Thursday, 22 July 2010

So close...

It wasn't until seven thirty that I was able to get out and about. For some reason I went looking for grebes at the local nature reserve, I think because the sun was bright and in the west. Alas I was about an hour too late and the lake was almost all in shadow. Somewhere more open would be well lit, so I took a circuitous route to the barn owl site near the mere.

This route took me out by the river to another barn owl location. Before I reached the bridge I stopped off for a look at a wild field when I saw a crow drop something as I pulled up to survey the area. What had been dropped was the remains of a red legged partridge. I doubt the crow had killed it, but something had. Leaving the scene of the crime I was at the bridge in no time at all. As soon as I got out of the car I saw the owl heading towards me parallel with the bank. I ducked down at the side of a parked van and took some shots. The light was great, low and rosy.

A slight crop of owl no.1

The owl didn't really come close enough, and I was a bit far away even if if it had reached the the road, but probably as close I have got. It turned east and headed along the hedgerow, passing the spot where I had been looking at the partridge corpse a few minutes earlier. Then it skipped up over the road and away. These owls cover some miles when out hunting, their range must be quite some acreage. I tried capturing some swallows in flight, but really I wanted to get to the other owl site so the interlude was short one.

Leaning on the gate there was no sign of the owl at the next location. I set off back down the lane for a look across another field. I hadn't gone more than twenty yards when I saw an owl fly across the road I had just driven along! I'd not seen it covering that area before. It was almost instantly lost from view though. I went back to leaning on the gate, shooting a few hopeless landscapes to while away the time before the owl reappeared. If it would.

It did so quite soon. It had worked its way back up the fields towards the beech trees lining the far side of a drain running away from me. I caught a glimpse or two of it through the trees. However it turned and headed off out of sight. When I caught another glimpse of it it was far off, but heading back towards me along a ditch line to my left. It angled in and came closer and closer. I managed some distant shots taking in the landscape.

A crop of owl no.2 heading my way

I was all set for a nice fly-by when it veered off course. I was tucked in between the hedge end and the gate for cover and the owl became hidden from view by the hawthorn. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I tried squeaking the owl in as I'd been told would work. Something I hadn't mastered before, but using the back of my hand I managed some weird squeaking and squealing sounds. Completely taking me by surprise the owl loomed out from behind the hawthorn branches not twenty yards from me, but obscured. I couldn't get it framed, even though it hovered briefly and pounced to the ground. When I did get it framed focusing went to pot.

Full frame...

The bird can't have spooked as it flew off just as it had come. With no haste at all. By the time I had regained my composure it was too late. My best effort was a rear-view!

...but no cigar.

The owl disappeared into the distance again, eventually crossing the distant road and out on to the mere. With the light fading I once more left for home feeling partly satisfied, and partly disappointed. Next time...

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