Inspired by Pete Thorpe’s recent blog post on birding I set myself a little creative challenge which I haven’t done in some time. I decided to focus my photographic efforts for a few days on trying to capture some of the birds that we see on a daily basis here at Londolozi. This challenge coincided with the visit of friends and guests Angela and Ed who, very luckily for me, are also very keen photographers and are open to any and all photographic opportunities.
Bird photography can be frustrating at the best of times because of one main obvious reason. They fly! Therefore it takes equal parts time, patience and luck to capture them in a photo that you would be willing to show people. For each one of these photo’s in this post there are plenty of discarded shots that were just terrible. The great thing about birds though is that they are everywhere. You can practice in your own garden or nearby parks but the first step to taking great bird photos is to just start shooting. The amount of times I have driven past a bird and thought, “That would make a great photo but it will probably just fly away ” is embarrassing because in large parts that may hold true but the reality is that all of the below photos were captured because we stopped what we were doing and started shooting. Sometimes the birds flew off straight away, sometimes they flew off and returned back to the same perch, sometimes different birds came down to drink at the same waterhole and sometimes they flew off immediately never to be seen again.
These are just ten of my favourite bird photos that I have taken over the last three days.
The presence of a Tawny Eagle can often mean there is a carcass in the area and on this particular morning it was no exception. We watched this individual fly down and pick up some scraps of carrion before flying back up to its perch and devouring them. It hung around the area for quite some time providing us with some incredible photographic opportunities.
The Lilac-Breasted Roller needs no introduction and most guides and guests have plenty of photos of this exquisite bird. We spent the better part of an hour watching this particular individual return to the same perch each time after catching an insect as the sunshine brilliantly lit it up from behind.
Moody scenes unfold as a White-Backed vulture sits on the upper branches of this tree waiting for the sun to get higher in the sky and the thermals that will result. Eventually it would stretch out its wings and fall forward off the branch, simultaneously beating its wings at a speed that would allow it enough lift and send it into the thermals to glide effortlessly over the bush looking for food.
I always think of this particular bird as I cross the causeway over the Sand River. The name Black Crowned Night-Heron gives a clue to the behaviour of this shy bird and the majority of the times we see them are after dark as they come out from their secretive daytime retreats in the thick riverine vegetation to search for frogs, fish, insects or small reptiles to feed on.
Most photos I have of Saddle-Billed Storks are of them standing in rivers or at waterholes waiting to catch fish or frogs. This was something slightly different. I noticed a pair flying towards us high in the sky and the sheer contrast of the two of them against the blue backdrop compelled me to pick up my camera and take a few photos.
A loud screech often signals the presence of the Golden-tailed Woodpecker. Belonging to one of the four Woodpecker families that we find here it can sometimes be confusing to ID, but if you look at its spotted back and streaked underparts you will be able to differentiate it from the other Woodpeckers.
A Brown-headed Parrot feasts on the pods of this Russet Bushwillow tree. It was interesting to watch how it would pluck off a pod in its bill before transferring it to its foot and feed on it from there. This bird is unmistakeable in the region as it is the only parrot species that we see here.
Found here all year round, the Blue Waxbill often goes unnoticed because of its size. We were having our morning coffee at a waterhole when we noticed wave after wave of Waxbills coming down to the water to drink. I was able to grab my camera and lie down flat in order to get these eye-level shots of them.
Whilst watching the Blue Waxbills coming down to drink we noticed this interesting bird also fly down to the water’s edge. This was rather a tricky one to ID and the cause of a bit of debate amongst the rangers, so we thought we’d leave it her for you to have a go, and we’ll reveal the answer in tomorrow’s post.
Another view of the Tawny Eagle as it flew overhead. It can often be a tricky raptor to identify because its plumage is quite variable between different individuals. The Steppe Eagle is the one that it will most likely be confused with but size-wise the Steppe Eagle is larger and if you look closely at its gape (the yellow part of the beak that extends backwards towards the eye when the beak is closed) it extends to below the back of the eye not the middle of the eye like the Tawny Eagle. The Steppe Eagle is a summer visitor as well, and we won’t be seeing them here for another couple of months.