Over the summer a pair of Pied Wagtails used the out-buildings around the Naturetrek office to bring up a brood of chicks. I can't be sure how successful they were as I couldn't get close to the nest without disturbing them. It does seem that the chicks fledged successfully though.
Now that autumn is turning into winter I haven't seen the birds all that often, but when the weather is nice and the sun is shining we often see a pair of birds hopping across the rooftops. Last week we had one such day, so I thought I would make the most of it and head out into the courtyard for a spot of lunchtime photography.
The light could not have been better, the sun was relatively low in the sky and lighting up the birds perfectly. The challenge was trying to focus on such fast little birds that are quite unpredictable. After 10-20 minutes (most of my lunch break) I started to have some success and they were seemingly un-deterred by my presence. I think my colleagues thought I might have been a bit loopy as I stood on top of the wall in the car park, trying to get a higher point of view.
For me the photo below was one of my favourites from the half an hour or so I spent photographing them. The light is great as I mentioned before and the bird is in such an interesting pose. It was actually watching a fly as it buzzed slowly by, only moments later the Wagtail flew off and intercepted the lethargic insect, quickly devouring it and searching for its next snack. The other thing that makes this picture stand out for me is the lovely colour and texture of the corrugated iron roof, it really adds to the composition.
Now the image below is what I tried to get from the outset, some fast paced Pied Wagtail action, the issue was it was so high paced I could hardly keep up. If you blinked you missed the bird take off altogether, then it was a quick spin around to try and spot the bird, only then realising it was back at the same spot it left moments earlier. Now with a 1D series camera my success rate might have been a little higher but I noticed significant improvement as time went on. After only half an hour I really started to be able to judge the timing for take off and managed to get some striking results. Landing on the other hand was a completely different matter (0% success rate :D).
More of a portrait for the image below, nothing particularly special other than a posing bird lit beautifully in the afternoon sun.
The image below is definitely my favourite image from the half an hour session, as I said earlier I started to learn when the birds were readying themselves for take off and that led to this shot. It was great timing, fantastic light and the wider format really makes the bird pop out! I have to say I was dead chuffed when I saw I had captured this incredibly quick moment.
For me this demonstrates exactly why you should have your camera with you at all times. I only got half an hour to go out with my camera and I probably got 10-15 shots that I was really happy with. That is probably better than when I go away to Africa. The fantastic autumnal light made it possible but it was a great half an hour with a species I had never even thought to photograph before.