27 September, 2010

Photographing birds, in our garden, mostly

If a black stork lands in our garden and we don’t see it, was it really there? This was our wildlife garden’s shining moment. My birding niece said Never Seen One of Those! We wouldn’t have known there were black storks – if we hadn’t seen this one here.
 (On the verandah, about 7 metres from the bird on the island.
 Taken with the dear departed Old Canon.)

Black stork

Usually we see storks in the fields. White ones.  Of course, as soon as we stopped, and got out to take the picture, long legs strode briskly off into the blurred distance!

Stork in field

Our national bird. One for gardeners like me, who love glaucous blue foliage. Large birds, standing just over a metre tall. Blue cranes.

Blue cranes

A bird in the hand, stunned after crashing into the window, is easy.

Juvenile sunbird, in hand

Bobbing around hunting in the rosebush is harder.
 (Behind the livingroom window, and the bird is only about a metre away.)


The fig tree outside the kitchen window has sunbirds, mousebirds and starlings. Weavers and white eyes zip thru, in a hurry. The Ungardener has always enjoyed sitting at the waterhole, waiting to see what comes. I can’t quite do that. But his patience was rewarded one rainy day. Bathsheba in her bath.
(From the kitchen Bird Hide, about two metres. This is using continuous shooting. 
Seven images per second. And a story emerges, which the human eye did not See.)

Bathsheba in her bath

(My stationary gull, obligingly resting, is easy.)

Kelp gull

(But his gannet in flight, is the result of clicking away briskly. Then sorting the blurred and fuzzy ones. The ones that are Perfectly Sharp, but Unfortunately the Bird Has Flown, Away. 
And in the residue, perhaps there is one like this.)

Gannet in flight

We have a bird house/feeder. And if we are quiet the birds come. In noisy hordes, that complain bitterly if the kitchen staff are a bit slow.
 (About five metres away. If they cooperate it is OK. In flight, his pictures are good or bad, depending.)

Red Bishop, yellow weavers and sparrows at feeder

We have, perhaps the grandson, of our Argumentative Little Cuss. None of the others have been as ferocious as the first one. He used to terrorise the sparrows and weavers. Red Baron roaring screaming out of the sky, his beak ‘dripping blood’. This one however, waits patiently for the much larger birds to allow him in. The pintailed whydah is 12 cm, plus 22 cm of tail. Compared to the 15 to 18 of the sparrows and weavers.


And then one chilly morning in August, when the temperature had dropped to 7 C the night before. For a long time, I watched this pair of waxbills. Enjoying the morning sun side by side. Chatting over the morning paper. Coffee for him, tea for me. Extra butter on his croissant, I’ll just have jam thanks. Mutual grooming, but that doesn’t make a story, does it?
 (And this is the best that my new point and shoot Canon can do on maximum zoom. Then cropped in the computer. You can see the red bill from which it gets its name. But, we need a better zoom.)  

Waxbills in morning sun
 Pictures by Jurg and Diana, words by Diana of Elephant's Eye 


  1. Dear Diana, the photos are gripping the eye! I found that taking pictures of birds is the best way to learn about them. Eszter

  2. Stunning photos of birds!!! I haven't been able to take clear photos of birds except for the baby one that we fostered for a while.

  3. I was googling Verlorenvlei as I need a photo of it to accompany an article on the folly of the proposed mining there and I came across your lovely blog. Would you possibly have a photo of the vlei that we could use in Veld & Flora - the botanical Society of South Africa's journal? I would fully acknowledge you as the photographer of course. And send you a few copies of the printed magazine. Let me know - Caroline Voget at voget@kingsley.co.za.

  4. Songbirds are so exotic. I'm glad I live where there are hummingbirds to fill in for them with my S.A. flowers.

  5. What beautiful photos, and what's more, what fabulous bird life you are blessed with. Where do those black storks go during your winter?

  6. What beautiful and colorful birds you have!

  7. Delightful post, Diana, except for maybe the gull, all so different from the birds we see here. While at the lake/cottage, we woke yesterday to a flock of about 35 wild turkeys dining in the lawn. Fascinating to watch ...

  8. Dear Diana of EE, I have never come across Storks in the wild until I saw them in the Hungarian countryside where they and their nests[on every telegraph pole] are prolific. I have not, however, seen a black one. He/She looks most elegant!

  9. Barbara - my three bird books just say the storks are here in South Africa as summer migrants. But not where they migrate to in winter.

  10. I cant believe the wildlife you have outside your window - who knoew there was such a thing as a black stork!!! I love dropping into your blog its like sinking into a bumper edition of national geographic!

  11. Lucky you...wonderful selection of birds.

    PS... Don't think I said anything about disliking people stopping by my blog in search of images.Just give me credit if you use them.

  12. Your birds are beautiful! I love water birds of all kinds, but I have to say, I'm quite partial to your whydah. Right now in Houston there is an exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science of a pirate ship called the Whydah -- but your bird looks much sweeter.

  13. Diana
    What beautiful photos of the birds! and that black stork is really something! How wonderful to have seen it so close.

  14. What beautiful birds you have! So interesting to see from your home in the world. I love to watch the birds. Here, I also have feeders. I also try to plant trees, shrubs and flowers in my garden that attract birds. Do you? You seem to have many different kinds.

  15. Elizabeth B - the whydah is named for a place in Africa.

    Violet Fern - we share the figs, as you can see. And I plant for the sunbirds, anything indigenous/native with nectar. Leave the winter grass to grow tall so the weavers have something to build with. No poison so there are bugs. Water and seed, both growing and in the feeder! Live and let live.

  16. A black stork! That is a first for me, too. Really enjoyed seeing all your birds and learning their names, too.

  17. If a black stork lands in my yard, all the local bird club members would be squealing all their tires in a hurry to get over to my place and see it. No big birds like that in my back yard.

    Christine in Alaska


Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

Midnight in Darkest Africa

Midnight in Darkest Africa
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