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The WORST targets for photography (1 Viewer)

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Gleb Berloff

Guest
If anyone out there is a keen bird photographer, I am starting a thread to discuss this subject. A lot of people will probably disagree with my list, but I have built it based on observations. If anyone is frustrated with these birds, I can understand why. And also recommendations to photograph some of them. I only include birds I have seen myself.
1. Golden Oriole. These birds, although colourful, are surprisingly difficult to spot in trees, have a habit of perching inside the thick foliage of said trees, and on top of that are extremely shy, and can fly off at a very long range.
During a one-off visit, this task is monumental and nearly impossible. With a crowd of observers it might be easy. But not alone. There was one oriole in 2018 living in a very small area near my former village. It took me almost two weeks to get photographs of it. If on a one-time visit, the only views you are likely to get are very distant views of flying birds. The best idea to observe these is to choose a very reliable site for them, go there in the very early morning, and wait, preferably out of view. With luck, an oriole might perch on a barnach in view, or start its feeding flights. Early evenings are good for those as well. They can be found by their beautiful calls or cat-like screeches. But if it sees you, it will fly away. Listen out for those calls in reliable spots in early mornings. Lone trees are best- that is how I found my oriole. The best image of it is attached below. The way I did this is carefully approach its call at 5 in the morning, and found a tree from which the calls were coming. It took me five minutes to see it, and it was sitting in plain view! The best bet is a dead tree. This bird is incredibly difficult to photograph. But if successfull, the result will be invaluable. The bird is a personal favourite of mine. I am still sitting here in shock I managed to take a picture of it, against all odds. Playing its song at full volume can also help.
2. Cuckoo
Cuckoos are also shy, flying off at an extremely long distance, usually sit perched in the canopy out of view although sometimes choose exposed spots, and are impossible to spot like that.
The beautiful call of the male is the best way to locate it. Scan the likely area, and wait. If you are in the right place facing the right spot, it can take off and fly, and they are most easily observed during this time. Some advice I have found from ornithologists is that playing its song can lead to them approaching you.
Otherwise, approach the song, and hope for the best. However, these birds are easier to observe than orioles. In the UK, RSPB Lakenheath Fen and Thetford Forest is a stronghold.
3. Merlin
Merlins are relatively easy to observe in flight. But photographing a rapidly moving, extremely small bird of prey is another story. I don't know what kind of camera is required to take a picture of these, but mine would fail instantly, as it takes two seconds to focus. Visit a stronghold, and hope for the best. With luck, it can be seen perching.
4. Bittern
Bitters, with their camouflage, are really hard to observe. But in the right place, they are easy. The best places I know of is Bittern Watchpoint in Lee Valley Park and RSPB Lakenheath Fen. The easiest way to observe a bird like this is in flight, though one can sometimes come out of the reeds and start prowling around. This tends to happen most often in icy conditions, when water is frozen.
They are actually best observed in summer, where they get everywhere in feeding flights, and the species is almost-guaranteed if you visit Lakenheath, but you must be patient. Be patient, and one might come out. The Mere Hide and Joist Fen are spectacular places for them.
5. Black Woodpecker
These things are enormous, and can be heard from a great distance. But they are also extremely shy! It is almost-impossible to get to a good place in a forest to take pictures of them! If you approach it like that, it will fly off.
The best place to look for them is young pine plantations, as I have found out. Choose a reliable spot, and with luck it will visit a photogenic area. Sometimes they become approachable, but others they are almost as bad as an oriole.
If you visit or live in Russia, Sanatornaya station has a massive lake nearby on the Belarus direction. The young plantations are where I saw it. The region also has Mid-Russian Willow Grouse and Three-toed woodpecker. The three toed woodpecker is hyperactive, but is remarkably approachable. But with balck woodpeckers, visit a reliable site, and carefully approach the sound, looking out everywhere. Like this, you might get lucky.
Good luck!
 
G

Gleb Berloff

Guest
The images of the oriole
 

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BobbitWorm45

Well-known member
Just one thing from your post. You mention playing the song to attract birds for photography purposes. This is generally considered to be a bad practice, particularly in the breeding season when birds are looking for mates, it confuses them and can have a detrimental effect on their breeding success. Would not promote this.

Nice oriole pictures, wish we had them here in UK but now, I fear lost as a breeding bird.
 
G

Gleb Berloff

Guest
Really? I did not know about this? Interesting, actually. This would of course complicate things, but I found them without playing songs, just recommended what I managed to pick up when searching for how to find them. Yes, orioles are gone, unfortunately. Although they might still return...
And this was in end of July- maybe a little late for looking for mates?
 

jurek

Well-known member
Actually, I would say stronger - repeatedly playing song of a bird (especially by photographers who want a long photo session at the point blank range) easily leads to the bird deserting the area.

On the other hand, the practice of feeding birds to make them come for a photo, although can look gross, seems at least not to harm the birds.
 
