Nature Photography

The Magic of Common Birds

  • April 21, 2018

In photography everyone’s always chasing the unique shot. Whether that’s fantastic landscapes, rare wildlife, or just a different perspective that makes the shot stand out from the crowd. But chasing those unique shots often blinds you to the beauty of the everyday things around you.

Take one of my recent walks. I love the walk along the Nevern Estuary that leads past Newport in Pembrokeshire. It’s only a short stretch, but it snakes through woodland at the side of the estuary to give glimpses of the estuary, dunes, boats, and Dinas Island in the distance. Seabirds line the sandbanks at low tide and waders tend to stroll along the shoreline in search of food. Finding something to photograph is always easy. I’ve got some unique shots there, a buzzard staring at its reflection in the water, a cattle egret fishing at low tide, I even caught a kingfisher in action. It was only a blur, but the excitement was fantastic. A kingfisher!

But on my last walk I concentrated on the common birds hopping around in the undergrowth at the side of the path.

Blue tit collecting nesting material

In the UK, blue tits can be found pretty much everywhere, but that doesn’t make them any less wonderful. They’re stunning little birds. I managed to catch one busy nest building and it sums up the sense of activity all around during my walk.

Now there’s one bird the seems to follow me around wherever I go: chiffchaffs. They never seem to show themselves, though, so I was pretty excited when I could see one hopping around in the undergrowth. Difficult to grab a shot in those conditions, but with a little patience, I managed to follow the chiffchaff along until it fluttered into an opening. Using single point autofocus is a great way to get a pin-sharp focus on your subject when taking photos through vegetation.


One thing you can guarantee when you’re near the beach is seagulls. They congregate on the estuary at low tide, dozing on the sandbanks where they’re safe from predators. They may be common, but there’s still something so graceful about them when you see one drifting by on the wind.

To grab a decent image of one in flight, you need a high shutter speed. I use aperture priority mode on my Nikon D500. It allows me to select the aperture so that I get the background blur or depth of field that I want, but then the camera always selects the highest shutter speed available. By tweaking the ISO setting, you can boost the shutter speed when conditions require it so that you get an extra few stops of speed when it’s needed.


Another thing about taking photos where there’s lots of undergrowth is the surprises it throws up. It might not be anything unique, but just catching a glimpse of a bird or animal through the twigs or ferns is a real treat. A bit of careful camera work can grab a shot and it’s treats like these that make a trip memorable. The following house sparrow was perched in the brambles next to the iron bridge leading across the estuary.

House sparrow

House sparrows are in decline, which is tragic. They’re such a great little bird, raucous, always active, and usually hang around in mobs to make as much noise as possible.

Walking through the wild places in the world is wonderful, but photography allows you to capture the memories along the way so that you can share them with people who weren’t there. It makes it extra special. It makes it memorable.

It’s why I love photography.

7 Comments on The Magic of Common Birds

  • AmyRose says:
    April 22, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Another fellow photographer who LOVES what he does! I so enjoyed reading your post and your bird pictures are wonderful! I’ve just begun photographing birds which is the totally opposite spectrum of landscape so it is challenging at best to change settings FAST when using only one camera body. Thank you for sharing and good luck with your pictures!!


    • Andrew Turpin says:
      April 22, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Yes, I love all aspects of photography, from planning a trip, hiking to a location, taking the photos, and then looking at them when I get back. It’s all wonderful. You probably know this already, but look out for custom setting options on your camera. You can then set up a bird profile and a landscape one, and just switch between the two rather than adjusting all the individual settings each time. It’s what I’ve done (after many, many errors and missed opportunities!).


      • AmyRose says:
        April 23, 2018 at 12:30 pm

        THANK YOU!!! You saved me some grey hairs. LOL And I still don’t see any option to follow you. Keep me updated please ….


        • Andrew Turpin says:
          April 23, 2018 at 12:56 pm

          I’ve looked at your site for inspiration – I’m new to this whole site-building thing – and I noticed that you’ve got a neat floating WordPress follow button. My theme doesn’t seem to support that (or I just haven’t found it yet!). What I have managed to get is a WordPress button that – hopefully – links to my blog on the WordPress site. I’m hoping that you can check the (W) button in the menu or at the bottom of the page and see whether it takes you to WordPress where you can see a follow option. It works for me, but it seems I’m already following myself, so testing it fully is a bit tricky 😀


  • AmyRose says:
    April 26, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    YES!!! Success!! I was able to follow you, Andrew! OH how exciting! There needs to be somewhere on your page something that says FOLLOW. Your work is so good you deserve many many followers. I know I worked hard for my following and am so grateful that I have an outlet to allow others to admire what I LOVE to do. Now let’s HOPE I see your posts in my reader. Crossing ALL fingers!! I am SO glad you showed up today at Petals. Thank you!!


    • Andrew Turpin says:
      April 26, 2018 at 9:00 pm

      I’m working on it with the “FOLLOW” button. May have found a plugin to do it, but it could just as easily explode the internet! 😀 Work… in… progress! But thanks for your lovely words my work.


    • Andrew Turpin says:
      April 26, 2018 at 10:17 pm

      Well, I’ve added a subscribe via email option. Tried to get a fancy floating WordPress follow button to work, but no go so far!


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