A Frosty Fish Eagle Morning

    A Frosty Fish Eagle Morning

    An early morning flight of a Fish Eagle at a frosty Lake Panic in Kruger National Park.

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    A Qantas Rooscape

    A Qantas Rooscape

    What do you do when a kangaroo hops past as the sun rises. You photograph it and hope for the best!

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    Tranquility

    Tranquility

    A Black Winged Stilt gently wades its way to breakfast.

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    A Harlequin Gem

    A Harlequin Gem

    I always find it amazing that the smallest of the world’s creatures, be they bugs like this Hibiscus Harlequin Bug, birds, fish, butterflies, lizards etc somehow are often the most colorful while the big stuff is rather drab.

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    Almost Dainty

    Almost Dainty

    Almost Dainty. This Dainty Swallowtail Butterfly in the making has been chewing up the leaves of my lime tree!

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    An Eye for Yellow Eyes

    The sharp yellow eyes of a Yellow Mongoose staring the camera out. Just what I like!

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    Blog Roll

    Walking on Water

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    I don’t know where all the birds in Australia have gone. One things for sure, wherever they are it’s nowhere where we have been looking the past few weeks.  So this morning, not wanting to drive two hours somewhere and comeback empty handed we decided to hit a local pond on the premise that it would be as good a spot as any.

    Under normal circumstances we walk past Swamphens and Coots. I mean, no one in their right mind eats in McDonald’s when there is a good Thai restaurant next door, right? But beggars can’t be choosers. When there is no decent Thai nearby, a Macca’s just has to do, and so today it was down to photographing Swamphens and Coots!

    After standing around watching them for a while it became apparent that the real challenge in these birds is photographing them as they take off running across the water. All that was left was to position myself in a good spot and wait for the sprint to start. Easier said than done. These birds just don’t go when they should, and when they do, its invariably in the wrong direction. So, some incentive was required. But before I let you know the secret, take a look at the five only good frames out of a total three hundred and sixty four taken!

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    The pond was fairly large. At one end there is a bridge over a spillway that gave a good perspective of the water below. Lower would have been better, but you make the best of what you got. Besides the Swamphens, Moorhens and Coots the pond is home to a whole bunch of Pacific Black Duck. All it took was a few handfuls of breadcrumbs and the ducks were zooming in. This in turn attracted the moorhens and coots. Once I had them all below me, the Boss positioned herself at the other end of the bridge and threw in another handful of crumbs. Not wanting to miss out on the duck rush the  moorhens immediately took off across the water, leaving me nothing to do but focus and shoot. Easy right? Wrong! The buggers you are focused on either don’t go or get blocked out by ducks or the water is all churned up and you don’t get the crisp trail of splashes. And, like all photography, the key is good light.

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    Photographing these guys literally running across the water is interesting. Today’s test run indicates potential. But it requires a skill that has to be developed further. But I reckon with a bit of practice it will be possible to get some fantastic shots.

    Watch this space!

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    The Need for Speed (and some patience)

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    Photographing birds in flight and coming away with a few sharp frames is very satisfying. Photographing swallows and getting anything is a bonus. Coming away with a whole bunch of shots happens very rarely.

    Welcome Swallows, like all swallows are super fast and it’s more or less impossible to track and photograph them in flight. The only way to have any chance is to find their favorite perch, check the wind and then with your back to the wind prefocus on the approach path usually taken by the birds as they come into land. After that it’s all down to luck and how aerobatic the birds are within your focus zone. With a bit of luck you should get a sharp shot every twenty or thirty frames. It’s challenging and it’s fun.

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    Of course if you can’t get them in the air, you can get them on the stick as they prepare to take off. This is actually the most difficult as you need to anticipate the take-off and press the shutter in time. A fraction of a second too late and you get a nice shot of the stick, but no bird.

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    Of course, if you are calm and patient like me, after some cursing and swearing you come away with a few nice shots worth keeping!!

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    The Power of Wind and Water

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    The beaches all along the coast of SE Queensland have been closed all weekend because of dangerous surf caused by the tail end of Cyclone Winston which battered Fiji a week back. So, instead of photographing birds we decided to drive down to Currumbin, just south of the Gold Coast to see if the surf was really as bad as it was made out to be.

