Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Great Snipes Beitostølen

As regular readers of this blog will know I discovered a Great Snipe (dobbeltbekkasin) lek close to Beitostølen last year and I have posted a number of pictures and videos of varying quality from this site. I paid my second visit of the year to the lek on our first night (which was lucky as this turned out to be the best weather of the whole week) and concentrated on positioning myself right and also getting camera and video settings correct (and of course use a tripod). This resulted in my best pictures and video so far and I think that without investing in better equipment or sitting in a hide that I will struggle to do better.

Mosquitos were a bit of a problem as I kneeled in the bog but copious amounts of spray meant that they just buzzed two centimetres from my eyes and ears without actually landing and biting. Very annoying but not painful at least.

When I arrived at the lek at 22:20 two birds were already singing but it wasn’t until 23:00 that the action really begun. With use of a tripod I was able to fix the ISO at 1600 and with the max aperture of f/6.3 I was able to take pictures with a shutter speed between 1/30 and 1/8 of a second. This worked OK when the bird wasn’t moving but during the display when the whole body moves then I was unable to take sharp pictures. I could have prioritised a higher shutter speed but the resulting high ISO would have given grainer pictures. I choose to take video in a zoom format rather than HD which gives closer shots but poorer quality.

In the video, note how flexible the bill of the bird is (just after 30 seconds). The birds use this flexibility when probing in mud to locate and capture worms and similar creatures.

A visit to the lek site in daylight revealed some clear paths where the birds regularly walk and also on the favoured mounds where the males display the grass was flattened and there were droppings. I also found this single feather possibly lost after a close encounter between two rival males.
presumed Great Snipe feather although I am not sure from which feather tract it stems

Note the large eye of this night active bird

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