Monday, 19 December 2011

A week of nothings!

Short-eared owl at Waltham Brooks,  by Christopher Mills.

Having secured some rather nice flight images of the Short-eared owls, I've moved on to pursuing more selective shots.

As of Monday last, my visits have seen me sat in the same spot beside a bush, under a scrim net. A few metres away is a branch I've embedded in the ground, behind it a pleasant backdrop of long grass and dark tree shapes above the horizon. Since the only tripod I possess has a aluminium finish, I've been using the monopod - not ideal, but at that range visual disturbance could be a factor; you have to consider these details with wild animals, their primary instinct is survival. A shiny, reflective surface (even under a net) could cause enough alarm to disturb or divert them. Fortunately the ground is soft enough to thoroughly wedge the monopod into the soil and firm enough support the weight of the kit; trying to hold it in position for hours on end would be tiresome.

The main problem is that the owls have been largely ignoring the perch! I'd give it a 50-1 chance on any given day that it'd be utilised, so the odds aren't great to start with. One female SEO (like Barn Owls, they are generally darker in colour than the male) did land on it on Monday - at gone 4pm when I was on my way back to the car. Typical! On a more positive note, the location I've picked seems good - I've had some fabulous views of the owls over my head and close by; one even landed a few feet away in the grass. I could have taken some half-decent landing or flight shots, but suddenly burst shooting at that range risks disturbing them. I've restricted myself to firing the shutter a couple of times (with camera aimed at nothing in particular!) so that the owls are used to the noise. It's disappointing to come away with nothing on the memory card, but there's no point blowing it for the same kind of shot I already have. I know what I want from the effort I'm putting in, if I get just one good image out it I'll be happy.

Having watched the owls for a while now, there's no clear preference for the type of perch they'll land on - except that it's usually close to some scrub or bushes. They appear comfortable with (or oblivious to) me, so I don't think I need to revise the location or set-up.

Hopefully I'll be able to report back later with a fine image or two. How long "later" will be is hard to predict!