Searching for a Pattern...

After successfully capturing many of the sea birds on the cliff side it was time to put the lens to a true test (and myself) with some in flight shots. I planned to keep the the 1.4x Teleconvertor on to see how difficult it would be to track the birds at 700mm.  I also figured I might need it for my first subject which was the Common and Thick-Billed Murres since they are much smaller compared to the Gannets. 

Looking at all the birds flying at Bird Rock can be overwhelming. Trying to focus your attention on one out of thousands of birds in the air is a challenge. Here are a few tips which might help if you are ever in a similar situation or if you visit Cape St.Mary's. First thing I do is locate the sun and make sure its behind me. Then I take a few mins to watch for patterns in my subjects flight path. For the Murres I had started to notice that many of them (which would be in my focal range) would approach the water lifting up over one side of Bird rock and then diving down towards their nesting site. On occasion (probably every 5 to 10 mins) there would be one or two that would fly much higher coming almost eye level with me and providing great opportunities for shots. The final step I take is to find a pre focus location if possible. In this case after each attempted I would refocus my lens on the edge of the cliff side from which they approached. Doing this aids the auto focusing system to lock onto the bird once I have it in frame. I tracked the bird from the cliffs edge as it approaches me and hopefully flies into the perfect spot.

After many many attempts I finally got the shot I was looking for. This is a full frame image of a Common Murre 

While trying to capture the murres I noticed that just to the left of my pre focus location numbers of Gannets had their own similar pattern going on. They would fly in and once they hit the top of the ridge they would glide or sometimes hover in place as they looked for their nest site to land.

So my attention shifted to them and I searched mainly for Gannets returning with nesting material as it added interest to the image. I captured a number of images but this was my fav

Going to Cape St. Mary's in June is something I don't think I have ever done. June is our foggy month and I personally like to avoid the crowds of people so I normally go in April/May or into Sept/Oct but it was nice to see so many sea birds since at this point in June all the birds are back and nesting. It seems this year is one of the best. Many Gannets are nesting in new areas further up the left and right side of the cliff faces. With so many Gannets it gave me the opportunity to capture images of the varying plumage in the birds. Here are a few of those shots

This one still has a few dark feathers in its wings. Gannets will reach full plumage in their fourth to fifth year 

This one still has a few dark feathers in its wings. Gannets will reach full plumage in their fourth to fifth year 

Here is a young gannet still displaying many dark spots throughout. This is probably a second year bird.

Here is a young gannet still displaying many dark spots throughout. This is probably a second year bird.

The day was quickly moving along so I shifted my focus to the Kittiwakes. These little gull like birds are very quick. I decided to try and capture some images as they lift the cliff side. Many of them would fly out over the water about 20 feet then bank very quickly and return to the nest. Here are a few of my best shots. As you can see the lighting was getting harsh at this point

Before ending our day and heading back to the CR-V I decided to grab a few more shots of the murres on the cliffs and also captured an image of a Horned Lark only feet from the parking lot

This is a Common Murre looking for its mate

This is a Common Murre looking for its mate

An up close shot of a Common Murre displaying its beautiful white eye design called a Bridle.

An up close shot of a Common Murre displaying its beautiful white eye design called a Bridle.

It turned out to be a very successful trip and I was happy with my first test run of the 500mm F4. I look forward to my next outing which will be this weekend when I return to Terrenceville.

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