Friday, January 2, 2015

Picture A Year

The New Year, and as is customary here’s a selection of favourite pictures which best depict the four seasons of birds and birding on Another Bird Blog during 2014. This is my entry to Jim M Goldstein's Best Photos 2014, a project with over 300 participants from all over the world in 2013.

It was quite difficult to choose a single representative picture taken in the actual month concerned, the problem being that some of those 30 day periods lacked much photography action. Often the birds chose not to join in with my camera quest and I went without pictures for weeks at a time. Here goes with the photographs and I hope that the few words accompanying each picture might help others who wish to photograph birds, that most difficult of subjects. Don't forget to "click the pics" for a light box show.

January. A picture of a Little Egret from my Lanzarote sunshine holiday, away from the cold, grey days of a Lancashire winter. Photographing white birds is to me quite perplexing. Often the bird’s image ends up looking either washed out with no detail in the white feathers or drastically under-exposed, making the bird appear grey instead of white. While not perfect this picture is about as good as I can get until I resolve the mysteries of my Canon camera’s exposure values. 

Little Egret
February provided opportunities for taking pictures of Goldeneye, a shy diving duck which visits the UK in the winter months only. The golden eye and the two-tone bill of this female remain in focus as the camera captured the water droplets on her plumage as she emerged from a lengthy dive in the depths below. The picture was taken from a car window following a careful approach as a truly wild Goldeneye is highly unlikely to stay around if approached directly. 


March hints at Spring but more often than not it feels like the depths of Winter. The arrival of Wheatears from Africa tells us not to worry, Summer isn’t too far away. Finding the first Wheatear of the season is something of a ritual for most birders. The yearly custom is often subject to mockery from others who claim to be above such trivial pursuits. But there’s nothing quite like close contact with a Wheatear newly arrived from Africa to make one appreciate the phenomenon of bird migration. Below, a fine looking male, the first of a number caught during the year. 


April and there was a stroke of luck with a Black-tailed Godwit intent on feeding, so not noticing my presence. Like most waders Black-tailed Godwits are normally shy, so I rattled off dozens of similar pictures to clog up the hard drive and then chose just one that captures the bird with its bill open.

Black-tailed Godwit

May’s photo is easy to pick from the many sunshine shots of Menorca, a Mediterranean island which beckons each year. A colony of Bee Eaters is hard to resist. The birds live in an unlikely looking spot where they burrow into the sandy soil to lay their eggs and raise a family. Staying in the car and waiting for a Bee Eater to perch close by is far more successful than trying to approach this shy bird on foot. 

Bee Eater

June is a good month for early morning starts where even the shy Grey Heron might feel unthreatened by a single person in a slowly approaching car. This heron used a boat from which to watch the shallow water below but quickly flew off at the first person approaching on foot. 

Grey Heron

July rarely goes by without a chance of photographing Swallows. An adult’s summer plumage makes for the most photogenic but juveniles are much more willing to stay around for a picture. 

Barn Swallow

August.  A young Tufted Duck has yet to learn the ways of man. The expression in the bird’s eye combined with its body language said that while it was happy with the initial approach, if I moved closer it would depart the scene, taking the accompanying Tufted Ducks with it.

Tufted Duck

September in Skiathos where a Red-backed Shrike resident in the hotel gardens was somewhat unapproachable but had a regular beat, as many species do. After a week or more of relaxing in the garden while at the same time noting the bird’s habits, I used the cover provided by a chain link fence to obtain a number of reasonable shots without scaring the bird away. 

Red-backed Shrike

October is the month that Whooper Swans fresh in from a non-stop flight from Iceland settle on a traditional part of our coastal marsh. It’s best to try for pictures before the swans get uneasy from the regular wildfowl shoots which start in October, activities which increase their wariness. Take a close look at the picture and how each swan is looking in a different direction in case of predators, a 360° early warning system. It’s part of the reason that birds form flocks - many pairs of eyes and ears are better than one and at the first sign of trouble the herd will have the earliest possible warning. 

Whooper Swans

November seemed to involve a good number of sightings of Buzzards, a hopeful sign perhaps? The trials and tribulations of our UK Buzzards at the hands of the less responsible devotees of shooting became a regular feature throughout the year on Another Bird Blog. It culminated in November with the conviction of a gamekeeper for the intentional killing of nine Buzzards; the court issued a suspended sentence but no financial penalty other than to pay court costs of £930 plus a “victim surcharge” of £80. In the eyes of our UK justice system the value of a single Buzzard is less than £10.

As if Buzzards hadn’t enough to contend with in being constantly harassed by the ever expanding corvid population?

Buzzard and Carrion Crows

December. A far from perfect picture of a Kestrel displaying “fuzzy” focus, into the light of a watery morning, parts of the bird hidden by the fence line on which it sat. I like this picture because there is something of a detached look about this bird’s expression as it ignores the camera and concentrates on finding that essential early breakfast. 


