One of the more interesting and challenging aspects of bird photography is trying to capture them as they take off or land. This is when every feather in their wings is fully deployed for maximum lift or breaking power. Photographing waterbirds as they take off is particularly interesting as the birds have to free themselves from the negative pull of the water which requires a lot of energy before the birds can get airborne. Some birds manage this fairly easily, while others, especially big birds have to exert a lot of effort just to free their wings from the water. This always makes for great photo opportunities.
The parks and creeks round Brisbane, Australia are excellent for photographing waterbirds in their natural habitat. Being suckers for easy pickings we were obliged to indulge ourselves during our recent trip and most mornings we were up early and off somewhere in the hope of getting some good shots.
The first few days of the trip were spent up at Eumarella near Noosa, not quite Brisbane I know, but in Australian terms not that far out of town! We rented a small lodge on the shores of Lake Weyba which turned out to be home to a large number of Australian Pelicans that happened to gather in front of the lodge every morning.
Pelicans are big heavy birds and it is an effort for them to get airborne. Their take off method is a combination of lots of flapping coupled by intense pushes of their webbed feet in a sort of hop-skip-and-jump technique to get lift. Once airborne they seem to prefer to fly just above the water, obviously using the compressed air between their wings and the water to save energy.
The morning I took these photos it was very bright and I had to shoot into the sun which was not the best. But the end results, whilst not great are still reasonably OK.
A great Brisbane location for photographing waterbirds is the boardwalk at Nudgee Beach out near the airport. Nudgee has a superb boardwalk path that meanders over and through the mangroves that line the coast north of the airport. At its outermost point the boardwalk reaches the mudflats that are a haven for a wide variety of gulls, herons and waders. It is also supposedly a favorite nesting spot for Rainbow Bee Eaters. Every section of the boardwalk provides godd photo opportunities of one sort or the other.
Walking this boardwalk gave us a chance to capture an Australian White Ibis as it took flight when it realized that we were too close to it for comfort. These Ibis are common throughout eastern Australia and most people do not give them a second glance, but like all waterbirds the moment they start to take flight or glide in to land they become superb camera targets.
Usually I would not give seagulls a second glance but this Silver Gull trying to run from my camera was too tempting to miss. These birds have perfected the technique of webbed feet water walking to help generate lift as they take off. Landing is another story altogether. Unlike ducks which slide down using their feet as water brakes gulls use their wings to break their speed before dropping the last few millimeters.
Just north of Nudgee, Boondall Wetlands is another great spot for bird photogrpahy. Boondall offers dense paper gum forests, salt marsh and shoreline birding opportunities. Provided you don’t mond getting chewed by mossies you get three in one! Boondall has a couple of bird hides, which depending on the tide, are perfectly situated for photographing herons and waders. This Eastern Great Egret (at least this is what I think it is) obligingly fished the shallows right in front of us. For something differant I decided to post this shot of it taken just as it poked its head into the water.
The shallow waters of the mangrove creeks at Nudgee and Boondall are perfectly still and clear. So clear you can see and even photograph the fish that attract the birds.
So, if you live or are visting Brisbane, do yourself a favor and check out the trails and boardwalks at Boondall and Nudgee. Better still, take a camera with you and practice getting birds-in-flight shots. Aside from a few mossie bites, you won’t regret it.
This entry was posted on Sunday, January 8th, 2012 at 11:15 am. It is filed under Australia, Blog Roll and tagged with Australia, Australian Pelicans, Bird Photography, Birds in Flight, boondall wetlands, Brisbane Bird Photo Locations, Eastern Great Egret, Flying Birds, Lake Weyba, Mangroves, Noosa Heads Birds, Nudgee Beach, Silver Gulls, Waders, Waterbirds. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.