Cambridgeshire Bird Club
     

Pictures of the Month for 2013

Blackbird

Picture of the month for January
Female Blackbird, Girton
25th January 2013 ©Garth Peacock
Picture chosen by Peter Bircham
"Some classic January studies of winter visitors -snow assisted. The Hawfinch photos were most unusual because the species is so rare in Cambs.
I gave serious consideration to Garth Peacock's male Stonechat, James Hanlon's Common Snipe and Nigel Sprowell's Song Thrush but in the end I chose Garth Peacock's portrait of Butch, the dominant female Blackbird in his garden. Female Blackbirds don't get much attention when it comes to photographers - males always make a better picture - and this female has all the appearance of a 1950s Headmistress. It's a real character portrait of a lady not to be messed with."

Firecrest

Picture of the month for March
Firecrest, Girton
14th March 2013 ©James Hanlon
Picture chosen by David H Hatton
"A difficult month for photographers – relentlessly low temperatures inhibited visits out, subdued the passage of early migrants and no doubt prematurely drained many a digital camera battery. Nevertheless, several fine images caught my eye, including Gary Thornton’s Wigeon and Little Owls, Garth Peacock’s elegant study of a Reed Bunting, Nigel Sprowell’s haughty Sparrowhawk and Steve Cooper’s ever-informative records of ‘white-wingers’. However, the picture that I most admired, and my choice for the picture of the month, is James Hanlon’s Firecrest - not only for daring to break the ‘taboo’ of taking a front-facing bird portrait but more for its effective conveyance of the beauty of this scarce bird, in which the head-on view highlights the magnificently stripey head constrained by a surrounding golden-olive shawl. Finally, in low light, the slow shutter speed has fortuitously blurred the flicking rear wing, giving a sense of the ‘hard to pin down’ nature so typical of a crest on the move. "

Song Thrush

Picture of the month for May
Song Thrush, Cambs Garden
12th May 2013 ©Graham Eliff
Picture chosen by Norman De'Ath
"The May submissions for ‘Photo of the Month’ were both diverse and excellent making any choice very difficult. How can anyone balance the aesthetics of a photograph with the technical difficulty, rarity or elusiveness of the species etc? Colin Brown’s image of a Black-headed Gull skimming the lake surface was perfectly timed and I thought the best of the birds in flight submissions. John Saunders’ Reed Warbler was beautifully lit and he also perfectly captured the red eyes of the Black-necked Grebe too. Brian Wallace had a superb portfolio. His image of the Mute Swan Cygnets certainly had the ‘Ah!’ factor and a lovely symmetry while his closely cropped shot of a male Blackbird feeding its fledgling was a delightfully intimate image. I also enjoyed Bob Steed’s feisty Wren and Gary Thornton’s beautifully lit Nightingale photos. Gary also submitted an excellent shot of the often elusive Cetti’s Warbler as did Colin Brown and these make a nice contrast. However despite all this excellence I was constantly drawn back to Graham Eliff’s striking image of the Song Thrush perching on the fence probably en route to its nest to feed its chicks. The out of focus background and lighting show off the bird’s beautiful plumage to full advantage and I think it is a worthy winner of ‘Photo of the Month’ for May."

Common Tern

Picture of the month for July
Common Tern, Dunkirk
25th July 2013 ©Tony Martin
Picture chosen by Paul Mason
"There were several Kingfishers featured this month and they would normally be good candidates but it was difficult to choose between them. I usually like to see a picture which tells a story, so I chose on that basis. The Hobby and Sand Martin sequences certainly did that, but choosing which of the several pictures that made them up caused me problems, so I went for Tony Martin's Common Tern preening its feathers as seen from behind and getting itself into all sorts of contortions!"

