by Steve Blain
I’ve been rather side-tracked this summer with surveying Corn Buntings, but I did pop along to my local churchyard to see its Spotted Flycatchers. There were two pairs with at least one of them feeding young.
In previous years I have had a wonderful photographic relationship with these birds. They would often fly-catch from the gravestones just a couple of meters away, seemingly oblivious to my presence.
Below are a few assorted shots from a couple of visits this summer and a few from last. The light was always best in the evenings so short visits after work made the most of it and kept disturbance to a minimum.
They can be difficult birds to expose for – often a bright bird on a dark background of deep Yew tree shadow. Here spot-metering off the focus point managed to achieve best results (see images below). However an eye had to be kept on the results as sometimes my camera under-exposed the flycatcher and made the images look dull.
Even though flycatchers are stationary for a few seconds at a time, panning after them, focusing and pressing the shutter often resulted in a missed opportunity. Sometimes it was better to just watch which perches they favored and pre-focus the scope on them. All you then had to do was do some slight adjustments to the positioning when a bird alights, and gently squeeze the shutter-release to nail a shot. Not rocket-science but a smooth gentle action was needed to keep vibration to a minimum after focusing, and before you can be confident of a shake-free shot.
Sometimes, the quieter summer period can give you a chance to hone your skill. And these Spotted Flycatchers made a great summer project!