Monthly Archives: December 2017

Mértola, Portugal

We are staying in Mértola, Portugal, exploring the Alentejo region. The town surrounds a short sharp hill, with its Castle on top, and its church just below. The both the castle and the church occupy sites that were fortified and sacred well before the Christian era. The current church was built as a mosque during the moorish occupation, and then rechristened as a church when the moors were driven out. The town is proud of all its history. Excavations are underway in many parts of town, and castle and church are national monuments, complete with museums and exhibits. It is a town hanging on to its history, and planning for a sustainable future. They like birders there! Sony RX10iv at 80mm equivalent. In-camera HDR. Processed in Photoshop Express.

Great Bustard

Great Bustards near Mértola, Portugal (at the limits of resolution)

We spent much of the day today looking for Great Bustards…driving the back roads between Castro Verde and Mértola in Portugal, scanning the short grass fields. We did not find any close. This is the best we could do today. Great scope views, but just out of range for my 600mm lens. It looks to me like this is two females or one female and one immature male. Those who know better should correct me if I am wrong. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. 1/800th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed and cropped heavily in Photoshop Express. Day 4 of my tour of Lisbon and Southern Portugal with Birds and Nature Tours Portugal. I am the guest to the Municipality of Mértola tonight.

Kingfisher, Portugal

European Kingfisher, Tagus River Estuary Reserve, Lisbon Portugal

Kingfishers of all kinds are my favorite family of birds, and European Kingfisher was my most wanted bird on my first trip to Germany when ZEISS was in the process of recruiting me. Though I was told it was against the odds by my German hosts, I did see a Kingfisher on that first trip. This morning, on my second morning in the Tagus River Estuary Reserve across the River fro Lisbon, Portugal, we chanced (if you believe in chance, and I don’t) upon this beauty sitting half asleep on the lip of a culvert when we stepped out to try for a Squacco Heron. No heron, but I did not mind at all! Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. ISO 320 @f4 @ 1/250th. Processed in Photoshop Express.

White Stork, Portugal

White Stork, Tagus River Estuary Reserve, Lisbon, Portugal

An iconic bird of Europe, the White Stork, winters in the fields of the Tagus River Estuary Reserve across the river from Lisbon, Portugal. We spent the day there, and saw everything from Little Bustards to Peregrine Falcons, Flamingos to Red Knots. It is an amazing place, any time of the year. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. 1/1000th @ f5.6 @ ISO 100. Processed and cropped slightly in Photoshop Express. This is part of my tour with Birds and Nature Tours Portugal, sponsored by the City of Lisbon, Birds and Nature Tours Portugal, and the City of Mértola.

Pastéis de Belém

How would you like to work in a bakery that only makes one product, but bakes and sells 30,000 of them every day? Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon Portugal was founded in the early 1800s when the government expelled monks from a near-by Monastery, and the monks opened a bake shop using Monastery’s “secret” recipe for custard tarts. It is still a secret, known only to three people in each generation…but enjoyed by many thousands every day. In the panel above you see the product waiting patiently for me to eat it back at my hotel room, a shot through the window of the kitchen, the bedlam of customers and servers inside the shop (from behind the scenes), and the line waiting outside the shop in mid-afternoon on a holiday Friday (a religious holiday when most folks, including those inside the bakery, were still at work). It went on for a good deal further than you can see in the photo. As a guest of the City of Lisbon, I did have to wait in the line. My guide just wormed her way into the kitchen and my order appeared a few moments later. When it comes to Pastéis de Belém, it pays to have connections. 🙂 Sony RX10iv in Auto mode. Processed in Photoshop Express and assemble in FrameMagic.

