27 Jul 2014

27 July 14 - Digiscoping A Big Flock of Big Egrets

I still had a couple of hours of warm weather left on the Somerset Levels, so the obvious next place was Ashcott Corner. The car park allows you to walk West to the Shapwick Heath national nature reserve or East to the RSPB Ham Walls reserve. This whole area is well worth a visit, especially in the Spring when there are a number of pairs of booming Bitterns to be heard. This has been an area where the habitat has been improved & as a result it has become incredibly good for Birds. I decided to try Ham Walls as I had only been here once before.
Glastonbury Tor: Just to prove I'm still in Somerset (see last post for the reasons for the photo)
After a half mile walk, I reached a viewing position on the left & a series of hides on the right side of the main track which I hadn't visited before. A few typical Waterbirds from the hides, but otherwise fairly quiet. Still it was late afternoon & not the best time for bird activity.
 Coot: Juvenile
Lesser Black-backed Gull: With Mallards
There were also some fairly typical Butterflies & Dragonflies on the wing, although as many were commoner species, I resisted the temptation to get too carried away with photographing them.
Red Admiral
Red-eyed Damselfly: A species I struggle to photograph well due to their insistence of sitting well away from the water's edge
Blue-tailed Damselfly
Common Blue Damselfly: Female. Note, the bomb markings on the abdomen
Carrying on along the main track for another half mile brought me to the second viewing position on the left hand side of the main track. Here there is a large open area of shallow water surrounded by reeds.
The view from the second viewing position
There was more bird activity here, including 5 Grey Herons and 5 white Egrets: 4 big & 1 small. With most of my birding in Poole Harbour, I am very used to seeing Little Egrets as the commonest (& only Egret). I've seen one Great White Egret in the Harbour. But here was a party of 4 Great White Egrets, with a lone Little Egret for size comparison. This area of the Somerset Levels is one of the best places in the UK to see Great White Egrets these days. Once a national rarity, I assume they are now resident here.
Great White Egret: Individual 1 (Always kept to left of lagoon on its own with black legs & orange bill)
Great White Egret: Individuals 2, 3 & 4 with 2 Mute Swans & a scattering of Mallards
Great White Egret: Individual 2 (Black legs & dark tip to bill)
Great White Egret: Individuals 3 & 4 (Note Individual 3 has black breeding season legs, whereas Individual 4 is already going back to orange winter legs)
This was a good excuse to have another go at getting used to digiscoping (using my Leica scope & Iphone). A lot of people have written in other blogs about their digiscoping experiences, but I've not seen anybody using a Leica scope yet. So I'm still learning. One of the things that is really easy to do on the Canon 7D is to change the exposure to under expose large white birds like Egrets & Spoonbills. This is more of a challenge on digiscoping. However, I've just searched on the internet & found it is possible to change the auto exposure light settings. Wish I had looked this up before trying to photograph these Egrets. Still I will know this for next time. When looking at the image you are planning on photographing, tap & hold on the part of the image on the screen you want to correctly set the exposure for, until a message 'AE/AF Lock' appears. At that point, the camera should be compensating the exposure correctly on your chosen subject. A quick tap on the screen will clear this & go back to exposure setting for the overall picture. As I didn't know this then most of my Great White Egrets photos were overexposed. But the following 3 photos of Individual 1 came out OK, using the normal Iphone exposure settings.
Great White Egret: Individual 1 (digiscoping)
Great White Egret: Individual 1 (digiscoping)
Great White Egret: Individual 1 (digiscoping)
Little Egret
Clearly, still got a lot of practice to get some decent results. But to compare it, here is the first Canon 7D photo of Individual 1 blown up. It really isn't as good at the digiscoping photos.
Great White Egret: Canon 7D of Individual 1 - The first picture with a very tight crop & blow up
Also I'm using the Canon editing software, which allows me to adjust the exposure settings for the picture. What it doesn't allow me to do is to select part of the photo e.g. the Great White Egret & selectively change the exposure on that part of the photo. This is a good example of where some additional editing software might help. But I'm trying not to spend even more money on this photography hobby at the moment. So the next stage will be trying to get the exposure correct on the Iphone when digiscoping.