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London's Parakeets

In between filming foxes in Bristol and heading to Normandy for a landscape photography trip with my friend Adam, I made an opportune visit to my local park in Dulwich, London. This park in my opinion is one of the best spots in London to see Ring-Necked Parakeets - I never fail to see them here, or hear their tell-tale squawks.

As the evening sun lowered through the trees, I saw a parakeet fly into the dappled green canopy. It took me some time to find it among the green leaves but, when I did finally relocate it, it was emerging from an old woodpecker nest-hole - now it's own. A closer look made me see that this was a chick poking its head out, and it began to squawk hungrily for supper.

So where were mum and dad? Here's dad! See how the chick has a pure black eye, whereas the father bird has a green eye ringed with pink. He also has the ring-neck that gives the bird its name (mum doesn't have this ring).

Following Adam's example, I stood on a park bench to get some extra height and level with the nest-hole. It wasn't the most comfortable solution shooting hand-held at 400mm on a wobbly bench, but it was by far the best one. We watched the father parakeet fly in several times, so had plenty of time to perfect our shots. In the shot above, he could almost pass as elegant, but my favourite of the bunch (title image) shows in reality how comical he was as he wiggled out of the nest-hole.

Compositionally, I decided to follow a simple rule-of-thirds, with the nest-hole usually on the right-hand third, since this was where the father parakeet flew in from most often. Some distance to the right of this tree, there is a much larger parakeet roost by the boating lake, so I could almost guarantee she would enter my shot here.

For lighting, I spot-exposed off the tree bark and chose a high ISO to keep the dappled lighting, taking a slight risk with my low aperture. I wasn't photographing the bird in flight, so I just needed a high enough shutter speed to steady my hand shake. With all this done, I could concentrate on getting the beautiful details of the bird's facial markings and tail feathers. Like the chick photo, this shot is more typical "me", with the green foliage framing the green bird.

With park closing time imminent and sunset at its peak, I made the most of the darkening blue sky and strong sunlight to get a bold full-body portrait of the mother. Her green colours are much more intense, and I'm pleased to have got the entire tail in frame. An excellent end to the evening and certainly whetted our appetites for Normandy.

Thanks for reading and have a great month!

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