Monday, March 30, 2009

Short-eared Owls - Part III

On sunday i took another attempt to photograph Short-eared Owls, but this time I didn't went to Belgium, but stayed in the Netherlands and went to Zeeland, an area in the south-west of the Netherlands. The closer I got to the coast the better got the weather and it seemed to be the right decision to go there.

I arrived a little earlier to examine the area a little bit, as it was my first time at this location. Then in the late afternoon the first short-eared owl appeared. It came flying really close along the road and gave us (yes in the Netherlands you are most of the time not the only photographer) a great show. However the area was pretty big, so the owls were flying around and sometimes you had to wait half an hour until the owl came back from its tour, but who wouldn't wait for that short for a short eared owl. This time the owls came really close , sometimes to close for 700mm and I had a hard time following them with my Wimberley on the window mount. I wish I hadn't changed the AF settings of my 1DIIn to a bit faster reacting AF, because I usually use a slow setting in AIServo mode and it works well for me, but this time I experimented a little and unfortunately I missed some great shots. I had quite some shots where the AF picked the background instead of the owl. But lesson learned :-).

I hope that the owls will stay in this area a little longer and then I will give it another try, because I still don't have the images I want. :-)

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography - Sebastian Erras

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Short-eared Owls - Part II

So today I took another trip to Belgium to photograph my favorite subject for the moment, the short-eared owls. The weather was great, although it became a little misty in the evening.
I had to wait for 3 hours until they finally showed some action. There were at least 2 owls present and one was sitting for over an hour on a pole and I feared that the owl would stay for the rest of the day.

But luckily it was not like that and I finally get some great images of these birds. I got really close to get the shots of the owls I wanted, but I'm still missing some shots.

I definetly had a great day today with the Short-eared owls and hope that they will stay at this location for a longer period, because it is fascinating to watch these beautiful birds of prey.

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography - Sebastian Erras

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nature Photography in the Netherlands Part I - Texel

So here is my first part of the series "Nature Photography in the Netherlands". My first visit to Texel was in in the first week of June in 2006. I had heared quite a lot and seen some great images of this location in the Netherlands, so that i decided to go there for a week. It was definetly the right decision. Since then I have spent quite some weekends in April,May and June on Texel the last year, during my study year abroad in Groningen.

I will give an overview of my 6 favorite locations on Texel so far with some information and images.

My favorite locations on Texel

1. Wagejot

2. Oudeschild

3. Eierlandse Duinen

4. Bolle Kamer & Grote Vlak

5. Waalenburg

6. De Geul - Horsmeertjes - Mokbaai

1. Wagejot

If you are looking for terns, avocets, shelducks, plovers, gulls, redshanks and some more, then you are definetly right at this place. Wagejot is probably one of the well-known and loved places for bird photographers on this island. On my first time at this spot I was surprised to see how tame and easy to approach the birds at this spot were. You definetly don't need a hide or anything similar at this spot. Just sit at the border of this small "lake" and get all the action, that is happening there. The birds don't care and even if you get up abruptly to get some stuff from your car you will not notice any reaction of the birds. I found this spot to be the best in the morning as the sun will be right behind you, but even in the evening there can be some nice backlight situations. If there is not much wind the shallow water there is like a mirror and perfect reflections can be created there. Another Highlight at this location is nesting tern colony at close distance. On a small island covered with shelves common terns (sterna hirundo) and arctic terns (sterna paradisaea) are nesting.

In April the terns, avocets and gulls start courtship and usually in May they start to bread. At the end of May and in the beginning of June the chicks usually start to hatch and there will be great opportunities to photograph the birds with their chicks and there will also be good conditions for the photography of birds in flight as the parents are constantly flying over to get food for their chicks.
Wagejot is easy to get to and hard to miss as there will always be photographers sitting there. There is a small parking strip so you don't have to worry where to park the car. For this locations lenses from 300mm to 800mm can be used , as some birds might come really close and others stay behind.
Wagejot is not only a great location for bird photography ,but also for macrophotography. In May you can find a lot of orchids there, mainly Early Purple Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata).
So don't forget your macro lens!
A good overview of orchids ,growing on the island, can be found on the website of the tourism office of Texel. Orichids on Texel

2. Oudeschild

A little more to the south of Wagejot near Oudeschild there is a similar location, where terns, gulls and avocets are nesting and constantly flying over. The spot at Oudeschild is good for birds in flight photography , but a little more difficult for other shots due to the fact that there is a small landstrip at the front of the "lake" and this limits the reach. Birds will sit a little further at this location and bigger focal lenght 700 - 840mm will be required to get a good look of the birds. The birds nest quite close to each other, so there will be good situations to photograph brids in action, fighting for their territory.

This locations is also best to photograph in the early morning hours when you have the sun in your back.

3. Eierlandse Duinen

In the north of Texel near the lighthouse there is a great location for birdphotograhy. In between the dunes there is a nice walking and cycling path leading throught the dunes at the west side of the island. At the path there will singbirds, like Common Stonechat and Common Whitethroat. There will also be a good chance to photograph pheasants, which are easily to approach on the island due to the lack of predators.
At this location , near the camping area, there is also a good chance to encounter Short-eared owls, which nest at the westside of the island, flying along the dunes in the evening. This location can provide for good photography opportunities in the mornings and the late afternoons. You can park your car near the lighthouse, there is a small parking on the left , from where you then can easily access the walking path leading throught the dunes. A tripod or Monopod are recommended to use at this location.