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marcsantacurz

Well-known member
Related to the Merlin topic, I sometimes photograph swallows during their nesting season. Every year in the fields near here one can see large groups of swallows feeding on flying insects. There will be 100s of them diving all around each other and sometimes one type of swallow will be chasing away another type. It is amazing to watch but very hard to photograph. If one tries a wide shot to capture the scale of it, the birds are very tiny and cannot be seen easily. If one tries to focus on a small group, they are zooming so fast with changing backgrounds, it is very hard to autofocus. They are also pretty tiny and often a fair distance away, so one needs a 1000mm or longer equivalent field of view.

What I have found works the best is to set the camera (DSLR or advanced mirrorless) to full frame AF points and try to catch the birds when they are against solid sky. This gives the AF system the best chance to detect the bird against a high-contrast background. If you try it against terrain, the AF system will more often than not hit the terrain. Another trick is to pre-focus the camera to the expected distance. Watch the birds and the routes they fly, then pre focus along the route. This will prevent the AF from seeking all over trying to find something. It might even catch the bird against a terrain background. If I am trying to shoot the bird against a terrain background, I go for a smaller AF group, like a smaller center group (9 or 27 or whatever the numbers are). Doing this can also let you get pretty close to the bird so they are not a tiny spec, though of course that means you have less time to photograph the little rockets.

I also go for very high shutter speed (e.g. 2500 - 3000) and as fast a shutter release rate as I can. I will usually use M exposure settings and set it for the illumination on the birds so the system does not get confused by dark (terrain) or light (sky) backgrounds.

Marc
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
I find it quite interesting how different Cuckoos are in different parts of Europe. In Czech Republic it's similar to your (presumably UK-based) description, while in warmer areas to the south, Cuckoos are really ubiquitous and often found out in the open, around roads etc.

Orioles are pretty elusive, but then one late summer, we had some sitting not far outside of our window in Warsaw, deep in the city (but in a villas area). I found that simply whistling a remote parody of their theory often makes them answer, so this is an easy way to check their presence in an area, it's the only bird species I can do like this and it makes me feel like a man of the jungle :)
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
Really? I did not know about this? Interesting, actually. This would of course complicate things, but I found them without playing songs, just recommended what I managed to pick up when searching for how to find them. Yes, orioles are gone, unfortunately. Although they might still return...
And this was in end of July- maybe a little late for looking for mates?

You mentioned that you are familiar with the staff at RSPB Lakenheath. Maybe in conversation next time, you could discuss the subject of tape luring species, to see what the wardens think. On the subject of photographing wild bird species, are you aware of the licences needed to photograph Schedule 1 birds near their nests or on breeding territory? Something else to consider.
P
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
You mentioned that you are familiar with the staff at RSPB Lakenheath. Maybe in conversation next time, you could discuss the subject of tape luring species, to see what the wardens think. On the subject of photographing wild bird species, are you aware of the licences needed to photograph Schedule 1 birds near their nests or on breeding territory? Something else to consider.
P

This was surprising to me that UK would be so strict, so a brief search has led me to an in-depth explanation - https://www.naturettl.com/understanding-schedule-1-licenses-for-bird-photography/ - and indeed the situation in UK is similar as in my countries: you are not allowed to disturb the birds. Then obviously acoustic luring is clearly a big disturbance, so that has to be applied.

The UK Schedule 1 list is interesting, it has for example a Black Redstart - in Prague, if a license were needed to photograph breeding Black Redstarts, it would be literally illegal to hold a camera in hand in any non-central district, as they are absolutely everywhere in season :)
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I find it quite interesting how different Cuckoos are in different parts of Europe. In Czech Republic it's similar to your (presumably UK-based) description, while in warmer areas to the south, Cuckoos are really ubiquitous and often found out in the open, around roads etc.

Orioles are pretty elusive, but then one late summer, we had some sitting not far outside of our window in Warsaw, deep in the city (but in a villas area). I found that simply whistling a remote parody of their theory often makes them answer, so this is an easy way to check their presence in an area, it's the only bird species I can do like this and it makes me feel like a man of the jungle :)

Easily seen when first arrived, not just in the South, I had one on my patch in Russia that wouldn't fly away. It was in low bushes, 1m from the ground at the edge of a trail and would simply fly 20-30m whenever I got too close. This went on for c500m before it flew around behind me, back where it presumably wanted to be.
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
The UK Schedule 1 list is interesting, it has for example a Black Redstart - in Prague, if a license were needed to photograph breeding Black Redstarts, it would be literally illegal to hold a camera in hand in any non-central district, as they are absolutely everywhere in season :)

The UK Schedule 1 list is very much about what is a rare breeding bird in UK - or was at the time it was made - plus some more widespread species which were presumably thought to be vulnerable to disturbance. So Cetti's warbler is Schedule 1, because it used to be rare, along with kingfisher, although both are widespread. There are also species which AFAIK don't breed in Britain, like serin, while some species which really should be on the list are absent - long-eared owl being probably the strangest omission.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
The UK Schedule 1 list is very much about what is a rare breeding bird in UK - or was at the time it was made - plus some more widespread species which were presumably thought to be vulnerable to disturbance. So Cetti's warbler is Schedule 1, because it used to be rare, along with kingfisher, although both are widespread. There are also species which AFAIK don't breed in Britain, like serin, while some species which really should be on the list are absent - long-eared owl being probably the strangest omission.

