Spring time, tui time

Tui on kowhai flowers
A tui on kowhai flowers is a classic sign of spring, but capturing one unobscured, with a nice out of focus background and in good soft light can take a bit of patience. Taken with a Canon 1D Mark IV, EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x, 1/160 s at f8, ISO 1600.

Spring has sprung, and around here nothing epitomises this more than a kowhai tree heavy with golden blossom and tui seeking its nectar. Well, except perhaps for changeable weather. Of course I already have hundreds of photos of tui on kowhai flowers, but there is always room for improvement. On Friday I visited some trees just out of town, as I have done for several years now.

The number of birds was at a new high (thanks to the pest control being undertaken in surrounding breeding areas) and made for a great sight (and sound), but my main interest was in the unusual pale cream coloured tui that has visited these kowhai trees for many years now. This bird looks like it has had the dark pigments washed out of its feathers. Very pale or white individuals occasionally turn up in many species, and old literature suggests it was relatively common in tui compared to other New Zealand birds. These days native bird numbers and diversity is a sad fraction of what it once was, so unusual individuals like these are seen less often.

White tui on kowhai flowers
This rare leucistic tui looks as if it has been bleached, with the typical pattern of colouration still evident, but in shades of brown and cream due to a lack of dark pigment. Taken with a Canon 1D Mark IV, EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x, 1/160 s at f8, ISO 1600.

I was pleased when the aberrant tui turned up, and thrilled when a second, almost identical one arrived. They both favoured parts of the trees that didn’t provide good photo opportunities, but I gave it several hours, as the weather went from grey to drizzle, to real proper rain. The weather might not sound the best but it was actually a blessing. Soft overcast light is great for photographing these dark birds because it reduces the contrast between the near black body and bright white throat tufts, and streaks of rain and drops beading on feathers can add a nice touch of interest to a photo. The photo below ended up being my favourite for the day for exactly these reasons, combined with the vignette of dark foliage and a bright sky in the background that makes the bird and the rain drops both stand out.

Tui in the rain
My favourite photo of the day—Tui on kowhai flowers, in the rain. More spring than daffodils and lambs! Taken with a Canon 1D Mark IV, EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x, 1/250 s at f8, ISO 1250.