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The Great British Bird Hunt

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Apologies if this is the wrong thread, but it seemed the closest thing I could find.

I've basically been running a blog called The Great British Bird Hunt with the aim to photograph and document every British UK bird (some 270 species + 28 rarer ones). It's kind of like a real life version of Pokemon, and I'm hoping there's some nature lovers here.

Feel free to move it/delete it if it's not suitable.

http://greatbritishbirdhunt.blogspot.co.uk/

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Thanks. I've no idea how long it will take, but I guess that's part of the fun. It is certainly making me a lot more active in terms of going out, as I'm visiting locations I would never otherwise go to. Certain birds are only in certain areas or seasonal, so if I don't see a cuckoo this week I've lost my chance for another year.

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This is a fantastic idea, might do it myself once my kid(s) are older. Subbed to your RSS feed.

Pics through the 400mm look good. How do you find birding with a prime? I'd worry about things ending up closer than I can photograph them, but realistically I know that's not likely. The m43 Olympus 300mm f/4 prime is on the horizon, y'see...

Regarding cuckoos, if you're anywhere near Suffolk then the cuckoos at Flatford Mill (of Constable fame) seem to be quite reliable - my Mum goes every spring, and always hears the cuckoo, as did I when I visited. Seeing them might be trickier, though.

Let me know what else you're looking for, and I may be able to recommend a few spots. I know bits of York/East Yorkshire and the Essex coastal area.

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Thanks for the Cuckoo info :)

There are a few regular haunts in arne, so it mainly comes down to me finding the time.

I really do like the prime but it is harder to use than I was expecting. It has a tiny window for razorsharp focus that I have so far found hard to hit. The lack of zoom hasn't really been an issue as I have simply moved back in most cases to get a shot I wanted. It's hard to take birds in flight, but I'm sure I am currently lacking technique.

Off to st james's park and meyrick park this weekend, so will hopefully get some geese and parakeets :)

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Love the Heron stalking across the boat. Didn't realise Egyptian Geese were actually shelducks; not quite as beautiful as most of that family. I'll miss the Paradise Shelducks we have here in NZ quite a bit.

Great Crested Grebes are what got me into birding in the first place; I went to York Uni, where they have a few families living on the lake. They nested on a floating island of sticks just outside my kitchen window, and I got to watch the whole lifecycle. The stripey zebra chicks on their parents backs are fantastic, and there's a brilliant period where the parents dive, but the chicks don't, so the chicks spend their time going "weeb weeb weeb!" urgently on the surface for 30 seconds before the parent reappears. I called the RSPB when one was snagged with fishing tackle and helped track it down so it could be rescued. Hated anglers ever since.

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They're stunning birds. It's the first time I've ever seen them in the wild, so it was quite a treat. I've always looked at them in bird books and am well versed in their life habits (their courtship dance is beautiful) but have never seen it in the wild. Will definitely aim to get out earlier next year so I can get those shots :)

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During the summer, I took a walk down to Lake Ellesmere here in Canterbury, NZ, to a hide which was supposed to be good for Royal Spoonbills. I'd been there before and seen two blurry ones in the distance, so (as I was with family this time) didn't bother taking my camera gear. There were seriously about 120 of the feckers, as close as 15m. I had my nocs fortunately, so I got a really good look at them. Beautiful birds - the feather crest on the males looked splendid in the (unceasing) Canterbury wind.

Good catch on the Little Egret - ever reserve I've been to in the UK that boasts them puts you so far from them that they're just white dots. The best viewing I ever had was accidental, during a beach walk in Brightlingsea in Essex, where they were dabbling in some brackish pools that had formed behind some dumped hardcore brick waste on the beach. Got to love nature's lack of respect for being scenic.

What support are you using for the setup? Are you attaching to the camera or the lens' tripod ring? This article by Thom Hogan (Nikon focused, but applicable to all cameras) has some interesting stuff about support. He's also a BiF fan, and swears by the Wimberley stuff.

I went the cheap route and got an alloy gitzo-clone monopod with a Kirk Head. Nice and stable, but not that manouverable, not sure how it would scale to really big glass.

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I have a tripod but it's not a great one (hence the blurry images). I think I'll need to invest in it next.

You're right about reserves, they certainly put you a long way away from the action (understandable really) but it means you can't get great shots. Luckily I'm nowhere good enough to sell images so it doesn't matter. Mine are obviously for record shots :)

I can only imagine the great looking birds in New Zealand.

