Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Skill of Massed Landings

Couldn't wait, on Friday morning, to get out and give my latest acquisition (a new lens) another airing. In fact the day was far from conducive to getting good photographic results, but you know what it's like when you've got a new bit of gear! Anyway, much of the morning was taken up with finding what works and what doesn't. This was particularly aimed at formulating a technique for photographing birds in flight, always a challenge.
I chose the flock of Red-necked Stint at Pipeclay Lagoon as my subject, knowing that by the time I got there the tide would be dropping and the roosting stint would soon be dispersing to feed, and that my presence would cause minimal disturbance.

A couple of the (many) shots that I took, are shown here, and I'm not really sure that I yet have a viable methodology, but I'm working on it. A liitle sun would have helped!
It was while taking the shots, that I realised just how amazingly manoeuvrable these birds are on landing. I'm sure we've all watched, probably in some awe, as large flocks of birds twist and turn in unison, in a rapidly changing mass. But have you ever stopped to think of the difficulties that mass landings present, if it isn't going to end up in a shambles? There was about 200 or so birds in this flock, but flocks reach many times that in size. The technique seems to be that the first birds to arrive move forward after landing, allowing space for the later arrivals, but it must be fine judgement and flying skill that makes it all work. I can recall seeing a mixed flock of some few thousand waders, at Broome, trying to all get onto a flat topped, offshore rock, that could only hold half their number. The result was that, as early arrivals made way for incoming birds, they were eventually forced off the rock. They then proceeded to circle round and join the incoming birds, and they in turn, forced others off the rock. Quite amusing in its' own way, and it took them a while to sort themselves out and find other roost sites.


Duncan said...

One of the things that has always intrigued me with waders Alan is the co-operative way they seem to get along with each other. Even when there are several different species in close proximity you rarely seem to see any friction between them. A pity human kind doesn't act the same.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Duncan,
Yes there are many lessons in cooperation that we could learn from birds. However, the flock 'mentality' can put them in harms way. One of the reasons that I can approach these particular stint, is the presence of breeding Red-capped Plover. I'll sometimes flush them, only to have them land even nearer me. because of the presence of the redcaps. But, as you say, waders do seem to have a great affinity for one another, whatever the species.

Thaibirder said...

I had a look at your blog with interest. Couldn't find any mentioning of what your new gear actually consist off.

Harmony in nature is something science simply can't explain properly.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Peter,
Apologies for the delayed reply. The lens in question is a Sigma 50-500mm, I'd probably prefer a big prime, but at least I can afford this one! BTW, great site you have at Thaibirder.