In order to photograph birds and animals, and especially to capture just the right moment when an animal is in motion, it is a great benefit to have lightning fast autofocus, a very long and fast lens, and a very high frame rate camera. With huge skill and great luck (neither of which I could claim to have) you can work around these requirements in some situations to some extent, but this in my opinion is one area of photography where the equipment that you use makes a very big difference. My landscape equipment, despite being exceptional in other ways, did not tick any of those boxes... so at the very end of 2016 I purchased a camera which was optimised for nature photography and a large and heavy telephoto lens.
I have always, from a young age, been interested in wildlife, but have mostly pursued that interest by watching nature programmes on television (I have delighted in watching a large proportion of the enormous body of work produced by David Attenborough) rather than experiencing it directly myself. It would be fair to say that this approach leads me to know rather more about the celebrities of the animal world rather than the birds and animals that you might find in your garden.
As my interest in photography has grown, so has my interest in the everyday wildlife that can be seen around us all (if we bother to look). In order to encourage me to learn more about birds I started a project to try and photograph 100 different bird species in 2017, armed with my new equipment and a book about the birds I might find in Finland (Suomen Linnut tunnistusopas by Lasse J. Laine) that I received as a Christmas present.
My starting point was rather pathetic, just taking pictures of whatever bird I could find and then trying to identify them after I got back to my computer and my book, but gradually I started to recognise some species, at least those ones which I had photographed. The amount of knowledge possessed by those people who really know about birds is remarkable, and would take decades to replicate, I am always impressed by the people that can accurately differentiate between extremely similar looking birds in real time in the field while I have a hard enough time to identify them based on a picture with the full power of the internet to call upon.
As the months went by I started to build up a decent total of species photographed, reaching 50 on March 30th when I photographed a Common Crane in Vihti and 100 in late May when I saw a Skylark singing above a field near my home. As I reached the 130's and 140's at the start of the summer it started to get more difficult to find new ones... at time of writing I have reached 152 species, the latest one being a Hobby (a fairly small hawk). The Hobby was also the 150th that I had photographed in Finland (two foreigners in the list are the black legged kittiwake which I found in Norway and the alpine chough which I found at the top of the Zugspitze mountain in Germany).
Next week I will journey to the island of Utö (Finland's southern-most inhabited territory) for 7 days with my friend Mika Grönroos and during that trip I hope to both add to my species count and also to get improved pictures of some of those species I have already photographed.
I expect that my next blog post is about my Utö trip!
P.S. after Utö the next planned visits are to Lofoten area in Norway at the end of this month and then Amsterdam in the middle of next month. I expect that those trips also give me something to write about.
Below are some photographs of a few of the year's 152 species...
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