2 Sep 2008

Wildlife photography - spoonbills

I was out on the River Dee near my home the other day with wildlife ranger and photographer Keith Kirk. Some of my students will know Keith because I sometimes arrange for them to spend the day shooting wildlife with him.

The reason for our river trip was something very special – indeed it is a First for Scotland. Here in Kirkcudbright it has been known for some months that a pair of spoonbills have been feeding on the mud banks of the river. Well, it is now confirmed that the birds have successfully raised three chicks nearby. All five birds are now seen regularly feeding in the shallows.

This is an extremely rare and important event for wildlife in Britain. Although there is one instance of spoonbills having bred successfully in England, it is the first time in over 300 years that they have bred as far north as SW Scotland. Twitchers are now flocking to Kirkcudbright to see the spoonbills and, happily, the birds seem quite oblivious to their new fame.

Keith was shooting with his Nikon D300 and a 500mm Sigma lens. Due to the shallow water over the mud banks we were unable to get the boat very close, and Keith’s biggest difficulty was in keeping the camera still with the slow shutter speeds needed in the very low light. Although he pushed the ISO right up to 1600, and opened the aperture as wide as possible, he was still using a shutter speed of just 125sec. The motion of the boat and the movement of the birds did not help.

But just look at the picture Keith achieved – you can even see the rain spot bouncing off the wet mud.
If you would like to spend a day with Keith photographing wildlife in Galloway, Scotland, just contact me and I'll see if it can be arranged.

Top photograph by Keith Kirk
…and here’s one of the adult spoonbills striding past a resident heron. Under the conditions, that’s a great shot, Keith.

Lower photograph shows Keith at work photographing the spoonbills from the boat
Find out more about these rare birds on the RSPB site


altamiranyc said...

Phil, just a word of advice to an online friend. I can't find a section on your blog, "About Phil" or "About the author". It would be convenient for your visitors to have a short summary to read about your credentials.

Philip Dunn said...

Thanks Craig. Point taken. As a temporary measure, I have linked the picture of me on the blog to a page with something about me on my Photoactive website. I will sort this more thoroughly in a little while.
It's amazing what you can miss when the obvious is staring you in the face.
Thanks again

altamiranyc said...

Anytime! I love your online teaching materials! Keep it up!