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!

Looking out the window on a rainy Sunday afternoon..

Today I got a visit from a Sparrow Hawk, just as I was about to waist some more of my precious free time with episodes from Californication, Chuck, and White collar. It had been raining all day (again) and since rain most of the time means no decent photography light, I decided to stay in today. Just when I was about to sit down and watch Hank Moody smooth talking himself through his life again, I looked out of the window to find a Sparrow Hawk going after my precious little garden birds. These were all hiding in the dense bush but the Hawk didn’t seemed to mind since it just squeezed itself through the branches to get to the birds. It was totally focussed on hunting them down, thereby giving me the opportunity to carefully open the window and take some shots:

sparrow hawk

sparrow hawk

Too bad the background isn’t ideal but I’m not complaining or anything :p.

That’s it for today. My next project will be the beaver. Hopefully the weather clears up fast and I’ll be able to take some time off from work for this. Maybe I’ll also go after some wild boar.

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!

White portraits

Today started out like any other day; woke up at 6 am, got out of bed at 6.30 am (yes I’m a slow starter), did my usual morning rituals and set out to go to work. Unfortunately, it had been snowing all night which subsequently lead to me not even making it out of my driveway. I actually got stuck in the snow just as I was trying to turn onto the main road. So, there I was in about two feet of snow with the front of the car on the main road (well, it wasn’t so much a road as it was an ice-skating track). Couldn’t go backward or forward. After digging out the car with a shovel, I started to get some movement but the road was just so slippery and the visibility was so low that I just didn’t want to risk the long drive to work. So, in the end I decided to work at home today. I had already taken the afternoon off actually.

Anyways.. now about the photography stuff today. As I was working in my planning files, suddenly 8! pheasants showed up in my garden (I think we can call them pets by now as they return every day to my bird feeding spot). So after I had finished my work, I went outside with my camera and sat in my photography tent for about 4 hours in total (it was freezing and yes, the blizzard hadn’t stopped). But it was all good fun since I took about 350 shots. Light wasn’t really good but the light-reflecting snow kind of made up for that. The diversity of birds was amazing: 8 pheasants (fazant), 30 pigeons (duiven), 1 buzzard (buizerd), 1 sparrow hawk (sperwer), 7 great tits (koolmees), 2 Nuthatches (boomklever), 10 blackbirds (merels), 1 Eurasion Jay (vlaamse gaai), 1 woodpecker (specht), 1 Brambling (keep), 8 Finches (vinken), 2 Robin Redbreasts (roodborst), 2 starlings (spreeuwen) and 5 House sparrows (mussen). So all in all, great fun.. if you’re a nature photographer that is.. It is really cool to see how all these different kinds of birds work together when a buzzard or sparrow hawk is approaching. One individual bird simply blows the alarm and all the other birds immediately fly off (sometimes even crashing into my tent). This happened about 20 times today as the buzzard was really hungry and made a lot of fly-overs. He didn’t catch anything though.
Anyways.. here are the results of today:

buzzard
This is the buzzard.

pheasant
Gorgeous bird!

Nuthatch
The Nuthatch.

Eurasian Jay
Eurasian Jay.

Pheasant
Female Pheasant.

Many more of these can be found on my website.

Until next time!

P.S. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!