Saturday, November 5, 2016

Bird Photography in Kruger National Park

Hungry European Bee Eater
Grey Headed Kingfisher
Bird Photography in Kruger National Park

 The bird life in Africa is amazing. It is enough to turn anyone into a budding birder. Beautiful bee eaters, colorful rollers, king fishers, sun birds, and all kinds of birds-of-prey abound in places like Kruger National Park. Armed with a new Canon 100-400mm L series lens I was ready to capture all the action.

  There are two methods for getting bird photography in Kruger. You can drive around, cover some distance, and keep an eye out for colorful streaks across the road, or the silhouettes of larger birds up in the trees, but you need to really hone in your bird scanning if you are going to do this on the move. Another method is to find birding hotspots and stay in one place. Several blinds have been setup around the park overlooking ponds. Africa is the kind of place that you can sit and watch one big tree and see dozens of different bird species.

Rare sighting of a Crowned Eagle

Beautiful Sun Bird
   With 'eagle eyes' Heidi in the car we chose the on-the-move method and I think it really paid off. We had several close encounters with perched and hunting bee eaters and rollers. We saw six different eagle species and two different owl species. Our bird checklist was so filled after a week in Kruger. It is a bird watchers paradise. So grab your binoculars and 400+mm lens and enjoy some of the best, most colorful bird watching in the world.

Lilac Breasted Roller showing off
   One shot that I love getting is of birds in flight. There are several different ways to prepare your camera settings for this but here is my favorite. With my Canon 5d markii and a 400mm lens, I bump up my ISO to 320 if there is a lot of light or even a little higher closer to sunrise or sunset. Then I switch to AV priority and keep a very low f-stop, in the f5-f7 range. This will let in the most light which will in turn allow for a very fast shutter speed. 1/2000th or faster will start to capture detail on the wings of flying birds...depending on the species. Hummingbirds of example move their wings incredibly fast so an even faster shutter speed in necessary to avoid blur.

   Being ready to hit the shutter right when the bird decides to take flight can be a lesson in patience but well worth the effort if you get the shot. Take a look at some of my favorite examples here.

Crested Barbet
Lilac Breasted Roller in flight
   For bird and other African wildlife photography click here. Check out this post with bird pictures from just 24hrs inside the park during an earlier visit this year.

Purple Roller

Marshal Eagle

Lilac Breasted Roller

Ground Hornbill
Crowned Lapwing

Pied Kingfisher Scanning for Prey
Southern Masked Weaver

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