Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tickell's Flowerpecker

Like I said on the post on 7th, I did wait for the bird under the tree to get a closer photograph and this is the best I could manage. The bird is such a restless one, that it hardly sat at any one place for more than a few seconds.

Continuing from the previous post ( Photography mistakes that I commit even after knowing)

Mistake4: Not carrying sufficient memory or charge: This one is self explanatory- carry extra memory and spare battery and its better to have large number of small capacity cards than one big card. If something goes wrong with once card, at least you have others. Now honestly, I don't have an extra memory card or a back up battery, in such a case the least I can do is download photographs at the first available opportunity and keep the memory card blank and ready. Similarly keep the battery charged up. But this is easier said than done and there have been times when I realised my memory was full and I had to return back with my task half accomplished. I know it but I still do it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Black Kite

Black Kite ( Milvus migrans) is as large brown hawk and can be easily distinguished from similar birds by its forked tail. This is India's commonest raptor and found in most cities and towns. The bird is a masterful flier and scoops down of food scraps even in traffic congested roads avoiding the mess of telephone and electricity wires with ease. From earthworm to young disabled birds, from termites to lizards it eats it all and generally engages in regular tiffs with the local crow population. The bird spends a lot of time in air, circling in the sky and makes effective use of thermals for soaring.

Continuing from the previous post:
Mistake 3 : Not Shading my lense: Lense flare occurs when light hits the lense at an angle and starts bouncing around the inside of the lense. This causes light to do weird tricks including reducing contrast and making the photograph look hazy or sometimes even creating halos. Use the lense hood to prevent this , in a compact camera you can even use your hand to shade the lense. Just hold your hand cupped around the lense, in the direction of the strongest light source.
Ex. Both the photographs above were taken on the same day, from the same place and nearly at the same location. The first photograph was clicked as soon as I reached the spot and started to click, forgetting to fit in the hood. I fitted it once I noticed my mistake. Its only when I uploaded the photograph on the computer did I realise the difference the hood could make and felt it would be a nice example to put it up.
Sony A350 , 300mm , f/5.6 ,ISO 100 ,spot metering,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tickell's Flowerpecker

Until I clicked this photograph, the smallest bird I photographed was the Spotted Munia this Tickell's Flowerpecker is about 8 cms, which is 2 cms smaller than the Munia. Also called as the pale billed Flower Pecker (Dicaeum erythrorhynchos) the bird landed up on a cherry tree on my backyard and flew off with a semi riped fruit. It then sat up on another tree a little further away and swallowed the entire berry, in one gulp! You can see in the photograph how big the fruit is with respect to its head. The bird loves the berries of Dendrophthoe and Viscum, two plant parasites of the mistletoe family and is responsible for the flourishing of the parasitic plant.
If the bird keeps visiting my backyard, then ill have to sit under tree one day to get a closer look at it. This bird very closely resembles a Plain flowerpecker, but this one has a flesh coloured beak compared to the black beak of the Plain flowerpecker.

Continuing from previous post:
Mistake No. 2 : Cluttering the frame: Trying to cram in too many things into one single image can mess up a photograph. This is especially important when shooting wildlife. With too much of attractive greenery around its tempting to stuff them all in and the creature only may get lost in the image. Ex. In the photograph above, there are just two elements, the bird and lots of leaves. When in fact, just beyond the frame there were 2 cherries and below the bird there was a sunbird. Had I moved my frame a little up I would even have got the blue sky. Now don't you think the small birdy would have got lost if I had tried to stuff in all these elements in the frame?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Inca Tern

Inca Tern (Larosterna inca) is a bird with a mustache or so it looks like. This bird is exclusively found in the islands of Chile and Peru and is a threatened bird today.
Sea birds like this Tern face a special food hazard, because of their lifestyle. The hazard is salt, which in large doses is poisonous, leading to dehydration and a overload on the kidneys. Yet seabirds inevitably absorb large quantity of salt water while feeding. The excess is disposed of by special salt glands in the head. The glands discharge a highly concentrated salt solution into the nostrils, from where it drips back into the sea. So efficient is this built in desalination plant that sea birds never need to drink fresh water. They extract all they want from the seawater. This I specifically noticed and mentioned in a older post on the Booby, where they spent 4-5 days on my ship feeding on fish at sea and never needing water to drink.

