escaping the bonds of earth
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
Birds, of course, were not the first to fly.
Insects beat them to that honour, as did the gliding reptiles of the dinosaur era. But. surely, there is no animal that has so perfected flight and raised it to such an art form as the bird.
Whether it be the mighty condor soaring above the Andes on effortless spirals, the ocean-wandering albatross gliding on the air pushed up by waves, or the humming-bird all-a-blur at the mouths of flowers, flight has fascinated ground dwelling humans since we first stood on two legs and looked to the sky.
There seems not to be a race, religion or culture that does not refer, somewhere to the soaring splendor of birds and flight. Many of our most potent mythical beings are imagined with having this ability.
Birds, especially flying birds, feature strongly in prehistoric art and in our legends, including those of Maori here in New Zealand. I have visited the rock drawings that feature the now extinct Haast Eagle, which, if it were still alive today, would be the world’s biggest raptor.
When I am photographing birds my biggest thrill and greatest satisfaction is to get that perfect flight photo.
This photo blog features some of my own photos of birds in flight as a tribute to the sheer beauty of it.
The gannet above and the albatrosses
left and right
were photographed off the coast of
Fiordland following our cruise ship.
And, of course, the gulls:
Enough of the sea birds, let’s head slightly inland!
Not to be confused with these guys – Kotuku – white heron – Egretta alba modesta
Kotuku can be quite bold birds once they get used to people. There was one bird at
Wellington that wintered in the Hutt River mouth mudflats right on the Petone foreshore.
You could walk upright to within 5 metres of it and, if you crawled, almost touch it!
But another kotuku I observed yesterday in the isolated high country fled as soon as I came within 50 metres.
Similarly, white-faced heron are mostly quite timid but can become used to people, which can make for easier photos.
Estuaries are one of my favourite places to go birding as they occur at the junction of land and sea and so have species from both environments as well as their own estuarine specialists.
In Canterbury I have discovered the joys of Ashley Estuary which is rich in a large variety of bird life.
Similarly Lake Ellesmere, though not an estuary, being right on the edge of the sea presents many opportunities to observe birds and also has large numbers of migrant waders visiting for spring and summer.
And, finally, my favourite, the glorious speedster – Karearea, New