Art of Birding Challenges: Best of February

We had a wonderful range of entries in the February 2021 Art of Birding challenges!

We celebrated Valentine’s Day with “love” week, people turning to nature for inspiration...

By Bronwyn Hayter

Bronwyn Hayter (New Zealand) found a cow with a love heart on her sweet face.

By Carmen Therriault

Carmen Therriault (Canada) found a heart-shape in a partially frozen stream in the snowy Canadian Rockies.

By Noelle Bennett

And Noelle Bennett loved the interaction between these two giraffes and their willingness to share. She says "Reckon we could learn a thing or two from these gentle giants."

The "Urban Jungle" challenge invited participants to not only take a photo of a critter living in a nearby urban environment, but to tell us a bit about the challenges it faces and to perhaps submit a photo to Wikimedia Commons.

By Loralee Hyde

Loralee Hyde (New Zealand) wrote about the tūī in her garden and also submitted her photo to the Commons with a share-alike licence.

"Twenty-nine years ago, my small section high up in the hills north of Wellington City was a barren, excavated brown patch of dirt.

Just a few straggly plants of introduced pest plants such as ragwort and gorse had battled their way through the compacted earth. I learned very quickly that only native plants would grow in the severe, cold winds that often buffet the hills around me.

Today, native vegetation flourishes in my garden, attracting a variety of native wildlife. Harakeke (New Zealand flax) had a heavy flowering season this summer, drawing in tūī to gather the sweet nectar from the flowers.

This imperious tūī came to the flax bushes right in front of my house, ignoring me completely as it hopped from flower to flower to harvest the nectar. Seeing such stunning wildlife in my backyard is astonishing."

By Leah Moran

Leah Moran (Australia) captured this sweet Splendid Blue Fairy Wren in a wire fence. She says " These little birds are the definition of versatile. Often found perching on poles, clotheslines, fence posts and as shown, even inside the fence itself.

They are now a common sight in backyard gardens or alongside kid's sports ovals in the pretty bottlebrushes. Making their nests in clusters of fallen logs and branches, where there is wood there are wrens. The biggest threat to these little birds comes in the form of cats, both strays and domesticated."

The Mobile Phone Magic challenge is always a popular one, as people unleash their creativity and have a bit of irreverent fun with the many apps out there.

By Marion Skelton

The colour toning and textures added to this purple hydrangea, captured by Marion Skelton (New Zealand), gives a romatic feel to the photo. Marion used the Distressed FX app.

By Karen Miller

Karen Miller (New Zealand) chose the Deep Art Effects app which gives a lovely painterly feel to this photo taken on a road trip down south. Although she had her regular camera with her, she had the wrong lens on so pulled out her mobile phone to capture the magic.

Rounding out the month was "from the archives" - a challenge I added on the assumption that 2021 might be similar to 2020 with continuing lockdowns for many of our participants and other stresses that makes weekly challenges difficult to sustain.

The aim was to review a beloved photo from the archives, but also to consider what they would have done differently if they had the opportunity to reshoot it. (This is a beneficial exercise, and I challenge all the readers of this blog to give it a go!)

By Karen Miller

Karen Miller explains, "I first took this photograph on a frosty morning in June 2019. It is a macro shot of a rush plant seed head. Covered in frost, it looked like a diamond brooch.

But unfortunately, due to the shallow depth of field of the macro focus, and an F stop of 5.6, part of the seed head came out blurred. If I was to take this shot again, I would be using my tripod. First I would try using a higher F stop say 22, and see how that worked. If that didn't give me my diamond brooch, then I would take multiple shots with different focus points and would then combine them in photoshop.

Meanwhile, I have tried to improve the shot by cropping in tighter to remove the blurred bits. I have also reprocessed in Lightroom, adjusting the colour slider and luminance so the texture of the seed head is seen more clearly."