Saturday, January 30, 2010

Common Starling

This common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) was so busy foraging that it absolutely did not notice me, clicking its photographs. This Starling is a very rare bird in India and my eyes lit up when I saw him. Starlings are very common in temperate countries, especially in Europe. I loved the lustrous metallic coat of the bird. The bird was walking on rubber matting and was picking up insects from deep within the crevices of the mat.I was completely low down on the ground to get the required vantage point and this posture is probably the reason why this bird didn't mind my presence.

P.S.These days I am preparing for my Captain's exams, which will be held in the month of March and April. Hence sorry for the irregular updates.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Long Eared Owl

Of all the birds, that landed on board, the one that amused me the most was this Long Eared Owl (Asio otus ). It not only let me do a close inspection of its plumage but also didn't mind me spending about 45 minutes close to him. The bird was probably migrating to Africa from Europe or had landed on board chasing scores of tiny birds, like the Chiffchaff and Chats.
Approached the bird slowly, walking on my knees. The bird was waiting for darkness to set in, so that it could go about hunting the scores of tiny birds that had landed on board. I didn't see it hunting though and can only speculate about it.

Photo details:
1. f/5.4 ; 1/4000 sec ; ISO 100 ; 300 mm
all other Images at ISO 400 and f/5.4

Monday, January 18, 2010

Isabelline Wheatear

Was this bird Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina) named after a soiled underwear? I hope it was not, but and interesting story goes like this. Isabella was the Archduchess of Austria and in 1601 her father Philip II of Spain laid siege to Ostend, which was under the Dutch. A successful siege here would ensure Spanish victory and in a joyous fervor Isabella vowed not to change her intimate undergarments until the city was taken. Unfortunetly for her, the seige ended only in 1604, nearly 3 years after she had taken the vow, leading to this off-colour word for over-worn underwear ( Isabellin colour is described as greyish-yellow colour). I have not idea of the authenticity of this story, but surely tickled my trivial instincts.
This insectivorous bird, landed on board during its migratory journey towards Africa from Asia. Out ship was off the Syrian coast heading towards Italy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pied Wheatear - Male

This migrating Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) landed on board when we were off Libya. It was a very shy bird and very hard to track, our ship was approaching port and I ran short of time to continue tracking the bird. Its really sad, that similar species did not land on board again and missed to photograph a close up, like the way I wanted. This bird like other Wheatears is insectivorous and I'm sure must have relished on the innumerable dragonflies on board.
Hoping to get better photographs, when I meet this bird next, hopefully on land.

Siberian Stonechat

Above; Male assuming breeding plumage Below: All Females

This Siberian Stonechat or Asian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus) was another winter migrant, that found my ship as a resting spot as they flew across the Mediterranean, destined for Africa.
The bird was difficult to photograph as it was constantly moving and hiding away from me. Finally I managed to locate its favourite, perching spot and waited in ambush to get these closeup's of the female. The male proved to be elusive as ever.
Got my hands on a wonderful book on wildlife photography called "Digital Nature Photography: The Art and the Science by John and Barbara Gerlach" Presently reading it word by word and every page is a treasure trove of knowledge. The author insists on using the histogram during image preview, to decide if an image has been adequately exposed. The 2 inch screen of a camera may be too small to make a good judgment and the image on the screen may be influenced by several other factors, like external light and viewing angle. I found this tip extremely helpful and have been using it since then.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


This Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), was one of the many birds that landed on board my ship for rest during their migration to Africa from Europe. This insectivorous bird also got a few tasty dragonflies for snack, when on board. The bird is similar in appearance to a willow warbler, its the song of the bird that helped me to identify it as Chiffchaff, I didn't have any device to record its cry though.
The bird did not mind me coming close to it and hence I managed to get a lot of close up images of this beautiful bird.
Photo info
1; f/5.4 ,1/640 sec ,300mm, ISO 200
2; f/5.4 ,1/320 sec, 300mm, ISO 100
3; f/5.4 ,1/40 sec ,300mm, ISO 100
4; f/5.4 ,1/320 sec,300mm, ISO 100
5; f/5.4 , 1/400sec, 300mm, ISO 100
6; f/5.4,1/320sec,300mm, ISO 100

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Northern Wheatear

This Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)may be a tiny bird, but it makes one of the longest migratory journey for a bird of its size. This bird landed on board, when my ship was en route to Egypt (Mediterranean coast), the bird like its ancestors was on its way to sub Sahara Africa, from Europe. These birds like all their ancestors fly down to Sub Saharan Africa to spend their winter and return back to Europe and central Asia for Autumn. Even birds as far as from Canada and Greenland, even if they were born there, migrate to Africa to spend their Winter.The bird was pretty wary of my presence and maintained a pretty large distance from me.
All three photographs were clicked in bright light and the Grey metallic surface of the ship reflects lots of light under exposing the subject. Hence I generally keep the camera on spot metering and read the light of the darker part of the bird ( not necessarily the darkest)

Photo details : 1. f/5.6; 1/1000 sec ; ISO 100 ; 300mm
2. f/5.6; 1/400 sec ; ISO 100 ; 300mm
3. f/5.6 ; 1/250 sec ; ISO 100 ; 300 mm

Sunday, January 10, 2010

European Robin

In my previous post I had featured this bird calling it the British Robin , this time its the same species , but a slight vagrant and called European Robin (Erithacus rubecula). This one was photographed in Mediterranean sea, off Greece. The bird was very shy and extremely difficult to photograph unlike its British cousin, which was very much approachable. Although subtle differences exist between to two species, I could not readily identify any, just by looking.
Managed to photograph the nice twinkle in the birds eye, it gives m a lot of satisfaction to see the glow in a animals eye.
Although I like to photograph at the lowest possible ISO value, many times especially when photographing hand held in poor light, it is better to use a higher ISO. Though the noise is more, it's better than having blurry photographs because of slow shutter speed. Here I used ISO 200, to boost the shutter speed from 1/125 to 1/250 sec.

photo details: f/4.5 , 1/250sec , ISO 200 , 300mm

Friday, January 8, 2010

Black Redstart

Female or Juvenile
Breeding male

The above two photographs of the Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) are of the same species, however, the upper one is either a juvenile or a female, while, the lower one a breeding male.
The bird is pretty much wide spread in Europe while, being a migratory one in UK. In India, it is both a local resident, as well as a winter visitor. The red colour under the tail gives an appearance of a bird on fire, when it takes off or when landing.
The bird was seen feeding insects, and was very shy of my presence. It took me a very long time to get close enough to the bird for a clear view. Both the birds were probably migrating to Africa from Europe, as they landed on board, when we were en route from Libya to Italy.
The first photograph was clicked in the evening. The setting sun like always, not only has a nice warm hue to it, but also, gives a lot of contrast resulting in wonderful photographs.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Northern Gannet

Happy New Year to You. Wishing you a prosperous 2010. May you fly free like this Gannet.

After the seagull, the most common bird that I encounter at sea are the Gannets. These birds which are closely related to the Boobies, where photographed in the Bay of Biscay, enroute to the English channel. The bird was feeding on fish that were churned out by the ships wake and it was a pleasure to watch the bird dive. Fish was spotted and scooped out by it in fractions of a second.
The bird photographed above is the Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), the birds were previously placed in the Sula species, the same species as the Boobies, but today they are identified in the Morus genus.
A major portion of the worlds Gannets live in the United Kingdom and I have not spotted the bird in Indian water's.
Photograph details : 1. 300mm , 1/800 sec , f/5.4 ISO 100
2. 300 mm, 1/640 sec, f/5.4 , ISO 100