The Frustrations of Photographing Albert's Lyrebirds

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: The Frustrations of Photographing Albert's Lyrebirds
From: knightl <>
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003 20:51:17 +1000
Leanne and I were showing a guest around Springbrook on Saturday and found ourselves at the Best of All Lookout a bit after 2 pm. This happened to coincide with the arrival of all manner of tour busses, so I was very surprised to come across an Albert's Lyrebird casually scratching and warbling [bowerbird calls] about 10 metres off the side of the track.

Normally Albert's are extremely shy and high-tail it as soon as they see you, but this chap didn't mind an audience. I am not sure if this chap was Syd's mate George, but he had a well developed lyre [not that he was displaying at the time] and the ground beside the track was very well raked for 100 metres.

Since I had the digital camera on me, I couldn't resist the opportunity to photograph a tame Albert's at such a close range that it filled the viewfinder. Unfortunately, digital cameras are not in their element in the rainforest - they struggle to focus in low light situations and my camera seems to impose a minimum aperture equivalent equivalent to f8 - f11 at the higher magnifications.

The upshot of this was that I couldn't get a useable shot of the chap, for all the time I had to photograph it - I needed a minimum speed of 1/30 of a second, and the best I could get was about 1/8 [at any sort of higher magnification you need a modicum of speed, even if the bird is totally still - which is not the case for birds scratching about].

When on Sunday, we happened to be at Walkabout Ck [at the Gap] so I took the opportunity to spend a bit of time learning how to drive the 'bus' in low light - photographing the tame BB rails, E whipbirds, S and R bowerbirds and N pitta in the walk-through aviary. Basically I found that by under-exposing by a couple of stops I could get a sharp enough image - that could subsequently be brightened on the computer.

As a point of interest, I watched a mature male satin bowerbird interacting with a subadult male at his bower - the interesting thing was that he flicked his tail and wings at the same point in his buzzing routine.

Regards, Laurie.

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