There a few places in the UK where you can experience the sights and sounds of nature any better than the North Norfolk coast during the Spring Tides that start in earnest from this month onward and for me herald the onset of the Autumn and Winter months. As the incoming tides submerge the whole area it pushes thousands of waders closer to the shoreline.
The beauty of photographing wildlife is that it is always changing and evolving, encountering the unexpected. In this environment the photographer must learn to work with these changing environmental conditions and behaviours, and the result cannot always be predicted. For me this only adds to the excitement of wildlife photography. Its been a really busy period for one to ones and workshops with clients over the last several weeks. Here are a few images from the field I took alongside them all, as well as a few from my own project.
Recently I gained access to some of the buildings and estate to where I have been doing my Barn Owl project over the last several months. I went to areas the public don’t get to see, I was met by the former miner and chairman of the local group that looks after the site along with the council and also the head guide. Both were very helpful and a walking book of information on this 18th century coalmine.
In the February’s issue of the highly acclaimed photographic magazine ; Wild Planet I have my third article published to date, talking about my life-long love of Barn Owls and the struggles they face with the changeable weather conditions here in the UK.
My first memories of Barn Owls are from childhood, where I’d rush home from school, dump all my school bags, pick up my little rucksack, bird guide and binoculars and head on my push bike to a nearby stretch of farmland not far from my home in the hope I’d see a pair of Barn Owls Id spent many years watching. I did my first ever project on Barn Owls for the the Young Ornithologists Club (YOC) which is now the Wildlife s Explorers Club. Recording trips in and out of the nest with what prey, collecting pellets, drawings and all sorts it was amazing.
Quartering over farmland, hovering with moth like silence, flying effortlessly on the wing in the half-light at dawn or dusk is the supreme hunter, the Barn Owl. A bird that has always created a sense of great excitement and fascination for me. In British folklore, a screeching Barn Owl is believed to predict that a storm or cold weather was imminent. During a storm, if a Barn Owl was heard, it indicated that the storm was nearly over.
You wait and wait for a passing glimpse and a view into this bird’s life entrenched with mystery, then from nowhere and without warning one turns up in perfect silence, gliding, riding the currents of air, traveling effortlessly. Eyes glued to the ground beneath, on the lookout for small rodents that they feed on, as you witness their very distinctive appearance with a white heart-shaped face with no ear tufts and sharp black eyes all contributing to its striking appearance.
Those large black eyes only let the Barn Owl look forward in a fixed position and cannot move to the side, so consequently the Barn Owl has to turn its head to see to the side or back. Their hearing is amazing and the ability to locate prey by sound alone is one of the best in the animal kingdom.
Barn Owl’s feathers make them perfectly adapted for silent flight, but this makes them prone to water logging so they are not well suited to hunting in wet weather. The key to an owl’s silent flight is in its feathers, the next time you find an owl feather, turn it on its side and look at the edge — the line of fibers is scalloped, like a stretched seam. The slight alteration in shape allows the feather to cut the air without making sound, making them perfectly aerodynamic.
For more of my article, how I work with wild Barn Owls and alot more information then please click on the following link. Also there is a link to Barn Owl Trust, based in Devon who have brought out a conservation handbook on Barn Owls, its a comprehensive guide for ecologists, surveyors, land managers and ornithologists.
Some of my images of Barn Owls were used in this handbook and I also help the trust with my images to help to raise awareness of these owls and the issues that face them.
I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did writing this. Over the last couple of weeks I have been out and found a brand new Barn Owl sight in an amazing and old setting that Im looking forward to working on this year as one of my major projects. Also the family of Barn Owls I photographed a couple of years back have also returned so it looks very promising this year with regard to Barn Owls fingers crossed.
Barn Owls are protected by law and so shouldn’t be disturbed so please be careful if or when you come across one. They have suffered in recent years due to extreme weather so they need all the help they can to build back up. The information and protected status of this owl can be read further on this link.
I hope this winter will be kinder to them and I look forward to showing you my new images of Barn Owls in the coming months, many thanks.