Kingfisher in the city

Cap'n Fishy

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 29, 2008
Messages
27,885
Location
Embra
I went back to the Botanic Gardens in the heart of the city to look for the kingfisher, hoping his pond was thawed-out and he was now hungry for sticklebacks. It was, and he was.

A new exercise for me, with new things to learn. I didn't realise how much kingfishers hover like kestrels. I got the impression it was mostly when he lost sight of the fish that got him off his perch. He would start his dive, and then stop and hover, looking for it but, having lost it, he would generally abandon the dive and go back to his perch. I wasn't sure how many perches he would be using. I was there for about 2 hours, and in that time he probably used about 7 different perches, spread right round the pond.

My main problem was the lack of light. It was a dull day and the 20th of December on a northern latitude, so about as bright as a cinema usherette's torch. It made a monkey of things like aperture choice, shutter speeds and ISO settings. Things were only made worse by having to choose my longest lens set-up to get anywhere near him. That was the 100-400 mm with the x1.4 TC on. A 560 mm lens gives a decent length, but max aperture is a dingy f8. ISO ranged from one at 800 (when I gambled by bringing shutter speed down to 1/45 sec) to one at 20,000, with most between 1600 and 12,800. All the shots were going to need heavy crops, which only amplifies ISO noise, so I was trying to keep ISO as low as pos. I tried when the KF was still-enough to get the shutter speed down (to lower the ISO) and got some usable ones at 1/45 sec. For action shots, I didn’t go any faster than 1/250 sec (which was giving ISOs over 10,000), and that simply wasn’t fast enough to freeze the KF, even when I did manage the occasional shot in focus. Every shot I took of him blootering a stickleback on the branch prior to swallowing it is just a blurry mess. I binned all of them.

As for focusing, no problems when he was on his perch. However, how to try for some action shots??? I reckoned I would not manage to be quick enough to focus on him in mid-air, so tried the 'leaping salmon technique' of pre-focusing where he was going to be and then waiting for him to go there. What I didn't realise was that he doesn't dive straight down on things below him. He invariably went for fish that he had spotted away out at an angle. I had no idea how much angle he can spot them at. Really impressive - though it didn't help with the photography! :eek:

I did manage to focus on him in mid-air on his way back to his perch for one shot... albeit at 1/250 sec his wee wings are just a blur! But I'm calling that shot a success, anyway! :thumbs:

I was lucky that it was quiet with respect to the birding paparazzi. I think they are all away chasing waxwings and harlequin ducks just now. :noidea: However, the vantage point to get a view of the KF is one popular with general public feeding all the birds and squirrels... which are so tame, they are right under your feet while you are standing there. There was even a semi-tame rat scurrying about for seed. You can get the robins and great tits to take food from your hand. Most of this was of no concern to the KF. However, 3 or 4 blummin' great woodpigeons were constantly flying back and forth across the pond every time they spotted someone putting food out, and they had a habit of landing in the KF's favourite tree - and they spooked him every time they did. I did manage one shot of a WP landing on his branch, just as he was about to swallow a stickleback. He spooked half a second later.

Anyhoo...

Botanics20Dec19_4581.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4495.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4529.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4555.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4567.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4619.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4628.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4639.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4660.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4716.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4722.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4728.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4756.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4760.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4761.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4762.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4809.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4842.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4872.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4876.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4896.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4912.jpg


Botanics20Dec19_4951.jpg

A couple of sequences...

Botanics-20Dec19-Sequence1.gif


Botanics-20Dec19-Sequence2.gif

That took me to 2 o'clock, at which point it got dark! :whistle:

Col
 

Cap'n Fishy

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 29, 2008
Messages
27,885
Location
Embra
Just a wee coda to this, that occurred to me, looking through them... just to illustrate the whole issue of focusing at long focal lengths, like the 560 mm being used here...

The shot of the KF with the woodpigeon on its branch...

I would have been about 20 yards away from them.

The woodpigeon would have been about 2 inches further from me than the kingfisher.

The KF is in focus, while the cushie-doo is totally out of focus! :eek:

Col
 

Fishtales

Well-known member
Joined
May 17, 2006
Messages
3,828
Location
Central Scotland
Great shots Colin. If you had better light the action shots would have been brilliant, not that they are bad :) Getting birds in flight is the hardest thing I have tried. Getting them flying either towards you or away makes it much easier, although you will already know that.

This was a Kestrel going full blast in Tenerife.

kestrel-tenerife-004.jpg


kestrel-tenerife-003.jpg
 

arkle

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 18, 2007
Messages
9,056
Epic work, Col. Well worthy of the top prize in any competition
 

tingvollr

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 19, 2017
Messages
259
Great pictures Col. Thanks for sharing.

Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk
 

delray

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 9, 2007
Messages
2,907
Location
St Albans, Herts
I couldn't catch it on my 'phone but yesterday on the Derbyshire Derwent, I saw 2 small birds, I'm pretty sure they were Blue Tits either having a squabble (what a lovely word) or pairing a little early. They came out of a tree overhanging the river and start to descend whilst having their argument and then came the "no, no, no" moment as they were clearly not going to go upwards. They both splashed into the river and there was no way I could get to them. An agonising 3 seconds passed as they righted themselves and flapped furiously, both managing to fly off and back to their tree.
Never seen it before and don't want to see it again.
Del
 
Top