I sacrificed my weekly Friday night out on the beer for an early start Saturday morning, doing both use to be a doddle but not any more, far too old!! So feeling as fresh as a daisy and without any signs of a hangover I was out at 5.00am. It was beautiful morning too, does wonders for the soul!
I went from Little Owl site to Little Owl site and nothing??? I was beginning to regret the ultimate sacrifice of having a "dry night". However, I did eventually have an obliging bird to lock my lens onto, but it wasn't one of my usual owly subjects. I was just pulling away from another no show owl site when a Kestrel drifted across the road in front of me. Now this is quite a common occurrence but usually by the time the camera has been set up the Kestrel in question is a dot in the distance, but not this time! It turned head on into the wind and hovered right beside the car, I couldn't believe my luck when it landed on a wire and waited for me to swing my lens out of the window.
I made a school boys error, my camera setting were still set up from when I was at the previous owl site (where I needed a high ISO setting) this resulted in quite a noisy/grainy image of the Kestrel. Luckily I'd got enough about me to know that when in aperture priority mode and pointing skyward an increase in the exposure setting is required, usually by at least two thirds of a stop. This I managed to do whilst simultaneously poking the lens out of the window. It was a good job I did otherwise I'd have struggled to salvage the image to an acceptable and usable standard.
I could see that the Kestrel was scanning the ground for prey, Oh no if it dived now and the background quickly changed from sky to grassy field I was going to struggle again with the exposure. For this reason I quickly turned the mode dial to manual, the shutter speed was set and the ISO reduced. It was all a bit hurried and a bit of an educated guess as to what the perfect setting needed to be but there was no time for experimenting. As I suspected the Kestrel did drop to the ground and I just rattled off a few shots as it nestled in the grass. As it transpired I'd guessed the setting pretty much bang on (F6.3, ISO 640 and 1/2500), I am well chuffed with the final result, below.
Although it can't be seen in this next image the Kestrel had actually caught a vole/mouse/shrew, not sure which though? The higher shutter speed and lower ISO setting that I'd guessed at certainly made for freezing the action mid-flight better along with far less grain in the image, pretty pleased with the exposure too!
The Kestrel flew over and landed on the top of a nearby hedgerow, not the best quality image as it is a huge crop because of the distance involved. Here it spent the next few seconds consuming it's catch, but not for long as a pair of Rooks flew down and flushed it away.
This final image of the short stint is my favorite, because of how the field rose away from me it brought the Kestrel nearly up to eye level when it was on the ground. Its wings can just be made out mantling its prey through the grass. And even at F6.3 the new lens still offers a wonderfully diffused background, even with my x1.4 converter on!
So the morning wasn't a complete waste of time after all, the Kestrel definitely saved the day.
Catch up soon folks..........