Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Purple Herons

Last weekend I went to the Purple Herons for the first time this year. They are back since about 2 weeks and they are starting to build there nest in the next weeks.
Compared to last year I found the conditions this year a little more difficult. The trees in front of the reed field have become really big and there are only 2-3 good spots left to photograph them. As it they just arrived and some are still arriving in this area they were not that active, but I'm sure that is gonna change in the next weeks.







Even with my 500mm + 1.4x and 1D MarkIIn I was still too far away. I only good 2 or 3 really good chances, where the herons came quite close. I also tried th 1.7x but the Autofocus had some difficulities.
In the end, when the light got a little less, I tried the combination of my Sigma 500/4.5 the 1.4x and the 1.7x Converter to great some flight shots with slow shutter speeds. As sharpness doesn't really matter with this kind of shots, i tried to get as close as I could and with the 1.4x and the 1.7x I got the Herons good in the frame. Surprisingly the Autofocus worked really well and I had no big problems following the birds in flight. I will definelty use this combination more often for this kind of shots.


I have planned to go there again this weekend I hope that the weather will stay as nice as it has been here in the Netherlands the las 2 weeks. :-)

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography Sebastian Erras
www.naturfoto-erras.de

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bluethroat

Today I spent another early morning with the Bluethroats and I had a great time photographing the singing male. I arrived very early and after a few minutes the male already showed me his best tones. This time I was even able to see the female but she was hiding most of the time at the ground of the reed.





The male kept me soo busy that I had to leave after just 2 hours shooting as my memory cards were full and I had around 12GB with me. This afternoon I went again to the Marsh Harrier but it got quite windy in the late evening so the Harriers were not that active.



Tomorrow I will go to the Purple Herons and see how the conditions will be this year.

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography - Sebastian Erras
www.naturfoto-erras.de

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nature Photograhpy in the Netherlands - Part II - Lauwersmeer




After some time I finally managed to finish the second part of my series "Nature Photography in the Netherlands". The second part will cover some interesting locations in the National Park Lauwersmeer in the north of the Netherlands.
In September 2007 I moved to Groningen in the north of the Netherlands and spent there 1 year as part of my studies. Within in this year I spent quite some time at the National Park Lauwersmeer in the north of the Netherlands. I will point out some of my favorite spots at this location and I will tell you what subjects you can find where and at what time is it best to photograph them.

My favorite spots in this area:

1. Eezumakeeg

2. Bantpolder

3. Kollumerwaard

4. Camping De Pomp

5. Vlinderbalg

6. Lauwersoogbos














1. Eezumakeeg
The way to the Eezumakeeg in the west of the Lauwersmeer area is probably one of the most popular locations for bird photographers in this area. First of all before you get to the nice hide at Eezumakeeg you pass the polders of the area in the west of the Lauwersmeer, called the Kolken. In this area you will find a lot of geese during winter and other birds such as Curlew, Shelduck and Kestrels.



After you have crossed the polders and you are on the way to the hide at the Eezumakeeg, you will pass along another nice location, where you can find birds, the konik horses and hares. From the "dijk" (a little hill to prevent the Netherlands from drowning :-) ) you can already spot the hide and also a lot of geese and other birds.


Near the hide "Sylkaj├║t" there are plenty of parking slots, where you can park your car. The hide is very suitable for photographers and offers space for more than 5 photographers. Unfortunately there is no possibility at this hide to photograph from a lower perspective, so you will have to stick with usual perspective when photographing from a hide. Birds come pretty close to this hide and in spring around the end of March until May you have very good chances to photograph Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Geese, Lapwings and other wading birds at this location. If you are lucky you will find some spoonbills or even the rare bittern at this location.






2. Bantpolder

In the north of the Lauwersmeer there is another great location for naturephotographers, the Bantpolder. During winter thousands of geese rest here. In spring this area offers great opportunities to photograph Godwits, Redshanks and Lapwings. There also good chances that you will find Kestrels or even Preregrine falcons in this area. To get good images of the birds, the small road, called "Bantswei', that can be accessed from the parking at the north end of the Bantpolder, should be followed. Sometimes it is also adviseable to get out of the car and lay flat on your belly, especially in the evening as the backlight will give a nice red backlight look.





In may and june this locations is also good to photograph orchids, which can easily be founf next to the small road. You will mainly find marsh orchids in this area.

3. Camping De Pomp

Near the campning "De Pomp" in the south of the Lauwersmeer there is a big reed field and in April it is a good place to photograph Marsh Harriers and songbirds, such as Bluethroat. Warblers and Bearded Tits can also be found in this area. The best thing is to park your car at parking at the end of the street leading to the campingsite and walk from there on along the path into the reed fields.