    Let’s just say this…..it was pretty wild, too wild for the average beach-goer, but there were still more than a few crazy surfers bold enough to test their skills. There were also a few photographers stupid enough to venture out on the rocks to get some shots!

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    Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But after this close call common sense prevailed and it was back to photographing waves from a less wet position!

    The surf was absolutely spectacular. The early morning sun penetrated the back of the waves superbly enhancing the azure green water. You could not wish for better light to illustrate the power of wind and water.

    As I stood on the rocks focused on the surf breaking in front of me, a young female surfer came up with her board. She told me she usually launched herself off the rocks to save a long swim out from the beach , but after a few minutes she decided the risk of getting smashed on the rocks was too high and took the safe route out off the beach. It seems not all blondes are dumb!

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    All in all, a great few hours in awe of nature!

     

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    The Pygmy Predator

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    One of my most prized bird photography captures; a Pygmy Falcon. At about 20 cm in size it’s Africa’s smallest raptor and a perfect miniature of the bigger raptor species. Despite it’s size its a ruthless predator preying mainly on lizards and small insects.

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    The day I got these shots of this little poser was a very good day indeed!

     

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    Surviving By The Scruff Of The Neck

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    Life as a hatchling  is always a precarious time in a birds life. There are plenty of opportunists looking for tender young meat. If you are lucky to survive you prepare yourself as best you can to take that first leap of faith into fresh air and hope your wings land you safely. Then you learn to feed yourself by following and watching your parents before finally making your own way in the world.

    If you are a pair of Darter chicks you soon outgrow the small nest of sticks you were born on and spend your days precariously perched on an exposed branch while you wait for your parents to bring you food and water. As you get older and your soft downy feathers are replaced by a new permanent coat you practice flapping your wings and toning your muscles for that first flight. One mistake and you have had it because the water below is home to water monitors that would love such a wholesome meal.

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    Sometimes you get over-confident and lose your balance and almost, very nearly almost become monitor food. However, by some miraculous luck and huge effort you somehow manage to recover from certain death by the skin of your neck!

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    Whew….Lets face it, that was a close one!!!!

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    The Osprey That Dropped In

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    Rule No 1 in wildlife photography-always expect the unexpected (and be forever grateful for it!)

    Rule No 2 – Always have your camera at hand. When you don’t you miss stuff that otherwise would have been captured (and forever rue the day!)

    Rule No 3 – Don’t screw it up (or you will always regret it!)

    So there we were. Sitting quietly on the beach at Fingal Head in northern New South Wales watching big surf break over the rocks and some crazy surfers trying to tame it. We were there because the day before I had photographed some Reef Egrets and never got any good shots of their catch and I wanted to have a second go at photographing the birds fishing the rough surf. I turned and looked up the beach and there, just thirty or forty meters away an Osprey landed on the sand. I couldn’t believe it. Getting good shots of a bird like this is almost impossible, and here was one almost waiting for it’s photo to be taken.

    As I slowly approached the bird, not wanting to rush it and scare it away, but also not wanting to miss such a chance, all the was going through my head was to focus and not screw it up!! As I walked I quickly checked the camera settings, ISO etc and then hand holding with the bird square in the center of the view finder slowly walked closer until I had about a 30% full frame. I could have got closer, but I knew the bird would fly at any moment and wanted to make sure I could get all the wings in the frame. For once the light was perfect. Slightly diffused by some high cloud. Perfect. All I had to do was press, which I started to do as I approached.

    What the Osprey did next was surprising. It calmly walked down the beach and into the wash of the waves and stood there. It was not feeding and it was not bathing. Just standing in the water, almost as if it was cooling off. And there it stood, small waves washing round it. As it goes with waves, some are bigger. All it did in that case was raise it’s wings. It was enjoying an early morning dip…at least that’s what it seemed it was doing.

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    Expecting the osprey to fly at any time I just kept putting frames in the camera and consequently have a few hundred almost exactly the same as the ones before. But hey, who cares, in this game more is better than less!!

    But the damn lens started getting heavy and I was panting, partially from the effort of holding the kit and partially from being tensed up so as not to screw it up. So I lowered the lens to take a look. Guess what happened….Yup…the bird took off and I missed the mother of all lift off shots!!!!  (That’s what happens when you break Rule No 1 and Rule No 3)

    But not to worry. It obliged by slowly flying past at eye level about 10m off from where I was standing before circling and flying off low just in front of the breaking surf. Fortunately I’m not too bad at tracking and getting birds in flight, so this part of the show got captured.

