RED-BROWED FINCH (Neochmia temporalis)

If you’re an amateur bird photographer like me, it is likely that at some time you’ll want to invest in a long telephoto lens to capture photos of birds in the wild.  Or even if you live in an urban environment (which I do), there’s always a lot of fun and more than a little challenge capturing birds in local parks, gardens and nature reserves.

I decided to buy a Sigma 150-500mm lens after reading lots of reviews and even trying out several long telephoto lenses, (several times),  in the camera store over a period of 12 months.  I even tried a Canon L series ‘professional’ quality lens to compare.   No doubt the salesmen, with whom I had formed a good relationship over many visits, had their patience tested on some of those visits.

The Canon ‘L’ series was way out of my price range, but never hurts to try out the best.

Finally, I decided the Sigma lens was the best and most reasonably priced option I could afford (at that time).  After a week of weird very noisy zooming in and out, I took it back and asked if it was supposed to make so much noise.  It wasn’t and the camera store replaced the lens with another one on the spot.  Apparently it was faulty (and not my hearing that was at  fault 🙂 ).

It also fitted quite easily into the tiny ‘suitcase’ I’d bought on sale at a luggage store.

THIS TINY ‘SUITCASE’ ON WHEELS WAS MY FIRST ‘CAMERA BAG’ AND COULD EASILY FIT MY 2 CANON EOS CAMERA BODIES AND 3 LENSES I HAD ACQUIRED. It was also waterproof and my lunch, bottle of water, folding umbrella and small travel tripod were easily transported around the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, bayside beaches or Melbourne Zoo. It was also light enough to carry over sand to the water’s edge down the beach.

I have to say this lens was excellent value and despite the weight, I found I could often steady it against a post (or fence) deleting the need for a strong tripod.  I’ve been using it a lot recently with my elbows resting on my desk (since I’ve been mainly housebound over recent months).  It’s marvellous at shooting birds on my balcony up close.

Some days I can hold this lens steady when outdoors and sometimes not.

On the 21st December, 2016, not long after I moved to the western suburbs, I had a good day.

I’d set off to walk down to the nearby Maribyrnong River and then explore as to whether I could find a path into Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, located 100 feet from my ‘back gate’.

I hadn’t got far when I spied a Red-browed Finch  (Neochmia temporalis) on the chain wire fence between the gravel walking path and the nature reserve.  I’d seen these birds before and knew what it was immediately.

I managed to get 3 fairly good photos – the light was excellent at the time – and while I’ve made dozens of images of these tiny finches in the past,  these 3 remain the best I’ve captured so far.

They’re a very tiny bird.

Almost as small as the Fairy-wrens I’ve photographed on my balcony in recent months.

The crown and nape is a soft grey, the face rather paler, with a broad scarlet stripe extending from the deep red conical beak through the eye and above the ear-coverts.  The back and wings are olive-green: rump scarlet, contrasting with the pointed black tail.  The underparts are entirely pale grey.

The immature finch is duller and darker, lacking the eye-stripe.

It’s found on the whole eastern seaboard of Australia, primarily undergrowth at forest and woodland margins, grassy areas with scrub, farmland, gardens etc.

Generally fairly widespread and common.  I usually see them late afternoon grazing on seed heads in the open grassy space between my apartment building and the nature reserve, but rarely get close enough to get a good shot.  Or if I do, they move quickly, twisting and turning into what seems like a feeding frenzy sometimes.

The closest I’ve got to these tiny finches previously was ‘hiding’ behind some grass when I lived on the north-eastern side of Melbourne next to the Yarra River.  I actually managed to get about 12-15 feet away from the group.  It involved a lot of stealthy creeping forward inch by inch (like a tiger or cougar approaching its prey).  I also wear black and rubber-soled walking shoes when I go outdoors, so that might help me get a bit closer without startling the bird life.

The image below was actually made with a 18-200mm telephoto lens.  The beak, eye-stripe and tail look a darker red in this image, but that may have been just the light on the day.

I think I just spotted one on the hedge on the other side of my road (which is what made me think of doing a post featuring it).