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Monday, 12 March 2012

Hicks Lodge - on 11th March, 2012

I have a policy that I don't usually divulge the exact locations of my sightings of owls, but in this instance, the cat is well and truly out of the bag! On 1st March I was approached by someone from The Forestry Commission to see if they could use one of my Short-eared Owl images in a press release that they were about to put out about the SEOs at Hicks Lodge. I let them have a few to choose from, with certain provisos (which have been fully met so far!). I was shown a draft of the wording, and suggested some important changes, and also tried to get them to tone down their over-enthusiasm - "rare birds" and "twitchers flocking to Hicks Lodge" was just a bit too much! They'd also come up with "Owls About That Then!" as the title for the piece, but changed it to "Read Owl About It!" when I pointed out that their original idea was the title of my good friend Paul Riddle's blog, and they'd be stepping on toes.

On 2nd March I had a call to say that The Leicester Mercury was taking up the story and wanted to interview me over the phone. This happened later that day, and an article appeared in Saturday's edition and on their web site. However, the references to "rare" and "twitchers flocking" were still in there. I also didn't say that I thought they'd be there until the end of March.

Also on the Friday I had a call to arrange for me to meet up with Central Television on the Monday, but this never materialised as Port Vale were in trouble and the outside broadcast teams were sent there instead at short notice.

On 6th March I was asked if I would be willing to talk to Radio Leicester, and I had an outdoor interview with Kristina Hrywnak on Friday morning, together with the local Ranger. Kristina started by asking me to tell her about "The Red Owls"! I soon put her right, but it was only when we got back to the Centre at Hicks Lodge, that I saw where her confusion had come in - she'd got a transcript headed "Red Owl About It"!! The piece, which went out on the Breakfast Show on Saturday morning, was even more embarrassing, referring to "very rare birds".

Anyway, enough of that! On Sunday afternoon I went up to Hicks Lodge (what I used to refer to as my local SEO site). The sun was shining brightly, the Skylarks were out in force (seemed to indulging in mating rituals) and it wasn't long before a SEO arrived.

I was busy watching this owl when a lady arrived and asked if I was looking for the owls. She then told me about an article which had been in Friday's Ashby Times - yes, "rare birds" and "twitchers" again, but no interview with yours truly, although they did use my images. When she discovered that they were my images she set off home to get me a copy of the paper which she gave me a little while later  -  what a lovely lady!

Anyway, shortly after this the owl settled on a fence post, and I got my first ever image of a SEO with its 'ears' showing. These were, I believe, also amongst my best SEO images so far. Please don't forget you can click on them to see them at their best

Short-eared Owl - Hicks Lodge
I'd love to be able to take the twigs out of this last image and just leave the owl, the post and the barbed wire, but to do that with Corel Photopaint, which is what I use, would take many hours of hazardous use of the clone tool. I'd be grateful if someone can tell me if it would be a relatively easy job in Photoshop (Elements?).

I wouldn't be surprised if this was my last sighting of a SEO here (until next winter?), as I'm used to seeing two to four birds each time, but for the last two visits there's only been one bird (but not necessarily the same bird) seen.

I've already mentioned the Skylarks here, and these continue to delight (and the owls are partial to them too!).

Skylark - Hicks Lodge


  1. Hi Richard

    A very amusing account today, what with 'red' owls and all that 'twitcher' malarkey.

    These images are superb, and like you say, definitely your best portraits to date, in my opinion.

    It would be really easy in PS elements to get rid of those twigs. Personally I would used the magnetic lasso to 'cut out' the bird and create a new layer. Then, use clone tool to clone out the twigs using the colour around the twigs, removing any obvious signs of cloning with the healing tool. After that, flatten the layers.

    Just realised that this is probably not any easier than in Corel! The other thing, is that this is a method I have stumbled upon and there may be many an easier way that other people may know.

    Either way, the image is so good that it's very much worth it. I'd be happy to have a go.

    1. Thank you Christian. I've never worked with layers in Photopaint, but I'm sure it's in there. I also know that there's a 'magnetic lasso' tool, but have never used it. I'm not sure about a 'healing tool' however! I shall start to investigate!

  2. Hi Richard

    There are good tutorials on youtube for magnetic lasso, layering, cloning and healing - that's how I got to know about them. In photoshop elements 4, the healing brush is situated directly above the clone tool on the left-hand-side panel. Like I say, I'd be happy to have a go at the image for you though as it's such a cracker.

    1. Thank you Christian. I've been trying to get magnetic lasso to work in Photopaint, but so far had no success. Paul Riddle suggested just using the 'clone tool' to remove the dross, and I'll give that a try. Another thing I might try is using the 'eraser tool' to just leave what I want to keep, and then superimpose this on a different background. However, I'm not really into heavy manipulation of images as, to me anyway, it's a bit too much like faking it! So I'll not be doing much of that - and I don't have the time anyway!

  3. Very interesting, those are absolutely superb!!

    1. Thank you Alan - I feel that there's plenty of room for improvement, however!

  4. I do agree with you about the editing because it can be taken too far. Sometimes though, as long as you say what you've edited, I don't think it's a problem. For example, I cannot put up with pylons and power lines spoiling a natural scene so I will, in future mention when I've cloned out the power lines.

    1. I think that I too would make it a high priority to remove pylons from an image - definitely falls into the category of necessary editing!


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