Thursday, 7 February 2013

Barn Owls

It was like Torvill without Dean, Smith without Wesson and Morecambe without Wise, or as my wife said unkindly Tweedledum without Tweedledee. Unfortunately Martin called me this morning and said he was indisposed therefore I was on my own (get well soon - I miss the banter). First problem - What to do?? We had planned to visit some Sussex Commons and then on to Waltham Brooks for another shot at the Barn Owls. Finally, I  decided to stick with the plan and made my way to Ambersham Common; to say it was lifeless would be an understatement, hardly a bird moving, though the Chaffinches are finding their voices. The lack of birds gave me an opportunity to explore some of the common's flora but I soon became bored and decided to move on.
I wasn't hopeful that any other common or heath would be more productive so I decided to make an early start at Waltham Brooks, giving me a chance to call in to the SF where Martin had previously found plenty of birds. I soon located a couple of Chiffchaffs who duly obliged, most odd ticking that box so early in the year.

I was concentrating on getting some Long-tailed Tits in the viewfinder when I was aware of a much bigger bird flying by - Barn Owl  - at 1300 precisely. I eventually located him sat on a fence post by the railway line, too distant for a shot.

Photographing owls is one of the most self delusional pastimes available to the birding photographer. Low light, high ISO, mobile and largely distant targets are a recipe for soft and noisy captures. The self delusion comes from the view you have on the LCD screen, what appears to be the action shot of the year on downloading to the computer, becomes another discard. Presented below are what I managed to rescue - and I thought I was doing so well.

There are definitely four owls present, probably five as I disturbed one on a fence post in the car park. On the way back to the car park an added bonus as I flushed a Bittern from the bank of the old canal.

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