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Monday, 26 December 2011

The Run-up To Christmas, 2011

I guess, for most people, the run-up to Christmas has been a busy time, with limited opportunities to get out to enjoy more natural pastimes. It's been the same for me, and the changeable weather hasn't helped much. 

Wednesday 21st December

I had to get in more supplies of wild bird food for my garden feeders. I use the excellent range available from Prince Farm Feeds just outside Kings Bromley. I get on particularly well with Johnson & Jeffs Premium which they sell for £20 for a 20 kg sack. 

I set of for Kings Bromley after a late-ish lunch, diverging briefly to look at Whitemoor Haye in the hope of seeing owls. It was a really dull day, so I didn't fancy spending much time here. There were a few hundred Mute Swans in a field of what looked like cabbages to my uneducated eyes. Further round I found a flock of possibly a couple of hundred Fieldfare (the most that I've ever seen at one sitting). On the bank between the road and the quarry there was a flock of a couple of hundred or so Starling. As I departed from the area a huge flock of Lapwing (possibly around three hundred) suddenly rose out of a crop which had been hiding their presence.

Fieldfare - Whitemoor Haye
I came away from Kings Bromley with 40 kg of birdseed which should last me until after the Christmas period! I had intended returning to Whitemoor Haye on my way home, but as I set off, it seemed that the weather was brightening up. I had to make a quick decision as to whether to stick with this intention, or rushing back towards home and the local Short-eared Owls. The decision was made on the basis that it was a bit breezy, and therefore I was not so likely to be seeing Little Owls out as I was Shorties - so homeward I went!

Unfortunately, as I approached the SEO site it got extremely dull, and I started to regret my choice. It was also a bit late when I arrived (just after 15.00). No owls were seen for a while and then I saw one which almost immediately perched on a fence post. It was very inconveniently positioned in that the fence was running directly away from me and there was no way I could position myself to view it from any other way. However, there was an up side to this in that the hedge along the fence allowed me to get a little closer without disturbing the bird. Photography through the hedge was, however, not easy in the poor light (lens at 500 mm, 1/60 sec at ISO 1600 hand held) !

Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch

A strange result of shooting through bushes, and the fence running away from me, is that virtually everything is out of focus except the bird, strongly emphasising the bird! I still can't make my mind up whether I like this effect. I keep hoping that, one day, I'll get the opportunity for a nicely positioned SEO in good light!

Thursday 22nd December

The day dawned bright, still, and sunny - lovely weather for owl photography - so my wife decided that she needed a break from Christmas preparations. Now, she's been really busy and more than deserved a day out so I was more then happy to oblige. Her chosen destination was Caudwell's Mill in Derbyshire, where there are craft shops, etc. Sadly the gallery, which was the main reason for going, was closed when we got there (although the web site indicated that it would be open!). However, I did get the opportunity to photograph a Little Grebe in the warm sunlight that was reflecting off the vegetation. I had to stand on tiptoe to take these photos as the grebe was up on the mill race, and I was at a lower level.

Little Grebe - Caudwell's Mill, Derbyshire
 I had been hoping that we'd be back in time for me to get my local Short-eared Owl site again, but by the time we'd had a Chinese meal in Ashbourne, and explored some of the shops there (it's a great centre for antiques), it was too late. Oh well!!


  1. Brilliant collection Richard,love the Short Eared Owl,my favourite is the Fieldfare,must try to get out soon.

  2. Thank you John. It's not so easy getting out at this time, is it! Family commitments, excessive consumption of toxic substances, and sheer exhaustion all conspire to get in the way!!

  3. Good always the seo my favorite, is special for me to see and owl in day time...

  4. Thank you El Campero. Wishing you all the best for 2012!

  5. Hi Richard.

    Beautifully lit Little Grebe shots, well done indeed. Lovely SEO shots too with nicely diffused backgrounds.

  6. Thank you, Christian, for your kind comments. For me, on reflection, I think that the immediate backgrounds are rather over-diffused for my liking.


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