4. Kollumerwaard

In the south of the Lauwersmeer near de campingsite "De Pomp" there is also another nice location for bird photographers - the Kollumerwaard. A big marsh area with a lot of reed. In April it is the perfect place to photograph Marsh Harriers flying in with nesting material. There is also a good chance to see or ear bitterns in this area. During winter a lot of geese can be found on the fields around the Kollumerwaard.



5. Vlinderbalg


At the east of the Lauwersmeer there is the area called "Vlinderbalg". This location can be interesting for birdphotography. Going south on the N361 you will have to turn right to get to a small way called "Strandweg". Along this way you will pass a small wood and some reed fields. In April there are some good chances to find Ruffs and Marsh Harriers there. There is also a good chance to photograph Herons, Warblers and Kestrels at this location. Nearly at the end of the way you will find a hide, but it is not really suitable for photographers as the birds are most of the time very far away. I would recommend to always give this location a try, it might be empty sometimes, but then you just drive further and go to the next locations.


6. Lauwersoogbos

If you wanna photograph orchids than the Lauwersoogbos , a small forest near the town Lauwersoog in the east of the Lauwersmeer is the place to be. From mid may until end of July marsh orchids can be found there .
There is a walking path called "Orchidee pad" which is about 4-7km long and will lead you to some nice locations, where you can photograph orchids.



Useful Informations

I would recommend to check the following websites shortly before you go to the Lauwersmeer or even when you are already in the area. At these website you will find the recent sightings of birds in this location and you will get a good overview of what kind of birds to expect where.

Lauwersmeer.com is in dutch, so if you prefer to have an english version then I recommend to go to waarneming.nl and change the language at the top right corner.


Conclusion

The year I spent in the north of the Netherlands was really great. I have been a couple of time to the Lauwersmeer and I got some amazing photography opportunities. The Lauwersmeer is a really big area and offers a lot of different locations for nature photographers. Bird photographers will definetly love this location as it offers so much variety, but also macro photographers have some locations to get nice images. When I went to photograph birds at the Lauwersmeer I rarely had a specific species in mind, as I usually have. Most of the time I just checked the different locations and saw what I could get. The results differed from time to time and I found quite difficult to predict what I would expect at each location. The lauwersmeer is one of the few locations where you can find goof photography opportunities the whole year round. in autumn and winter there are thousands of geese resting in this area and in spring the waders and songbirds return from the south to come to their breeding areas at the Lauwersmeer.

If you have further questions regarding this area then leave a comment or send me an E-Mail.

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography Sebastian Erras
www.naturfoto-erras.de

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Marsh Harriers and Short-eared Owls



I had planned a lot for the easter weekend and it fully meet my expactiations.
On Saturday morning I was able to get some great images of the Bluethroat and Reed Bunting. Then in the afternoon I took another attempt for the Short-eared Owls. I'm really fascinated by those birds. However the weather wasn't that well and there were some very heavy rainshowers. I missed a shot of owl sitting on a pole in the heavy rain, as it flew away shortly after I arrived.
I was not really satisified with the results of that afternoon, so I gave it a sencond try on Sunday. But this time I went to Belgium to photograpgh the owls, as I was already in the area to visit my family. This time I had a nice time with the Owls and one of the 2 owls gave me quite a great show.
Then on Monday when I went back to Amsterdam I made a visit to location where Marsh Harries are breeding and they are busy with collecting nesting material at the moment. At this time there very good chances to get some nice flight images of the Harriers. The Harriers were not so active as I hoped but still I managed to get a few great shots.


Short-eared Owls






Marsh Harriers

I will see what the next weekend will bring. For the moment I'm not really sure what I will do. Maybe I go to Texel for a day or to the Purple Herons, which have arrived last week here in NL or maybe something else.

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography Sebastian Erras
www.naturfoto-erras.de
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bluethroat and ohters

What a great start of the day. This morning I got up early to photograph bluethroats.
I didn't really know what to expect, but it was definetly an amazing morning session with this bird. The bird was so trusting that no hide had to be used it came really close and with the 700mm (or 850mm) I managed to get some great results.
Unfortunately it was a little bit cloudy this morning and I only have few shots with early morning light, but the rest is also great.


Today I noticed that it is quite a difference if you shot with 700mm (500mm+1.4x) or 850mm (500mm+1.7x) and I don't mean the reach. I had a lot of blurry pictures shooting at 850mm and with a shutter-speed around 1/160s. With the 1.4x I have no problems getting very sharp images until 1/100s but with the 1.7x it is far more difficult to get sharp images.


I was not only lucky to get some great images of the bluethroat but I also got great images of a red bunting ,a warbler (not sure if it is a Willow Warbler or a Common Chiffchaff) and a Wren.








I'm curious what the this afternoon and the rest of my easter weekend will bring.



Sebastian Erras
Wildlife-Photography Sebastian Erras
www.naturfoto-erras.de

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