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    Let me tell you. Days with a camera and spectacular raptors in focus don’t get much better than this!

     

     

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    Reef Fishing

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    The rocks at Fingal Head in northern New South Wales are famous for their hexagonal tubular shape. Battered by heavy waves at high tide the Head and its adjacent beaches is a splendid place to wind your neck in and forget about the world and its issues for a few hours. I learnt long ago to take a camera along whenever we go out because when I don’t have it I always regret it. In this case lucky I had it with because what was supposed to be a few relaxing hours on the beach quickly morphed into a finger twitching hour of photography when a pair of Eastern Reef Egrets arrived and started fishing off the rocks at the end of the beach.

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    What struck me immediately about the birds and sucked me out onto the slippery rocks to photograph them was how sure footed they were on rocks pounded by surf. Every step I took out over the slippery rocks I knew that as long as I didn’t fall I was going to get some good shots. And if the measure of a good days photography is a few good frames out of a bunch of rubbish, then this was a spectacular day with maybe twenty or thirty good shots of the birds taken over the space of an hour.

    Once again, it was absolutely astounding to see how comfortable these guys are in rough water and even more surprising to see how many fish they catch in such water. Their eyesight has to be very sharp and their reactions even more sharp for such a task. But they excel at fishing in such water. At one point I counted a fish in the beak of one or the other every five or six minutes. Unfortunately, of all the frames taken the ones with a fish or crab in the beak were not worth keeping. So, I have got the fishing, but regretfully not the catch.

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    Completely at ease with the water the birds gracefully flit from one fishing stone to another and are not at all bothered by surf breaking all around them. Rocks battered by waves which would normally be too slippery for humans are solid perches for the egrets to scan the surf and launch accurate attacks when a target is seen.

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    Of all the shots taken, one series stands out for its simplicity in showing how blase the birds are when it comes to breaking waves. As the tide receded one of the birds started working the beach end of the rocks where the sandy bottom was exposed every time the waves withdrew. It spent the time checking small pools around and under the stones for small fish left when the water receded. Then as each new wave washed in it calmly walked back up the beach, somehow just managing to keep a few milometers in front of the foaming water.

    Talk about being at one with the environment….it was very very interesting watching these guys.

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    In between bouts of catching a meal the preening begins. Again an opportunity for a few different angles of the birds who were not at all fussed by my being fairly close. Like all wildlife, as long as they know you are there and you don’t intrude into their personal space life goes on and you get your photos.

    Looking at some of these afterwards, especially the ones of the male it becomes evident how hard life is fishing a reef everyday for a living. Look closely and you can see that the birds are actually quite battered.

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    For those of you interested to try your luck, head for the northern beach at Fingal as the tide is receding. The birds seem to be regulars and depending on your luck you can get anything between one and three on the rocks at this time.

    For the purists, all these photos were shot with a Canon 1DX and EF 300mm f2.8L IS II Lens. At first I used a 1.4x converter but took it off as I didn’t need it.

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    All For A Mouthful of Frogs

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    Variety is the spice of life. There is no point in eating the same food when there is so much more still to be tasted. No point to drink the same wine and beer with so much more still needing sampling and no point traveling to the same old places when there is still much too much left to explore.

    So it is with photography. The same old same oh quickly gets boring. Another bird on a stick is another bird on a stick, unless it’s a special bird or a poser…then who can resist. The challenge is to find something new and get something different even if the Mozzies, Flies and ticks are a pain. Oh, while on the issue of Ticks and Mozzies, I heard that the best repellent is Geranium Oil which can be sourced from Health food stores….something new I have to try!

    Looking for new ground and following up on a tip that there was a big Egret breeding colony at the Gatton campus of the University of Queensland we trundled off out there a few days back. There were Egrets alright, hundreds of  Cattle Egrets in full breeding colors nesting round some small ponds in the middle of the campus. The colony is a hive of activity with nestlings ranging from a few days old to fledglings about to take flight. In a testament to the health of the colony and the amount of food available some nests have up to three chicks. But there is also a lot of carcasses of dead chicks on the ground.

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    With so many nests the colony is a constant hive of activity with adult birds arriving and departing every few seconds and despite the bright early morning sun it was not too long before I was full of Egrets in flight.

