "white rabbits" and "happy New Year" (has to be in that order!) to each other. However, your message did come through (thank you) before we turned in.

      Our love and best wishes for 2019 to you both. Will be hanging on to the hope that we will meet up again one day - - - Richard

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  3. Great shots of the SB - I remember seeing my first on the shores of Northumbria many, many years ago.

    Hope you had a good New Years Eve / Day!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. They are a delightful little bird, Stewart, and always seem to be very confiding. Thank you for your kind words.

      Have a great 2019 - - - Richard

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  4. It's a long time since I've seen one. There used to be some in the Cairngorm carpark.
    These turned out well. A stop is recoverable in RAW but better under exposed than over. Have a good year.

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    1. The Snow Buntings were still by the Cairngorm car park in January 2018 (nearly said 'January this year'!), Adrian. It's a usual place to find them in the winter, and it helps if you take something for them to eat!

      I usually set my camera to under expose a little - use too much under exposure and the 'grain' starts rearing its ugly head when you try lifting it. I'm also a bit of a renegade with white balance - I work on a fixed white balance of 5560K, rather than auto WB, and can always tweek it later if necessary. I always shoot in RAW, as it gets me out of trouble from time to time!

      Have a wonderful 2019 - - - Richard

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    2. My cameras are old, Canon 5DII. and a DSIII, I have various film cameras for high days and holidays. I would love a big posh video camera but can't afford one.

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    3. As a Nikon man, I'm not familiar with Canon models, Adrian - I have enough trouble trying to remember the various Nikon models!

      I just gave away two semi-pro quality SVHS video cameras last month, together with a number of blank SVHS tapes. The SVHS-C video camera and tapes went to the tip!

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  5. I have never seen a Snow Bunting so this is very interesting for me. I think your photos are excellent despite all the incorrect settings.
    Happy New Year and may 2019 be a healthy and successful year for you. All the very best, Diane

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    1. They are delightful birds, Diane, but not easy to find in England, with winter giving the best chance.

      I hope you are managing to keep sane during your stay in UK, and avoiding getting any nasty bugs this time round! My best wishes for a wonderful 2019 to you and Nigel - - - - Richard

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  6. I wish you wonderful observations of nature for 2019!

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    1. Thank you! My best wishes to you and your family too, Anne

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  7. Espectacular reportaje, enhorabuena Richard. Te deseo un inmejorable 2019, que todos tus proyectos para este año se realicen y podamos seguir disfrutando con tus bellos reportajes de vida salvaje. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

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    1. Gracias por tus amables deseos, Germán. Espero sus ofertas fotográficas en 2019 y les deseo todo lo mejor para un año lleno de vida silvestre. Saludos desde una Inglaterra gris y aburrida. ¡Espero un poco de sol esta tarde y encontrar a Waxwings! - - - - Richard

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  8. Hello Richard, Snow Buntings such a nice birds. I still have to meet my first bird. Therefore lovely to see you succeeded so well. I know there to be found in the dunes near the sea. One day I will find them. Wishing you al the best and good health for 2019 and lots of encounters with great birds.
    Regards,
    Roos

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    1. Greetings, Roos! The Snow Buntings are absolutely delighful birds, and I have seen them once in the dunes by the sea, in Scotland a few years ago. I'm hoping to see them next month in Scotland again.

      Thank you for your kind wishes. My very best wishes to you too for 2019. Please show us more of your wonderful wildlife photography - - - Richard

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  9. Hi Richard,
    I immediately saw all your snow bunting in the banner and these birds are also great to see. You could make nice and sharp shots of it. Super fun to see.

    Sincerely,
    Helma

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    1. Thank you, Helma, for your kind words, which are much-appreciated. My very best wishes to you for 2019 - - - Richard

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  10. Hello Richard
    with you, the birds are always so close to it ... I have to make an effort this year ... ;-)) great post
    a nice new year from me, comes a little late but it comes ...
    Greetings Frank

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    1. Hi Frank. Thank you for your kind words and wishes. I hope that this year is a great year for you, too. Take good care - - - Richard

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  11. Hi Richard,
    That is one bird I envy you as you must already know!
    Do I understand your frustration about the subject being too close and moving around.
    You will always have a depth of field problem with a long focal lens especially if it come closer than the minimum distance your lens will allow.
    But considering, you did you did well!
    I would be very happy to to get such pics myself!
    All the best for this new year and lots of great photo opportunities!
    Warm hugs to share with Lindsay :)

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    1. Dear Carine. I'm always delighted to receive your advice, and your extremely kind words of encouragement - a heart-felt thank you! I hope that 2019 is a fabulous year for you, and look forward to seeing the results of your photographic adventures. Take great care - - - Richard

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