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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.

54 comments:

  1. 'taken when the light had all but gone'....I more than quite like it Richard, and 'the owl with the upside-down head'....Amazing.

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    1. Thank you, Pete, for your kind words of encouragement.

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  2. Yet another masterclass in photography,these are excellent captures,love every image.
    John.

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    1. Very kind words indeed, John, Thank you. I had great pleasure in taking these images. Best wishes to you both - - Richard

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  3. All your photographs are wonderful but the upside down head one made me laugh. great capture

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    1. Thank you, Margaret. I'm delighted that it gave you some amusement.

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  4. These are as near perfect as anyone could expect or wish for. I hear owls here but have only seen one once.

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    1. Thank you, Adrian. I'm still hoping for better. I might even go for some video of the bird when it's on the pole. I hope that your weather is getting somewhat less wet and more crisp. Best wishes - - Richard

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  5. Firstly you'll never bore me with images both of this quality and the species itself. They are a rather special bird as are the images.
    I too like the one on the curved post/fence line. And the last set on the post with the upside down head, I guess both of you got a cricked neck lol.
    But I like the flight shots they're beautiful Richard especially the one with it scratching mid flight

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    1. Thank you, Doug. Your blog header image is still setting the standard, and the target that one day I hope to achieve.

      I hope that you have a great weekend - not sure about the weather, however! Best wishes - - - Richard

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    1. Thank you, Anne. I would like to photograph the owl in some of your Finnish snow! Best wishes - - Richard

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  7. Oh yes, the beautiful images of this Owl, I must get one. Well captured Richard.

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    1. Thank you, Bob. I hope you find one, and I look forward to seeing your results.

      With my very best wishes - - - Richard

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  8. Beautiful pictures Richard, you can never bore me with your pictures of the lovely Short-eared owl, keep them coming. I don't blame you making the most of this wonderful owl so close to your home.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. I will try to keep the images interesting. I certainly intend to make the most of this owl's presence - it could decide to move on at any time. The last time I had opportunities like this, close to home, was three years ago! I'm hoping, however, that it will hang around for a month or two yet before it decides it's time to head north again.

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  9. Super images Richard, you are so lucky to be able to get so close. I likewise find I keep getting pulled back to see them some more
    John

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    1. Thank you, John. They certainly are mesmerising creatures! I could watch them all day! Sadly, I find that I'm neglecting the Little Owls a bit at the moment, but you have to take the opportunities whilst they are there. Wishing you all the best with your own efforts - - - Richard

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  10. Hello Richard, I wish I could say that I am boring people with these kind of pictures. They are fantastic. Your discription of how they came about is wonderful to read. Congratulations with your new camera. I once had a D7100 now I take photos with a D610.
    In March I am off for two weeks to Israel to vissit friends an hope to see some birds. Migration time there!
    Regards,
    Roos

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    1. Thank you for your words of encouragement, Roos. I'm very pleased with the D7200, but more than a little frustrated! I'd been waiting for a couple of years for a more up-to-date replacement for the D300s. During the last half of 2015 I'd asked Nikon about the situation and also asked my usual retailer, and come to the conclusion that I'd probably be waiting for ever - so I gave up waiting and bought the D7200. Three weeks later they announced the D500!!! Having said that, I take comfort in the fact that the D7200 was less than half the price of the D500.

      With my best wishes - - - Richard

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    2. Hello Richard, I answerd your writing on my latest blog about the alining of the lens etc.
      Regards,
      Roos

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    3. Thank you, Roos. I'll check out the possibilities here!

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  11. How could anyone ever get bored with photos like this, they are superb. If only I understood my camera better may be I could get some really good photos but the settings are mostly beyond me. I get the odd good one through sheer luck, the Nikon is very clever :-) Hope all is well Diane

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    1. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, Diane. I've still got a lot to learn about my camera and photography in genral, but it helps that I'm having to find ways of taking photos in difficult lighting situations or of moving subjects.

      All is pretty good here, thank you. I hope your over your nasty virus that you picked up in UK at Christmas. Best wishes - - - Richard

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  12. It must be quite expensive to have hired that owl from the modeling agency to pose so you can practice with that new camera. I must say, though, you're getting some decent results. You may need to speak to the make-up artist as I detected one shot with a bit of shine on the model's beak. Not off-putting, but a professional model should do better. The contact lens insertion simulating nictitating membranes during the upturned head shot was brilliant! Almost looked real.

    Well, since I'm bored now with viewing image after STUNNING image of your Short-eared Owl model, I'll retire to the back yard and sit with my own excuse for a camera poised just in case a finch accidentally crashes into the feeder.

    Have a nice day.

