Monday, January 22, 2018

Urban peregrines 4 - reaching for the heavens

Whatever your views on religion you can't deny that some of the best buildings in our cities are places of worship.  After snapping the peregrines in town I spent a few more early weekend mornings a bit further out of the centre gazing up at the architecture of a church. 

I had high hopes, some nice ornamentation (ok I'm no architectural photographer)

and although the stone changed colour quite dramatically depending on the light

the potential was there.

It was frustrating though that the target of my visits avoided the gargoyles and more ornate carvings, choosing the very top of the spire.  It felt more like an astrophotography set up,

but I had a few visits and one or two were in the light.  Given the distance to the birds I suppose they aren't too bad, but they came in fast and I never caught a landing shot.  No feeding here either.

The last was another play with silver efex pro - with a featureless grey sky it made sense to try black and white.  Looks a bit better in a bigger size.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Urban peregrines 3

In all I made about half a dozen trips to see these peregrines, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. By 9 a.m. the light was bright and contrasty so the time frame for snapping was limited to the first couple of hours after dawn, and of course there is no means to put the birds where you want them.  Bird seed of no help here.

I had some idea of the shots I'd like but getting something beyond a straight snap wasn't easy.

Ideally it would show a bit of behaviour - post-preen shake; flying with prey; landing with prey, already into a mantling posture; wiping the beak clean, a regular event after a feed; setting off on a hunt .......

This was maybe my favourite of the bird on a stick shots, even if it does resemble a raptor on a toilet cistern.  I just like the urban decay element and the dappled light. Looks better in a bigger size.

For flight shots I really wanted to show the urban environment, but the birds rarely came low so chances were few and I didn't really like any of the ones I got with buildings in the background.  The best were this couple with the cranes, although both needed cropping to cut out intrusive elements.

So, good fun, but no prize-winners.  However that wasn't the end of my urban peregrine 'project' for the summer, even if there still weren't any prize-winners to come!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Urban peregrines 2 - feed me!

Like any other raptor a well fed peregrine is happy to take it easy.  Why waste energy if you don't have to?  This means most of the year photography opportunities can be limited.  However when there are youngsters around the extra mouths to feed creates the chances to snap a bit more action.

I really hoped to get a chance to snap a food pass from adult to juvenile, but I saw only two.  One I picked up too late to get a focus, the other too far away really, but you get the idea from these highly cropped images

The youngster then flew off to the top ledge to enjoy the scraps it had been brought.

The adults main food cache was behind the buddleia rooted into the brickwork, and clearly it wasn't always that secure ......

Most of the time though the adults would fly in and enjoy a rather rushed chance for a snack


before one of the youngsters cottoned onto what was happening and paid a visit.

I snapped a few short video segments.  If you can spare 40 seconds of your life make sure the sound is on and watch this right to the end.

Told you juvenile peregrines were noisy!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Urban Peregrines 1

It's not often I get out of the office but one day last summer I was wandering back there from a meeting when I saw a sign for a building development.  The name I recognised from the Avon Birding website, so I went for a look.  The street ran down to a bridge over the river and from there looking back at the old brick building I was blown away by what I saw.  It's what I expected to see, but I hadn't really believed I would.

That sighting led to a series of weekend early morning trips to try and capture some usable shots of my first urban peregrines.  That first day there was an adult on the drainpipe and a juvenile running along the ledge at the top of the building.  3 days later when I returned with a camera there wasn't a bird in sight - I had timed my 'discovery' perfectly with the date of fledging!

I was standing there on the bridge scanning the building when it began to snow - feathers. 

Looking up at the crane arm more or less directly overhead I realised there was a peregrine plucking a meal.  Amazing.

Those first trips the youngsters mainly stuck to the cranes, perhaps easier to land on, and the adults brought in feeds.  Once there was food around it wasn't hard to find the birds - juvenile peregrines must be amongst the most noisy youngsters with that piercing call.
Week on week I saw the birds become more confident and mobile, meaning that adults and youngsters might be found on the cranes or on the building - sometimes almost overlooked amongst the pigeons.

Being Bristol one weekend there were a few hot air balloons around during the Festival.  I didn't get the numbers over I hoped for, but managed to get one to partially overlap with a bird.

The building was the old generator building for the Bristol trams, and it has been used by the birds for a few years now.  However the whole area is being renewed and the building is included in the plans for the new development so I do wonder if the birds will stay around - hope so but doubt it - certainly no bushes to hide the food cache behind.

It is sad to think this might be my last chance to watch a sight like this.
 BTW - look what you can do with a big lens, a converter and a crop sensor camera!  This was on the top ledge.

Some more and hopefully better pics to follow.