Category Archives: Wildlife photography

Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park

Jackdaw with a deformed beak in Richmond Park

Photographing a strange jackdaw in Richmond Park

I am not a professional wildlife photographer, and I only take photos of wild life as a hobby. Regular followers of my blog will know I have a soft spot for jackdaws, and one of the places I like to photograph these cheeky rascals is in Richmond Park.

On a recent gorgeous early autumn day, I took a camera into the park to see what I would see. I was amused to see some jackdaws eating some vomit in the car park at Pembroke Lodge, and I took some photos. Which just goes to show that “one person’s meal is another person’s vomit”. Sorry about that, but this is wild life! (Those of us who have pets know they can get up to worse).

My first photo below shows a normal jackdaw, who appears to be healthy and in superb physical condition. All the other photos are of a jackdaw with a strange deformed beak. The upper mandible appears to be more or less normal, but the lower mandible is very long. I have seen this jackdaw before, but this is the first time I got a good look at it – and only because I had a camera with a long lens with me.

My daughter pointed out that the legs of this jackdaw also don’t look normal. Compare it’s legs to the legs of the normal jackdaw and see if you agree?

And finally, is it my imagination or does this jackdaw look more bedraggled? Is it perhaps not in full health?

Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park Jackdaw in Richmond Park Photographing jackdaws in Richmond Park

 

Technical Information for photographers

Just in case any of my fellow phtoographers are curious, the camera is the Olympus OM-D Mark 2, and the lens is the Zuiko 300mm. All photographs were taken hand held.

Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park

Jackdaws and Red Deer in Richmond Park

What is the relationship between red deer and jackdaws?

I took these photos in Richmond Park, where red deer (Cervus elaphus) and jackdaws (Corvus monedula) are very common and easy to watch. Although it is very common to see jackdaws standing on the deer, I am not sure why they do this, although they certainly appear to be looking for something in the deers’ fur. A quick online search suggests the jackdaws are eating ticks and bugs, in which case they will be doing the deer a service. But do the deer know this? The deer certainly seem very tolerant of the birds, which clamber all over their heads and ears. No matter how often I see this behaviour it always amuses me, and it makes me feel good.

It has also been claimed that jackdaws pluck loose hair from the deer, and also loose velvet from growing antlers on the stags for nest material. Seems like a very reasonable suggestion, and it has probably been witnessed too.

Usually the deer hardly react to the jackdaws at all, but sometimes they do. The doe in these photographs only seemed to react when the jackdaw put all it’s weight on one ear. She didn’t shake her head to remove the bird, but moved her head just enough to make the jackdaw move.

If you do a quick google search you will find loads of other photos of jackdaws walking over red deer, and this is very common behaviour.

Soft spot for Jackdaws

I have always had a soft spot for jackdaws. Undoubtedly my personal fondness for these birds started as a boy, when for a few weeks a yound jackdaw became “tame”. It all started in a very hot dry summer, and my father investigated noises coming from our water tub. He discovered a young jackdaw, presumably drawn to the water, desperate for something to drink. The bird was not fully fledged, and was not yet a strong flyer – preferring to walk.

As an example, once one of our cats started heading for the bird, and rather than flying, it started walking towards me as fast as it could – looking a bit worried. Fortunately I reached the jackdaw before our cat did.

I loved animals and natural histroy when I was a boy, so it was bliss for me that the Jackdaw would sit on my shoulder for long periods of time. It was a strange sensation when the bird looked at me, because it stretched out it’s head, and looked “downwards” at me, perpendicular to the line of it’s beak. I realised that the angle of their eyes is perfectly adapted for looking below when they are flying, so when he (or she) wanted to give me a beady eye, he (or she) would turn his (or her) head so as to look at me with binocular vision, looking 90 degrees “downwards”.

Like many members of the crow family, Jackdaws are considered intelligent for beings with bird brains. They are also quite playful. I was also touched to read “males and females pair up in their first year of life, but they do not begin to breed for another year”.

Jacdaws “nibbling” eyelashes

The young jackdaw I befriended as a child like to “nibble” at my eyelashes. I don’t know how else to describe it, and it was quite unerving having that big hard beak immediately next to my eyes. But s/he did it with great care. This behaviour is reminiscent of the way they poke around on the faces of the deer, where they often seem to be looking for something near the deers’ eyes. I don’t think “my” jackdaw found any ticks or bugs around my eyes. What I am saying is that this kind of behaviour seems to be instinctive to jackdaws.

Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park Jackdaw perching on the head of a Red Deer doe in Richmond Park

 

 

Technical photo info

I am not a professional wild life photographer, and I only take wild life photographs as a hobby.

Camera: Olympus OM-D EM-1 mark 2
Lens: Olympus M-Zuiko ED 300mm 1:4 IS PRO
F4, 1/125s, iso 400
Tripod mounted
Although in many respects this camera is a technical marvel, I am reluctant to use it at a higher iso than 800 because of the noise that starts creeping in.

 

Ring collared parakeet

Is this ring necked parakeet drunk?

Photographing parakeets

Have you ever watched someone who is very drunk walk? They tend to wobble and hold on to objects for support. I was out walking with my camera and saw something that reminded me of that. It was a ring necked parakeet walking along a branch.

So I took a few snaps. It seemed a good opportunity to test my 300mm Olympus lens.

I have always thought there is something “comical” about the faces (expressions?) of parrots. The ring necked parakeet is a beautiful bird. Even if it does make a lot of noise and is a pest to fruit gardeners.

By association… one of the sounds they make closely resembles the beep made by studio flash heads after recharging. I was walking through Richmond Park once, and wondered why there were so many flash units going off in the woods all round me.

Slideshow

But I digress.. I took a few photos of the parakeet and made a slideshow. I hope you enjoy it (1minute 47 seconds). (I have a license for the music). NB Once the video has started, you can right click and view the video at it’s proper size.

You may be wondering why I didn’t capture the bird’s behaviour with video?  I am a stills photographer, and haven’t gotten around to fiddling with video yet. On the good side of course, because these are a series of still images, one can tell that the parakeet really does walk with his beak. To be honest I am not certain if the parakeet actually grips something the first time. What do you think?

Am I following in the footsteps of the photographer Eadward Muybridge? It was he who famously used photography to investigate whether all four feet of a galloping horse are ever all  off the ground at the same time. (I thank fellow photographer Chris for reminding me about Eadward Muybridge at a recent “PortraitX” photo shoot. He also told me that Eadward Muybridge came from my home town, which is Kingston upon Thames). But I am just fooling – what I am doing is not really comparable to that.ring collared parakeet ring collared parakeet ring collared parakeet

 

 

 

Technical

The photos were taken using the Olympus OMD EM-1 mark 2 fitted with the 300mm Zuiko lens. This camera is a “micro four thirds” camera, so the magnification of the 300mm lens (at the focus distance) is the same as a 600mm lens on a full frame camera. This means wobble is an issue. These photos were taken using a tripod. Settings were F5.6, 1/160s, iso 400. I have found that noise starts to become a problem even at an iso of 800 using this camera. This means that if you want to keep the iso below 800, one does not have a lot of leeway when it comes to deciding what shutter speed and aperture to use. I was surprised to see so much movement blur in the parakeets feet at a shutter speed of 1/160s! I guess although the body moves slowly along the branch, at moments his wee feet move with lightning speed.

Caveat

I am not a professional wildlife photographer, and I only take wildlife photos as a hobby. The main reason I invested in the Olympus camera system was to get hold of a professional quality long zoom without having to buy, or lug around, a huge zoom for a full frame camera.