Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Marsh Harriers

Now the second part of my long weekend. At the Arkemheen Polder I was not only able to photograph Black-tailed Godwits, but also a pair of Marsh Harriers. In late April I visited this spot for the first time to photograph the pair of Marsh Harriers. Back then they were busy getting nesting material. This weekend I photographed them with prey and even with nesting material, which I found a little strange. I expected that the chicks already had hatched and the reason why the parents were bringing food their chicks is to feed them. So I'm not really sure why the Marsh Harriers both the female and the male brought small branches to their site.

In situations like this, where you want to get flight shots and images of landing birds, the direction of the wind is a very important aspect. The key here is, that birds will always land against the wind. So if you wanna photograph landing birds make sure that you position yourself with the wind coming from your back. Then the birds will land towards you and you will get nice flight shots with the birds facing to you. Sidewinds can also be nice. Then the bird will land sidewards. However the worst conditions for flight photography is headwind. With headwind the bird will always land facing away from you and the only thing you will get see is its back and that is propably not your main target.
So before I go out to shot birds in flight I always check the wind conditions at the location I want to photograph. On the internet you will find numerous websites where you retrive information about wind conditions.

Then there is the other thing when photographing birds in flight: light. Wind and the light direction might not always be the same. The perfect conditions are when you have the light and the wind coming from your back. If that is not the case then you have to pick one. Either you prefer to have bird in perfect light but with not so good wind conditions or the other way round.
This can be a though decisions sometimes. I had this situation the last 2 days when photographing the Marsh Harriers. Wind came from the north-east and evenign late came from north-west. As you can see on the images above I chose the the better wind conditon over the light. My goal was to get the Harriers with fully spread wings right before they landed and that's the reason I chose for the better wind condition.

Photographing nesting birds can be very critical, as being close to the nesting area can cause disturbance and may abort the offspring. Therefor photographers should be very carefully when considering photographing nesting birds. The location the Marsh Harriers chose to nest is located near a street and very frequented cycling path. This allows photographers to photograh from the car and minimize disturbance.

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography - Sebastian Erras


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