A Trick of the Light

Autumn Northern Wheatear

I took these images of a Northern Wheatear at Preston Deanery last week. Despite looking like two different birds it’s the same individual. The photos were taken within minutes of each other, the bird moving from the heap of builder’s sand to a track only a few metres away.

Northern Wheatear, Preston Deanery, 21st September 2016 (Mike Alibone)
Northern Wheatear, Preston Deanery, 21st September 2016 (Mike Alibone)

When the photo on the sand heap was taken the sun was behind a cloud and, with the light reflecting off the sand, the bird’s underparts appear quite richly-coloured as well as the upperparts appearing dark. When the wheatear was on the track the sun was out and the light reflected from the track’s surface was quite different, giving the plumage a wholly different tonal aspect altogether. Aside from a little sharpening, I have not altered the colour tones of the images. This serves to illustrate the difficulty associated with trying to assess plumage tones from photographs as well as in the field under variable light conditions.

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