Small birds far away

Somewhere in the middle there is a female Blackcap…

This is the reality of bird photography for most of us – small birds far away, too far away even for a decent walkabout telephoto. For every great shot you show off on Flickr or Twitter or wherever, there are always countless others of birds determined not to let you get anywhere near them.

The female blackcap above is a classic example. The first Blackcap of either sex to arrive this spring at my local Riverside Walk (one of the Yeovil Country Park walks that I’ve talked about elsewhere), which is always exciting, because you know Spring really is here (despite the rain!). It’s also incredible, and slightly amusing, to think that this little Blackcap has flown thousands of miles from Africa to sit in a willow tree outside Yeovil Junction Station. The tree is on the other side of the tracks from the Riverside Walk, and she was refusing to come any nearer. Who knows, maybe she was tired from the flight, and didn’t want to show off until she’d had a wash and brush up. Let’s say it was that. It was difficult to tell either way, even with a 400mm lens, and no amount of Photoshop tricks were going to compensate for an autofocus that had given up any pretence of working.

An amateur bird photographer’s life is full of other examples of such ornithological obstinance…

A Chiffchaff keeps to the shadows…

…while another one refuses to look down.

A Goldfinch hides behind a mass of small branches…

…while another one relies on the inconsistencies of spot metering.

This singing Wren stuck to the tried and tested ‘staying far away’ method…

…while this Robin relied on my middle-aged eyes’ inability to use manual focus quickly enough before he flew off.

Even when you manage to focus and expose right, birds still have a few tricks up their sleeves. This Jackdaw was obviously building a nest in a nearby tree, which I quickly spotted. Or so I thought…

An obvious nesting hole, right? You’d think so, certainly. I got into a position on the path with direct line of sight of the hole, with no foliage in the way, and waited. But while I was focussing on this hole, the Jackdaw flew into its actual nest, out of shot above. By the time I refocussed on the real nest, which was, of course, mostly obscured by nearby branches, the male had gone in and out, quickly followed by the female…

But occasionally – very occasionally – they sit still long enough for you to get around all these obstacles. This Goldfinch obviously thought he had successfully foiled my manual focussing abilities…

But ha! Think again, Goldfinch!

This Great Spotted Woodpecker was obviously relying on the contrast between his dark plumage and the branch he was sitting on and the bright sky behind fooling my camera’s metering – well you were wrong, Mr Woodpecker!

Meanwhile, this Robin thought he’d hidden behind enough branches and leaves – think again, Robin!

Every now and then though, they take pity on you, and pose, patiently, while you fiddle with the camera’s numerous dials and settings, and you get a decent shot…

A patient Blackbird, Yeovil Country Park Riverside Walk, 20190403…

…and an equally patient Dunnock, just along the same path.

And for that patience, and indulgence, birds of Britain, we thank you.


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