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Retirement clicks for David Baker

Two wax-eyes fight over sugar water. Photo: David Baker.
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Birds perching, feeding and even fighting have been captured by a retiree whose interest in photography has become a talent others are enjoying.

Following David Baker’s retirement, about four years ago he and wife Jeanette started putting out dishes of sugar water and more recently a feeder for the birds.

Plenty of trees surround their Dunedin home and tūī, bellbirds and wax-eyes alighted on their balcony to feed.

It just made it a natural progression…let’s take some photos.”

Using his Nikon 610 camera, he had time to sit and watch the birds out the window, capturing their many moods and moves.

Dunedin retiree David Baker focuses on the birds at his Dunedin home.

He started sharing these photos with friends via Facebook and they’re in turn sharing the beauty with others.

Getting up to speed

Tūī are often fairly cautious, he says. One day, a tūī was perched in a tree and David’s camera was taking multiple photos in quick succession. He suddenly realised the bird had disappeared. Upon checking the images snapped, he understood this bird had flown towards the camera.

The resulting photo of a tūī ominously heading towards the lens was like something New Zealand film director Sir Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop might have created, he says.

Difficult to capture: a tūī in flight. Photo: David Baker.

His camera shutter speed isn’t always fast enough to capture birds in flight, neither is it easy to anticipate when or in which direction a bird will fly.

The camera just can’t go fast enough, and neither can I…they’re so hard to catch, on the move.”

While tūī, bellbirds and wax-eyes are prolific, in winter kererū native bush pigeons frequently visit the Bakers’ kowhai tree to nibble leaves.

“You look at them lumbering along in flight and they come crashing into the tree.”

The beauty of creation

David’s photos of birds, of light playing on Central Otago rock formations and the splendour of Butchers Dam walks cause him to reflect upon his Christian faith and Bible verses relating to birds, rocks and water.

“I enjoy being able to look at the photo and reflect on the beauty and detail of God’s creation in different ways.”

Beautiful: a tūī at a sugar water dish. Photo: David Baker.

Although David notices the flaws in his photographs, he delights in the birds’ prettiness and structure.

He’s discovered birds have tongues and some of his images show this. He’s observed that bellbirds and tūī have tongues long enough to reach down into the bird feeder, but wax-eyes’ short beak and tongue limit them to feeding from the dishes.

A New Zealand bellbird poking out its tongue to drink. Photo: David Baker.

Up close: a wax-eye drinking sugar water. Photo: David Baker.

Birds have been regularly drinking one litre of sugar water in 30 minutes most mornings, he says. One photo is of three wax-eyes on a water dish, snuggling together in winter.

The birds are like planes, circling around waiting to land at a busy airport and the sugar water dishes like crowded airport café tables between flights:

I’ve sort of named this The Airport Café.”

Wax-eyes sometimes fight over the sugar water, flapping their wings and quivering. He has managed to photograph them face to face in fighting mode.

Wax-eyes gather together at a sugar water dish. Photo: David Baker.

Two wax-eyes fighting over sugar water. Photo: David Baker.

Wax-eyes snuggle together on a branch in the sun. Photo: David Baker.

A game of patience

Does David have tips for other aspiring birdlife photographers?

You’ve got to be patient.”

Using a digital camera enables a person to take many photos and quality cameras have faster shutter speeds and higher quality lenses, increasing the chance of catching a good sharp image.

David and Jeanette’s young grandson likes to sit at granddad’s tripod. However, he is still waiting for patience, as he usually ends up quickly snapping a shot that turns out to be an out of focus blur!

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