Monday, 26 July 2021

Lesser Emperor

Deviating from the post title, but to whichever site is currently directing thousands of people to this blog, I'm grateful! I'm also ashamed at how neglected this corner of the web has been, but I can't overstate how ridiculously busy I am at the moment. Priorities 😂
Whilst you're here, here's a plug for my Facebook page which I post to on a semi-regular basis. I'd really appreciate you joining me over there!

                  👉          Tim White Photography | Facebook           👈  

Now for the Lesser Emperor. Lower Bruckland Ponds is the only site I've seen this species at, and my flight shots of the 1st one were appalling. I did have some more success this time around, but it only showed a few times, briefly, and usually pretty far away. Lovely dragonfly, but it was far from cooperative! A couple of subsequent trips drew a blank, although times were not ideal. It'd be nice to see it again...

Saturday, 26 June 2021

2 Cuckoos on patch

An unexpectedly productive late afternoon / evening! I'd hoped to escape work a bit earlier than I did; it's the perfect time of year for some dragonfly pics. Lower Bruckland Ponds (mostly private land, but accessible with a ticket) has a large number of Scarce Chasers this year, surely triple figures. With a supporting cast of Emperors, Four-spotted Chasers, Black-tailed Skimmers, hawker sp, Common Darters etc, it's a fantastic site.

An unexpected sighting was a Cuckoo... Dad first spotted it whilst I was looking at a Little Grebe; it was distant and he was expecting it to be a Sparrowhawk but took a couple of snaps none-the-less. A quick look at the screen and an expletive later, he realised it was a Cuckoo! He's having a good run with Cuckoos, after finding one last summer in Colyton too. We had a good search, but anyone who knows the layout at the ponds will realise how difficult this is with something like a Cuckoo. Needle in a haystack springs to mind. I did eventually see it after some thorough searching, a lucky glimpse of it in flight gave away its (temporary) position, and it eventually flew further inland. I took a pic of it at long (long, long) range, and I'll include it at the bottom of this post for your amusement.

On to Seaton Marshes where there were reports of a seemingly easier Cuckoo, but it didn't show for the first 45 mins or so. We did get lucky with this one in the end, I saw it flying towards us so we played statues, and then it perched up pretty close. The image is a bit busy as I was positioned behind some vegetation and didn't want to move & frighten it, but nice to get good views of a non-juv Cuckoo! Pics taken with my smaller 'insect' lens rather than my birding lens (unfortunately).

Seaton Marshes bird

Seaton Marshes bird

Lower Bruckland bird...

Sunday, 4 April 2021


There's a fair bit of birding stuff to catch up with for this blog but my first post of the year (yikes) should probably feature the new daughter! She's had a few trips to some of my favourite local birding spots, and social-distantly met some of the other patch birders.

I'm trying to do more birding this year, but my usual work-to-sleep hours ratio of 3:1 makes this a tad difficult! On April 1st I had 2 Pintail flying over BHM and the estuary, with 19 Swallows, 7 Sand Martins, 1 House Martin and 4 Greylags also being noteworthy.

Onto today, a Cattle Egret was nice to see this evening. It flew in from north of BHM a little prior to 7pm, before settling for a bit then later flying off. 60+ Sand Martins my first 'decent flock' of the Spring.

Whilst I've been quiet on here lately, I've been extremely busy for the last few years, and part of what I've been doing can be seen on my photography page on Facebook. It's a little different, and rather challenging...

Tim White Photography - Facebook

A taster:

Andromeda Galaxy

Cloud inversion at Colmer's Hill, Dorset

Quite a few of my 'wildlife followers' were asking about this comet in 2020; I hope lots of you got to see it!

Comet C/2020 F3 Neowise, Brentor Church, Dartmoor

Monday, 11 May 2020

33 Red Kites

Lockdown birding has yielded quite a few raptors from the office and bedroom windows! Since the end of March I've had 2 Ospreys (I missed a 3rd) over the house, as well as a few Red Kites. A few became many on Sunday 10th, with 32 seen overhead between 14:40 and 15:20, and another one late afternoon. There would have been more but my view is obscured on all 4 sides so I can only see a small area of sky. Here's a pic of one of the birds which went over in April:

Saturday, 15 February 2020

American Herring Gull

What a bird!

A message from Ian Mc at 14:38 saying "Probable American Herring Gull Tram sheds found by Steve" had me scrambling to put some camera gear together and find my scope! The stories on Gavin's and Steve's blogs are well worth a read as they're far more exciting than my relatively simple (local) twitch. Congratulations to Steve for the find and thanks to Gavin for helping me get on the bird when I arrived on scene with Dad. It showed well in the end and was quite 'obviously different', but it's always a relief to have someone point you in the right direction for such a bird. If you read Gavin's blog you'll learn that this same bird was seen at West Bexington in January, and funnily enough it was then also found by an Axe birder, Ian Mc! He must be rather chuffed that he managed to see it here as well.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Long spells

For regular visitors to this page this is stating the (very) obvious, but I fell off the blogging wagon in 2019 and if I'm honest, I'm not sure if I'll be putting out much content this year either, but I will try. I fell foul of Google+ personal accounts ending and lost the majority of my reader base as most followed me via there rather than through Blogger itself. Whilst I don't care about numbers, it's a shame that anything I write will be less viewed/appreciated/examined.