Common Snipe

Picture of the month for September
Common Snipe, Fowlmere RSPB
30th September 2013 ©Gary Thornton
Picture chosen by Rosamond Richardson
"It has been hard to choose between the bearded tits and the fabulous hobby, but I've chosen this picture of the common snipe as photo of the month. 'Common' belies the beauty of this wader: I too saw snipe at Fowlmere recently, lit by low autumn sunshine: they were preparing to roost, standing almost motionless in the cut reeds by the edge of the mere, their colours glowing golden and tawny with shades of rich brown, the brindled plumage bittern-like in colouring, with the darkest feathers edged with white, the head dramatically striped. This lovely bird is still shot by wildfowlers (in spite of only weighing a few ounces: hardly a mouthful), and is suffering habitat loss, its best hope being the restoration of wetland areas to low intensity grazing. "

Great Grey Shrike

Picture of the month for November
Great Grey Shrike, Holme Fen
10th November 2013 ©Martin Bell
Picture chosen by Jeremy Mynott
"I was very tempted by a straight ‘Christmas Card’ choice – the striking Robin close-up by Mike Harris, showing the intense suffusion of red that is both a target and a warning for other robins and also the principal trigger for human affections. Any other month and that would have been my winner, but I’m trying hard to resist Christmas clichés this year so the Robin comes in third.
There were brilliant pin-sharp, close-ups too of a female Sparrow Hawk at Fowlmere by Gary Thornton, and of a Pied Wagtail at Fen Drayton by Colin Brown. The latter is my second choice. I love the way it has been caught skittering along the edge of a stream, and you can see why the Italian name for the species is Ballerina bianca.
There were also several good pictures of the long-staying Great Grey Shrike at Holme Fen, but my first choice is the more distant shot by Martin Bell of Lanius excubitor ‘the sentinel’, a dramatic focal point in the tangled, swaying reed bed. We surely need to see such birds in context really to appreciate them, not just as abstracted frame-filling portraits. A wonderful photographic watercolour! "

 

Whooper Swan

Picture of the month for February
Whooper Swan, Pymore
23rd February 2013 ©Simon Stirrup
Picture chosen by Jake Allsop
"Any one of a number of the February photos could legitimately be labelled "Photo of the Month", some because of their technical excellence, some because of how informative they are, some because they make a stunning visual impact. I appreciate that some of the photographs are “record shots”, and none the worse for that, but they don't get in the shortlist.
Geoff Harries' Jack Snipe is superb: he has caught the hunched jizz perfectly and the setting is classic Jack Snipe. Garth Peacock's Fieldfare is so crisp, it could almost be an oil painting, and his haughty Kestrel is another “scary headmistress” (pace Peter Bircham). Adrian George tempted me with his cheeky Siskin, and how can you not love Roger Cresswell's Pintails? Several photos were of birds in flight, but it is difficult to give a sense of action when the bird is frozen as it were. That is why I was so impressed by Simon Stirrup's adventurous shot of Whooper Swans in flight. In the end, I made my choice by asking myself a simple question: "Which of February's photos would I love to have enlarged, framed and hanging where I would see it every day?" Simon's Whooper Swans are my Photo of the Month."

Black-necked Grebe

Picture of the month for April
Black-necked Grebe, Fen Drayton
1st April 2013 ©Yves Gisseleire
Picture chosen by Guy Belcher
"The April photo gallery was full of glorious images that really captured the excitement of the start of Spring. Breeding residents such as Simon's Great Crested Grebe on the nest and his incredible shot of the drumming Snipe were real contenders. As were the portraits of departing winter visitors such as Gary and Brian's Short Eared Owl and Peter's Fieldfare. The numerous warblers and other summer migrant shots showed Spring had finally arrived and the mixed flock images of passage waders in breeding plumage made me want to drop everything and head outdoors. However, I've chosen an image taken on the 1st April as this months winner. Yves Gisseleire composition of the Black Necked Grebe at Fen Drayton, shows the grebe in stunning breeding plumage, the bright red eye staring back at the observer. In my opinion a super image."

