Sunday, 9 December 2007

swallows, herons, huia.

Early on in the week I went back to one of my favourite birdwatching spots on the river, the rocky outcrop behind the Whakatane Yacht Club. At first there didn't appear to be much around but then I could hear the distinctive croaking of white-faced heron. There was two of them on the roof and it became apparent they were a pair, their breeding plumage all puffed up. (The longer narrow feathers on the back.)

They flew down to the waters edge so I found a dry spot on the rock and sat down with my camera. They began feeding until a second male landed and was soon chased away by the first male. I was lucky that they were pre-occupied and took no notice of me. Later they wandered quite close and I was able to get some nice photos.

One of the best ways to photograph birds is to sit quietly in an area where they are feeding and just wait. If you are patient enough the birds will wander close and you will be rewarded with some opportunities for great shots.

The family of swallows nesting in our carport has been a source of interest over the last week or so. The babies grew so fast. Soon they could barely fit in the nest and I could see three fat chicks with yellow baby-beaks waiting keenly for their parents to return with beaks full of flying insects to eat. But one shrill screech of warning from a parent bird and they would press themselves into the bottom of the nest in an effort to hide. One day I realised they had taken off and were having flying lessons from Mum and Dad. Just short excursions at first then back to the nest. Then they went a little further afield and would land on the clothesline, watching their parents swooping and diving over their heads. Within a day or two they had almost mastered the speed and aerobatics needed to do what swallows do although they returned to the nest at nights. I'm amazed at how quickly they learnt to fly. The whole family of five were hunting for insects in the paddock, alighting on the fence and the only way I could tell them apart was that the babies had slightly shorter tails.

The Opotiki Art Society has an exhibition on at the moment. I only have one painting in it as I have lots of commissions to finish before Christmas. It is another painting of a pair of Huias.

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