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Roadside pond turns it on again!

June 19th, 2010

Well this morning I could not believe my luck when I went to check out my favorite little pond. At first, I noted the resident Brown Falcon (Falco berigora) about 10o meters past it on the left sitting in the deciduous tree that had lost all its leaves yet again. I reckon the Brown Falcons are here in this area all year ’round ‘cept in summer or whenever the trees grow their leaves back it makes it nigh impossible to detect them. But now in winter, it’s easy to spot the Brownies, as the trees are literally naked ’round here. 🙂 As I was getting my camera ready, I saw an egret take off towards me along the little stream that runs into my roadside pond. It just came, came and came towards me and quite low too. I was fumbling around a little since I still had the camera set to Manual Mode and One Shot from photographing at home, indoors the previous night. Therefore,  I ended up quickly changing to Av mode (aperture priority) and overexposure set to +1 stop and didn’t worry about the One Shot mode.

An Eastern Great Egret flying towards me.

Normally I have the shutter set to continuous high (at five frames per second burst rate). I managed three keeper images out of four taken.

The same Eastern Great Egret flying past me.

The falcon just sat and watched me aim my camera and lens from below him. Then after a few shots it flew about 200 meters north to his next roost tree. I hopped in the car and followed. I quietly got out and fired off a few frames then he decided to launch an attack over the field and some 60 meters from where I stood a small rodent met a swift end. The bird grabbed the mammal so fast that a long stem of grass was trailing in his talons as he flew back to the tree 100 meters north of the pond. Of course I followed. My mistake was that I only had the 1.4x converter on and needed the 2x to magnify the bird and by the time I swapped quickly (took about 15 seconds max) he ate everything and flew over to his other favored perch tree, a small white cedar that sits right next to the pond.

The beautiful resident Brown Falcon posing for me in the gorgeous morning sun.

I managed to slowly walk towards him and take three images and he again flew. Thanks to the three cars that just had to come along this normally quiet stretch of road. I had my 2x converter on, which means that on my 30D body and a 3oomm f/4L IS USM lens I could not autofocus, so I tried to frantically adjust focus by hand as the falcon flew north with the sun beautifully behind me. I have two acceptable shots from 12. Not a good rate, but still better than nothing.

The same Brown Falcon, flying towards a prey it had spotted.

By this time, two rather large waterbirds landed at the pond. I could see them while I was a good 300 meters away and saw two giants land from the distance. Ripper, I thought! What a morning! 🙂 They were the two Australian spoonbill species; the Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) and the Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes). By now, both were busily trying to extract whatever morsels they could from the shallow waters. I carefully made my way to the edge again, keeping as low as possible and slowly raised my arms with the camera. Click, click, click and so on.

Australia's only two spoonbill species; on the left a Royal and the Yellow-billed on the right. They are sharing feeding ground here.

I was having the best ten to fifteen minutes of time with these two stunning birds, both in breeding colors. Then suddenly they flew off without even looking back. Analyzing my behavior at the pond, I did nothing different to normal. I sat, I moved very slowly and they had no qualms about moving around, fishing right in front of me. The only thing I could think of that may have suddenly spooked them would be the very annoying ultra light aircraft – I think it’s a paraglider – that buzzed around the fields all morning. A very annoying piece of aviation junk!

Enjoy the images and I wish you great light!

Ákos

Nature Photography

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