Friday 17 January 2014

Some thoughts on Birds and Photography

Yesterday, I was particularly keen to go birdwatching at Musselburgh. I had hoped to see this bird, which if it is really a Stejnegers Scoter, would be the first ever to be sighted in British waters.

I didn't see it, or if it was there, it was too far out for me to recognise it as different from the velvet scoters.

If I had seen the rare scoter, I had hoped to take a photo for id purposes and to prove that I had really seen it. However I forgot my camera, which made me think about the pros and cons of photographing birds.

I tend only to take photos of large slow moving birds, like herons, swans or geese or other water birds that will come quite close. They make easier subjects!

I also feel I miss out on enjoying the birds, if I'm struggling to get the perfect shot. The quality of my photo of a small, quick moving bird wouldn't be good enough to justify losing that moment of enjoyment.

Yesterday's main moment of enjoyment was seeing the teals on Musselburgh Lagoons. These little ducks are beautiful, but yesterday's sighting was doubly special. Firstly the light was amazing and the drakes' colours were glowing in the sun. Secondly, the drakes were doing their courtship display, which was quite comical, they throw their heads back, then pause briefly then lift up their hind quarters and shimmy so that their teal green and yellow colouration is shown off to full advantage, specially in the perfect light.

It was also lovely to see lots of lapwings, oystercatchers and other waders on the Musselburgh Lagoons and a group of around 20 long tailed ducks on the Firth of Forth, the largest group I've ever seen of these ducks. I saw three birds for the first time this year, dunlin, grey plover and rock pipit, and I updated my 2014 bird list! I also saw the famous Musselburgh hooded crow / carrion crow cross.

So there are no photos of the day but lots of lovely memories!


Caroline Gill said...

I was fascinated, Juliet, by your thoughts on this post. I'm sorry the rare Scoter eluded you, but I guess it's the quest that is sometimes the important factor rather than always the outcome ... though clearly you had a productive time in terms of bird encounters. The photography thing is a constant dilemma (highlighted for me yesterday when I appear to have seen the Diver). My camera on 'zoom' seems to have almost as good a view as my binoculars, so I tend to switch happily between the two. If my hands worked better (too much metal, too many fused joints), I could use heavier lenses, and might think differently. I'm a great one for recording the moment with something 'concrete' ... a reflection on two facts, one that I worked for five years in an archive and two that I don't trust my memory! That said, it is of course infinitely preferable to *watch* our wildlife without always feeling cluttered and having to focus and 'click'! I wonder what others feel. I really appreciate and enjoy the fabulous photos on wildlife photography blogs ... but for myself am usually content (in the short term at least) with a quick record shot. The act of blogging - or recording a moment in e.g. a Haiku (as I did yesterday) - is in itself both record and memory! Thank you for highlighting this topic ...

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I really do think we sometimes miss out on enjoying things if we are always trying to get the perfect shot. I find myself doing this whenever sight-seeing, I am always concentrating on the pictures I'm taking as opposed to actually trying to enjoy the moment :)

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Caroline, it's always worth going to Musselburgh to see birds, I do keep an eye out for the reports of very rare birds and make a special effort to get there on those occasions, but even otherwise, at this time of the year there's always the chance of for example Slavonian grebes, velvet scoters & long tailed ducks and often the sheer spectacle of numbers of birds is amazing. I like to record the moment too, I always make lists, but I know my photos would just not be good enough artistically, though in some situations they're vital for id. I love photographing plants and landscapes though.

Optimistic - I know the feeling,

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

I would like to see the Hooded Crow you refer to.. and by the way..I would like to be able to see a raven and distinguish it from a crow.

Draffin Bears said...

Hi Juliet,

Great post and thanks for sharing.
So often I am out walking and try and take a photo of a bird in a tree.
Most of the time I get home and just delete as they don't come out well.
Enjoy the weekend

RG said...

Photographing birds, to me, is far different than bird watching. For me, bird watching is about seeing and appreciating the interwoven connections between living things and the amazing differences.

Photographing is more of a hobby or job or effort to capture an experience for later study/enjoyment.

Both useful!

(Besides - I am a really bad, but prolific photographer!)

eileeninmd said...

I am sorry you missed the rare scoter..I am like Caroline above mentioning that I also use my camera to zoom in on the birds, hubby is using the binocs. I do like trying to get a photo for id purposes and for a record of where I see the birds.
Sounds like you had a great outing and still some wonderful birds. I love the long-tailed ducks.
Have a happy weekend!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Tommaso ravens are much bigger than crows, have a diamond shaped tail and make ahuge deep kronking sound. From a distance it can be hard to tell the difference between then and crows, but closer to, they're quite distictive.

Eileen - and you take wonderful photos of small birds in trees! Much better than mine would be

Rajesh said...

It is not easy to photograph birds.

Ms Sparrow said...

It sounds like your list is off to a good start!

Little Miss Titch said...

sounds a beautiful day,xx Rachel

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

An interesting read. Bird watching sounds like a good interest!

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

Caroline Gill said...

'Kronking', Juliet, is such a great description!

Rabbits' Guy expressed the photography v. eyes thing very helpfully.