Tuesday 29 December 2020

Top ten bird images from 2020

A hard year for me and my camera, and the long list was not much longer than the short list, but here are a handful of birdy images from the 2020 archives. Maybe in 2021 I can finally make progress with that Duck project that I've promised every year for about a decade that I will do! Usually I am very busy and only remember in about March, by which time it is a bit late... Next year I forsee plenty of time close to whom which perhaps could be usefully employed. These are not in any particular order, but I think represent probably the pick of a slender crop. One year I am going to go all out, I am just not sure when. When I retire probably, I can be one of those old togger types that goes everywhere and photographs everything, just need some camo....

This Mistle Thrush was incredibly friendly, completely unconcerned that a large humanoid would lie down on the path next to it and gradually crawl closer and closer. This was also my first outing with the 80D camera body which I am still trying to justify as being good enough for bird photography for a long-time user of a far more intuitive camera. I was happy enough with this result and I just love birds like this one which stay put and don't care.

This Purple Sandpiper made a fine close to my first Yorkshire birding trip of the autumn. Pete and I had been whipped around various headlands by young Bradders for a few days, but as soon as he left these two old guys abandoned birding completely and shuffled down to Bridlington harbour for some quality papping of various waders at point blank range. It made us very happy, and then we went and got a takeaway.

Bit of a birders photo this - no creeping and crawling, and no pixel peeping. I put it in the selection just to show that I am capable of such a feat when the mood takes me. Obviously I would much rather be stroking its rictal bristles with the end of my lens. Taken at Spurn on Beacon Lane.

I had not realised before this year how frequently Sparrowhawk came through my garden. Here a Crow was distinctly unhappy that it had done so. Taken from my balcony.

Our Skylarks are still hanging on. I think my max count this was five. This bird kept returning to the same post near Centre Copse, and I took its photo several times over the course of various visits when my real target was Little Owl....

....talking of which, here it is, possibly from the same morning as the Skylark. I would have like to have made this a project, but I found that another photographer had the same idea and nearly always got up earlier than I did! It being a pandemic (and me being a grumpy old so-and-so) I didn't want to photograph a deux and so only gave it a few tries. Promising though, and I am not ruling it out for next year if we're in lockdown again.

2020 was the best Stonechat year I can ever recall locally. At one point during the autumn there were easily double figures on Wanstead Flats. My photos were only ever opportunistic in nature, but they can be such showy birds sometimes and they have a habit of choosing excellent perches.

This Say's Phoebe at San Jacinto in California also chose a fabulous perch. I took this from the car window. My trip to California was really a birding trip - lots of targets and a frenetic schedule, but there was a bit of time for photography along the way.

The principal place that the camera got some action was at La Jolla, which is just north of San Diego. This has long been known as a hotspot for Brown Pelican photography, but there are tons of other birds around too including vast flocks of Brandt's Cormorants. I only spent a couple of hours here early one morning before hitting the road again, but I would really like to go back one day.

And finally a very recent photo, of Wanstead's first White-fronted Goose of the year. The first morning that the weather was clear I was down at Alexandra Lake in a flash hoping for something almost exactly like this. Monopod, proper camera, no messing about with fiddly viewfinders and oddly placed buttons. I was very pleased it came off.


  1. Lovely. That pelican is almost abstract. Love the light in the Stonechat photo, the movement in the Sparrowhawk shot, and obviously everything about the Spotted Flycatcher masterpiece. 😊 Great stuff.

  2. Great bird images, but the sparse depth of field leads to the same impression of a highly focused bird and a blurred everything else. All bird, next to no context bar what the text says.

    1. Hi Ric - that is precisely the aim actually, and that is my view of what constitutes an artistic bird photo. The bird and absolutely nothing else. It's not for everyone of course, and an opposing view is that a bird in its landscape, a setting if you will that provides that context, is a much better kind of bird photo. I can see that too, but I much prefer the former interpretation as frequent visitors to this site (and....plug alert...the other one at www.justbirdphotos.com) will likely know.

  3. They would make a great calendar.

  4. I always like people's top ten pics. Number 3, the birder's bird (I don't know what it is) is really nice - I like the way you've framed with the out of focus bit of sky and the dark red flowers(?) bottom left adds a perfect touch of colour. The Say's Phoebe is lovely too, especially the way the background echoes the colour of the bird, but offset. It totally works for me.

    Not trying to critique or anything, just saying which are my favorites for what it's worth. (I like the owl a lot too.)

    1. Hi Jill - #3 is a Spotted Flycatcher, somehow I forgot to say - happens frequently. I hope to take more photos this year, but then again I say that *every" year...