Aside from the lack of writing, pretty hideous luck over the last 18 months has meant that I've had long spells without convenient transport, long spells without camera gear and long spells with rather debilitating health issues. Not meaning to sound negative, but my camera failures have been rather interesting over the years. The probability of my specific camera failures is approx. 1 in 45 million. Given that all my gear was incredibly well looked after and with fairly light use, the probability is even lower. So chances are nobody in the entire UK (currently) has been as unlucky as me with camera failures. A pleasant thought...

On a more positive note, a smart Sparrowhawk sat on the fence outside my office window yesterday! Fortunately it stayed put long enough for me to grab a camera and take a few pics. I was using a spare camera of course, as my main one (almost new, barely used) was sent for repair last year and I still haven't got it back...

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS

Wow I have been inconsistent with blogging this year! Given how lousy my birding has been lately, here's a slightly different type of post. I rarely write about equipment, but sometimes something comes along that inspires me to do just that.

Enter the Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS.

Starting with film, I've been using Canon equipment for approximately 20 years and have generally been happy, despite having some extraordinarily bad luck with reliability of some of the bodies. For wildlife pics I prioritise the lens, hence why I use Canon, although for beginners or keen amateurs I would still recommend Nikon in terms of the overall package. Ideally I'd like a Nikon D850 with my big Canon prime on the front! Sony do seem to be getting there with lenses now though. 100-400mm is another popular wildlife focal range and the Sony 100-400 is superior (well, significantly sharper at least) to the equivalent lenses from Canon (100-400 ii) and Nikon (80-400).

You may or may not have seen some of my astro pics on here, Facebook or Twitter, but this shift in photography genre is why I've started investing in equipment outside of Canon. Earlier this year, I bought a Sony A7Riii. Part of the joy of the Canon EF and Sony E mounts is that there are adapters that let me use my Canon glass on a Sony body (with limitations) so I haven't needed to go out and throw a heap of money at new lenses.

My intention was for the Sony body to be used for astro and landscapes whilst my Canon kit would still be the wildlife rig. Here I am, a few months down the line, buying a wildlife lens for my Sony body. This isn't because I'm unhappy with any of the Canon kit (although it is fairly old), but more so because every review I've read/watched about the 200-600, and (almost) every sample pic I've downloaded, has looked excellent.

There are a few things that particularly attracted me to the Sony 200-600:
- Internal zoom, it doesn't extend during use
- Useful zoom range
- Short throw on the zoom ring
- Compact and lightweight vs what I'm used to
- Suitable size to travel with, it fits within cabin baggage dimensions/restrictions
- Sample pics were very sharp at the 600mm end

My main concerns:
- The widest aperture at 600mm is f6.3
- Minimum focus distance is 2.4m, which is a fair bit worse than 100-400mm lenses
- No full-time MF in AF-C mode

If someone is buying a superzoom like a 200-500 or 200-600, it is my view that the lens should be strongest at the long end. Why? Because if the person didn't need that lens primarily for the extreme reach, they'd buy something smaller. I was pleased to see that 600mm on this new Sony zoom is its strongest/sharpest focal length, although it is still excellent at shorter focal lengths. It's important to match camera and lens well for your intended purpose. Some lenses aren't good enough to make full use of a high resolution camera, and vice versa. Both the Sony A7Riii and 200-600 are geared up to take very sharp images.

Here's a test scenario (real-world testing is in progress) showing how sharp this combo is at 600mm and wide open at f6.3. No profile corrections were used hence the vignette, but they have been lightly sharpened. These are various crops of the same image:

It is SHARP.

I'm gonna stick my neck out and say that this could currently be one of the best lenses for general wildlife photography on a moderate budget. It's certainly up there amongst them. My Canon 600mm f4 ii is very slightly sharper, lets in more light and has better contrast. But here's the question. Is it worth 6x the money? Well, if I sell the rest of my Canon kit in the next year or so, that may provide the answer (for my usage/scenario at least). Within days of buying the 200-600, I sold my Canon 100-400 ii. I'm not saying I'm switching to Sony. I never even intended to use my A7Riii for wildlife. However, unless Canon releases some decent RF mount bodies in the next year, a full switch is definitely on the cards.

Before anyone suggests bias, I have none. I'm not loyal to any system, I use what fits my needs and budget at any given time and I'm realistic about what different systems have to offer. People may of course have a different opinion on gear for their specific uses, and that's fine!

More soon...

EDIT: Shortly after writing this I noticed some dust/debris inside the lens so I looked more thoroughly under lights. The news is bad; one of the elements in the middle of the lens (can't get to it without dismantling it) has dust/debris, dirty smears and what appears to be some scratches on it! Clearly a QC slip up, but not what you want for such a lens. Back to Sony it shall go...