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  • Writer's pictureKeith Proven

April In-Flight Entertainment - Practising for Puffins on May

Springtime is here! It's cold, grey and windy, so it must be. Another sign that the seasons are changing is that the May Princess has begun its trips out from Anstruther to the Isle of May National Nature Reserve where the puffins have started to arrive.

It took me years of living in Fife before I finally made it out to the Isle of May a couple of years ago and I've been over many times since. Each time I've been getting better images of the teeming bird life and hopefully 2019 will be no exception. It really is a 'target rich environment' for the aspiring wildlife photographer, however it never hurts to prepare. And so, recently I've been trying to get some in-flight bird shots at Morton Lochs and, more recently, Birnie Loch, by Collessie. The wee birds at Morton are close and fast

and probably even more of a problem to capture than the sea birds on the island. At Birnie, things are a dashed site easier, with bigger birds that are slower and nicely concentrated by the car park.

So with Morton driving me to distraction, last week I sat down by the water's edge at Birnie and tried to get my eye in.

Swans and geese are big! Like really big. And if you're sat with a telephoto lens stuck on your camera, it's often difficult to get them all in the frame, especially with their wings out. You'll also struggle for close in-flight shots as the area by the car park is a bit enclosed for these large birds to do much manoeuvring. Although, you do get the occasional low-level fly by.

So, take off and landing are the two most likely opportunities. Luckily, at this time of year there is a fair amount of territorial claim staking going on and the swans were taking exception to the greylag geese proximity to... well, anything really. Queue much flapping of wings and water splashing!

The thing a greylag's nightmares are made of!

The mallards and gulls offer a challenge probably closer to the Isle of may than these big beasts and there's usually a good number flocking around the car park, especially on the school break, with young kids enjoying throwing food 'at' the birds more than 'to' them! But this does allow for plenty of tracking practice to avoid getting extraneous children or loafs of bread in shot.

Even here, landing and even more so, take off, offers the best chance of a successful wings stretched image. My equipment's auto focus struggles a bit with latching on to fast moving objects (that's my excuse which I'm sticking with!!). It's not impossible, just a little inconsistent, so I'm just glad we're not still in the era of film cameras or I'd be sending 15 - 20 rolls off to the developer each time I went looking to photograph birds!

Now that I have a wee bit practise under my belt and the Isle of May's warden is blogging about the puffin's return, I'll be keeping an eye on the weather forecast, booking a ticket on the boat out to the island and looking forward to getting some more pics of a few of the something like 285 species of bird that have been recorded on the island (well, puffins really!). And not forgetting, at the end of a cracking day out, arriving back in Anstruther to some of the best fish and chips around at the Anstruther Fish Bar.

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