Friday, 27 August 2010

Snetterton Touring Cars... At last!

                                                        Jason Plato - RML Silverline

It's taken a while, but I've finally got around to sorting out my BTCC images from three weeks ago.

When I arrived at the circuit at 7.30am the skies were grey, the rain was falling and it generally looked like being one of those days were light would be at a premium. I set up accordingly, begrudgingly leaving the Circular Polarizer (which helps negate light reflecting off bodywork and windows) and setting out with the 1.4 TC on the 300mm lens, with 1.7 stashed in the pocket in case it brightened up a bit... How wrong can you be. Once in position at the Esses, move and you're going to be struggling to find a decent spot - so when the sky cleared and made way for bright sunshine, it was bad news. For motorsport, unless you're lucky enough to catch a smash or other incident that requires a fast shutter speed, you really want to be below 1/400th of a second. You also want a wide aperture to blur out the background as much as possible, otherwise you're freezing the wheels and end up with a bundle of shots of cars that looked parked and a background that takes the eye away from the main subject. Realistically, you're always going to struggle to achieve the ideal shots in bright sun without the aid of Neutral Density filters - which at present I don't own. So this made leaving the CP behind a bad choice, which cost me the ability to get down an extra couple of stops.

By the time Race 2 came around, the position of the sun was against me. Reflections can kill car shots and without a media pass, you're very limited as to where you can get the necessary angles. Thankfully Snetterton is one of the better circuits for this - had it been Thruxton I doubt I'd have come away with anything I was happy with. Even so, I'm still tutting at the schoolboy error of leaving the CP behind... It shows the importance of planning your day properly and taking the right kit with you.

The image attached to this post is Jason Plato, who had a pretty good weekend, cutting the high kerb at the Esses (probably getting a bone-crunching bump on the way down). Click on it to get to my Flickr and see the best of the rest from my day out in Norfolk....

Saturday, 7 August 2010

All Gone... Nearly

Tiring work, being an Owl
It appears that congratulations are in order... Dad has performed miracles, seemingly on his own, to successfully raise 5 owlets whom have all now left the nest, bar one.

Having not seen any of the young for three days, I assumed they had all flown. However, late last night there was suddenly a owl-sized white bundle hurtle down from the nestbox and land on the post at the front of the tree. At 9.15pm on a cloudy evening, it was near impossible to identify which bird it was... but from the way it proceeded to throw itself ungracefully into a large nearby bush I think it can be safely assumed to be one of the juveniles.

The adult male has not returned that I have seen, although he has been spotted around the farm. So we know he is ok and has likely decided it's time the youngsters looked after themselves. A good plan, but he may have done himself out of a roost in the process! It will be interesting to see how long the homely juvenile is tolerated. Young Barn Owls very rarely stay around the area they were reared; average distance of dispersal is around seven miles, but some go further. It's possible - if it's a female - that she will not be driven away if mum is no longer around. If it's a young male he will soon be given his marching orders when Dad decides he wants his nestbox back.

I'm as certain as I can be there is no second brood, which always seemed at the far end of optimistic. We won't see much of him/them now until early 2011 with any luck. If we do, it probably means feeding isn't so good - and I'd rather think he's keeping well and has no need to hunt during the day. We could do with a mild winter; the lengthy cold last year has, according to estimates, decimated the Barn Owl population. There could be as few as 1,000 breeding pairs left. A mild winter would increase the chances of this year's brood and older birds surviving to breed and start increasing numbers again.  Juvenile Barn Owls across the country are entering a critical stage - the next three to six months are likely to be their toughest as they look for a home and experience their first winter. 50% of those who don't make it will be killed on roads. Please keep an eye out for them when you're driving, particularly on major roads, it might just save an Owl's life.

There's obviously been little to shoot over the past week, so I've posted up one of my favourite shots - three of the young napping at the front of the box. It proved near impossible to get this, the bright bush you can see at the bottom of the frame and the dark leaves of the tree usually obscure the front of the nest box completely during summer. On this occasion a gust of wind somehow swirled around enough to blow them in different directions.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Missing Mum (and where's Dad?)

Missing: Adult Female

My hope that the adult female is sitting on another clutch of eggs seems unlikely now. This morning it became clear that the Owlets who remain completely dependent on Dad are still sleeping in the nestbox. I dug back into the pictures I've taken since May and found the shots I got from the only time I recall seeing Mum and to me she looks like she needed a good meal.. two months ago. My fear that she has met her demise seems - sadly- more realistic. On the other hand, I'm no expert... it may be normal that the younger female Barn Owl is less "stout" than a male of advanced years.

Also bothering me is that Dad hadn't shown up tonight by 9.30pm when I left. A number of the juveniles were hopping between posts and flying around the field, but no sign of him. Maybe he's decided that they need a little encouragement to hunt for themselves? It seemed to be working, if that was the case. To end this update on a more positive note, the eldest Owlet may well have left the nest for good. She has been seen catching her own food and has not returned to the field (in daylight, anyway) for a couple of days. If so, she looked well set for the journey ahead. She needs some luck now finding her own patch - away from roads and with plenty of rodents to keep her going through the winter. Her first year will likely be the toughest.