It just remains for me to thank everyone who visited the blog in 2014. Happy New Year to all.

I hope to meet up with everyone again in 2015.

Linking today to id-rather-b-birdin.Dawn's Critters and Eileen's Saturday Blog.


Stuart Price said...

I'll be in the NW in late May 2015, might even make it north of the Ribble.............

Jo said...

Happy New Year, Phil. I'm glad I found your bog; your images are awesome. I love them all but the Red-backed Shrike is my favorite.

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Now if those goomers think that the first contact with a Wheatear in Spring is trivial, shame on them. It is the harbinger of better things to come and what could be more uplifting than that? In addition the delicate shades and tones of the bird's plumage are a study in form, texture, grace and colour. The only thing trivial perhaps is their insensitive minds!

Bob Bushell said...

Great calendar of 2014, let's hope that in 2015 can be special too.

Linda said...

Great selection of photos, Phil. The swans, the egret, all the lovely birds.

TexWisGirl said...

love them all, but that shrike is amazing!

Unknown said...

Great photos!
Went down to Pilling, Cockerham and conder the other day
And just been to Cockerham and glasson today. Saw a lot of Whooper and mute but didn't manage to see kingfisher at Glasson, nor the spotted redshank when I went to conder. Hoping to see them some time this year :)

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Hey Phil: I left a comment earlier, filled with erudition as you will well appreciate, but I don't see it making an appearance. Maybe you can let me know if it came through okay, otherwise I will have to tax my tiny brain again and do another one.

eileeninmd said...

Phil, you have had an awesome year.. What a wonderful variety of birds and lovely photos.. Two of my favorites are the Bee-eater and the Shrike.. I wish happy birding in 2015..

Stewart M said...

Nice set of of pictures - and a good year by the look of it.

I wonder what 2015 will bring.

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

KK said...

Happy New Year, Phil. Looking at these photos is great. I love the Goldeneye and the Barn Swallow the most.

Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

what a cracking post and wonderful selection of birds. You HAVE HAD a great year Phil. I am sure that 2015 will be as good or even better.

Unknown said...

Happy New Year, Phil. Great post and a couple of 'ringing ticks' there ( not that I'm bothered any more). Enjoy your winter holiday in the sun.

Phil Slade said...

David, I found your comment. I had forgotten to press "publish" - Doh!

Irma said...

Beautiful series of photographs of the past year.
My favorite is the eater on photo 5.
Have a very good weekend, a happy and healthy 2015.
Best regards, Irma

Phil Slade said...

Paul from Glasson. If you do not receive my message leave your email address as a comment. I will not publish your email address but respond to you privately. Phil.

eileeninmd said...

Phil, stopping back to say thank you for linking up and sharing your post..Have a happy weekend!

Unknown said...

Great photos all of them! Let's hope 2015 brings many great photo opportunities as well.

Hootin' Anni said...

LOVE 'EM ALL....but I do have a favorite. Wouldn't you know? The Bee Eater.

Happy day to you and yours Phil.

A Colorful World said...

I love your collection of year's best...the buzzard and crows may be my favorite, but it's really too hard to choose! In reverting to an older comment (as I try to catch up with everyone!) I agree that every yard should have a Texas Sage! It is the perfect place to hide and also get cool. I have photos of both a Cooper's hawk and a roadrunner actually INSIDE the dang thing, though, going after the birds!

Betsy Brock said...

Wonderful photos...ALL of them!

I love the bee to me! And the snail who photo-bombed, too!

Anni said...

You know my favorite since I was here earlier today. Now that I'm back, I must note that your kestrel is more attractive than ours in America. I like the all grey head.

Thanks for sharing your link today Phil!!

Mike said...

So many great photos. You've had a great year!

sunshine said...

A wonderful collection, hope the next year will be successful too.

Stephanie said...

I don't think I have ever seen a Kestrel before. Great shots!

Saun said...

First time to your blog .... Great series thanks for sharing beautiful shots!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

It is 1/4/2015 and here I am, finally making a visit to blogs everywhere. Oh what a delightful listing of your favorites of last year. Of all that you shared, they are all quite wonderful, however, I have to pay special attention to the beauty of the Goldeneye, Barn Swallow, Red-backed Shrike and the Kestrel, all so gorgeous Phil!!! Now then, you know how I feel about those blameless Buzzards and I hope that they continue to fly high and make it to many more years of doing what they do, without being shot down. They are killing the stunning Sandhill Cranes in my state. One county alone has taken 51 and the season is not over until 1/11. Makes me sick to my stomach, just really takes me into depression! Ignorant rednecks!

Russell Jenkins said...

What a good year for wonderful pictures, Phil. Very interesting with the explanations too. The swans looking 360 degrees and the Buzzard and corvids are super behaviour examples. I bet you get some good pics in 2015 too.

Choy Wai Mun said...

A fine collection of images. The past year was very good to you. Happy New Year!

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