'The Science and Beauty of Birds' 17 January 2017  

It was with great pleasure that Club Chairman Richard Watson welcomed Oliver Smart who had travelled from Weston Super Mare. With a passion for wildlife Oliver explained that he had studied ornithology and was a BTO bird ringer so he had a lot of experience identifying and handling birds not only from Britain but all over the world.

OS grouseFirst the science - Oliver explained how birds are adapted to their various lifestyles. Wing shapes differ from the huge wings of a vulture built for soaring to the tiny hummingbird with wings that allow it to hover as it seeks nectar.
Beaks have adapted according to the food requirements of each species from the long thin beaks for delving in mud, strong beaks for cracking seeds, pointed beaks for snatching insects from the air to large hooked beaks capable of tearing meat from a carcass. Examples of bird camouflage and different types of feathers were shown.
OS albatrossPhotographed in places around the world a wide variety of bird images showed the interesting courtship, breeding and nesting behaviour of vast colonies of penguins and gannets down to birds found more locally in estuaries, woods, ponds and gardens.

After the break Oliver showed us the beauty of the birds photographed on his travels.
Oliver plans his trips carefully before he goes so that he knows how to get the best possible photographs. A tip was to make sure you were comfortable as you may be several hours in a confined hide waiting for the right moment to press the shutter.
To catch fast action Oliver pre focusses and then with the camera set to manual waits for the bird to be in just the right position. The direction of the light is important as shown in the excellent image of a Black Grouse (above left) with the light catching the feathers and its breath on a cold day.  Also important is to position yourself so as to have an uncluttered background and to think about the composition.
OS tawnyOliver likes to experiment with different styles to make his bird images have impact and stand out from all the others. The image right was taken with the Albatross silhouetted against the stunning sky just a the sun went down over the dark sea. 

The images are often used as the covers of wildlife and bird magazines as well as illustrating Olivers own articles. Space is often left around the image so that the publisher can add text.
Prints and other items can be brought through his website.

Most of the photographs are taken of birds in the wild but excellent images can also be taken of captive birds such as the Tawny Owl (left) at places like the Hawk Conservancy where you can also go on a course with Oliver who will help you to improve your bird photography.
Thanks Oliver for sharing your vast knowledge of birds and their behaviour and your wide range of bird images. PM
Images © Oliver Smart                                 
See Oliver's website