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Nice set. I only saw a Raven in the wild once, hopping over the rooves of St William's College next to York Minster while I ate an ice-cream. Flipping gigantic birds. I actually saw a Little Owl in the wild here in New Zealand, while driving out to the Otago Penninsula to photograph albatrosses - it was just sitting on a post by the side of the road. I didn't manage to get a photo before it flew off, but got a clear ID - quite funny, as at the time I didn't even know there were introduced Little Owls in NZ.

Love that Skylark photo - I'm guessing you're getting the hang of the new lens, then? Funny things Skylarks - technically rare, but everywhere I go, there they are. The Vale of York is full of them, as is the Colchester area where my Mum lives, and the part of Northumberland where my in-laws live. Even here in Canterbury, NZ, I can sit in my garden and hear introduced skylarks singing over the pasture.

Quite interesting to see Guillemots and Razorbills, not sure I've ever met them in the wild. I have been to the Farnes though, and can confirm you can hardly move for Terns nests and Puffin burrows. Lots of Eider Ducks around there, too, which are gorgeous. Given as you're down south though, I'd have thought the isle of Lundy was a better bet - I've heard it's equally stuffed with puffins.

Birding in New Zealand is honestly not all that. The country markets itself as being unspoilt, but it's actually about as spoilt as you can get - it should be covered in temporate rainforest and alpine tussock, instead it's covered in grazing grass. As a result, most of the native species find the hobbity-shire habitat completely alien, and keep themselves to either the coast/rivers (which are much as they ever were), or the remaining areas of native forest/alpine tussock. The grassy bits are largely full of British species brought in by colonists, which does have some advantages - Redpolls in particular are common as muck here, but hard to spot in the UK, and there's definitely no Sparrow decline here.

The other problem with the native fauna being almost entirely forest birds is that when you do find them, you find them under canopy with little/no light, making photography a major challenge. Judicious use of flash is required, mostly above my skill level (or in one frustrating incident, the lifespan of my cheap rechargables). The Kea (mountain parrots) are a pleasant exception, as they'll come into good light to try and eat your windscreen wipers.

A few dubiously processed photos here, but I have a morale destroying mountain of unprocessed RAW files which almost certainly includes a few more birding trips.

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Some amazing shots there mate. I think I need to buy a tripod as my hands are far too shaky :(

It's amazing what you can find if you start looking around. There's a place called Longham Lakes which is pretty much on my doorstep, but I've never heard of it before. I visited it today and there's a fantastic range of birds there.

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Aye there are probably quite a number of Bar-headed Geese living "wild" in Britain, but all of these will be escapees of originally feral stock. There have been no true wild birds accepted onto the British list (although even if there were, I suspect it'd never get accepted due to all the feral ones floating about). It's still quite note-worthy if you see one though, plus nice shots!

Speaking of feral wildfowl I saw two Australian Black Swans with a cygnet on the Thames last week, first time I've seen one for a while (not that I go looking for them mind :P). It'll only be a matter of time before they are considering to have a self-sustaining population and put on the British list me thinks.

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So am I right in thinking that feral are escapees that have gone wild? Surely, if they do breed then they would be self-sustaining and get on the list? I don't delve into it too much as there's a lot of politics. I'm just pleased it was a new bird and not a hybrid.

Would have loved to see those black swans!

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So am I right in thinking that feral are escapees that have gone wild? Surely, if they do breed then they would be self-sustaining and get on the list? I don't delve into it too much as there's a lot of politics. I'm just pleased it was a new bird and not a hybrid.

Would have loved to see those black swans!

IMO the legislation as to what gets on the official British list, and what doesn't, is pretty hazy and subjective. The official line is that a species needs to be "self-sustaining". The reason I suspect it's only a matter of time for the Black Swan is because a) they're conspicuous, b) clearly they are breeding and c) their numbers are increasing (slowly). According to the BTO there were 9 breeding pairs in Britain in 2001, at a guess you could add at least one zero to that figure today. I know they've recorded breeding in Devon and in the North West too, but had no idea they were on the Thames until I saw them.

Great shots of the Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail this week btw! Always worth keeping an eye out for Grey Wags in Winter too when they can turn up in urban areas.

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Re Black Swans, there's one on the River Great Ouse that runs alongside Bedford town centre, its most commonly spotted outside of one of the rowing clubs on the opposite side of the river to Bedford College (so on the same side of town as Bedford town centre). Its been here for around a year and seems to have set up home

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