Monday, 12 July 2010

You never can tell

I popped out with the sun shining after tea intending to hit the marsh and nail some meadow pipit pics. En route the sun disappeared before I got to the first spot I was going to take a look at. Last time I visited this reserve it was looking for butterflies with the close up gear. This time I was equipped with the big lens. Naturally there was hardly a bird to be seen, but there were butterflies galore. I made a feeble attempt with the 150-500 but it didn't work out. The closest focusing distance is way too long.

Small copper

As the light wasn't top hole I changed direction and headed to the lane where I'd photographed the swallows feeding their young. A corn bunting was in evidence but little else. I was about to leave when a barn owl flew into view a way off across the nearby field. It soon made its way out of sight through a row of beeches. I hung around hoping it might return, dithering as to driving further down the lane in the direction the owl had gone. Eventually that was what I did.

Parking up again I got out of the car, without the camera, and leant on a gate to scan the surrounding fields. There was a blackbird singing in the hawthorn by my side which suddenly got agitated. I couldn't work out why, until the owl came into sight flying up the ditch towards me turning through the beech trees and away. I kicked myself. The owl was close enough for a good shot.

Back to the car for the camera in the vain hope the owl would give me an encore. It took a long time for it to reappear, and when it did I was taken by surprise as it materialised between the beech trunks coming across my line of sight from right to left. I took some photos, which could have been better.

For about an hour I watched the owl hunting over a wide area, mostly far away. At one point it made a kill and I saw it fly off with its prey. But it disappeared from view before I could pinpoint where it was heading. When it reappeared it was from a different direction. Maybe it wasn't the same owl. The light was getting worse so I decided to drive round and see if the owl was visible from the opposite direction, so I could get the setting sun (such as it was) behind me. As I left the light improved...

My route took me past a favourite singing post of a well known, and I think often photographed, corn bunting. There it was singing away. The lane is narrow and a four by four was approaching, I let it pass and pulled over. The bird was undeterred, just looking disdainfully at me through the window as I fired away! The first time I took this bird's picture the results were a little soft despite good light. This time the light wasn't quite so good but the photos were much crisper. I think the time in the lens hospital has improved things.

Corn bunting

Leaving the bunting behind when an approaching car forced me to move I kept an eye out for the barn owl without any luck. I did see a hare, which stopped in the middle of the road and legged it back where it had come from as I approached it. A small dark shape scurrying at the edge of the tarmac a couple of hundred yards further on turned out to be a weasel. With no sign at all of the barn owl I was now heading away from its territory.

I'd seen a photo posted on the web of a little owl perched on a tall street light where the road I was taking crosses a dual carriage way. I've looked for it a few times with no joy and as I waited for traffic to pass I glanced up again and looked away. It was double take time. There was a small dark blob at the top of the lamp post! As soon as I was across the central reservation I pulled over and got out - with my camera. Two or three shots over the car roof, and then move closer behind a road sign. The light was quite poor by now and the lamp very high. Still, it was another species photographed. I tried one step more but the owl, that had clocked me straight away, was having none of it. I hadn't planned an owl hunt, but things turned out quite interesting in the end.

Little owl

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