The beauty of birds

SES, 11 June 2021

How eagle-eyed Ann captures her remarkable images 

The screens in our waiting rooms are providing patients with some wonderful insight into the lives of our feathered friends thanks to the skill of one particularly talented team member…

Our patients will often need to spend time in our reception area as they move through a variety of different tests and processes before seeing the doctor.

It’s why we place a big emphasis on ensuring this time is absolutely relaxing. We’ve invested in making these spaces as pleasant as possible and, even more importantly, have the attentive, patient-focused team ready when they’re needed.

This team is also a multitalented one, with skills that go beyond the walls of Southern Eye. One of these skilled people is Ann Coates, who is an amateur photographer in her spare time. When you see her images we think you’ll agree that these shots aren’t exactly those of a beginner!

We’re so happy to share these images on the screens of our waiting areas. Patients will often remark on these stunning images, asking where we got such incredible shots of New Zealand’s beautiful birdlife. So we asked Ann if she could take some time out of her work and photography schedule to talk to us about her passion for the perfect photo…

When did you take up photography?

The interest began when I had children – every parent wants to remember the big and small moments. But I took so many photos of the kids that they started to say no more! So I had to find something else to photograph. That’s when I started looking at birdlife.

“I like the fact that I can just take myself off for a few hours, just myself and my camera.”

What do you most like about photography?

I love the challenge it gives you. Birds are constantly moving, so a lot of patience is required. It’s also meant a lot of time out in the field, waiting for that perfect moment to come. It’s been a huge learning curve. I am always trying to capture that special moment, something that perhaps people would not ordinarily see. I like the fact that I can just take myself off for a few hours, just myself and my camera. It is my happy place. I will often be found hiding in the bushes or squatting in the mud on the estuary. I love getting home and uploading my photos onto the computer and hoping I have captured something just a little bit different.

What do you like shooting most?

I love to shoot birds, and I’ve learned so much about them by observing their behaviour.  Most of my photos are of local birds. Christchurch has a fantastic variety of native birds. My favourite places to go for bird photography are Travis Wetlands, McCormacks Bay, Heathcote Estuary and Waikuku.

I am usually up with the birds and out in the field by about 7.30am, as this is their feeding time. So there are no sleep-ins for me!

Are there particular birds you concentrate on?

My favourite bird to shoot is the sacred kingfisher (Kotare). I love watching them diving for crabs, and then seeing how they bring this meal back to their perch, bash it about till the legs fall off, and toss it in the air to get it in a good position before swallowing it. Sometimes you will see them open their mouths and a perfectly formed round pellet will come out.  It is called casting and it is the hard bits of the crabs that they regurgitate.

Another favourite at the moment is the white heron.  We are lucky enough to have one wintering over in Christchurch and he is creating a lot of interest amongst local photographers.  When he first turned up the paparazzi were out in their droves! But he seems to be quite comfortable with people.

 

What camera do you use for bird photography?

I use a Canon 90D DSLR and a 100-400 USM lens. I don’t use a tripod. I prefer to handhold as it gives you more freedom, especially if the birds take flight (which is the biggest challenge). I am only now, after many years, starting to have some success with these images.

Do you travel at all for photography?

I’ve been on a few photography tours over the years. One of my favourite places was Stewart Island and Ulva Island in particular.  Another highlight for me was the Okarito White Heron nesting colony on the West Coast, which is accessible only by boat and overseen by DOC.  

Did you think you’d be sharing images like this when you first started out?

I feel my photography has improved considerably in the last year, thanks to the mentoring from an acquaintance. He said “you have to put yourself out there”, and I’ve certainly taken that advice on board. Which is why I’m so glad that people enjoy my photos. It makes all that time spent in the field worth it.