Photographing muntjac and barn owls?

02nd May 2008
In: News
My current project is to photograph a barn owl and several muntjac pairs that reside just a few hundred yards from my home. They are located in Hampton Nature reserve near Peterborough. I first spotted them a couple of weeks ago and have spent most evenings since then trying to photograph them. Despite seeing them on almost every outing I've failed to either get close enough or get hands and tripod to fumble quickly enough. I'm heartened by the fact that even some top predators only nail their quarry once in every twenty attempts. Give me a month.

24th March
I had noticed on my two previous sightings of the barn owl that it likes to use a specific silver birch stump as a perch. Having seen the owl at around 6.30pm on both occassions I set myself up in a nice concealed position nearby at around 5pm and waited. At just before 6.30pm I noticed a muntjac creep out from a thicket about 60 yards away. Now, I should stop here and mention that I have a rule with my photoshoots - if I have an objective then I must stick to it. But having a muntjac so close and seemingly oblivious to my presence I thought that I should focus on what was available. I picked up my camera and tripod and began to creep between the loosely spaced trees of the reserve. Crack! My foot lands on one of the many twigs strewn across the woodland floor and the muntjac scuttles into a bramble bush. Seconds later the barn owl veers round a corner towards me, before spotting my shambling bulk and banking off to the left. I instantly knew what was going to happen next; the owl detoured round me and fluttered up to his favourite silver birch stump. With a heavy heart I began to approach the owl with little hope of capturing a shot. Sure enough the eagle-eyed owl launched back into flight before I'd taken 5 steps.
I'd broken my own rule and could quite happily have broken my camera by blugeoning it against my half-witted head. I traipsed back gibbering to myself that next time I would remain unwavering in my objective even if a pride of lions roll up and start dancing to the Macarena. A lesson learned.

2nd May
Yesterday was the first day since my last entry that I've actually seen the Barn Owl. Ever since the clocks went forward the owl has found a new hunting site which I've only just discovered. Unfortunately I recently broke my long lens after a spectacularly clumsy dismount off a log! But since I promised myself some Barn Owl photos I've cheated and taken a couple of reasonable shots at the local raptor centre. Take a look in the British birds gallery if you would like to see them along with some other raptor photos. My poor run of luck continued at the raptor centre though as the skies opened and the flight demonstations were cancelled. Perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket and try my luck there...

I've had slightly more luck with the muntjac photos, with one passable shot accomplished in the past month. I took it in RAW format though and won't be able to upload it until I purchase a RAW converter.

30th May
With my telepohoto lens repaired, the new feeding site of the barn owl located and a few hours of respite from the rain I have finally managed to get a few barn owl photos. They are far from ideal but I'm just pleased to have got some reward for the blood, sweat and tears (actually that should be blood, sweat, swearing and expense) of the past few months.

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