Sony A350 , 200mm lens, ISO400

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Black Headed gull

Nearly a year ago I had put a post on the Black headed gull ( Larus ridibundus )at Fujairah, now these are from England. Like I said then, when in breeding plumage the bird acquires a brown hood. Now the bird in the second second is a young one and facing its first winter, unlike the first photograph, which is of an adult. You can see the difference in the beak and the dark brown carpal bar. Here in India it is a winter visitor and prior to every migration at the end of March they acquire the brown hood.

For the next 10 posts I'll posts 1 mistake each that I have knowingly made in photography. There are probably many more, but these still tend to happen
Mistake 1: Forgetting camera shake: I had the perfectly framed photograph, well exposed and well balanced. It looks good on the cameras 3 inch preview screen but when I uploaded it on my computer, I get the shocking news of the camera shake. In spite of the Image stabilization and all precautions to hold the camera sturdy, its very difficult to get a steady shot hand held especially when using telephoto lenses. Now I try to use a tripod as much as possible but if I cannot use one then the following tips can help.
1. Use a shutter speed of " 1/your camera focal length" or faster. Ex. if you are using a 300mm lense use a shutter speed of 1/300 sec or faster.
2. Hold the camera firmly with both hands, with hands close to the body and the camera touching your face.
3. Use any strong structure the lean on to or let the camera touch any sturdy structure and that will partly help.
4. Breath slowly and steadily.
For both the photographs above I could not use a tripod but the light was sufficient to use a faster shutter speed. the 1st one used a 1/250 sec and the 2nd one 1/200 sec shutter speed and I used a 200mm lens and achieved a relatively sharp image.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mallard Duck

If any duck has to take credit for being the most well know and most commonly found then it is this one, the Mallard Duck ( Anas Platyrhynchos). In India it is a Winter visitor and mostly found in North west India and very rarely South of Mumbai.
In the Photographs above the Lower one is a drake while the upper ones are female ducks. Both were photographed at Eton.
The Mallards belong to the family of dabbling ducks; Dabblers feed by tipping tail up to reach aquatic plants, seeds and snails. They require no running start to take off but spring directly into flight.
The male stays with a Female until she lays eggs, after which a Male leaves her and moults into the plumage resembling a female and then almost three months later re moults into his original plumage (1) . A large percentage of Mallards show homosexual behavior, the percentage could be anything from 17-19% ( especially young ducks deprived of females during imprinting period)(2), instances of necrophilia are also noticed in Mallards.

Source (1) : Popular hand book of Indian birds - Hugh Whistler
(2) : Homosexuality Re-examined. by D.J. West, London: Gerald Duckwort & Co. Ltd,

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sea Anemone

To break the monotony of the birds, which I have featured now continuously for months I have posted this Sea Anemone. Sea Anemone is actually a predatory animal and named after Anemone a terrestrial flower.
One end of the Sea Anemone is a adhesive foot, which attaches itself to the ground, while the other end is the mouth surrounded by stinging tentacles containing neurotoxins which helps to defend and catch its prey.
A hermit crab often carries a sea anemone on its shell as a bodyguard. The Sea anemones stinging tentacles deter predators and in return the anemone gains mobility and thus a wider feeding range and well as scraps of crabs food. Hermits crab used abandoned mollusc shells as body protection, when they move out from one shell to another they do not leave their bodyguards behind. When about to move the crab gives the anemone a warning tap so that it relaxes its hold on the shell, then the crab lifts the anemone with its claw to the new shell.
A similar arrangement exists between the clown fish and the Anemone. The clown fish protects itself from predators by taking refuge among a anemones stinging tentacles. The fish secretes a coat of mucus which counteracts the poisonous discharge from the anemones stinging cells. The anemone seems to benefit because the clown fish acts as a lure to protect unprotected species and the fish benefits from eating up leftover scraps of the anemones food.