..This time - birds. Or, more specifically, my bird photos. Over the past few years we've got better and better at identifying the various birds we see - particularly when we're out and about in the Hebrides - it's difficult to spend any amount of time in such a wildlife-rich environment without getting a more in-depth interest I guess. We love joining in with the RSPB guided walks up there, and were extremely chuffed last year to be included in the list of people to "just ask..." if people wanted an identification confirmed.
So - on with the pics then. First - and a "must have" - is one from the Farne Islands. Now I could have agonised for ages over which particular Puffin pic to include here, but instead I just jumped in and chose one - and it was this one...
They're so funny the way they stand - on land they just look so unnatural, but when you see them flying, or better still on the water, the bodyshape makes complete sense! We're hoping to get back across to the Farnes this year - so hopefully there will be some more Puffin photos to come!
Next, we have a bit of a rarity. This bird has been on the RSPB's endangered list for a number of years now, after modern farming methods have adversely affected its natural habitat. Currently there are small populations in Northern Ireland, and on the west coast of mainland Scotland, but the bird's main stronghold is now on the Western Isles. Yep, you've guessed it - it's the Corncrake!
Not a great picture this, I know, the grass has slightly interfered with the focus and the bird is partly obscured, but we'd waited SO long to actually see one, it makes it in here for that reason. This one nearly didn't make it to being photographed, as it chose to run straight out in front of our car as we were driving out of the RSPB Reserve at Balranald! Thankfully there were no other cars wanting to pass by, the camera was within easy reach, and I was on the right side of the car to be able to shoot from where I was so not scare the bird any more. We've had several more brief glimpses of Corncrakes since, but nothing this close up.
Another Hebrides one - this was taken on our very last full day last year, on the island of Benbecula. Earlier in the week we'd done one of the RSPB walks hoping to see Raptors on at track to the east of Benbecula. we didn't see much in the way of birds of prey, but we DID see a good number of these...
He's a juvenile Stonechat - cute eh? We went back that last day because on our evening walk the light was too poor to make any decent photos possible, and I wanted to see if I could get a good shot of one of these little chaps. This one was further out along the track, and was trusting enough to let me creep right up on him - you can see that he was fully aware I was there!
A bit further South again for this next one - this was taken at one of our local nature reserves - Amwell, in Hertfordshire. This was the first proper chance I'd had to use my new 100-400mm lens earlier this year, the light was good, and the birds were being obliging.
I love this pictures for several reasons - Blue Tits are one of my favourite birds without question, and yet are quite hard to photograph, the colours can easily look false and garish, or dull and uninteresting, and this pic manages to pretty faithfully portray the actual colours I was seeing at the time. The background and setting is nice - although what draws the small birds in to this area is lots of feeders, it's always nice to be able to get a "clean" picture without any of them in view. Finally, the beautiful smoothness of that background - a true mark of quality in a lens, the ability to make the out of focus areas pleasing to the eye.
So, the fifth and final choice - and this one took some deciding on. I've finally settled on this Arctic Tern from our last Farne Islands trip...
I like the fact that you can *just* see more Terns in the background - there were So many of them, swooping, diving, and just sitting around looking malevolently at the humans who'd invaded their world! One took exception to MrEH and dive-bombed his head a few times. Annoyingly I wasn't able to grab the camera fast enough, or that shot might have been here instead... ;-)