Poison Dart Frog

How small is a Poison Dart Frog?…very small indeed. They call this one the “blue-jeans frog” in Costa Rica. This red and blue variety is the only variety I saw during my visit to the Costa Rican Caribbean lowland rainforest…but I know from trips to nearby Panama that there are other color variations possible. Poking around on google this morning it looks as though the blue-jeans and the strawberry (red-orange with black spots) are the most common in Costa Rica. The Oophaga species, including both the strawberry and blue-jeans, are poisonous, as the generic common name suggests, but only if eaten. You would have to hold one for a long time to run the risk of even a mild skin irritation…but, since they are small and fragile…it is not a good idea to hold them at all. Sony RX10iii at 135mm equivalent. Program mode. 1/160th @ ISO 320 @ f4. Processed in Polarr.

Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer Hummingbird

Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer at Heliconian Flower. Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Park

Dave and Dave’s Costa Rica Nature Park in La Virgen, Costa Rica is a bird photographer’s dream. A comfortable patio and back porch are surrounded by subtle bird feeding stations…natural vines against a background of native flowering and fruiting plants for tanagers and toucans, and hummingbird feeders along the eve of the porch against a similar background, with natural flowers placed strategically for perches and to provide drinking stations for the hummers. There are always birds to be seen, and close enough for natural photography. This Heliconia flower was placed for the hummers and there was always activity around it, as the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers defended it from Green Brilliants and White-necked Jacobins. It made for some acrobatic hummingbird shots. I prefer natural light shots to the multiple flash setups, in part because I don’t like to see the hummingbird’s wings completely frozen. They certainly can not be seen that way except in flash photos. These shots are at 1/800th of a second, which is all the camera could manage at my selected maximum ISO of 1600. (I had ISO Minimum Shutter Speed set to 1/1000th but the light was no up to it.) Sony RX10iii @ 205mm. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.

Talamanca Hummingbird

Talamanca Hummingbird, Hotel Savegre, Costa Rica

Until recently, the Talamanca Hummingbird was considered the same species as the Revoli’s Hummingbird, both the common name of Magnificent Hummingbird, with a range that stretched from Southern Arizona all the way south to Costa Rica and western Panama. Costa Rican and Panamanian birds are now considered a separate species, the Talamanca Hummingbird. The split has been coming for some time. Ridgeway considered the Talamanca Hummingbird a separate species and called it the Admirable Hummingbird, but the AOU opted for Talamanca in honor of its mountain home in Costa Rica. Whatever it is called, it is a big flashy hummingbird and a joy to see. Sony RX10iii at 600mm. Program mode. 1/500th @ f4 @ ISO 1600. Processed in Polarr.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Savegre Hotel, Costa Rica

Catching the “fire” on a Fiery-throated Hummingbird’s throat is one of the greatest photographic challenges you are likely to encounter. The bird is basically black, but it shows various shades of green and blue iridescence over most of its body, and flashes of many blues and purples around the upper chest and head in the right light. You catch hints of the yellow and red-orange at the throat when it is sitting, but only when it flies are you likely to catch the full fire. We sat in the hillside garden above the Savegre Hotel high in the cloud forest of the Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica for 4 hours one day, and I had hundreds of chances at perched Fiery-throated Hummingbirds at all angles (though they do like to tuck back in under leaves in the shade when it is not raining), and only caught the true fire in one flight shot, and that not the best. Still, I enjoy a challenge! Sony RX10iii at 600mm. Program mode. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic. (If I had had the Sony RX10iv at the time, with its superior focus, it would have been easier, but the RX10iii did well. An absolutely brilliant shot of the fire on Fiery-throated Hummingbird’s throat is on my list for the next, December 2018, trip to Costa Rica!)

Green-crowned Brilliant

Green-crowned Brilliant female, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Costa Rica

Back to Costa Rica for another neglected image from my October visit. This is a female Green-crowned Brilliant Hummingbird from the La Paz Waterfall Gardens on the mountain rim above San Jose and the central valley on our way over the mountains to Selva Verde. I saw several female Brilliants in the mountains of Costa Rica, but I don’t remember seeing any males. That gives me something to look forward to on next year’s Point and Shoot Nature Photographer trip to Costa Rica in December. Sony RX10iii at 600mm. Program mode. 1/250th @ f4 @ ISO 640. Processed in Polarr.