Sunday, 1 March 2015

Stockton Spit

After more great middle of the day sessions of workshops, we set off late this afternoon for the wetland and mangrove estuary along Stockton Spit - in particular the area immediately under the road bridge across the North Arm of the Hunter River.

Similar to Wednesday evening at Stockton Breakwater, there were thunder storms approaching from the south so we did not have much time out on the mudflats and wetlands but did manage to see a lot of wading birds that were cycling closer to the shore as the tide rose, covering the mudflats on which they had been feeding and roosting during low tide. Most conspicuous among the smaller birds (mostly Curlew Sandpipers) were the larger Bar-tailed Godwits (some of which were approaching breeding plumage with much redder head, neck and breast colouration) and Eastern Curlew.

Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpiper, Stockton Spit NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 800, f/13 1/250
Eastern Curlew + waders, Stockton Spit NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 800, f/22 1/160
Eastern Curlew + Bar-tailed Godwit, Stockton Spit NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 800, f/8 1/1000

With a group of 12 of us it was difficult to get close to the birds without spooking them so I opted to have a crack at stalking a small flock of raggedy-looking Caspian Terns that had settled along the muddy bank of a pool behind the main beach area.

Stalking Caspian Terns
Photograph courtesy of Joanne Smissen

As I got close enough for something half reasonable (after crawling through the sand, grass, saltmarsh and mud for about 25 metres) an approaching storm blocked out the sun so I bumped the ISO to 1600 but even with aperture wide-open (f/5.6 on my 300mm with 2x adaptor) the shutter speed (1/250-1/500) was only just fast enough to freeze the birds as they were constantly shuffling about (trying to get some shelter I expect).

Caspian Tern, Stockton Spit NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 1600, f/5.6 1/500

I got a little closer and managed another shot of a different arrangement of the same birds as it was getting even darker.

Caspian Tern, Stockton Spit NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 1600, f/5.6 1/250

Before I got close enough for some portraits of individual birds, the bank of low, dark storm clouds came across making it very dark. Fortunately I had the flash and Better Beamer mounted in anticipation of bad light so rather than bump the ISO even higher, I turned on the flash and made a somewhat feeble attempt at getting a few shots in light rain

Caspian Tern, Stockton Spit NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 1600, f/9 1/180 (Manual Flash 1/8 power)

before retreating for the car, safely parked under the bridge. The rain was going to be less of a problem (I always carry a poncho or garbage bag with me) than the lightning - it's not terribly sensible to be standing or sitting out in the open holding onto a three-legged lightning rod...

1 comment:

  1. WOW! So many waders. great to see. The red bills on those terns look redder than I remember.

    ReplyDelete

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