My Favorite Wildlife Shots from 2009

in General by on March 7th, 2010

Have been meaning to post this blog entry since around January 1st, but things kept getting in the way. Whilst i didn’t have as many opportunities to shoot wildlife as I would have liked in 2009, I still ended the year with a couple of shots I was happy with.  Here are my five favorite shots from the year….

The first shot, and probably my favorite of the year, was taken on field trip to Feldberger Seenlandschaft in May. Together with Patrick and Tom we had driven 8 hours into Eastern Germany to spend some time with Fred Bollmann from Ranger Tours. Although the photo opportunities hadn’t been as rich as we had hoped, we were able to come away with some nice images of a local sea eagle. More shots from the trip can be viewed in this blog post

Sea Eagle, Feldberger Seenlandschaft

My next favorite shot was a grab shot from the car whilst driving round the Biesbosch in the Netherlands in July. I had my D3 together with the 600mm lying next to me on the passenger car seat, and this young deer ran out in front of the car. I was able to stop the car and grab a few shots before he disappeared completely into the corn field.

Deer in the Biesbosch

Every year in March the black tailed godwit stops off in the Netherlands on the way to warmer climates. A local farmer uses the opportunity to flood one of his fields to give the godwit a chance to refuel energy during the trip. There are thousands of godwits present, and it makes for some good viewing opportunities. It is not easy to get individual godwits in the frame, as they are just a bit too far away – the shot below was shot on the D3 with the 600mm and a tc-17e – a focal length just over 1000mm….

Black tailed godwit at 'Landje van Geijsel' near Ouderkerk aan der Ijssel

I spent a number of Sunday mornings at the Oostervaardersplassen in the North of the Netherlands. There are a lot of birds of prey around this area, as well as kingfishers, deer, foxes, and wild horses. Although I typically like to be able to isolate birds from their surroundings, I liked the composition on this shot of a buzzard, taken in March, and the camouflage that she was able to get from the surrounding branches.

Buzzard in a tree, Oostvaardersplassen

The final shot was taken on a weekend trip to Texel, one of the islands just off the coast of the Netherlands. Texel has a wide variety of species, and is a good location for bird photographers. I took this shot of a common tern taking food back to the nest in April, one of the busiest times for migratory and nesting birds on the island. More shots from this trip can be seen in this blog entry.

Common Tern, Texel

So, not a totally unsuccessful year, but nevertheless I would like to have more images to choose from at the end of 2010. Here’s hoping….

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Trip Report: Feldberger Seenlandschaft, East Germany

in Wildlife Trip Reports by on August 10th, 2009

This blog is long overdue, but back in May I made a trip to Feldberger Seenlandschaft in East Germany with Patrick and Tom. We had found out about a Ranger living in former East Germany near the Polish border who has built a network of hides in various fields around Feldberger, and offers these out to photographers in the hope that they might go away with some satisfying images.

The plan was fairly simple, we would make the 8+ hour drive on the Wednesday, spend Thursday to Sunday in hides, and then drive back again on the Monday. Fred Bollmann would look after us during our stay, and be at our call to take us to and from various hides. We would stay at the Mecklenburger Hof, a small and basic hotel with friendly service and good prices, and they would feed us three meals a day, including packed lunch and breakfast.

On the evening of arrival Fred was very keen to explain all the possibilities he could offer. He told us that various hides would not be worth visiting at that time of the year, but in addition to the hides he could also offer us the possibility to go out on his boat and attempt to photograph a local Sea Eagle.

Of course, as with all nature photography, it is always the luck of the draw as to what you will see when you sit in a hide for any length of time, and I can attest to that, after spending 12 hours in a hide on two occassions, from 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening, without seeing a single bird!

The hides themselves are well constructed, and have all the facilities you need in a modern hide (basically a window, a chair, and a bucket to relieve yourself in). Some of the hides are large enough for three people (which is an advantage when you have to sit there for 12 hours) whereas others are made for two people or even just one.

Buzzard

So in fact, out of three hide sessions we only had luck on one occassion, in a small hide where we witnessed a pair of buzzards eating a dead deer (Fred is well known in the community and receives all the local roadkill for his freezer). The buzzards landed fairly close to eat from the strategically placed deer, and in spite of our presence wearily pecked away at the corpse. The photos here were taken with the 600mm f/4G VR Nikkor on the Nikon D3

Buzzard

The highlight of the trip though was witnessing the Sea Eagle swooping in and picking up various fish from the lake near our boat. In the interests of full disclosure, the fish that were caught were thrown into the water by Fred, so we knew approximately where the eagle would be coming to, but nevertheless it was an impressive spectacle to see. The birds really do have ‘eagle eyes’, as he was able to see the fish landing in the water from a good 500 meters away, and slowly swooped and circled before catching his prey.

Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle

I took the above shots using the D3, with the 300mm f/2.8G VR lens attached. I used aperture priority to fix the aperture to f/5.6, and used the auto-iso feature to ensure the shutter speed stayed above 1/500s so to freeze the motion. Of course the lens was in the continuous AF mode. The high shutter rate of the D3 paid for itself here, capturing all of the above images in less than a second.

So although we didn’t see all the birds that we had intended, it was still a successful trip – it’s not every day you get to see a sea eagle capturing fish from the water. However in hindsight we were there at the wrong time of the year – in the spring there is plenty of prey for birds of prey to capture, and Fred’s hides are much more densely visited when food is in short supply, for example in the winter months when there is snow on the ground.

Definitely a location I would recommend to other photographers looking for birds of prey images!

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