Mai Po birds

Bright and early-ish this morning I headed off to Mai Po to meet up with one half of J&J. I arrived a little early as I was keen to get the hang of using my 800mm lens on the RRS 55 ball head instead of my usual Wimberley Sidekick. It took me a while to work out the right combination of tensions to get the feel right. I was never 100% confident slinging the whole schmozzle over my shoulder and I’m not convinced I will stay with this set up.

Nevertheless we were planning to head for the boardwalk hides so I would not be carrying the kit al fresco for any great distance. We set ourselves up and as always when the birds are thin on the ground, convivial conversation was the order of the day. The star (and almost only) bird was a Yellow bittern, Ixobrychus sinensis. This chap was tucked well down in the reeds in front of the hide but did poke its head up for a minute or so and I managed one half decent shot. But only half.

We knew there were waders about because we had heard the swoosh over our heads as we walked along the boardwalk. A flock of godwits had done a recce to see how the tide was doing. We had probably got the tide about spot on but unfortunately the birds had not. They insisted in flying over the hides and dropping just out of decent photography range. They need more training. So, with one exception, what follows is a collection of heavily cropped shots. And by the way, when the birds are not playing ball the photographers can always play “spot the leg-flag”.  Here is a Greater Sand Plover showing white over yellow, showing it was tagged locally in HK. Say hello to H7.


Note the large conk.

Not very exciting – a Whimbrel:


And then a Great Knot:

Great Knot

A juvenile Bar-tailed Godwit:

Bar-tailed Godwit – juvenile

A very mediocre flight shot of a redshank:

Me and my shadow

And finally a close up of the only other bird to stay reasonably close to the hide. Another redshank.

I am sure that John has better shots than I do. I found I was hopelessly out of practice with the big gun and most of my efforts lacked critical focus over long distances. Read John’s blogpost here for an alternative version:

Now two of these images have something in common that I must own up to. They have been “doctored” in Photoshop. They are the first and the last. Both birds had leaves partially obscuring them and this ruined the images completely for me. So by dragging the spot-heal brush along the line of the leaf I have tried to restore the underlying plumage. They are not going to fool an expert and I wouldn’t ever use these shots without owning up to this. But this is a blog, not Bird Photographer of the Year and I doubt if anybody looks closely enough to notice. So there we are.

The birds were getting further and further away as the tideline receded and so we packed up our toys and went home. There is always another day and hopefully next time the birds will be closer, the temperature will be cooler and I will have had a bit more practice with the gear.

Until next time…..


8 thoughts on “Mai Po birds

    • Thanks Stephen. It is a big brute to carry and ought to come with wheels. Not so bad in winter but dreadful in summer. I have thought about trading down but at MPNR the reach is useful. The 1D4 body is also heavy. Add tripod, head etc and it is a good workout.

  1. “J. has better shots…” n-a-a-a-h , but I posted more of them.

    Your Yellow Bittern looks much crisper but I wonder if it’s a bigger file, I usually render my not-so-masterpieces down to 40 to 50 KB for posting.

    • It is a bigger file, John. 300kb. I used 85% quality. Both your redshanks are in focus – I wondered what aperture you used. Nice shots. I’ll add a link now your post is up. I found my Tattler shots but they are very small in frame 😦

  2. Andrew, mine are BIG crops, too. With lowish ISO it doesn’t show too badly (?). Aperture was 5.6 but both the Redshank happened to be sharpish so I selected and cropped those, several more in the same frame o-o-f.

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