4. Bolle Kamer & Grote Vlak

This area at south west side of the island has become one of my favorite locations for birdphotography, especially for bird of prey, in the last year. I had some great times there photographing Hen and Marsh Harriers. There are 2 roads leading to the beach which are great for bird photography from the car. The one road is leading to Westerslag, there you will have a good chance to photograph Hen Harriers and other birds, like Common Stonechat, Common Whitethroat, Pheasants or even Cuckoo, if you are lucky. The second road is a little bit more to the south and leading to Hoornderslag. Half way you will find a little lake, where you can find little egrets, Spoonbills and beautiful yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus). In this area there are also good chances to see bird of prey.

5. Waalenburg

Waalenburg is situated in the center of the island a little north of the town De Waal. It is a great spot to photograph Redshanks and Godwits. The best thing is to drive along the street "De Straat" and look for redshanks sitting on the various poles on the side of the street. Godwits can be find best at the north top of the street. This location is great for photography in the early morning and late afternoon hours. At this location you can also find many orchids, especially at the end of May. However photographing them can be quite difficult as most of the orchids are in a protetect area. There might be chances to find some at the side of the street, so keep your eyes open for them.

6. De Geul - Horsmeertjes - Mokbaai

At the south end of the island you can find these 3 nice locations: De Geul, Horspolder and Mokbaai. In the early evening Spoonbills are flying in to come back to their nesting areas at De Geul. With the right wind conditions there are some good chances to photograph the spoonbills in flight from the two viewing plattforms in this area. The first viewing platform is hard to miss, as it is easily to see from the road to the "military facility" at the south end of the island. The second platform is also not too difficult to find. You just park at the end of the road leading to the military facility and follow the the walking path to the Horsmeertjes. After a 1 minute of walk you take the path on the right leading up a little hill. On top of this hill there is the viewing platform. From there you will also have a good chance to photograph the incoming spoonbills, gulls and other birds. You will also hear the deep sound of the bittern, which nests in the reeds of the Horsmeertjes. If you are lucky you will see one flying by. Around the Horsmeertjes there is also a small population of Bluethroats. Around April and in the beginning of May you will hear them singing and there are a few spots where you can photograph them, but 700mm upwards are needed to get them well in the frame. I haven't had the chance to photograph Bluethroats at this area, but I have seen quite some good images of them from other photographers from this spot. There is a walking path leading around the Horsmeertjes, where you will find orchids and other singbirds.

General information

The best time to go to Texel is probably in the period of April to June. You will have the chance to encounter courtship, nesting and the hatched chicks durings this period. It is recommended to have a lens of minimum 500mm and the additional use of 1.4x or 2x converter can useful at some locations. A bean bag for photograpy from the car should also be part of your equipment as well as a tripod and a little chair.
Texel is an island and is therefore only accessable by ferry. The ferry operates from Den Helder every hour (in the weekend every 30 Min) and rates and more information can be found at the website of the ferry operator TESO . Accomodations can be found on the website of the tourism office of Texel

The "Vogelwerkgroep Texel' (=Birding organisation) has a great website with a good overview of the different birding ( yes, keep in mind, some of the spots might be great for birder, but not that good for birdphotographers) locations on Texel.

Vogelwerkgroep Texel

At the moment the website is only available in Dutch, but they are working on an english version. Go to "Gebieden" to find a map of the island with the birding locations.

Another website you should definetly have a look at, before you go to Texel or even when you are on the island and have Internet, is Birders post their latest bird sightings in this website and you can find the sightings for Texel in this section:

Sightings - Texel

At the right corner on the top you can change the language, so you don't have to know Dutch.

A short visit to the tourism office, just follow the signs with "VVV", should also be made to get maps and info on island.

And last but not least, don't forget to pay a visit to "Ecomare" , an information center on the Waddensea with all its rich wildlife.

I hope my information will be helpful for a journey to the a bird photographers paradise in the Netherlands. Maybe we will see each other there this season. If you see a young guy with gray SEAT and german license plate, don't forget to say Hello!

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography - Sebastian Erras

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Nature Photography in the Netherlands

In the next months I will start a little series with information about my favorite spots for nature photography in the Netherlands.

Since September 2007 I'm living in the Netherlands now as part of my studies. Within the the last year I have visited quite some great places for nature photography in the Netherlands and I would like to share some images and information about these beautiful locations.

The series will be divided into several parts. For the moment I have decided to cover the following locations:

Part I: Texel - A paradise for bird photography
Part II: Lauwersmeer - A year in the North of Holland
Part III: Zouweboezem - the home of the purple herons
Part IV: Hoge Veluwe - the rut

As there are still other great locations for nature photography in the Netherlands, there might be some other parts added, but first I have to explore them more this upcoming season.

I will start to work on Part I and hope that I can already publish it within the next weeks.

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography - Sebastian Erras
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Short-eared Owls

Short-eared Owls in Belgium

I have spent the last months a few days at the belgian coast to photograph Short-eared Owls (asio flammeus) there. It was my secon encounter , after one short fly-over of a Short-eared owl I witnessed in the north of the Netherlands.
At my first visit to this area in December I was not only lucky enough to see a Snowy Owl, quite a rare visitor to Belgium, but also saw 5 different Short-eared Owls at one spot in action. In the late afternoon this birds start to get active and fly over the polders in this area looking for prey. It is really a fascinating view to see this beautiful birds flying over the fields and then abruptly changing direction to catch their prey, mainly mice, on the ground.

The images above were taken on my first visit of the short eared owls to Belgium in December 2008.

Then in January I went to Belgium, as it is quite close to my grandparents, a couple more times and a great time with these birds. I haven't made the image(s) I wanted to take of this birs, but it will definetly not be the last time that I will go to Belgium and I hope that the short eared owls will stay at this place for a while.

Short eared Owl - asio flammeus - Sumpfohreule - Velduil

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Blog

New Blog!!

I'm working on a blog for my website
Soon you will find all the latest news and stories from Wildlife Photography Sebastian Erras.

So don't forget to come back and check for the latest updates.

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography

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