Category Archives: Birds

Out and About Around Brighton

In between all the foxes I’ve been spending a little more time out and about with the camera. Still all in the local area, but finding new subjects and places to explore. A few days ago I decided to explore the area opposite one of my usual haunts (Sheepcote Valley) and took a wander along the tracks that run between the meadows on the north of the main road. It was an eye opener. There were some lovely views across the valley, and loads of horses in paddocks.

horse in paddock

Horse in paddocks around Woodingdean, East Sussex

portrait of horse's head

Portrait shot

white hrose

White horse with view of houses in the distance

horse

Loved the colours on this horse and the soft reflected sunlight on the distant hill

That’s an area I’ll certainly be re-visiting.

A few days later I was really bold and wandered down into Brighton proper. I did have a particular subject in mind… the murmuration of starlings that takes place at sunset around the Palace Pier, but I was there much earlier which gave me some time in the afternoon. Apart from the usual shots of the i-360, I spend an age watching the Brighton Bubble Man entertaining the small crowd alongside the West Pier. The bubbles he creates are huge. Here’s just a few shots that worked out ok. Worth stopping by if you are ever down there.

giant bubble

Child’s hand reaching up to a bubble

Giant bubble framing the West Pier

Bubbles over the West Pier (by The BubbleMan)

A cup of coffee and a slice of cake later, the sun was beginning to go down and I got ready for the main event. Sunset was at 5.16pm and at 5.00pm I was still wondering whether anything would happen. There were starlings to be seen. But nature knows its stuff and as the sun went down below the horizon, small flocks of starlings started to gather and very quickly merged into a massive flock. And then they started the sky painting. This was my first attempt at murmurations and I made a few mistakes. I should have had more of the western sky in the shot (better colours), but my aim was to also grab plenty of the pier itself for context. I tried to keep the shutter rate high (above 1/250 with a decent depth of field). Inevitably it gets more difficult as the light disappears. I’ve included shots where the classic shape of the murmuration is more evident.

murmuration of starlings at Brighton

Murmuration of starlings at Brighton Palace Pier

murmuration of starlings at Brighton

Murmuration of starlings at Brighton Palace Pier

murmuration of starlings at Brighton

Murmuration of starlings at Brighton Palace Pier

I mentioned the advantage of looking west to catch the true colour of the sunset. These were taken shortly before the sun disappeared.

sunset brighton beach

West Pier (and i360) at sunset

sunset brighton beach

West Pier (and i360) at sunset

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II. I used the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM for the horses and the EF 70-200mm f/4.0L IS II USM lens for everything else.

Also posted in coastal, horse, Landscape, Seaside Views, starlings, Sunset, Wildlife Tagged , , , , , , |

Sparrowhawk

I’m falling well behind with blogging. I’m due a fox update and also got a really nice set of horse-racing pictures that I should post (including some nice shots of this year’s champion jockey). But those are being put to one side (yet again) as when I got home late this afternoon a sparrowhawk was on the grass outside our back window devouring some prey (probably a pigeon).

I do occasionally see sparrowhawks come very close to the garden and in 17 years have seen one land on a fence or tree here twice, so being down, in the garden, and with prey was something very unexpected. The shots were taken through the (dirty) double-glazed back door so lack some clarity, but they certainly give an idea of what we spent a good 10 minutes watching. Assuming the prey is a pigeon this is most likely a female.

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk devouring prey in garden

Sparrowhawk with what appears to be a pigeon’s feather

Sparrowhawk with feathers strewn around

We didn’t get to see it finish its feast as it was disturbed by noise from one of the neighbours. But a special few minutes, for certain.

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens.

Also posted in Bird of Prey, Wildlife Tagged |

Making a Splash

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been spending a little bit of time at Falmer Pond concentrating on the ducks and the gulls. Very common subjects, but I’ve been interested in playing with the light to see if I could get something slightly more interesting. Most of the following shots were taken with the 500mm lens, which I am slowly getting to grips with. Working with a tripod changes how you think about shots. You can’t go chasing them in the way you can with a smaller lens. So it takes more patience, but it’s a nice way to spend the odd hour or so.

My general set-up is to shoot into the light (or at least across it). This tends to darken backgrounds and highlight any water splashes (which is what I’m after). The camera is set to underexpose (negative compensation of between -1 and -2) which ups the shutter speed and reduces the risk of blowing out highlights.

herring gull

A simple shot, showing a nice arc of spray

herring gull

I like the flash of yellow from the gull’s bill and the geometric shape of the spray.

Duck on calm water

This one was picked for the variation in light.

But ducks can certainly make a good splash as well, as in these.

duck splashing with wings raised

Female mallard. Less spray but I liked the colour and light.

Duck splashing with wings raised

A simialr shot to the previous one, but the light had changed which makes for a very different feel to the image.

The final one is actually a rear view of a duck, a male mallard; but it’s also my favourite. It perhaps could have done with slightly more ‘splash’, but the shape of the spray, the reflection on the water and the strong back-light through the wings more than compensates.

Male mallard, with wings extended

Male mallard, with wings extended

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 500mm f/4 IS II USM lens.

Also posted in water birds, Wildlife