Hi and welcome to my Blog, my name is Paul Riddle and I live in south Leicestershire, UK. Back in August 2007 my quest began to locate as many local Little Owl territories as possible. The driving force was a reported decline in the uk numbers so I thought I would do my bit and conduct a study in my area. After 7 years and countless hours out in the field I have detected over 200 different sites. With a thirst for a greater understanding of the owls a more comprehensive monitoring and nest box programme then commenced. This also now includes monitoring the local and very sparse population of Barn Owls, please pop back occasionally and catch up with the life and times of my owls and any other wildlife that I come across. I hope you enjoy your visit!!!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Chimping!!!

Let me tell you a story..........

Just over a week ago I did a post "micro climate" where I talked about a Barn Owl (image below) that I stumbled upon out hunting in the snow, do you recall? At the time I didn't know if it was a new bird/location or a known bird from another site that had re-located during the bad weather?
Mystery Barn Owl, where had it come from?
Since this sighting I have made several dawn & dusk visits to the said location to see if I could see the bird again, maybe an improve image would help in identifying it? I have re-located the bird on all but one subsequent visit and always in roughly the same area. It seems to favour a patchwork of  fields that lay in a small valley in between two country lanes. It hunts along the hedgerows until it reaches either of the lanes then it turns around and starts all over again. Once I'd realised its behaviour I'd position myself on either of the lanes and wait for it to work its way to me. Sometimes I would guess right and it would be at the end that I was at, but more more often than not it would be at the other end and just a dot in the distance!
 
Even if I did guess the right lane to be on it still didn't come close enough for me to capture a shot of it, apart from just the one occasion. Just as it was turning in midair to head back I managed to capture this image of it, below. As can been seen the light had almost gone and it is out of focus, hence why I never uploaded to my blog as I wanted to wait until I could attain something better. Even though it is a terrible image what it clearly shows is that has a ring on its left leg! 
 
A ringed Barn Owl
OK now I had something to work on in trying to identify this bird, what I needed was a very close encounter in good light and maybe if I was able to get an image the ring numbers could be read and then I'd know where it had come from and the mystery would be solved.
 
So that now brings us to last night, again I was playing the waiting game on my chosen lane. The light was pretty good for photography so all I need now was for the bird to show? I'd positioned the car near to a landing post that I'd seen it use before. My theory was if I could capture it on the post the subsequent image would offer me more of a chance of reading the numbers on the ring??
 
I'd been there waiting for an hour and there was no sign of the owl, I then started to scan the fields through my binoculars and there it was hunting at the other end, sods law or what? I was now in a dilemma, should I stay where I was and wait for it to come to me (as planned) or should I make the five minute drive to the other end? I'd had this choice to make before and made the wrong decision, I'd move only to find that when I got to where I'd seen it there was sign, it then reappeared after a while where I'd come from! But because this evening the light was starting to fade I chose to move to the other end????
 
A five minute dash down the lanes soon had me parked up at the other end and scanning the fields, it wasn't here! I'd made the wrong decision AGAIN!!! I was contemplating going back to my original location when I spotted it and it was still at my end! It was a hundred yards away but slowly heading in my direction. I leapt out of the car with camera at the ready, would it come close enough for an image? I went around the back of the car and used it as a hide, leaning on the roof to steady the camera I was ready.
 
It continued on its original path and  was getting nearer by the second, it was heading straight for me but because of the hedgerow behind it there was a lack of contrast and I couldn't "lock" on to it. Then it twisted and turned midair and rather than coming straight at me it veered off to the left. It also gained a little height as it crossed over the hedgerow, I was now able to "lock on" as it drifted across me.
 
The light wasn't brilliant and I was at an ISO of 1000 in order to get any kind of shutter speed (1/800 sec). I apologise for uploading several images that are very similar (I don't normally do this as it can be a bit boring) but I'm really chuffed with the results, below.
 


 
The owl then continued on its normal route and headed off in the direction of the other lane. This game me an opportunity to review the images I'd just taken. Had I had my camera settings correct and had I managed to capture it in focus??
 
I started to review the images and I was well pleased with the initial results, this is when I started "chimping"........???? Ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo, the sound I was making was very similar to what a Chimpanzee makes, hence the title of this blog!! Come on all you photographers out there, you know what I'm talking about, we've all done it at sometime or another.............haven't we???
  
I was just about to depart when I spotted the owl again, it was coming back towards me for another pass by. This time I didn't have time to get out of the car and had to shoot out of the window, it came closer too!
 



 
Once I'd got back and uploaded the images to my computer it was time to see review them in more detail, would I be able to read the details on the ring? I didn't notice at the time of taking the images (and perhaps you didn't notice either?) but this bird does NOT have a ring on it's left leg, I am now even more confused!!! The only obviously answer is there are two different birds hunting this same area? I am even more determined than I was before to get back up and get some answers and improved images in better light.
 
What a brilliant encounter, I really enjoyed it and I hoped you liked the story too? 

14 comments:

  1. Hopefully a breeding pair you there, Richard, fingers crossed.

    I have laughed all the way through this post - you got it in one - we've all been at the "oo oo oo" stage! The 'stick or twist dilemma' is a common theme when the sun is fading! Superb story and the images to accompany it are superb, my favs being the final set against the lovely white/blue backgrounds. They really show up the gorgeous colours of the owl.

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    1. I am glad that there is another "chimper" out there, glad you liked the post & images mate, thanks for your comment.

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    2. Err... Sorry, mate. You know I meant Paul!

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  2. Oops!! Christian seems to have got you and I muddled!

    What an absolutely fabulous encounter Paul, and what a brilliant set of images too! It made for a really great read. As Christian says, looks like you've got a pair there.

    Yep, we're all guilty of chimping, I'm sure. Sometimes also it costs us the shot we really wanted. The trouble is, when one's out early or late in the day (as we are when owling) then the light is constantly changing and needs checking on a frequent basis - and then the chimping tends to start if we've got it right! My 'chimping', however, tends to take the form of me talking to the bird with terms of endearment! If I'd left my phone open, I'd be in for some serious questions from the wife!!

    Hard to choose but I think my favourites are the middle two of the second set - I just love to see the facial detail in these.

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    1. Oh I say, another "chimper" has come out into the open! Thanks for your comments mate.

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  3. Not being big headed but I did notice no leg-iron on the last series of images,great images and I definately don't get bored of seeing so many either, I hope you get another close encounter to see that ring. Richard is right we've all chimped in the past my excuse...making sure I got the images before leaving the bird alone:)

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    1. Well done Doug, you did well spotting there was no ring (leg iron), I was too busy "chimping" to even notice!
      Thanks for stopping by mate.

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  4. Replies
    1. Kind words again Ana, thnak you!

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  5. Just brilliant mate............

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    1. It won't be long before I am saying the same to you buddy about your images now you are starting to master that camera of yours.

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  6. Yet another set of great images Paul, well done

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    1. Thank you Bobbster, kind words indeed!

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