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Thursday, 29 March 2018

When Everything Comes Together - mid-March, 2018

Some of you will be aware that I was on a family holiday to the Isles of Scilly in the middle of March. I also know that a few of you are aware that I had one particularly exciting experience during that stay.

There's a build up to this story which will feature in a future post, when I have finished processing all the photos I took during the stay. Here, however, I'll cut to the chase.

Saturday, 17th March

A report appeared on Birdguides saying that a Snowy Owl had been seen that day on Tresco, North End. I'd already had an unsuccessful attempt at this bird on the Tuesday, after it had been reported as being on Bryher. I made a quick check down at the harbour and found that, coincidentally, a St. Mary's Boatmens' boat was going to Tresco for the day the next day, departing at 10.15. What is more, a check of the local weather forecast revealed that there would be very cold conditions overnight with a chance of snow. It sounded tempting!

Sunday, 18th March

We woke up to a light covering of snow. I checked and found that the boat would drop off at Carn Near Quay at the southern tip of the island. This meant more than doubling the walk that I would have to get to the north end of the island compared with that from a drop-off at New Grimsby. I found the prospect of what I thought would be a six mile (9 km) walk, a significant part of which would be over rough terrain, a little daunting. It had been a long while since I had walked that distance, and I didn't have waterproof boots.

I went out to take some photos in the snow behind the property, and came back just as the snow started falling really heavily. I returned to find an email from Bob Dawson informing me of the owl, and of the boat times. Happily, my wife and daughter both encouraged me to 'go for it' and, with iron rations in my pocket, I set off.

On the boat, I noted one other person with binoculars. This turned out to be a local nature lover and teacher, Nigel Bray, who was going over to Tresco to do some work at North End in connection with a school trip the following week, but who also intended to look for the owl.

We took a circuitous walk to North End and spent some time searching. We'd given up, and said our goodbyes as Nigel needed to continue with his work, and I was taking some landscape images when Nigel shouted from about 100 metres down the path as the Snowy Owl flew across in front of him.

This gave me what will possibly be my bird images of a lifetime. Snow in the Scillies - almost unheard of. Snowy Owl in the Scillies - this is the third in 10 years. Photos of a Snowy Owl in snow in the Scillies - my dream came true, and I'm still buzzing with excitement!

More details will be in my account of the full trip to the Scillies in a week or two.

Coming up to date

Having had a more than encouraging response to one of my Snowy Owl images that I posted on Twitter, I decided to submit one to Birdguides a week ago. Yesterday I was notified that I'd got POTW (Photo of the Week).  This also is something that I'd dreamed of achieving one day. 

My extremely grateful thanks to Bob Dawson for his encouragement, to Nigel Bray for spotting the bird, to all the lovely people who have made kind comments about my Snowy Owl photo, and to Steve Young at Birdguides for his citation, my reaction to which was much the same as my reaction was after seeing and photographing the bird - frequent chuckles interspersed with holding back tears of joy!

Here's the citation:

Author: Steve Young
Comment: A Snowy Owl posing nicely on what looks to be the Arctic tundra in the heart of winter takes this week's winning spot ... apart from this striking image was actually taken by Richard Pegler on Tresco, Isles of Scilly, in mid-March! Snow on Scilly is rare enough, perhaps even rarer than a Snowy Owl, and the two combined together have produced a unique image that will stand the test of time.

This is a truly lovely photo. The owl has assumed a nice pose and appears relaxed, with the head turned towards the camera, yellow eyes open but not alarmed. Exposure is spot on, with detail in the plumage and the landscape is perfect. One of those that I look at and think "I wish I'd taken that", particularly as both the owl and the snow would have been Scilly ticks for me! Congratulations to Richard on his winning image, taken with the 500 mm end of a 50-500mm zoom, at 1/640 th second, f11 on ISO640.

And here's the image (please 'click the pic' to see it at the size it was submitted at):

I hope that you will excuse me 'blowing my own trumpet', but I am rather excited. This will probably remain the absolute highlight of my wildlife photography efforts!

I should be back to normal for my next post!


  1. Congratulations, Richard. This is an absolutely splendid event from every perspective, a real coming together of unlikely circumstances, but the link in it all was your dogged determination to go and find the bird. And the picture is a masterpiece. Miriam joins me in offering our sincere congratulations for a job well done, and for creating your own lifetime memory. Now go and have a few more moments of smugness -you have earned them.

    1. Thank you, David. The grin has not started to fade yet! I do realise that I'm now free to visit Canada when the temperatures are more acceptable, and am no longer torn by the desire to visit in the cold of winter in order to see your Snowies!

