Long Valley leftovers

Often when I have done my first cut of culling the weak shots I am left with a few about which I am undecided. Keep or trash.

Here are some marginals from yesterday’s shoot.

This Chestnut-eared bunting shot has grown on me and reinforces the ‘do not delete too quickly’ rule. I like the detail of the orbital ring, the streaking on the upper breast, the chestnut fringe below and the slightly breeze-ruffled feathers.


This is a rather lonely Green sandpiper. Most of the sands at LV are Woodies. I’m not sure the colour balance is spot on. I need to think about this one.


Another of my supermodel from yesterday, the Red-throated pipit. Caught in mid-ruffle. Quite a simple shot but crisp and clean.


This is the much under-rated Passer montanus or Tree Sparrow. This is our common sparrow  in Hong Kong. The Tree Sparrow has declined greatly in Britain. Probably due to habitat loss. The Tree Sparrow was a relatively common bird when I was a child. Indeed it is ticked off in my 1969 edition of The Observer’s Book of Birds, the field guide on which so many of us old fogies were blooded in the dark art of birdwatching. So I had seen it although it is stated to ‘avoid the dwellings of man’. And of course the picture was in black & white. Maybe I was confused, but I doubt it. House sparrows on the other hand were in colour and described as ‘very general’. Rather quaint wording. But now even the House Sparrow seems to be declining. I have read many theories including the possibility that vehicle exhaust emissions have contributed to its decline. But in Hong Kong the Tree Sparrow replaces the House Sparrow as man’s urban and indeed rural neighbour. Why have vehicle emissions not asphyxiated them here? Very odd. Or perhaps we have not noticed yet. Whatever the answer, its a very smart bird.


This is a keeper. I mentioned to one commenter yesterday that I am always amazed at how little people really do observe birds today. Maybe its a HK thing, I’m not sure. I am as happy watching as photographing as a rule. I spend ages on our sun terrace (posh for balcony) with a cup of coffee, binoculars and a book or iPad, just reading and watching the bird world go by. It is very therapeutic and relaxing. If you have never been bird watching it does not need to entail walking long distances in difficult conditions. Just sling a pair of bins round your neck when you go for a stroll. Listen as well as look. Yesterday I was struck by the noise of a White wagtail. Deafening. Soon your awareness rises and before you know it you are a birder. Its not difficult and ignore the pompous oafs you often find in hides pontificating about all the rarities they have seen and (mis)identified. Just soak it all up and if you confuse a lark with a pipit. Never mind. So do I sometimes. Just spare a thought for the poor sparrow and pray it doesn’t join the Passenger Pigeon on the extinct list.

11 thoughts on “Long Valley leftovers

  1. Andrew, these are all quite good. I wish I could say these were my shots and then I would be back to photographing birds as I did back in the late 70’s and into the 80’s. My telephoto was a very heavy 500mm Vivitar that actuall gave me some pretty good pics. Lots were on slide film and these are someplace in a closet. I should find these and at least put in a safe deposit box at the bank.

    Anyway back to you. It is a peculiar thing when a bird thrives in one place and not in another. But I know for certain that we have gained several species where I live that moved from the south I suppose for food and better nesting habitat. Two species of dove, the house finch, a couple of hawk species, and the bald eagle which has lots of people excited. Well I should say the birders excited. Other species have declined and are sort of rare now in central Texas.

    At any rate these are keepers in my book. They are certainly good enough to post for sure. I enjoyed these a lot. The last photo is a 5 star.

    • Yvonne, do look after your slides. I am sure they will contain many happy memories. I’m not sure how they would tolerate a safe deposit box. Do they need to breath like pearls?

      Lots of birds are changing their distribution patterns. The best example I know is the Little egret in Britain. Formally ‘rare’ 2 decades ago it is now breeding happily in Britain and spreading fast. Others are going the other way. I think I read recently that the Bald eagle is now present in each US state. Very impressive.

      I will probably keep all of these four shots despite Rough Seas views on the supermodel 🙂

      It would be really nice to see some of your old bird shots if you can find someone to scan a few for you.

  2. I love the detail on the bunting too, and the expression on his/her face.

    I like the sandpiper. I like the definition between the dark and white plumage, quite striking.

    The only thing I would say is that the supermodel (who looks extremely fat for a supermodel or is that due to the ruffle?) and the background are so much the same colour that it actually jars for me. Odd.

