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Snake Bird

Snake Bird
Photo Information
Copyright: John Plumb (JPlumb) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 618 W: 158 N: 896] (2904)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-06-11
Categories: Birds
Camera: Nikon D200, NIKKOR AF-S 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 ED DX VR
Exposure: f/8, 1/750 seconds
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Superb Birds, Superb Macros [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2008-02-20 17:02
Viewed: 6477
Points: 52
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
This is the female Darter (Anhinga melanogaster). The females and juveniles are this typical grey-brown shade, much lighter than the male.

Here she is in the typical Darter stance, drying her wings following a swim. I like this shot, and have included it for a couple of reasons. First it’s the closest I’ve been able to get to a Darter so I was happy from this perspective, but in this shot, you can also see a lot in her stance. In this profile view you can really see the long neck that these birds are famous for. They are sometimes known as “Snake-birds” because of this long thin neck. They also have this long thin sharply pointed bill. They use this bill to spear their prey when they dive. That’s how they get the name “Darter”. Their ventral keel is present on the 5-7 vertebrae which allows for muscles to attach so that they are able to project their bill forward like a spear. Besides fish, they will also feed on amphibians, snakes, turtles and invertebrates found in the water. In hunting, they use their feet to move underwater and quietly stalk and ambush their prey. On finding their prey they will stab it, bring it to the surface where they toss it into the air and catch and swallow it.

Darters are monogamous and pairs bond during the breeding season. Males will perform various displays to attract the female, and during breeding, their small gular sac changes from pink or yellow to black and the bare facial skin turns to turquoise from a yellow or yellow-green colour. They usually breed in colonies. Nesta are made of twigs and are built in trees or reeds, often near the water. The clutch size is two to six eggs which are incubated for 25-30 days. Care is provided by both parents.

Much of this from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darter
ID from: Simpson K. and Day N. (2004), Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, Penguin Books, Camberwell

I got this (and a couple of other shots of this lady) while going for an afternoon walk around Iron Cove in Sydney. This was shot in June (our winter here). The sun was good, she was making good use of it, and I liked the strong side lighting for the shot. She was for the most part pretty tolerant at first. I followed the normal routine of taking a couple of shots, then taking a couple of quiet steps, etc. until I was able to get up close to her to get this shot.

Workflow for this shot was as follows:
The shoot – shot in Raw with Jpeg reference (95 mm ISO 400 f8 1/750)
NEF file adjusted for exposure and shadow, and vignetting
Adjusted levels – black points - minimal
Adjusted curves for contrast – minimal s-curve
Burned and Dodged with overlay layer (5-10% opacity black and white brush)
Added saturation layer +18 to master, masked rock
Saved as a tiff
For this post, cropped for position, resized, selected on water and reduced noise - created a new layer, inversed selection, sharpened bird, framed and saved as a jpeg

NinaM, angela926, jcoowanitwong, jusninasirun, CeltickRanger, rcrick, MMM, crs, inked, pablominto, horia, mvdisco, pierrefonds, mlines, valy67 has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

Hello John,
Fantastic shot, excellent composition and point of view, superb sharpness and very good depth of field,very nice colrs and light, wonderful details and great pose.

Hello John,
The behavior is well seen. Spread wings to face sunshine to dry. Great pov and composition. Very well done and tfs.

hello John

superb shot of this amazing bird, the sharpness and details
of the subject are excellent, excellent luminosity on the
foreground of the image doing a great contrast
with the darked bakcground, excellent POV & framing, TFS


Hey John,
Wow, get a load of the neck on that! excellent composition and point of view and the detail in the feathers is amazing, we saw a lot of cormorants on Tangalooma in a similar stance drying out, great shot mate, all the best Cheers Rick :)

  • Great 
  • MMM Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1114 W: 0 N: 2546] (11425)
  • [2008-02-20 19:13]

Hi John
Beautiful presentation.Good POV and sharp image.Details in the plumage is excellent,I like that nice BG colors.Light is great.
TFS Michel

  • Great 
  • crs Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 469 W: 0 N: 922] (3551)
  • [2008-02-20 22:24]

Hi John,

This is an excelent shot. Wonderfull use of the light with good clears details of the plumage. Good POV and interesting pose of the bird.

Thank you for sharing,

  • Great 
  • pvs Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1127 W: 254 N: 3161] (14464)
  • [2008-02-20 23:30]

Hi John,

An excellent capture of this darter drying the wings,the light is superb,the POV is nice chosen,tfs


Hello John,

nice composition and colours. The sharp is also very good.


