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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Owl With The Upside-Down Head! - January 19th, 2016

I'm currently totally bewitched by the Short-eared Owl that has decided on a winter residence not far from my home. As a result, I've done very little general birding, or other owling for that matter! I'm conscious of the fact that I'm in danger of boring you with yet more SEO images, so will be striving to just include images that improve on previous results, show the bird in new poses, or are just a bit different to what I've already posted. With just one bird at this location, the opportunities are limited, although the bird is quite reliable - no-shows are, thankfully, rare. I've had plenty of visits, however, where I've not achieved anything better than, or even as good as, those already taken.

11th December, 2015

After delivery of my new Nikon D7200, and before the problem with the optical stabilisation on the Sigma 50-500 was resolved, I had a session with the shorty. One of those images, taken when the light had all but gone, I quite like.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - undisclosed site on 11th December, 2015
5th January, 2016

Jumping into the New Year, I liked the curved effect of the fence as it passes over the rise in this image of the owl, taken at a great distance.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - undisclosed site on 5th January, 2016
6th January

The following day, I had another session - this time in better light. The fourth image in this sequence, 'walking in the air', is my favourite!

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - undisclosed site on 6th January, 2016
10th January

I have permission to set up my chair-hide in the plantation that the owl visits, in order to try and obtain images of the owl on a post. The secondary, lower, post that I'd erected was used by the owl the day after I put it up, but I've not seen it on there since!  I'd not had much success using the hide for a while.

On this occasion, the weather was a bit breezy, but I thought that I'd give it a go. After three hours, at 15h45 it was getting dark and I'd not seen the owl, so I decided to give up. Now, one thing that I'm very careful of is that it doesn't do to set up the hide, or to break cover at the end of a session, when your quarry can see you. The hide has a very narrow field of view in the forward direction, but has small covered openings to the side which I usually keep closed so as to not let too much light into the hide (so I can be lost in the shadows). I opened these windows to check that all was clear before emerging - and spotted the owl sitting on a fence around 70 metres away, where it could see me without any problem! I eventually just managed to see it lift off and fly over the hedge line at 16h15, and packed up and ran for cover with my tripod and hide! Here's one of it on the fence post - I got a crick in the neck taking it!

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - undisclosed site on 10th January, 2016
15th January

There was hazy sun on this afternoon, and I'm rather pleased with the first image, below, as it was taken pretty-much into the sun - difficult light conditions, but I like the effect of the light shining through the wing feathers. The second image was from the opposite direction - with the sun behind me.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - undisclosed site on 15th January, 2016
19th January

Yesterday, having had a no-show on 16th January in similar weather conditions, I was in two minds as to whether I should set up my hide. I decided to do so. I had to wait a while, but the owl then landed on the post around 20 metres in front of me. I was rather pleased with the results, although they would have been even better if I hadn't accidentally moved the white balance setting to 'cloudy' when the subject was in warm evening sun - I usually work on a fixed colour temperature of 5560 K and then, if necessary, tweak the white balance in the post processing stage. It was a lot more than a tweak I had to make with these images. I was particularly pleased to get the image of the owl with its head upside-down. It is a bit blurred as it rotated its head very quickly and my settings were optimised for a static bird.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - undisclosed site on 19th January, 2016
The owl disappeared over the hedge line shortly after this and I packed up my hide and retreated to a corner of the plantation. It was soon back again and did make some close approaches, but the effects of the wrong white balance setting were even more extreme, and pretty-much unrecoverable. 

I've been there watching the owl again today, but I'm relatively sure that my images aren't up to much.

Thank you for dropping by.  I think that a post on my garden's winter visitors is overdue.