    The sparrow looks like a painting. Did you fiddle much?

    I think our binos are in the Landy, except we always forget to take them out. Must check.

    I have the observer book of birds (and wild flowers and trees). I used to love those books. In fact I have two bird versions, one from my uncle whose widow passed it on to my mother after his death. Mostly here we see seagulls out of the window. (no sun terrace 😉 ) We do get sparrows in Spain but the wretches are always flying around. I’ll try to check out which type they are though.

    What about pesticides as a reason rather than vehicle emissions? The Spanish birds (snails, worms and everything else) all seem very fond of my organic garden.

    • Greetings Rough Seas, the humble spadger has not been played or fiddles with much at all. You in Spain of course have the gorgeous Spanish Sparrow in Extramadura but oddly not many other places – not sure about Gib. I had a whole load of Observer books and I too have at least two editions of Birds. I suspect my first bird books were actually the Ladybird guides. In my humble opinion the best field guide remans Lars Jonsson’s Birds of Europe, which I have in both English & German for some reason! Get those bins out and use them. Check for Audouin’s gulls and indeed Slender-billed gulls. Many will probably be some sort of race of Yellow-legged gull – I find it hard to keep up with gull taxonomy.

      Pesticides may well be a possibility. I shall have to go back and re-read some of the stuff published in recent years and see what the thinking du jour is.

      I shall pass on your concerns to the supermodel and ask her to pose in a more pleasing environment next time and to shed a few grams of pipit-fat. I’m sure she’ll grow out of it. Have you posted in the last day or so? I haven’t had an alert.

      • According to the source of all disinformation/misinformation (and occasionally accurate) wiki, it seems it occurs throughout southern Spain. My sparrows are quite tiny though so perhaps they are ordinary and rather common sparrows?

        I too have a nice collection of Ladybird books, although I don’t recollect a bird one 😦 I do have Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten and Katie Country Mouse though.

        When I first came to Spain, I meant to buy a collins Flora and Fauna, but it was a bit pricey and I was feeling tight. There are quite a few decent books in our Botanical Gardens shop that I haven’t bought either. Mean roughseas.

        We do have the Gibraltar Footless Gull species here of course. He used to perch on the lamp opposite and wait for our neighbour opposite to throw out the daily catch for him and all the other gulls. Sadly she no longer does that so he must have flown off to other fishing grounds.

        I blame pesticides for everything, so I see no reason why sparrow decline shouldn’t be included. But seriously I thought changing agricultural practices accounted for a whole host of problems regarding decline of wildlife rare species of flowers. No hedges, no headlands, and Agent Orange chucked all over the place indiscriminately.

        I posted on Clouds but not on roughseas. I may get round to it today. Been a bit busy working for nowt (I chair our block management committee, so write papers, chair meeting, write minutes …. and it was all this week). We exist on a shoestring, so it’s slightly challenging especially trying to get money out of some people.

      • I checked a couple of other books and Wiki is right about distribution of Spanish sparrow – not sure why Lara stated differently. Have a good look at yours – you might be lucky. A trawl through some articles on population decline in House Sparrows in GB suggests the reasons may differ between rural and urban populations. Rural numbers fall because of – yup – changes in agricultural practices. Urban numbers because the humble sparrow needs us to provide gardens for food and shelter – parks are too barren these days – wide open tracts of grass – and a lot of land such as allotments has been developed. Tidiness is not what a sparrow needs. A farm I used to walk when birding left a pile of old equipment and fencing in a small heap and allowed it to be overgrown by ‘weeds’ – the sparrows loved it. The same farmer still had lapwing and golden plover on his fields. Top man.

        If I had a copy of Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten at home I think I would hide the fact. Wouldn’t do my streey cred much good (if I had any).

        GFG sounds an interesting species. Is it on Wiki?

        Good luck with the management committee stuff. One way to get money out of people is to pick them up by the ankles and shake them violently. Or you could spray their doors with red paint and vile slogans. Does naming and shaming work? Otherwise, I suggest staking them out under the flight path of the local vulture population and screaming, “he’s dead, he’s dead”. This method has little empirical evidence as to its efficacy but it sure as eggs is eggs is fun.

  3. Absolutely keep them. For a start, they are all good – even if you don’t think they are. For another things, they are representations of little lives, and they’ve preserved for posterity what those birds were about at the time you took the shots.

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