  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-02-21 6:08]

Stunning shot of this Darter John!
The lighting is magnificent!
Very sharp with a heap of detail.
Great composition as well.
Very well done,

  • Great 
  • inked Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 132 W: 0 N: 249] (771)
  • [2008-02-21 6:42]

hi John,
superb shot! the pose is fantastic showing that long neck! great focus and detail. great lighting and great composition. great all round. nice one. cheers for sharing

Hello John,
An excellent capture and a fine bird indeed!
I like the pose and the effect from the sidelight is great...
You present the bird in a fine composition, the point of view gives fine lines!
Pablo -

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2008-02-21 10:00]

Hello John

The lighting is warm and illuminates the shot well.
Excellent plumage detail and colour.
The shot is well composed,I like the diagonal look of the shot with the outstretched neck.


  • Great 
  • kjpweb Gold Star Critiquer [C: 326 W: 86 N: 1084] (4788)
  • [2008-02-21 10:01]

Cool capture. I think now we have all darter species covered on TN. Wonderful pose that you captured, indeed very typical. The only difference to the american Anhinga Anhinga I can detect, is that the eye area looks slightly different and the bill seems to be shorter and a bit thicker, than that of it's american cousins.
Good job!
Cheers, Klaus

  • Great 
  • horia Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2158 W: 224 N: 4749] (16656)
  • [2008-02-21 12:00]

Hi John

Another superb capture from you and a very beautiful and elaborate presentation here!
I really like the side POV that you had here and the great angle it gave you in order for us to perfectly understand that nick-name of this lovely bird.
The sharpness here is impeccable and i love seeing every bit of detail in the plumage and the head of the darter. Lovely colors and very accurate exposure, as well.
As a bonus, i very much appreciated the tech part of the note - with info on how the shot was taken and processed.
Great work!

Bravo and TFS

Hi John, bonsoir,
Great shot of this beautiful bird, superb sharpness and well presented and composed shot, beautiful colors and great picture ..very well done..
Mes salutations.

  • Great 
  • NinaM Gold Star Critiquer [C: 773 W: 3 N: 1157] (4077)
  • [2008-02-21 19:21]

Hi John, fantastic shot of this unknown bird to me and great notes too, it is very interesting. The colours in this picture are stunning, I love the brown background composing very well with the bird, I really like all the details in the plumage, the light is just great. Thank you!


IMpressionnant, quels détails, superbe compostion.

  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2008-02-21 23:02]

Hello John,
Great photo of this Darter. Beautiful light, colours and excellent sharp details. Fantastic composition, POV and dark BG.

Hello John,

You live in a country that is so big with so few people. A lot of room for nature activities to take place. Even a walk in Sydney allows to to capture this magnificent bird in Southern winter month.

The light was pretty good casting shadow in front of her and you managed to keep most of it in the frame. Useful notes make me appreciate this lady better when I see the long neck trusting forward exposing the details of the feather and tail. You are right about the incredible posture and you have captured this very well. Please allow me to add this to my personal theme because I would like to see her again.

Best regards,

  • Great 
  • EOSF1 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 119 N: 5267] (23955)
  • [2008-02-22 10:26]

Hello John, what a beauty! I love those warm tones, the pose of the bird and the overall quality, very well done, thanks!


Hi John,

Your note is informative. The female darter is impressive with her wing in position to start flying. The point of view is showing the details and colors of the bird. The photo is clear and precise. Have a nice day.


  • Great 
  • Mana Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1772 W: 36 N: 5597] (18598)
  • [2008-02-23 10:55]

Hi John,
Wonderful shot and I like the way it sticks out its neck. Very sharp image and nice colours. The lighting and exposure levels are superb. Excellent POV and composition. Kudos.

  • Great 
  • mlines Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 556 W: 26 N: 668] (3116)
  • [2008-02-25 16:48]

Hi John, A well cropped capture of this very elegant long necked bird. The clarity is very good as seen by the beak area. Beautiful work. TFS. Murray.

  • Great 
  • Jamesp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
  • [2008-02-25 22:36]

Hi John

Excellent POV with superb detail and well handled exposure and wonderul light.



  • Great 
  • SkyF Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2234 W: 188 N: 1912] (8073)
  • [2008-02-27 6:13]

Hi John,
Excellent capture with an interesting pose that emphasizes the neck, with a neck like this snake bird seems appropriate.
POV, composition and sharpness are great.

  • Great 
  • valy67 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1727 W: 59 N: 3060] (9219)
  • [2008-03-08 13:40]

Hello John !
This is one great picture ! I love the pose if the bird, it is quite unusual, you have frozen him at the perfect moment. Excellent sharpness and details, natural colors, beautiful composition and POV, and the water also makes a nice BG. The note is very interesting too. Very well done !

Hello John,
Fascinating image. Very good light. Great pose. Well composed.

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