Monday, July 04, 2011

Our fine feathered friends

click photos to enlarge
Ever since the time when, as a young boy, I put a telescope and a pair of binoculars to my eyes and had revealed before me the beauty of the feathers of birds, I have taken an interest in their plumage. Most people notice the showy feathers of large birds, those kept in cages and farmyard species - peacocks, parrots, guinea fowl and the like. But fewer see the sometimes subtler (though occasionally dazzling) colours of our native species.

An early favourite for me was the much maligned starling (Sturnus vulgaris), often dismissed as a "black" bird, but close-up its summer plumage an iridescent metallic green and violet sheen with bright yellowish "stars". I also had a soft spot for the lapwing (Vanellus vanellus). At a distance this bird appears black and white, though the chestnt brown under its rear body is sometimes visible. However, through binoculars the dark back is revealed to be a fine green and purple iridescence that contrasts beautifully with the bold, black facial markings. The plumage of the male pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) also pleased me. I liked the way the green head (sometimes with a white neck ring) contrasted with the red wattles, and the brown/orange/gold hues of the body were flecked with dark, scale-like markings. Smaller birds such as the grey wagtail (Motacilla flava), the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) and the blue tit (Parus caeruleus) were also favourites. As I grew older, however, I began to appreciate the more subtle hues of birds such as the wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), the fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) and the woodcock (Scolopax rusticola).

Today, it seems, my taste has returned to the brighter colours of the larger birds. Or so it would appear looking at today's photographs and other images that I have posted of cockerel feathers - see here and here. Except that I haven't and these feathers are as much about what I am able to photograph well given the lenses I own as the plumage that I like. These particular cockerel and hen feathers appealed for the shapes they made as well as the lovely colour combinations that they offered.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 300mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 800
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On