Thursday, 18 March 2010

A Bittern And 3 Owls

With there being a barn owl at a local site, I've been trying to get over that way as much as possible, though at times the weather has got in the way and the bird not shown. As such, I have not ventured too far away from home though that's no problem when Upton Warren's seasonal visitors put on a show.

Saturday was supposed to be sunny. It was when I woke up, and remained so right up to the moment I opened the door to aim the camera at the little owls at Lea End. At which point it was like someone had pulled a blind of cloud over the sky and matters were made worse when both owls decided they didn't like the look of me, and took flight to the other side of the field. Back into the car and down the motorway to Upton Warren.

The first sight there was of several lenses poking out of the Hobby Hide, over the North Moors. Looked crowded but I thought I'd see what was going on anyway - well, I sort of knew, as one of the bitterns had been posing for shots the day before. Space was at a premium as I opened the door, and a lady quickly ensured I remained silent by shushing at me, then saying the bittern was in the open. It was, and I was lucky in that I could open the side window and set the camera up there.

Partially obscured by the reeds, the bittern was busy poking around under the reeds in search of fish and going by its success rate when striking, there must have been plenty to choose from. Curious birds at the best of times, but another strange behavioural aspect of this one, was when it caught a fish, its legs quivered - maybe from the excitement of another bite to eat?

As time moved on, people moved out and I was able to inch into a better viewing position. Needless to say, I bagged several hundred shots - hell, why not? How often do you see one like this?

Eventually hunger got the better of me, and I left to grab a sarnie and head off to look for the barn owl. But do you know what? I've been that many times lately, I can't recall the details of each visit! Must be getting more senile. I do know that a few friends were there and it's been a good laugh generally, waiting for the bird to appear.
Sunday was supposed to have showers according to the Beeb, but I tend to ignore them in favour of Accuweather and Metcheck, and both of those were more optimistic. And correct, as it turned out. After the disaster with the little owls on Saturday, I thought a new plan was needed to get close to them. So upon reaching the site, I drove a bit further down the road and parked up. Shifted the passenger seat right forward, and then popped open the boot. Back into the car, and reversed it back to the site. Parked, then climbed into the back seats and set the camera up through the boot opening.

The owls were probably somewhat bemused by my antics but crucially not spooked, and stayed put. I've no idea how to determine the gender of a little owl, unless perhaps one is smaller than the other, but when they're 30 feet apart in a tree, that's not easy. Anyway, I did get to photograph both "Little Grump" and his "Missus". Fingers crossed they'll breed and I'll get to see some fluffy little owlets later this year. That'd be ace.

Avocets were the next target and I strapped the suitcase-sized rucksack to my back and trudged down to the far hide at the Flashes, to discover that most of the birds, avocets included, had been flushed to the Moors following a monthly bird count. Typical. Given how busy the hide had been on Saturday, I didn't think I'd get a look in, so was very surprised when I found the hide to only have one occupant; another friend of mine. He'd been sat for over 2 hours but not seen the bittern. But he reckoned it was there earlier and so it was, after a mere 30 mins, it strolled, silently out of the reeds and carried on where it had left off the day before. It had been too close at times before, but with a lack of space, I'd been stuck with the 700mm reach. With more room, I could take off the TC and shoot at a mere 500mm, which seemed to focus more accurately on the bird. Must be something about the markings, as the little owls were picked up perfectly, and from further off.

After the bird had been spooked into the reeds by clunky footsteps entering the hide behind us, we both left and I went looking for Barnie again. The pictures of which are in a queue to be processed... While the bird hangs around, I'll be trying for more shots, though the last couple of times, it's sat and waited for the sun to go down before hunting, making picture-taking somewhat frustrating. I say "somewhat" as it can't ever be a bad thing when a barn owl is involved.

Keep an eye on the gallery for more photos of barn owls and bitterns appearing over the next few days.

1 comment:

Max Silverman said...

Superb shots Pete.Well done.