To be fair I was pretty shocked when I first heard a Cetti's warbler in UK, I had to ask some birders around whether I am not crazy - it's simply a bird I would never have expected so far north!

Long-eared Owl is pretty stoic for an owl, isn't it? In my areas they routinely breed in villages. But yeah, when looking at the other things that are protected, they would make sense to be there.
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
Cetti's warblers were extremely rare breeding birds when I was younger, but have greatly increased in southern England, and are even starting to be recorded up here in the NE - we do have relatively mild winters here, nothing like central Europe!
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Cetti's warblers were extremely rare breeding birds when I was younger, but have greatly increased in southern England, and are even starting to be recorded up here in the NE - we do have relatively mild winters here, nothing like central Europe!

You should see the view from my office here in Prague today and then we talk about how we don't have mild winters :) This one (when it's basically spring now and there has been no snow at all) is obviously an outlier, but I feel it's getting milder overall - if this continues I am expecting some big surprises in the coming years when it comes to breeding birds.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
You should see the view from my office here in Prague today and then we talk about how we don't have mild winters :) This one (when it's basically spring now and there has been no snow at all) is obviously an outlier, but I feel it's getting milder overall - if this continues I am expecting some big surprises in the coming years when it comes to breeding birds.

It's not just birds, a lot of things are expanding North, e.g look at the range of the Common Map butterfly in the Collins guide, way below St Petersburg but they now occur right up in to the Arctic.

NW Russia has had almost no snow this year, last year it started in mid November and continued pretty much until April.
 
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G

Gleb Berloff

Guest
You mentioned that you are familiar with the staff at RSPB Lakenheath. Maybe in conversation next time, you could discuss the subject of tape luring species, to see what the wardens think. On the subject of photographing wild bird species, are you aware of the licences needed to photograph Schedule 1 birds near their nests or on breeding territory? Something else to consider.
P
I was never aware of any license. And which birds are you talking about? Oriole was in Russia. No need for any license there. And honestly don't really care...
Sounds extremely strange... Nests I agree with, but breeding territory?
 
G

Gleb Berloff

Guest
You mentioned that you are familiar with the staff at RSPB Lakenheath. Maybe in conversation next time, you could discuss the subject of tape luring species, to see what the wardens think. On the subject of photographing wild bird species, are you aware of the licences needed to photograph Schedule 1 birds near their nests or on breeding territory? Something else to consider.
P
Like that situation quite a while back when a crowd of observers with me was photographing bitterns...
And about disturbance, I don't think I ever disturbed any bird unless it was a complete accident. I was photographing a barn owl once in breeding territory in full view of an RSPB warden, and he had nothing bad to say.
Sounds rEALLY strange
 
G

Gleb Berloff

Guest
I find it quite interesting how different Cuckoos are in different parts of Europe. In Czech Republic it's similar to your (presumably UK-based) description, while in warmer areas to the south, Cuckoos are really ubiquitous and often found out in the open, around roads etc.

Orioles are pretty elusive, but then one late summer, we had some sitting not far outside of our window in Warsaw, deep in the city (but in a villas area). I found that simply whistling a remote parody of their theory often makes them answer, so this is an easy way to check their presence in an area, it's the only bird species I can do like this and it makes me feel like a man of the jungle :)
Yes, these birds do vary considerably. The long-eared owls I keep hearing about here in the UK have nothing in common with the 'Russians', which get everywhere in my former village...
And that is honestly AMAZING!! In the middle of a city?!
The oriole which I think might be dead now which I was talking about had a habit of showing up in a tree right in front of my former window, too...
And again about the licensing, if I located a nest somewhere and did not disturb the birds, I would not hesitate to photograph, without a license. This happened this summer with a white-tailed eagle nest...
 
G

Gleb Berloff

Guest
To be fair I was pretty shocked when I first heard a Cetti's warbler in UK, I had to ask some birders around whether I am not crazy - it's simply a bird I would never have expected so far north!

Long-eared Owl is pretty stoic for an owl, isn't it? In my areas they routinely breed in villages. But yeah, when looking at the other things that are protected, they would make sense to be there.

True...
 
G

Gleb Berloff

Guest
It's not just birds, a lot of things are expanding North, e.g look at the range of the Common Map butterfly in the Collins guide, way below St Petersburg but they now occur right up in to the Arctic.

NW Russia has had almost no snow this year, last year it started in mid November and continued pretty much until April.

Last year we had a male snowy owl in the middle of Moscow, actually...
 

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