Black-tailed Godwit

Picture of the month for June
Black-tailed Godwit, Low Washes, Peterborough
1st June 2013 ©Peter Beesley
Picture chosen by Vince Lea
"My choice for photo of the month is our club logo from another angle! Peter Beesley's image from the 1st June shows the breeding plumage of one of our most important breeding birds, set against an almost-as-rare clear blue sky. Furthermore, the bird is carrying four colour rings and a metal BTO ring, so we can work out more about it from this photo. It would probably be hard to read the colour ring combination in the field, with the bird flying around and landing in long vegetation, but with a photo like this you can study them at leisure. There is some difficulty interpreting the colours due to fading and the contrasting light/shade, but it is thought this is a bird ringed on the Nene Washes as a chick in 2002, and last resighted in 2003.
The picture also shows the flexible bill and you can almost hear it calling from the screen! I wanted to choose the picture for June myself because I wanted something that would be appropriate to draw attention to the launch of the new County Atlas, and what could be better than this stunning portrait of our county bird, the Black-tailed Godwit? Apologies to those other photographers with equally stunning shots - Garth Peacock's Pied Wagtail at Fowlmere or Gary Thornton's Yellow Wagtails at the same site might well have done it another month, but are they quite so typically Cambridgeshire? I would also recommend everyone looks at the photo sequence of Cormorant and Eel, at Stretham on June 16th. Helen Holway has captured some amazing fish behaviour!
Kingfisher

Picture of the month for August
Kingfisher, Fowlmere RSPB
18th August 2013 ©Brian Wallace
Picture chosen by Jo Sinclair
"August can be a quiet time, but this month CBC members were revelling in the beauty and behaviour of our local bird life as ever. Kingfishers continued to be the stars of the show at Fowlmere. I chose Brian's photograph as it's an action shot that captures species behaviour and has a sense of place and season. The feathers are splendidly highlighted, with an oily, watery effect suggestive of the elements of air and water.
Keith Gypp's kingfisher photo of 19 August was another incredibly arresting behavioural photo of an individual with a pellet in its throat. Also taken at Fowlmere was Gary Thornton's juvenile cuckoo of 5 August. This pleasing composition captures the character of this fast declining migrant. A photographic record showing evidence of a successful breeding season is something to celebrate.
Geoff Harries and Leslie Prosser both got successful shots of a magnificent passage migrant at Milton Country Park close to Cambridge city centre. Their action shots of an osprey taken from the same vantage point showed the bird in flight, fish in claws.Another impressive raptor photo was Mike Harris's close encounter with a buzzard, photographed in a tree at Upware on the 5th. Both of his photos remind me that the CBC gallery is a great bird i-D resource."

Little Bunting

Picture of the month for October
Little Bunting, Dunkirk
6th October 2013 ©Tony Martin
Picture chosen by Louise Bacon
"It was an easy choice to get to my top three pics. But then, how to chose between them.
The final photo posted in October, Garth's shot of a ringtail Hen Harrier, is a splendid photo, nicely lit, showing the elegance of this raptor hunting in the late afternoon sun.
Opening with that, I almost scrolled no further down the month, but that would be unfair on another runner up, a lovely pic of a Rook carrying a walnut - one of their favourite treats at this time of year, and there has been a bumper crop. This was photographed by Colin Brown. However, the winner for me was actually a photograph of a first for the county, and although several photographs of the Little Bunting ringed on migration at a private site were taken, my favourite is the shot looking down on to the head, nape and back, but still clearly shows the broad pale supercillium and open, chestnut face characteristic of a little bunting. I feel it brings out the complexity of feathers, their markings and their arrangement on the body, something that probably not many of us think about, but is more likely considered by bird ringers. A photo in the hand rarely makes the star spot, but I urge you all to appreciate the feather patterns on a little brown job. "
Great Grey Shrike

Picture of the month for December
Water Rail, Private Site
20th December 2013 ©Garth Peacock
Picture chosen by Doug Radford
"When I was asked to select Photo of the Month, I decided to scroll through the selection before committing myself. Given the high quality of images normally on show, choosing 'the best' can be difficult. Among the diverse range of excellent portraits, three images stood out for me - Garth Peacock's extreme close-up of a water rail, Kevin Robson's posing marsh tit, and Geoff Harries' teal resplendent in his breeding plumage. The feather detail on all of these is exquisite, but in the end I chose the water rail because I just liked its attitude."

Pictures of the Month 2012
Pictures of the Month 2011
Pictures of the Month 2010

 


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