Black-winged Stilt

I'll admit I was a little reluctant to include a page called "Birds" on this site.  If you express an interest in birds, it's likely you'll become a social leper, only because people will be afraid of you boring them to death with tales of hours spent stalking through bush, binoculars in hand.

My interest in birds started when I was a kid.  My grandfather was quite a keen bird keeper, especially with finches and parrots.  I've never kept birds, but when I started camping on a regular basis, I noticed how many different species are about the place, and, I realised, I had no idea what most of them were.  I think I was a little ashamed of my ignorance, so I thought I had better look into it.

Quite a few years on, I'm happy to say my knowledge has expanded enormously regarding local bird species.  There are over 40 different species within a 4 kilometre radius of my house.

I started by taking photographs of some of the easy to spot species, and this led to my observation skills improving.  I'm now quite keen to see and, if possible, photograph, different species.

Travelling to different areas of the State presents opportunities to spot previously unseen (by me) species, and just adds another aspect of the trip to look forward too.  Of course my kids think I'm booorrrrring when I mention birds, but I reckon they are both secretly fascinated....maybe.

The good thing about birding, as it's called, is that it doesn't have to cost much and it can be done almost anywhere.  I've spent hours in the back yard trying to get the prefect photo of a Honeyeater or Willie Wagtail.

Photographing birds is very difficult.  It's easy to snap a shot of one, but to have it all come together, ie good light, good pose, clear view etc, is rare indeed.  The hardest thing is getting close enough to the little buggers to take a good shot.  Some people go to extraordinary lengths to obtain great shots of birds, including spending hours in cramped bird hides.

If you want to take professional quality photos, then I have some bad news for you.  You're going to need a top quality camera first of all.  A digital DSLR for sure.  The most important part of the kit though is the lens.  A 400mm lens is minimum.  An 800mm lens would be great, but for a 800mm prime lens, you're looking at thousands of dollars.  A lens this size is going to need a good quality tripod to keep it all steady, otherwise you shots are going to be blurry.  You get the idea; the cost is prohibitive.

A much cheaper option is to go for one of the so called "Superzoom" cameras.  These things have a lens that covers between 28mm and anywhere up to just over 500mm.  There is no need to change lenses either which is handy, especially if you are as clumsy as me.  They are smaller than a DSLR, cheaper and easier to use.  They still have quite a good option list though. 

Fuji, Panasonic, Sony and Canon make good examples of this type of camera. 

The main disadvantage of this type of camera is image quality, especially in low light situations.  Because these cameras have a much smaller sensor than the DSLR's, images tend to become "noisy" in low light levels.  "Noisy" means that the photos have a grainy appearance, a bit like old film cameras sometimes produced.  Having said that though, for most situations though, these types of cameras are ideal.

If you just want to observe our feathered friends, then a good pair of binoculars is a good investment.  They also help with identifying different species, which is a lot more difficult that it seems. 

 Musk Lorikeets are very common around Adelaide and it's suburbs.

Birds are found almost everywhere.  However, areas away from built up places are ideal.  Wetlands, parks, salt flats, woodland and creeks are all worth a look.  It pays to be as quiet as you can and keep your eyes open, as sometimes you will be able to get quite close without disturbing the birds.

In a fairly quiet spot in a wetland not far from where I live, there is a relatively large area of permanent water.  It attracts an amazing number of waders, and I spent a lot of time there with a camera.  About mid morning on a cloudy miserable day, I was looking along the edges of the water when I heard a commotion amongst the upper branches of the surrounding gum trees.  As I watched, I saw a bird slam into another bird, causing a small cloud of feathers to waft down.  Both birds fell to the ground about 10 metres from where I stood.  I managed to snap a couple of quick photos, which revealed a juvenile Collared Sparrowhawk with its talons locked into a Singing Honeyeater.

 The above-mentioned photo.

Since then I have noticed quite a few Birds of Prey in the area, including Peregrine Falcons and and Black-tailed KItes.

There are an amazing number of species here in South Australia and I find it fascinating how they vary from region to region.  Some species are common to all areas (the Magpie for example) whilst some are very rare and exist only in small pockets (the Black-Eared Miner from the Gluepot region).

I know this might sound terribly boring, but it's kind of addictive.  Once you think to yourself, "I'll have to see if I can find out what type of bird that is", then that's it.  Next thing you know you'll be packing the binoculars and the Birds of Australia Field Guide.