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    The flight activity in and around the colony is quite incredible. On a number of occasions there were near misses when departing birds suddenly took off in front of arriving birds. Tracking one bird as it glided in to land I was rewarded when another took off directly in its path resulting in a collision right in front of the lens. It was a no brainer…there was nothing needed except to press the shutter.  I knew right off that I had a few good frames and sure enough they were perfect.

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    After recording the mid air collision, everything else in the air became boring. No way was I going to get another one. So I turned my attention to the nests and the feeding frenzy which occurred every time a bird returned to its chicks. Basically its a free for all. The first chick to latch its beak round the adults head seems to get the best feed. Its a contest where the biggest and strongest always seems to prevail and the smaller nesting loses out.

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    Who would have imagined such demand for a mouthful of what looks like frogs.

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    Once beaks are emptied the adults enjoy a brief respite before taking off one more to scour the nearby farm fields to keep their hungry brood fed.

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    To those of you from Brisbane or Toowoomba wanting to shoot birds in flight head for Gatton. Basically there is no way you can fail to come away with a bunch of good shots. The nests are well placed for great Ariel as well as nest photography and it’s well worth the drive.

     

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    Reflecting Back Through the Dust of 2015

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    Looking back through the dust of 2015 it’s time to reflect on the year, learn from the mistakes and resolve not to repeat them next year. Glancing back its hard not to be happy to see the end of what was a long hard year.

    With the Cecil lion saga, where a Zimbabwean hunting guide sacrificed all basic principles for a few quick bucks to illegally bait and entice the most famous lion in Hwange to its death at the hands off a low life American dentist, we saw the real power of social media at work. Today the dentists practice is no more and the hunting guide bankrupted and facing charges for illegal wildlife smuggling. Even better is the decision by most of the world’s leading airlines to ban the transportation of hunting trophies. With the American Congress in the process of bringing new wildlife protection acts into force there is a glimmer of hope that the days of rich poachers killing endangered wildlife is coming to an end. We just need the Chinese and Vietnamese to enforce the importation of banned ivory and great steps will have been taken in the name of conservation.

    If have one wish for 2016 it is to see the oil price to go down at least another $10 and stay there at least for a year or eighteen months. Oil is probably the world’s most corruptive commodity and a low oil price is the best way to shuts those taps. In my opinion it’s time the fat cats in the Gulf who have screwed the world for years pretending to be friends of the west while quietly funding the crazies in countries like Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan need to face a day of reckoning.

    Also in the wish list is the hope we could see an end to Japanese whaling in Antarctica, illegal logging in Sumatra, Malaysia, Myanmar and Papua new Guinea and the stupid habitat destruction to plant oil palm. It’s also about time the Chinese and Korean long-line fishing that is decimating the world’s oceans is stopped. Why they just can’t farm their fish requirement instead of decimating the oceans is just beyond me. So, what a year 2016 will be if we could see the sun set on those activities.

    Photography wise 2015 was a dry one. But there were some good moments and memories.

    One highlight was seeing a swarming flock of hundreds of thousands of red-billed quelia in the southern part of Kruger National Park. It’s basically a sight that is almost impossible to describe and one which a camera only records one piece and not the whole story. It’s absolutely an incredible sight that leaves you wondering how the birds don’t fly into each other while seemingly swarming in a random fashion. A bit of research indicated that they manage this by each bird maintaining a certain personal space. As another encroaches the other gives way setting off a chain of perpetual adjustment within the flock. Simple, and effective and certainly spectacular.

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    Another highlight of the Kruger trip was seeing and photographing an African Wild Cat for the first time.The big cats are always special, but this little guy was extra special.

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    Everyone goes to Africa wanting to see the big stuff and of course seeing the big stuff is always great, but sometimes the small stuff is just as interesting. So instead of just posting big stuff I thought I’d look back with a mix of the small stuff that really made me smile when I downloaded the files.

    The dung beetle busily moving his fresh ball of droppings across the middle of the road posed a special challenge as I had to get out of the car and get low. No matter how I positioned myself the damned beetle was intent on frustrating me by heading off at another angle. Finally just as I was about to surrender to the commands of the Boss to get back in the car it finally went straight and I got the shot. Similarly the baby tortoise that crawled through our camp one evening was too fast. I could hardly get in position before it galloped past.

