‘Twas the Skite Before Christmas

Last month I entered three images into a competition, my first ever entries. I hoped for helpful feedback and no humiliation and was delighted to receive two Commended awards and a Highly Commended. I need to wrap Christmas presents and don’t have as much time to prepare this week’s post so thought I’d post some images that were prepared earlier: the award winners.


Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostrus) (male) – Highly Commended (novice)
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/500, f5.6, ISO 1600, focal length 350mm


Eastern Spinebills are beautiful little honeyeaters with long, curved bills: they are about 15cm long and weigh just 11g. Spinebills perch, and occasionally hover, to take nectar from flowers. Like other honeyeaters they also take insects. Male spinebills have black lines which run either side of their white throat and breast.

The judge commented that the white patch was over-exposed. I think I could fix this now that I have Lightroom 4, as long as it’s not too badly blown. He commented positively on the clarity of the image including the bill, and the quality of the background blur (bokeh). I like the eye-contact and the pollen grains on the bird’s face that show just how far it pushes its bill into flowers.


 Noisy Friarbird – “Nosy Friarbird” – Commended (novice)
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/640, f/8.0, ISO 160, focal length 400mm


Noisy Friarbirds are large honeyeaters about 34cm in length and weighing in at 117g – ten times the mass of the spinebill. They add occasional eggs and baby birds to their diet of nectar and insects and often feed in noisy flocks. The large casque on their bill is a strange lump that adds to their odd looks along with their red eyes and peculiar chin whiskers. Their feathery bibs are probably their most attractive feature.


I remember the judge mentioning that the image had been well cropped to provide space infront of the bird’s bill. He commented that the blurred background allowed the bird to stand out and that the bird and the tree it is peeking around are well-focused. I wished that I’d shot the image at f/5.6 so that the background would have been more blurred but it was pointed out by a friend that the front tree would also have been blurred and I might have lost the image.


Eastern Water Dragon – “Fire Dragon” – Commended (open)
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/640,  f/5.6, ISO 320, focal length 400mm


I am particularly fond of reptiles and have quite a few lizard images in my collection: this is definitely one of my favourites. We were at Crow’s Nest National Park when we noticed this handsome dragon at the edge of the track. I dropped to the ground and zoomed in. I spent quite a while with the dragon, watching it walk across the burnt ground and climb a tree.

I wish I could remember what the judge said about this image, I think I was in shock. From my perspective I’m biased towards the subject, I’m pleased that I got so low to the ground and I like the way the depth of field emphasises his posture. The images I took with a larger f/stop ensured that the dragon’s whole body was in focus but I found them boring in comparison. I called the image “Fire Dragon” as he was walking over recently burnt ground.

Happy birding and happy Christmas, Kim



  • Skite is Aussie slang for boast
  • The competition was with Knox Photography Society (see link page for further info)
  •  The judge was Dr Bert Hoveling




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