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!

Euphoria

Every now and then I get a nice surprise from nature. Last year it was a Buzzard that sat itself down on a branch not even 3 meters above my head, a Sparrow Hawk that decided to sit down and chill within a meter from me, or me almost stepping on a small Deer fawn that was hiding in the grass. This year started out rather slow, hence the lack of weblog posts, but luckily nature decided to throw me a surprise this early in February. That surprise came today. The weather has been really strange lately, as December and January kept us nice and warm with temperatures of about +10-15°C, where this should normally be 0-5°C. But suddenly at the end of January temperatures started to plummet towards -20°C during the night and we finally had some snow again. Because of the frost, the birds were no longer able to find their food on the ground and therefor had to go closer to where the people live. Luckily they can rely on philanthropists (like me) who put a free buffet in their garden for the birds, out of the kindness of their hearts, or just because they are nuts enough to want to spend hours in a camouflaged tent in freezing temperatures hoping to get some nice bird shots. The birds in my garden also seem to attract some Sparrow Hawks now and then, also wanting to have a nice meal (yes… I’ve created an entire food chain in my garden 😉 ). So today, this lovely lady landed on my photography contraption (which is a large and nicely shaped branch which was ‘acquired’ from a German forest nearby):

Sparrow Hawk

Sparrow Hawk
Amazing moment to have this kind of a shy bird just sitting in front of your lens! It was sitting so close I could not get the entire bird in the frame so I had to be somewhat creative with the compositions.

Here are some of the birds that the Sparrow Hawk had it’s sights on:
Sparrow
I really love the snow in there. Creates a more intimate picture.

Nuthatch
A Nuthatch, they can look very grumpy and often remind me of my college chemistry teacher.

And finally a flying deer from a few weeks ago:
Deer

That’s it for now. You can keep updated on my posts through the RRS feed by hitting the button on the top of the page or by manually adding it to your RRS reader: ( feed://viewonnature.wordpress.com/feed/ ).

Until next time!

It’s a Birds world

I recently started to notice that 90% of the photographs I’ve taken in the last few months were of birds. I think its partly due to the lack of nice warm weather and bright colors but also because of a growing interest in birds. Especially since I found some Hen Harriers near my hometown. These are truly awesome birds of prey. They have a very typical style of hunting in that they fly very low over a field looking for mice and other little animals. They have great agility and reflexes and can take turns like no other birds of that size. Have a look at these shots from this weekend. The male is gray and the female is brown.

hen harrier

hen harrier

There are also lots of Grey Herons at the same site as where the Hen Harriers are hunting. I usually try to photograph the Hen Harriers from inside my car, using the door for support. I am thus bound by the road but driving up and down this particular stretch always gives me a good chance of getting these birds closer to me (I really need a 500mm :p). This is also what happened with this Grey Heron below. He/she wasn’t afraid of my car at all and I was allowed to take some nice pictures:

heron

heron

Nikon news: things are stirring in the rumor sections. There is talk of a D700 upgrade in the coming months. Might be interesting to see what happens in this segment of the market. Will the D800, or whatever it’ll be called, destroy the competition like it did in the early days of the D700? We’ll know in a few months…

I also recently bought the 27″ Apple Cinema Display and upgraded my graphics card to an ATI HD5770 for some more power. Next to that, I upgraded my OS to Snow Leopard and I now use Lightroom 3.3 and Creative Suite 5 (Photoshop). Everything seems to run a little bit faster now and Lightroom 3 is a much welcomed improvement over Lightroom 2, especially with regards noise reduction and overall image quality. Importing files from the hard drive is unfortunately a lot more annoying…

Until next time!