    But the chameleon that grudgingly allowed itself to be photographed one afternoon is the one that really made that day special.

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    Following the theme of small stuff, one of the most pleasing photos of the Africa trip was the one below of the fly on the eye of a white rhino. What better way to celebrate a year of small stuff by mixing it up with one of Africa’s great beasts. When I took the shot I was focused on the wrinkled eye and only found what I had got when I opened the files a few weeks later.

    Let’s face it. Its the fly that makes the wrinkles in this photo cry! For me, its my photo of the year.

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    Long weekends in Australia were put to good use with two trips out the far west of Queensland. Sadly most of rural Queensland is suffering from years of bad drought. The effects are devastating and small rural communities are dying, yet it’s something that’s hardly covered in the press. Consequently most Queenslanders living in their latte bubble along the coast hardly give it a thought. It’s a very sad state of affairs.

    Outback Queensland is the land of Big Sky. Big blue sky that contrasts with olive vegetation and red earth. If you want wilderness (and thousands of flies) it’s simply spectacular!

    Compared to Africa where the wildlife and birds are overwhelming, you have to drive long and hard to find good stuff in Australia. But Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary near Cunnamulla is one place where you can find variety and bird densities that make the long trip worthwhile. It was at a small waterhole in Bowra late one afternoon that we photographed a flock of Galahs drinking and watched and photographed Emu’s messily quenching their thirst.

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    No one in Australia stops to photograph kangaroos. But early morning on the road between Cunnamulla and Eulo we came across these two feeding in an area of orange grass. They just had to be photographed, something that left the Roo’s astounded.

    This photo won me a $1500 lens from The Australian Traveler Magazine, Australia’s premier travel magazine. After the Rhino Fly, this is my second favorite shot of the year.

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    One good thing about Australia is that when you feel you need to take a break from the bird photography monotony there are plenty of spiders, and other stuff to focus on.

    It’s only after you take a few shots of spiders and try and identify them that you start to realize the number of species and variants of these critters that there are in Australia. More disturbing is finding out how many are poisonous to the point of being deadly. Add the snakes and you almost don’t want to walk in the bush.

    My favorite spider shot of the year was this Tent Spider feasting on a flying ant after a night of heavy rain. My macro photography is nowhere near the best that you sometimes see posted on the net, but its slowly making progress. Like everything practice makes perfect. Let’s hope 2016 brings on the spiders!!!

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    One favorite photo spot not that far out of Brisbane are the quiet mangrove beaches of Bribie Island and this past year we managed a few interesting captures out there. One of the interesting sights is watching mangrove beach areas swarm with thousands of Soldier Crabs. It’s an incredible sight, a mass of small blue critters moving like lice over huge areas of sand.

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    Go deeper into the mangroves and another world of small crabs opens up. It’s hot sweaty photography and the mosquitoes chew you up but its quite interesting what you get for the effort. They might be a bit small, but looking at some of these crabs, you can’t help but wonder what they would taste like fried in a hot wok with some black pepper!

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    The sky above Bribie is almost constantly patrolled by Osprey’s and Kites of one type or another all looking for a meal either in the water of stranded on the edge. When photographing out there its necessary to constantly have one eye up. One time, while standing photographing Honeyeaters and Ariel battle between an Osprey and a Masked Lapwing protecting its chick on the beach erupted in the sky above. A bit closer to earth would have been perfect, but it was an event of aerobatics that I think is worth posting here.

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    Eyes down that same day yielded other interesting captures in the form of a family of Buff Banded Rails and Brown Quails surprisingly quite happy to be photographed. That was a good day, one of the best of the year for the variety and quality of photographs bagged.

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    No Bribie related posting would be complete without some photos of the Honeyeaters feeding on the beach Bangsia plants that attract us out there in the first place. First up are some shots of White Cheeked Honeyeaters, small busy little birds that really photograph well. Striped Honeyeaters are another Bangsia feeder. Bigger and more territorial, they don’t like their smaller cousins coming near. Catch them perched on the top of a plant declaring their presence and it’s always a keeper!

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    Looking back on 2015, it was not all about swatting flies and mosquitoes. There were some quality moments miles from nowhere with no phone or internet to distract where the world and all it’s issues did not exist. Give me a lodge in Biyamiti in Kruger or a simple room in the Hotel at Hungerford in outback Queensland over a five star hotel in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur any day. This is what I call living the life!!

