Friday, 2 April 2021

A Day of Idling

This morning I had a seawatch planned, but when the alarm went off nothing happened. Well, things did happen, but none of them was consistent with getting to Burton Bradstock nice and early. Tomorrow maybe...

As I sat in cozy warmth, munching toast and drinking coffee, hardier birders than me were out there braving the frigid air and seeing stuff. Steve had 3 Eiders fly E past Seaton (they later went past the Bill at Portland) while Mike and Alan turned up a Little Ringed Plover on the Mere at West Bex. Finally, just before ten o'clock, I arrived at Cogden. Blue sky, a brisk, chilly north-easterly. It was beautiful...but didn't look very birdy. By lunchtime my notes told me I'd seen 3 Wheatears, 1 Cirl Bunting, 2 House Martins, 1 Sand Martin, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 4 White Wags, 2 Swallows and a Red-throated Diver. Superb! By now the Cogden car park was almost full, and I was happy to head for home.

There was an afternoon of gardening planned, but when I stepped outside nothing happened. Well, things did happen, but none of them was consistent with getting compost into pots. Instead I settled down comfortably in the garden's prime sun trap and spent an idle time scanning a virtually birdless blue sky. Absolutely no raptors flew over. The compost bags stared at me reprovingly, so I moved them slightly.

Some pics...

Plenty of female Cirl Bunting ID features on display here: the rump, the ear covert spot, the streaky crown etc. It's great to have at least one bird locally still, but with no male presumably it will move off soon.

The LRP was on what remains of the Mere, with 4 super-smart White Wagtails. To be honest the wagtails were quite a distraction; I do find them so captivating. Not only are they stunning to look at - and especially so when bright sunshine brings out their lovely plumage - but they are just such busy little things...

White Wagtail - just immaculate!

Same bird

I am so chuffed with that first shot, and will be very surprised if I ever get a better photo of White Wagtail. And it gives me an opportunity to share a tip (though admittedly an obvious one) with other Nikon P900 users. My default 'U mode' settings include 'Single Exposure', ie. when you press the shutter button you get one shot. However, when confronted with a bird that is continuously on the move (like the White Wags) I generally switch to 'High Speed Burst'. Depending how long you press the shutter button, you now get from 2 to 7 shots. DSLR users always have that rapid-fire thing going on, but with the P900 you do have to wait a few seconds for the camera to process a multi-image exposure, so I use it judiciously. However, it can be well worth the bother. That first White Wag shot is one of a burst of three. I know the bird looks like it's standing still, posing, but it's not. No, it's very much on the go, and the other two shots are rubbish!

This tip is also very useful if you're trying to photograph a stationary bird that is constantly turning its head. Or if you want to capture that moment when a gull finally opens its wings! And so on. For those who like to fiddle with their P900 settings, I have the single/multi-exposure choices stored on the 'function' (Fn) button. All I need to do is press it, drop down one step on the list (H) and that's it, I'm in high-speed multi-exposure mode.

While I'm at it, if any readers are still in the early stages of getting to grips with a camera like the Coolpix P900, I'll briefly mention 'exposure compensation'. On a bright day like today I habitually use anything up to -1.0 exposure compensation. Otherwise there is a real danger that your photo's 'highlights' (ie. white bits mainly) will be too bright and get burned out. If the resulting image does end up a touch dark, it's dead easy to brighten it up with simple photo-editing software. But I've learned the hard way that it's not so easy (or impossible) to recover blown highlights.

Right, sorry for that little digression. Have a Little Ringed Plover...

What a cracker! Look at that eye-ring!

Nicely shows the LRP's attenuated rear end

Even common birds have their moments...

This Yellowhammer is just ridiculously yellow!

In a minute I'm going to step outside and deploy the nocmig kit. When I did that last night I had the most unexpected surprise - I could hear a Red-legged Partridge 'singing' in the distance! I would never have predicted getting Red-leg on the garden list, and before it went quiet I just managed to capture a short burst on the recorder. Never a dull moment with birds...


  1. I have noticed that the Nikon is very sensitive to alterations of the exposure setting. I was having difficulty with mine and resorted to the Auto setting which took a great shot. But I must take your advise on the multi-exposure setting.... and get out and use it more.

    1. I must have taken many thousands of shots with mine now Dave, and am getting better at tweaking the less-used controls for better results. Still on the learning curve though!