Sunday, 13 September 2015

Marsh Harriers and Kestrels at the Bird Hides







Carole and I went, once again, to the bird hides at Manea in Cambridgeshire. They have views across the marshy fenland towards Ely Cathedral. Here all sorts of birds like to come and go. There are great migrations of birds all year round.

To be honest, I’m not too interested in these flocks that come and go because I like to spot the variety of birds of prey that seem to be increasing in numbers around the fenland. I think there have been some EU directives concerning banning certain pesticides. This has led to an increase in birds of prey as it was suspected that rodents, on which birds of prey feed; were becoming poisoned and then eaten by hawks, owls, falcons and buzzards etc. Thus the poison was passed on and this led to a bird of prey numbers diminishing.

This is one among other positive steps towards looking out for the birds of prey. Obviously, such legislation is paying dividends. I can’t believe I’m saying something optimistic about the EU. Well, there you go on that particular issue. Who knows, I might spot some flying pigs one day.

I used the telephoto 420mm to800mm zoom lens that I purchased and also the spotting scope and tripod. Armed with good binoculars, a picnic box and two coffee flasks; Carole and I set off with great aplomb to the bird hides. The zoom lens has to be worked manually. One can’t focus and get an automatic adjustment with this compatible adaptation. It was a cheap and cheerful zoom lens and is fine for a beginner like me, but new draw backs are coming into play. The lens is good for distance, but one does need a tripod because there is a small jogging upon taking the photo shots. Also, while on manual, one needs to go into the SO settings and adjust shutter speed and light too. Otherwise, the photo shot will be too dark. This was a trial and error learning curve with me.

Today, I got some fine shots of marsh harriers and kestrels, but a new problem has come about that I did not anticipate. Using manual on my extended scope does require a lot of skill to get a moving target in focus, (flying hawk) and when the topic is in focus it can quickly move out and blur. It might move further away and distort or come closer and obscure. One must constantly adjust while following the bird in flight. Also one must keep the camera firmly upon the tripod or the shot will, again, blur when trying to capture the hawk in flight. There are a lot of things to think of and all this can be rather testing when trying to capture a moment. I had a marsh harrier come across the fen and it flew straight towards our bird hide. I was taking multiple shots while grappling with focus and tripod. The marsh harrier came so close that I did not need the 420mm to 800mm lens strength. I could have kept on the max 200mm lens with all it auto focus and would have had some great shots. I did not have time to change the lens in such a short time so I improvised and found some of the shots were blurred while some were fine. As the hawk circled it went out of focus and then as it returned and flew along the river it came back into focus. It was all rather fun as Carole and I gasped at the fine bird of prey – a female marsh harrier.

So now I’m planning on buying a totally compatible zoom lens for my make of camera and not the cheap adaptation that is limited where automatic focusing is concerned. I’m not knocking the cheap zoom lens because it has taught me much and I have still had much gratification from using it. I just think I’m ready to move on where the more expensive and better quality zoom lens equipment is concerned.

Our new spotting scope was put to good use too. We were in the hides for four hours and spent a very pleasant morning (bird of prey) bird watching. The marsh harriers were out in plentiful numbers but were mostly too far even for the full 800mm. However, we were able to observe well with telescope and binoculars. The crows are often a good source to alert us too hawks or buzzards because crows will harass birds of prey by gathering about them in flight. They certainly don’t like marsh harriers flying into their air space and will congregate around most hawks to try and intimidate them. Below are some of the shots that did not come out too bad. Well, not good, but one can see they are marsh harrier and kestrel.



kestrel



Kestrel in flight




kestrel flying off


A marsh harrier comes towards us across the fen


...as it nears it turns off along the river...


...then it turns back...



...it looks as though it might land...




   




...then it leaves...

... a murder of crows try to intimidate her as she leaves.



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