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    As the sun sets on 2015 and 2016 draws closer I figured what would be more fitting as the last photo in this posting than the sunrise rainbow taken early in the morning on the bridge above the Letaba River in Kruger. It was a spectacular sunrise that began a fantastic day of photography!

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    May 2016 bring peace to the world and another few thousand great images to my camera!!!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    The Christmas Kingfishers Leap of Faith

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    A few days back at Sandy Camp Road Wetlands, a popular birding site near Brisbane I bumped into a few other photographers who tipped me off to a Sacred Kingfisher nest on one of the nearby tracks. Judging from the passing traffic it seems everyone with a camera in Brisbane knew about the nest except me. Anyway, not being one to miss such an opportunity I settled in to try and get some shots of the adult feeding the nestlings safely ensconced in a termite nest just above the trail.

    What should have been a relatively simple exercise was complicated by the surrounding bush and harsh light which made good metering difficult. The birds back flip departure away from the nest was particularly aerobatic and interesting as it was never quite the same. So the challenge was to try and get a few good sharp frames worth keeping. But after an hour or so it became clear that there was no way anything decent was going to come out of the effort as the light was just too harsh. Plus it was starting to get hot and the bugs were starting to chew.

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    While processing the days haul which turned out to be very average at best I decided to try and stack some shots using Helicon Focus to see the effect. Unfortunately you can’t make bad shots better multiplying the effect!

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    Hoping for some better shots I was back there early this morning thinking I’d catch good early light and the birds breakfast feeding. But Sod’s Law, today was heavily overcast and threatening rain. It was so dark I had to open up the lens two stops and push the ISO beyond 1000 and still struggled to see or get anything useful. Meanwhile the mother was busy servicing the nest, and what sounded like a youngster in a nearby tree. It was clear the youngsters were in the process of leaving the nest meaning my opportunities to get some good nest feeding shots was fast running out of time. Dumping the tripod I settled for some hand held shots at a slightly better angle and no sooner had I lined up on the nest opening to shoot a few test frames when the mother appeared on the nearby branch she used to launch her approach to the nest. Expecting her to start flying and ready to fire off a burst I was surprised to see a head poke out of the nest. It took a look, stuck out some more, took a look then launched itself into the big outside world. I was so stunned and it happened so fast I just managed a few lousy frames. But at least I got to watch and you get to see something that you don’t often see…that leap of faith out into the big world.

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    The youngster, free from the dark confines of the nest landed on a branch just above where we were standing. It sat there bewildered for a while before trying it’s wings again and moving branches all the while encouraged by the mother who was busily encouraging it. As a reward for its effort she brought in a beetle and then a praying mantis both of which were promptly swallowed.

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    I don’t know if three hatchlings is common for Sacred Kingfishers, but I was no mean feat for the mother to successfully feed and raise three youngsters. Now they have left the nest the hard part begins, as she tracks and shepherds and teaches them how to survive in the harsh Australian bush.

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    I think you will all agree, she is a truly superb mother!!

     

     

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    Three Young Willies

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    The last few weekends, days which would normally be spent on birding and photography trips were instead spent watching movies on flights to and from Malaysia and India. But with the traveling for the year now all done and dusted, today was a chance to get back to more pleasurable pursuits. The only inhibitor to a few hours of good photography is the fact that right now down here summer is hitting its peak and its hot….damn hot. So, in order to beat the heat and bright morning sun it was necessary to get up and out and down to Sandy Camp Wetlands early.

    Arriving at the wetlands I spotted two big bombers on tripods a little way down the track focused on something. So I wandered up to see what was drawing all the attention. In a small dead tree in the water just off the track a Willie Wagtail had a nest with three hungry hatchlings that don’t look like they are more than a few days old. Never to be one to walk past a posing bird family I set up next to the other guys and waited for the female to shuttle. Over the next thirty minutes I came away with a good series of shots of breakfast being served.

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    Willie Wagtails are common fantails which don’t usually warrant so much attention, but this nest was well worth the time. The nest is an interesting cup which looks like its built from spider webs. It’s not at all big and seemingly OK for the young birds while they are small, but I can’t see it being big enough to hold three chicks when they start to feather up. Its going to be a family worth following over the next week or so to see how things develop.

