Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Can't hit a barn door...

Swallow, on a good day!

Some days my quest for birds in flight just leaves me plain baffled. Take yesterday (28th August), I went out to the village of Cottesbrooke, with the intention of getting Swallow flight shots. The weather was hardly brilliant, one minute cloudy, then bright blue skies then followed by half cloudy and half blue. Typically the blue skies had me looking into the direction of the sun, no good for the exposure.
When I first pulled up to the spot there weren't any Swallows, it is getting close to the time when they migrate back to Africa, but on Monday there was loads of Swallows and Housemartins. Roughly 75 Housemartins and about 100 Swallows, I needn't worried as I was setting the camera onto a mononpod a juvenile Swallow whisked past inches past my face, quickly followed by about 5 more. Then the unmistakable screech of the main flock of Swallows, most of which gathered on the the phone cables. Great they are still about.
Getting back to the photography the problem was me not my gear, though I'm going to blame the weather  lol. I just couldn't get a sharp enough image of the Swallows skimming the ground for insects. The lack of light meant slow shutter speed and poor light meant any bird I did lock onto I wasn't happy with, either the eye was soft, wings blurred or the birds wing shape wasn't appealing to me. Grrrr... but things then get a bit worse, all the Swallows and Housemartins start calling (alarm call) and immediately like a pre-rehearsed fire drill, gather in one big flock....there's a predator around! But what? Around Cottesbrooke it could be Buzzard, Redkite, Sparrowhawk or the Hobby. Hoping it was the Hobby I started scanning the roof tops nearby, it's favourite tactic is to skim the roof tops and pull into a steep climb towards the bottom of the flock. I got my wish it was the Hobby, two things happen all the time, the juvenile Swallows and Housemartins flee into the nearby trees whilst the plucky adult Swallows harass and chase the predator away. The image I posted below illustrates my two points 1) The Swallows giving chase to the Hobby and 2) My complete inability to nail a decent image yesterday. In some ways in rubbish light I was not to bothered about missing it this time! Please also note I'm having issues posting images on here and after I post one I can't seem to adjust the size of the other images so please click on the smaller images to see the real size and to have a giggle at such rubbish photography skills lol.

The image above will surely get me some sort of award huh? Sadly the Hobby disappeared. And as the grey skies increased what happened next, yep the Hobby returned and I got a sharper image sadly with a horrible grey background...bugger

Please double click to see larger version (can anyone suggest why I'm having this issue with the posted images size). On the plus side I did get a Sparrowhawk nip through and a smallish flock of 12 Yellow Wagtails land, drink from a puddle sat on some roofs then flew south towards Brixworth village. I hadn't seen a Yellowwagtail this summer and couldn't get close enough for a decent image so here's another dodgy image of a Yellow Wagtail sat on a garage roof.

It could be quite easy to get frustrated at such situations but myself I prefer to try and figure out why and how I could improve the situation next time and then laugh about it. There was always the plus side of seeing great birds too. Hopefully next time out the images are better.


  1. Despite the weather Douglas, I reckon these are excellent images. Not easy getting them in flight.
    Always amazes me how some of these 'small' birds will stand up to these predators. Great to watch.

    As for image size problems. I always save my pictures at 700 pixels, 200kb max file size.
    When I post them, the option comes up for, 'Large', 'Xtra large', 'Original size'. I click Xtra.
    My other blog I post at 1180 pixels, 200kb max, and post at original size.

    And turn that word verification thing off; it's a nightmare to read at times. lol

  2. Word verification should be switched off now, I forgot. The problem with image size is not the size etc that I do when I am processing it comes when I post on here. I put the first image on and it gives me the option of small,large,original and xtra large and the other option of add caption. Any further images I upload to the post, it doesn't give me the options just a small image as you can see from this post, the top image an acceptable size the rest are tiny. I got a theory it's the template design

  3. I too save mine at 700 pixels along the longest side, and then re-size as previously mentioned. They do sometimes appear to be a bit "soft" compared to what you see on your pc, especially in landscape but just have to put up with that I suppose?
    Nice shots mate, difficult subjects if you haven't got the light!
    And yes, get rid of that verification thingy, its a bloody nightmare......LOL!

  4. Should be switched off now Paul, I think I've sorted image size problem it was the template design