Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Grey Wagtail

I was surprised to learn from the RSPB website that the estimated UK population of grey wagtails (motacilla cinerea) is only 38,000.

I first recall noticing these birds on Sliabh Mannan  several years ago. They frequent the margins of the Culloch Burn and in  the summer they are well supplied with insects of various kinds.  I don't actually know if they can catch midges on the wing like swallows and house martins, but if they can, good luck to them.  In the winter they leave the uplands and take refuge at lower altitudes near the estuary.

Anyway I've been struggling to take a decent photograph for years. Though larger than a pied wagtail these birds are still quite small, pretty skittish and, as their name suggests, terrible at sitting still. The reach of my 75-300 Minolta lens has not really been adequate, while my photography brain is still too slow and my old fingers too arthritic to achieve wonders with my entirely manual Sigma 400 mm.

This year I have managed to acquire  an Alpha-type doubler lens to go with my recently acquired A580. Using this with the 75-300 produces a maximum aperture of f 9, which is too slow for autofocus but the camera can automatically raise the ISO when I'm struggling. This means that on aperture priority my only task is to focus manually, and I can just about do that, at least some of the time.

As a result I can now boast some tolerable, if grainy, stills of a grey wagtail!