      Have a great Easter - - - Richard

  2. Oh wow, and congratulations Richard, quite a feather in your cap. So glad that you were determined enough to track the bird down, and for Nigel calling you back when it seemed all was in vain. I have to say I am extremely jealous of this lifetime memory, and of you winning photo of the week. Have a fabulous Easter, best wishes Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane. I am still reeling from the way so many elements all lined up to make this happen. Have a great Easter yourselves - - - Richard

    I can well understand you excitement!
    My goodness, what a "catch"!!!
    It reminds me of the Ruffed grouse I photographed, also quite a grail!
    Moments like these are are utterly thrilling! :)
    Well done, congrats my friend, wish I had been there with you!
    Enjoy the end of the week,
    I'm off to Spain tomorrow (LOL!!!) but I am not very positive about interesting photography, it rained way too much, but who knows???....

    1. Thank you, Noushka. I still can't believe how lucky I was, and I am relatively confident that it was only myself and Nigel that witnessed this amazing situation.

      Have a great Easter in Spain. I hope the weather is kind to you. Take good care - - - Richard

    2. Thanks Richard!
      Well I am back and not much luck and only 1 sunny day :(
      But I managed a couple of nice shots.
      All the same, I am getting very excited with my next trip this one to Okavango and Kalahari ;-)
      I hope you experience more interesting observations in the spring
      Best wishes to you both :)

    3. So sorry to hear that the weather wasn't kind to you in Spain, Noushka. I'm looking forward to seeing what those 'nice shots' were!

      A trip to Okavango (not heard of it!) and the Kalahari (stuff of legends) sounds wonderful. Take good care - - - Richard

  4. Blow your own trumpet indeed. A shot of a lifetime and one that should be framed and hung in your house as a daily reminder of the experience. Big congrats. Well done.

    1. Thank you for those kind words, Marc. I have to confess that I already have a framed print of the bird on my 'owl wall' in my study. It now features 6 species of owl that I have photographed in the wild in UK!

      Best wishes to you and the family for Easter - - - Richard

  5. Congratulations Richard,this is an outstanding shot,pure masterpiece,when I first saw it on Birdguides, thought this is a winner.
    I also agree with Marc,this image should Hang in the hall of Fame,well done.

    1. Thank you, John for your kind words, both here and on Birdguides - very much appreciated. I hope that you and Sue have a great Easter - - - Richard

  6. Hello Richard
    I am sooooo jealous ...;-)) but congratulations to this stunning picture, because you can really be very proud of you and your photo art ...
    because you recognize the professional at work ...
    happy Easter
    greet Frank

    1. Thank you for those kind words, Frank - and a very happy Easter to you too. Best wishes - - - Richard

  7. You should blow your trumpet Richard and definately not be apologetic for doing so.
    I think the citation sums it up perfectly especially the two bits 1)perfectly relaxed bird which is credit to your fiedlcraft not only with birds but other wildlife 2) 'one I wish I'd taken' I think every togger in the land (me including but with a few swear words too) is wishing they'd taken and you get Picture of the Week and unless the rules have changed also entered into Photo of the Year and I reckon it'll feature too.
    Well done, but where's it's feet :-)

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Doug, but come on, the odds were stacked high enough without having to find its bl--dy feet under all those feathers and snow!!! - ;-}

      With my best wishes - - - Richard

  8. Fantastic shot of a Snowy Owl on the Scily Isles. Your picture so deserves to numbero uno for Birdguides Richard.

    1. Thank you, Bob. Your kind words are much appreciated. Best wishes - - - Richard

  9. Replies
    1. Thank you so much for those two kind words, Fin - very much appreciated. My best wishes to you, your Mum and Dad, and Harley for a happy Easter. Keep up the good work - - - Richard

  10. Hi Richard,
    a really beautiful photo of the snowy owl / The snow owl is also one of the most beautiful owls out there :-) And I also have to congratulate you because your photo has been chosen as photo of the week. Really super that you have won this title.

    Kind regards, Helma

    1. Thank you, Helma, for your kind words. The Snowy Owl is a spectacular bird and I have been dreaming for a long while that one day I might see one in the wild. I was contemplating a visit to Finland or Canada. Now I don't have to travel!!

      With my very best wishes. Take good care - - - Richard

  11. Wow!!! Absolutamente extraordinario!!! La foto es una maravilla con una luz inmejorable para esta especie que me fascina. Enhorabuena Richard, todo lo mejor desde España.

    1. Gracias por esas palabras tan amables, Germán. Con mis mejores deseos de un soleado Inglaterra - - - Richard


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