Shooting flying shorebirds at Sungei Buloh.

Common Redshanks just before they settle down on the bund.

The high tide on the 21 Sept was around 3 pm. From our shorebirds monitoring, I knew that they will be flying in to roost at dry ponds at Sungei Buloh 3 hours before high tide. I sat myself down comfortably at the main hide at 10 am and waited.  Small flocks of Common Redshanks were flying around. The Common Redshanks were known to stay back at Sungei Buloh at low tide and does not move to Mandai to feed.

Egrets made good contrast against the mangroves.

The rest of the shorebirds started flying in around noon coming in mostly from the right. Normally the smaller shorebirds like the Lesser Sand Plovers were the first ones to come in. I saw only one today. The Common Greenshanks were the first to fly in followed by the Whimbrels. They settled on the middle bund between the two main ponds. All subsequent flocks joined them on the bund for safety in numbers.

Cropped shot of a lone Common Redshank.

This is the best time to practice shooting them in flight. Ideally the higher the shutter speed the better to freeze the action. Any shutter speed faster than 1/1000s should be fine. When they are flying above the mangroves, just make sure that you open up the aperture by 1-2 stops to compensate for the bright skies. For those with good auto focus cameras, getting sharp photos shouldn’t be a problem.

Cattle Egrets coming in to land.

Before they settle down, some flocks will do a low fly past around the ponds. Now you will have to close the aperture a little to compensate for the darker background of the mangroves and mud beds. Focusing will be a challenge as the backgrounds come into play. But with some trail and error, you will get some decent shots to take back. For those who want to go a step further, you can try and pan your shots for a blurry background while keeping the birds in focus. Just have to shoot at a lower speed and be prepared to delete more shots than usual. I would recommend a shorter lens (no more than 400 mm) to get more birds in the frame. You can always cropped them later. Most cameras now can shoot at 4 or more frames per second. Happy clicking.

Lastly, shoot first and then check later.

Shoot whatever that is in front of you. I was not able to id the seven Asian Dowitchers until I check the frame. This turned out to be a valuable record shot on 21 Sept 2015.

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