Monday, September 02, 2013

Black and white but mostly red all over

Kay going away for a week with her mum gave me the chance for a day out with the camera - but where to go in August?  The problem with birds at this time of year - the moult - was highlighted in the last post, but without other prep time I couldn't think what else to do.

So it was an early start and off I headed to the Elan valley and the red kites at Gigrin farm.  I got a few early morning snaps cruising the fences at Elan, and later deleted them all in error - too many memory cards!  Still although I could do with some better shots of meadow pipit and pied wagtail it wasn't a heartbreaker.  I did get some nice views of red kite, raven and goosander, but not close enough for pictures.  A wander round Gilfach Farm NR was pleasant enough, but of course the migrants were all headed south again, so it was flowers and butterflies and a stroll by the river.  Enjoying an ice cream I noticed a baby bank vole exploring the big wide world - cute but it won't last too long if it doesn't realise the world isn't just food.

A quick nap in the car and off to Gigrin.  It's quite a while since I was last there, but my memory was of shooting up at the birds in flight, so I decided to fork out a bit extra for the higher 'hides' to see if I could get anything a bit different.

You've probably seen Gigrin on the tv - they feed dozens, sometimes hundreds of kites on pieces of beef scattered around a small field. 

The kites appear at varying times after the 3pm start, and usually the first birds in action are the buzzards and corvids.  It was here I first realised that a raven could be bigger than a buzzard.  Then the kites dive down and grab some meat - rarely landing, but instead eating in the air or heading to the surrounding trees.

The kites start circling in ever increasing numbers, a frustrating number displaying the wing tags that may help research but do stand out in a snap.  A chance to snap the well known leucistic (white but not albino) kite showed just how much of a problem the moult might be.

There are many thousand Gigrin red kite shots out there now and whilst it was nice to get some for the portfolio the chances of something different was always going to be limited.  The light at first was a bit harsh, but by 5.30 when everyone else had gone home the light warmed up and I got a few better shots.   To start with there were the inevitable cruising bird snaps.

I decided the best chance of a different shot probably lay with catching a bird just at the point where it flipped from cruising into a dive to grab some food, but it was easier said than done.  This really was a case of needing to keep going and a reminder that I need to practice flight shots more!  So often it just didn't quite work.

Some were more interesting and I had also forgotten the fabulous plumage on the kites back where the warm colours and strong patterns really stood out.

I had hoped to get a raven shot or two for my albums.  In the end I did get a couple of flight shots I liked but more cropped than I would have hoped.  Still with the 5DIII in play (I'd say better tracking than the 1DIII) there was some scope to crop and still have a shot that looks good on the web.  There's the black, and a view of the leucistic bird that avoided the moulting mess provides the white.

Still it's the kites that take the honours and here are probably my favourite shots from the session - none the epic snap, but let's not be greedy.

Now a few shots with some snow might look good ...............

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