    Hopefully they all make it and don’t get picked off by predators before they are big enough to fly.

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    Aussie Surfer Bird

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    It”s Australia. It’s summer. You are young. The surf’s up. What do you do…you hit the beach and go for a surf…what else!

    But where else in the world do the birds hit the waves….Being a typical Aussie beach bird, this Pied Oyster Catcher had the technique of ducking through the oncoming surf perfectly timed.

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    Creepy Crawlies

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    Australia is the land of snakes and spiders. If you want to get bitten by one of them, then this is the place. Basically they are everywhere, and I would say the chances of a bite from one or the other is quite high. Reading up on these guys I was quite surprised to learn how toxic and irritating a bite from some of them can be. I was also intrigued to learn that there are even water spiders who’s toxins are bad for fish. So the critters really are everywhere. The biggest threat comes from Red Backed spiders, which fortunately for me, but unfortunate for photography have yet to come across.

    Anyway, what do you do when the kangaroos bounce off and the birds desert you…..you can always turn to the spiders, because you are guaranteed to always find one somewhere within a meter of you.

    Actually they are quite interesting critters, and it’s always satisfying when you load the images up on the screen and see detail that that you can’t with the native eye. The colors of some of them are quite spectacular. But what is most fascinating is to see how they suspend themselves from strands of silk web, so thin its almost invisible. Incredible!

    The most common of the spiders in our garden are Orb Spiders like the ones above and below. These spiders range in size from 5mm to 25mm and weave huge webs that span any void. At first glance they all look the same but the variety of variances in colors is quite astounding.

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    One interesting spider is this beautifully colored Tent Spider. It weaves an inverted tent-like web and then hangs down in the center waiting for it’s prey.

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    Another fantastic little fellow is this Darth Vader looking Garden Orb Weaver below. I noticed that they are particularly busy in the later afternoon and early morning, but seem to disappear later in the day. Then I found out that they are preyed on by Honeyeaters. So either they spend the day hiding out or  get themselves chewed up. It was only when I downloaded the shots of these guys that I found out how hairy they are.

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    The positive thing about photographing, and then having to try and identify these guys is the fact that you become aware of the spiders to avoid. I was stunned to find how many of the bad critters are common household and garden residents. So from now on, I will have a lot more respect for these critters.

     

     

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    Mrs Plover Lover

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    This morning we had an interesting run-in with a masked lapwing.  Decided to put it to prose…

    Plover lover,

    The Missus, she’s a Plover lover,

    Plover lover,

    But the Plovers, no love her,

    No Love her!

    The Missus, she go bush,

    Thinks the bush is Mush,

    Bush happy, bush happy,

    She loves the sticks,

    Get eaten by ticks, but loves the sticks,

    The Elephants,

    They hate her, hate her,

    But me, no Phapf!

    Missus Plover lover,

    The Magpies, the Missus,

    No see eye to eye,

    But me they luva,

    Mr Magpie Lover!

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    Ok, so it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out who the Masked Lapwing was dive bombing today!!!

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    The Bangsia Beach Comber

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    The past few trips out to Bangsia Beach on Bribie Island near Brisbane has been quite productive. This last trip to photograph White Cheeked Honeyeaters feeding on the flowering Bangsia was unexpectedly refocused on a Beach Stone Curlew combing the nearby waters edge.

    Never having seen or photographed this bird before it quickly became more interesting than the attractive honey-eaters which are a pain in the ass to photograph as they don’t pose where they are supposed to. The Curlew on the other hand didn’t care about me shuffling along the sand ahead of it as it patrolled the waters edge pecking crabs. Then, just as I thought I had enough keepers in the camera it found a half dead snapper and the fun really began.

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    The snapper was clearly too big a fish for the curlew. It struggled to bash and stab the wriggling fish which was not going to go down without a fight until inevitably it met it’s end. The curlew, worried about gulls or eagles swooping in on it’s prize before it had a chance to eat it proceeded to stab and peck at it as it tried to carry it’s meal away down the beach towards the mangroves where it probably spends it’s days.

    Eventually after struggling for about half an hour, it gave up and wandered off leaving the fish for the next beach combing scavenger to find.

    Definitely an unusual and interesting sighting and event, and only us there to witness it!

     

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