For my birthday, our wonderful daughter, Melanie, kindly bought me an hour's photographic session with a falconer, Simon Tebbutt. I have mixed feelings about falconry, as I prefer to see birds in the wild, and sometimes I get the impression that there is little love lost between falconer and his birds. However, they do serve a useful purpose in getting people closer to the birds so that they can appreciate these splendid creatures and, hopefully, gain greater respect for their wild counterparts.
For the wildlife photographer, there are other benefits. An orchestrated photo session allows one to play with camera settings to establish what is best for the combination of plumage and light. Even more useful is the opportunity to hone one's skills for flight shots, if the session includes flying, as this one did - overall, an extremely useful practice session
The session was booked to be between 14h00 and 15h00 and I was asked by the falconer to be there by 13h30. As it was to take place near Rutland Water, I used my usual owling route for most of the journey, having a picnic lunch en-route - but only spotting one owl on the outward. I arrived in good time, but my confidence was not boosted by, after 13h30, people asking if I was the falconer. In the event the falconer and his daughter arrived a little after 13h45.
We were walked down to an area of grass where falconry facilities were set up. I was the only person for the photography session, the rest of the group (approximately 12 persons) were there for a two-hour handling session. We were then given the necessary Health and Safety briefing.
I was then taken by the falconer's daughter to the area where the birds were being held. They'd brought five birds;- a Barn Owl, an Eagle Owl, a Goshawk, a Harris Hawk, and a Red-tailed Hawk. If you know me, you'll not be surprised that I opted for a session with the Barn Owl first. I'll also point out that the light kept changing from brilliant sunshine to heavy cloud, and back - not easy when your subject is primarily white!
Just a quick note. Contrary to my normal practice these days, I'll not be giving scentific names for the species as cross breeding is rife in the falconry industry. Furthermore, I did consider doing some removal of jesses, etc. in the post processing but decided against it as that would be falsifying the record.
|Barn Owl (male)|
Following this, I had a session with the Eagle Owl. Doug and Noushka, if you're reading this, have a look at those feet in the second image - my, that bird looks powerful!
|Eagle Owl (male)|
Having tried some shots of the Eagle Owl in a different location, I asked for another session with the Barnie at that location too, but it didn't work so well.
|Barn Owl (male)|
I'd missed the flying session with the Goshawk whilst the above was taking place, but I was called over for the flying sesion with the Harris Hawk. I was told that, because this is not an everyday venue for these birds, the birds had to be tethered or there would be a risk of losing them. A very long cord was attached to the jesse of the bird, with the other end being held at the receiving end. The falconer's daughter (sorry, but I've forgotten your name) took the bird to the limit of the cord and, on indication from the falconer, released the bird which then flew to the baited glove. Here's a few of the Harris Hawk.
|Harris Hawk (female)|
Whilst the falconer was setting up for the Red-tailed Hawk, I had a static session with the Goshawk. I'd have loved to had a session with this one flying!
|Red-tailed Hawk (female)|
It had been a very interesting and exciting experience and, by the end of the hour, I'd fired off 772 frames!
Wanting to make a day of it, and not being expected back for tea until early evening, I headed off for the Egleton side of Rutland Water. My main objective was to find some dragonflies, but I wasn't over-successful.
By the small pond near the visitor centre, I photographed a couple of butterflies.
|Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Rutland Egleton|
|Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata) (male) - Rutland Egleton|
On the way to Redshank Hide, I stopped for a while to try and get some images of a male Banded Demoiselle. There's plenty of room for improvement in my efforts, but these are some of my better ones!
|Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Rutland Egleton|
On the approach to Redshank hide there were a number of damselflies, including Common Emerald, which I tried to photograph and failed miserably. I did, however, manage some of Common Blue Damselfly and of Ruddy Darter.
|Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Rutland Egleton|
|Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (female) - Rutland Egleton|
|Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (immature male) - Rutland Egleton|
From Redshank Hide there was little bird life showing. I did see Brown Hawker, and probable Common Darter dragonflies, and also this distant Four-spotted Chaser.
|Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (female) - Rutland Egleton|
It was now time for me to start setting of homewards. The day was truly completed by seeing Little Owls at four different sites on my way home, although none were photographically cooperative! I can't leave a post with Little Owl sightings without an image, so here's one from that day.
|Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.46|
I'd had another splendid day - thank you Melanie, and shot well over a thousand frames! Thank you, also, to Simon Tebbutt and particularly his daughter for looking after me so well.
Thank you for dropping by. Next time it'll be back to the natural world!