    (Seriously, Richard, this series of photographs was truly outstanding! I absolutely love the perch on the curve of the fence. Wonderful!)

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    1. Gee! Shucks, Wally - don't give the game away!!

      Thank you for the smiles on my face. My very best wishes to you both - - - Richard

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  13. My goodness, Richard, what an amazing series of pics here again!
    I would die for such an opportunity, LOL!
    Thank you for your in depth comments on my goldcrests and the sparrowhawk.
    I didn't have a chance at seeing the Glodcrest looking straight at me, but considering the side black markings, I believe easily the bird has a 'sad' look! It must be quite funny!
    I got another set of pics of the sparrowhawk yesterday, I am quite cross with myself: as he flew off his perch, I got the flight shot perfectly framed but the camera went to focus in the background :( Haha!!
    Keep well and warm hugs to share with Lindsay :)

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    1. Thank you for your very kind comments, Noushka.

      I can understand your frustration with the misfocus on your Sparrowhawk. I guess that approximately 50% of my Short-eared Owl flight shots result in the camera having focussed on the background and around 25% of the rest suffer from the focus tracking not having been able to keep up with the speed of the bird. It just makes it more satisfying, however, when things work as hoped for!!

      Just going upstairs to share those hugs with Lindsay! Perhaps I should add that she's in her study! My very best wishes - - Richard

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  14. Wow...what a fantastic series of images!

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Silver Parrot.

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  15. These are amazing images! I love owls, and I don't think I've seen better photos.

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  16. Wow, awesome series on the Owl.

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    1. Thank you, Eileen. I hope that you managed to miss the worst of the snow over there!

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  17. One word can only describe this series of owl images........SPECTACULAR!!!

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    1. Thank you, Anni. I'm delighted that you enjoyed it.

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  18. Hello!:) This is my first visit, and I'm so impressed with your beautiful photographs, and have never seen better images.:)

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    1. Thank you so much for your visit and your very kind words, 'Breathtaking'. Please come back again sometime! Best wishes - - Richard

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  19. These photos are just breath-taking! I love the light shining through the owl's feathers! His head turned upside down is so cute. The in-flight shots are amazing, and the shots on the pole! Well, I loved them all! How wonderful to have your chair-hide and can get such marvelous photos! Thanks also for sharing them!

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    1. Those are very kind words indeed, Marie. Thank you for them, and your visit. I don't use that chair-hide very often, but it is very useful sometimes. The problem is that it's too comfortable and, particularly in warm weather, I tend to fall asleep in it!

      With best wishes - - - Richard

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  20. These really are such splendid birds - and your pictures are great.

    The grass in my Pacific Golden Plovers is by the side of the runway - I have edited the post for clarity!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thank you, Stewart. I wasn't sure of the status of that airstrip - some of our UK island airstrips are just grass, as you probably well know! I guess that Lord Howe Island is probably a significant destination and enjoys somewhat superior facilities!

      Best wishes - - Richard

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  21. Just amazing!!! I am so envious you have this fellow around. I am surprised that this species extends across continents butI know that it does...just always surprised:) This is an owl I'd like to observe more. Our Great Horned Owls have returned here again and today she's on a nest:)Thanks for keeping an eye out on owls:)

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Chris. I've been keeping an eye on the Great Horned Owl Cam at The Landings, Savannah GA, (http://hdontap.com/index.php/video/stream/great-horned-owl-cam#) and see that the owl is back there too!

      Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

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  22. So glad you looked at our book club blog and was so interested in the David Crockett book! Hope you find it...you can also get used books, sometimes in pristine condition, through abebooks.com. It has vendors from all over the world and I buy almost all my books through this site. Check it out! Glad for another chance to look again at your amazing photos of this beautiful owl!!!!

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    1. Thank you for the Abe Books suggestion, Marie. I do have an account with them and have found them very useful in the past. Found the Crockett book on Amazon, however. Best wishes - - - Richard

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  23. Not hard to get gob smacked by Short-eared Owls, Richard. I am on the final day of a fabulous two weeks in Costa Rica and will be home around midnight tomorrow. I hope to be back at my blog soon but I have about fifteen hundred pictures to edit before I do anything else!

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    1. Delighted to hear that the Costa Rica visit went well, David. I'll be looking forward to reading your report and seeing your images of some of the birds you saw. I wish you both a safe and comfortable journey home, and hope that you don't feel the cold too much when you get there!

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I'm pleased to report that the anonymous spam problem seems to be solvable without using word verification. I'm now just using the 'Registered Users - includes OpenID' option in Blogger settings, and I'm not getting any spam - touch wood! I've also not received any contact from people saying that they are no longer able to make comments.