New season, new adventures

Goodbye Winter! We’ve had some good (mostly cold) times, see you again next year. To say goodbye, here are some of the last winter shots.

starling
blue jay
Finch
cranes
This was quite fun! Almost 2500 Crane’s that spend the night at National Park the Meinweg and I was there when they woke up and took to the skies :).

And since Spring is upon us:
snowdrop

While looking back, I can’t help but wonder what the next seasons will bring me. Most of the times, opportunities find you instead of the other way around. While exploring new grounds, I often stumble upon something to turn into a new project. I also wonder what new opportunities (and challenges..) my new, yet to be bought :p, camera will bring me. 36MP is a lot of fun but it has its drawbacks of course.. I’ll hate the small AF area coverage (compared to DX) and the massive file sizes, but I’ll love the additional cropping, detail, better noise handling, dynamic range, and AF performance…. O well, nothing is perfect in life.

And now, time to go after that Pheasant that just walked into my garden. Good to know he survived the killing spree of the local hunters.

Until next time!

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Hen Harriers – revisited

This will be the first of two winter posts. This first one will cover my latest Hen Harrier adventures whereas the second post will show some other more common birds in a winter setting. For the first time in many years I haven’t had the feeling of spending the winter in hibernation. I actually went out into the blistering cold and got great results! I focussed all my efforts on capturing birds in the snow that I didn’t have any time to go out and shoot some landscape shots. Yes, the winter of 2012/2013 was great but I’m glad that it’s over and I’m ready for Spring now. I already have a few small colorful projects in mind but more on that in a few weeks. I will also be buying a new camera as I’ve set April 1st as a deadline to buy one. I’m afraid Nikon won’t release a D400 any time soon so I’ll be buying a D800 and 24-70mm lens (full frame instead of APS-C (crop)). I will still be using my D300 for when I need the additional reach and speed but the D800 will be great for more controllable projects such as macro, light rays, and king fishers. I’m a bit worried though about storage space on my computer so I’m going to have to increase that as well. Luckily my 2008 Mac Pro seems to handle large D800 RAW files very well. Anyways.. enough blabla and time for the pictures:

Hen Harrier
Hen Harrier
Hen Harrier
Hen Harrier

I do wonder what adventures 2013 will bring. Where do the kingfishers decide to nest? Will we see any new rare birds? How about the beaver? And will I see Roe Deer fawns again? I can’t wait!

Until next time!

On graceful wings..

It’s 6am when the radio alarm clock tries to wake me up but fails. In anticipation of this failure, the evening before I set another alarm clock to go off right next to my head at 6.05am. Unfortunately I forgot to turn down the volume a bit causing me to wake quite abruptly… mission successful though, I’m awake. Next step is putting on 2 thermal underwear sets, a shirt, 2 fleece sweaters, 2 pair of thick socks, and 1 pair of glasses. I go down for breakfast, trying not to fall off the stairs with 20+ kg of camera gear (and a lot of other stuff necessary for my project of the day). I have breakfast, load everything into the car, program the satellite navigation, and set off for a 30 minute drive into the cold morning. There’s no traffic on the road this early causing me to regularly break the speed limit. I make it to my destination in just under 25 minutes, a record :p. I unload everything from my car, put on snow boots, and start to hike up the side of a hill. There’s a stiff and cold wind blowing with very little light present, causing me to almost tip over a few times due to bad weight distribution of my gear (heavy tripod swinging off the side of my backpack). The slippery slope isn’t helping much either. After a 15 minute hike I finally reach the top and make it over to the spot where I’m going to spend over 5 hours waiting for a few birds to occasionally fly by. 10 minutes later, I’m fully camouflaged, sweating like a mad man from the hike, and ready to go. After witnessing the sunrise I’m starting to cool off a bit and after 1-2 hours my toes seemed to have lost the connection to the rest of my warm body. Meanwhile, I’m just scouting the horizon for the typical shape of a hunting Hen Harrier (in Dutch: Blauwe Kiekendief). There’s no time for checking email or reading stuff since the moment can be over in 5 seconds… so just as my camera I need to stay sharp and focussed :p. Anyways, copy the above into 4 cold mornings and this is what you’ll get:

Hen Harrier female
Hen Harrier male
Hen Harrier
Hen Harrier

Amazing, graceful hunters. The Harrier jet actually got its name from these nimble and acrobatic hunters.

The next photo was taken in my garden where large amounts of birds come to dine when there’s little to be found because of the snow covered ground. The same is true for bird of prey that have difficulties with finding food. What an intense moment that was… incredible.
Sparrow hawk and prey

The last one was taken while waiting for the Hen Harriers. They must be quite skilled air traffic controllers these pigeons 😉
Pigeons

Until next time!

‘Setting the right mood’

My preparations for the new Spring season are in progress. First thing I did was digging out a tree that had been cut down for about 2/3rds, which would be ideal for shots of a woodpecker climbing up a tree. In order to lure the birds to my tree I cut out some holes in which I could place some seeds or other bird food. On top of the stem, I also ‘dug’ out a small hole in which I placed some more seeds. Now this flat surface with a hole in the middle isn’t really photogenic so I decided to cover it up with some moss, leaving a hole in the middle for the seeds. I got some pretty nice shots this way and I even noticed that the birds don’t mind me sitting in at about 4 meters away. This was great since that meant that I didn’t have to use my wireless remote trigger, thereby hoping that I set the focus point correctly. So, this morning I was setting up my camera while the birds were flying in and out to my moss covered tree. Suddenly I heard this ‘woosh’ noise and after about 2 seconds I realized that a Sparrow Hawk (Sperwer in Dutch) was after my little garden birds. It kept flying after the birds, not further away than 2 meters from me. When the hawk realized it couldn’t get my garden birds, he/she decided to land on a rock for a rest. Funny thing is… that rock was within half a meter of where I was sitting! I wasn’t even camouflaged or anything! The hawk then looked at me, I looked back at the hawk, we both looked at each other, and then it suddenly realized that I was one of those weird humans and it flew off. Amazing moment!

Anyways.. have a look at the shots below.

pimpelmees / roodborst

pimpelmees

The next one was taken last week. I was on one of my usual strolls through the country side when I suddenly saw this Kestrel sitting on a wooden fence pole and I was able to get within 10 meters or so. Gorgeous bird!

kestrel / torenvalk

Until next time!