First outing!

Well, we went...and a good time was had by all!

For the time of year, it was a glorious day. Crystal clear skies, and, surprisingly, not that cold. I'm infamous for not feeling the cold, but Pat even took off her wooly hat and unzipped her outer shell at one point.

I took my fleece, but had to carry it with me for two and half hours, because it was t-shirt weather (about 5 degrees C). No seriosly...I have lots of "natural insulation"...

Brockholes turned out to be a great place, with great staff/volunteers as well. We walked the blue route around the main body of water, and as I mentioned, it took us about two and half hours, because we stopped to observe quite frequently.

I managed to get a few photos that I'll show below, but here's a list of what I'm certain we saw. There were many other things, but I couldn't ID them, or catch them on film (pixels) clearly enough to ID with certainty. So, in no particular order:
  • Blue tits
  • Robins
  • Nuthatches
  • Magpies
  • Pheasant
  • Kestrel
  • Blackbird
  • Dunnock (caught on camera, and later identified by my Aunt Frances - a pretty keen birder)

As I said, there was a great deal more than this. I'd guess we saw at least three or four other perching bird species, and lots of waterfowl that I honestly can't make a guess at because, I'm sorry to say, but at the moment...they all look the same to me!

There was also an enormous raptor that was far too big to be a kestrel, but was too far away to capture a clear image of even with 300mm of reach.

Finally, we caught a brief glimpse of what was probably a Bank Vole, but it was far too brief a glimpse to identify the specific species. Bank voles are known to be in the area we saw it, but it could still have been any kind of vole.

So, here are a few images I managed to get that are almost presentable.

Robin - Brockholes 2018-01-07

This robin was chased from a feeding station by a rival, as Pat and I watched from behind a screen. He came and perched in bushes just a couple of feet away and obliged to stay and pose long enough for me to fumble this image.

Nuthatch Brockholes 2018-01-07

Nuthatch 2 - Brockholes 2018-01-07
There Nutchatches on two separate feeders, and I managed to catch one on each (just about).

Female Pheasant - Brockholes 2018-01-07
These two, which I believe are female Pheasant, but I'm open to correction, stopped to glare at each other for a brief moment, just as a pressed the shutter. Which was nice of them. Sadly, the photo of Mr. Pheasant is too ropey to show...

Dunnock - Brockholes 2018-01-07
This Dunnock was on the other side of the same screen as the Robin, just a few minutes later. He was in deep shade, and I've had to lift the shadows here quite a bit...I need to get a better familiarity with my camera so I can make adjustments quickly. These birds flit around like nobody's business, and taking a couple of seconds to make an adjustment is far too slow.

Which brings me to my next topic...

Bird Photography is Hard

I took about 83 (ok, exactly 83) shots to get these 5 pictures, and these are not really of a standard that I'm happy with. In fact, apart from the Robin, that I think I just about get away with, I'm not really happy putting them up here.

But, this blog is about being new to birding and wildlife photography, which I am, so it's only fair to show that I'm not very good at it. Hopefully, I can append a 'yet' to that, and I really, really hope that in a year or two, I'll cringe when I look at these pictures, because if I do, that will mean I've improved.

Now, there is one, and only one reason the photos are not up to a standard I'm happy with: me.

I need to improve in several areas:
  • Finding the bird in the viewfinder
  • Checking composition
  • Making quick changes to settings
  • Remembering to reset changes made
  • Remembering to check settings in advance - when the bird appears is way, way too late
  • Getting the focus on the correct plane (usually the birds eye)
  • And probably many more

Having said all of this, I made one photographic discovery today...

300mm Is Not Enough

All of these photos were taken on a Nikon D3300, in P mode, with auto ISO, centre weighted exposure and AFS-C for continuous autofocus.

They were also all taken with a Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 DiII VC PZD MACRO zoom lens.

I'm happy with the camera. It gives ore features than I have capacity to fully utilise right now, and gives me room to grow technically. It also has a 24.2 megapixel sensor, which is pretty awesome.

The lens...well, it's done well as a 'travel' lens, giving a great zoom range for holiday photos.

However, I can see two issues with it as a bird/wildlife lens:
  • It's too short
  • It's too soft

All of the images above are quite heavily cropped. Even at 300mm, the birds rarely filled as much as a quarter of the viewfinder, often much less. The only reason I've managed to get these images is that at 24MP, I can afford to crop out three quarters of the original image, and still have 6MP, which is just about ok.

However, even with "Vibration Control" (Tamron's version of image stabilisation), it's very difficult to get an acceptably sharp image, and even with the camera firmly rested on a support, none of the images taken at 300mm bear much examination.

Stupidly, I didn't need to use this lens, which I knew to be soft, as I also have a Nikkor AF-S VR Zoom 70-300 f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED, which is a whole other story. It's as pin sharp as I've seen for a zoom in it's price range. Had I used that lens, I might have got a few more usable shots. But still, 80% of the image quality - or lack thereof - is down to me, so it may have rescued one or two more shots out of the 70-odd rejects. still maxes out at 300mm, and that feels suddenly too short. I wonder what other people use...?


  1. Hi Phil,

    I think you have some great shots here.
    I've spent hours trying to get shots of Nuthatches. They're incredibly quick and seem to take off the millisecond before the shutter release.
    I use a Fujifilm Finepix SL1000 bridge camera with 50x optical zoom which is, apparently, equivalent to a 1200mms lens.
    I always use a fast shutter (sport setting on preset) and shoot bursts of up to twenty fps.
    You shoot a ridiculous amount of frames but can get some great pictures.
    If you're looking for a a great opportunity to get pictures of wild kites, check out Gigrin kite feeding station in Wales.

    1. Hi Jon, thanks for the comment! Nice to know I’ve had a visitor to the blog :)

      The Nuthatches were indeed very quick! I basically pre-focussed on the place I hoped they would land, and hit the shutter release as soon as I saw something move. They were in frame for one or two shots at most (single shot mode).

      There was something else coming to the feed station, it it was so quick and so tiny, I couldn’t even identify it by eye, never mind catch a shot if it!

      I’ll definitely lookup Gigrin. We’re holing to get out and about a lot more.


  2. Another great place, although not strictly wild birds, is Gauntlet vulture and bird of prey centre just outside Knutsford.
    The birds fly so close I've literally had my hat moved by their tail feathers.


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