When the sun shines everything around awakens and comes to life, warming the slight chilled March air, you can hear the countryside come to life. Over the many years I have visited Norfolk whether it be alone or with clients on one to ones or workshops, the wildlife never disappoints. It’s a place I feel at home in, a place that never truly gives up its secrets straight away, almost teasing you with the ever present sightings of different birds gracing this amazing place with their presence throughout the year.
Each month I meet clients on one to ones/workshops, during the Spring Tide days, helping them with their photography, giving real and helpful advice and at the same time showing how to approach and use what you have around you in order to get close to and photograph wild animals in their environment, at the same time watching for any behaviour you may be lucky enough to witness. In between these visits I work on my own projects, mainly focusing on the bird that got my love and interest going as a child with the YOC- Young Ornithologists’ Club, the Barn Owl or ‘Ghost’ as I call this amazing bird.
This nickname relates to when I wait and watch for these Owls to show up. You wait and wait for a passing glimpse and a view into this bird’s life entrenched with mystery, then from no where and without warning the Barn Owls turns up in perfect silence, gliding, riding the winds currents, traveling effortlessly. Eyes glued to the ground beneath, on the lookout for small rodents that they feed on. They divide the field or area and hunt or quarter which refers to this practice these owls do so well on the lookout for movement, in turn prey.
They are amazing birds and one of my favourite British birds, watching them fly and hunt for a few minutes and then to make eye contact with you is a priceless moment to treasure. When you see them in the wild 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.
I’ve been hoping that the ones I watch and photograph in Norfolk survived the recent two very harsh cold snaps we’ve had, which has really impacted hard on the numbers of these birds around the UK, where Norfolk has always been a stronghold for these birds. The pair that hunt over farmland and marshland have done well so far and are looking their best with the breeding season just around the corner but I have been lucky enough to find another couple of places that have Barn Owls.
So this year I am hoping to document the different birds that live in different environments capturing my trademark images showing them within their natural habitat of rough grazing, marshland and Norfolk reeds. With the onset of summer around the corner and longer days, the prospect of working with Barn Owls fills me with such joy.
Within my work, habitat, small in the frame and behaviour, form my foundation where I only photograph wild animals, letting people see how and where a certain subject lives and how it conducts its life, so with these images I wanted to show where they live in Norfolk. One site I have known of for many years has a mixture of rough grazing and reeds with small streams and dikes splitting the place into many little areas, perfect for small rodents and perfect for Barn Owls. I photographed using high iso’s to give me enough speed to freeze the bird in flight, at the same time balancing that with the poor light. I love small in the frame images, where there is a real innocence about the image, adding a sense of truth to the image and in turn learning people more about the subject.
My work on Barn Owls will last forever, capturing images for as long as I live. They have such beauty and grace in my eyes, a bird that takes me right back and brings a massive smile across my face, visualizing the great joy that these birds have brought to my life over 3 decades. I hope to bring you more images of this iconic bird over the coming months and even years to come.
My Springtide & Waders Workshops are fully booked until July onwards. My Barn Owl/Raptors One to Ones days can be booked at a time at your convenience now with the weather getting better and the longer days, these days last from dawn until dusk and include a homemade packed lunch made by my wife. I will show you several different sites, go through key fieldcraft skills on how to approach and photograph these birds without disturbing them, as they are protected by law, so great care must always be given to these birds.
I give camera advice, settings, composition and exposing advice for these birds, show you the best flight settings, basically, everything I use myself. Thanks to Nigel for traveling up from Ashford in Kent to Norfolk for a One to One yesterday for Barn Owls. I look forward to seeing your images.
If you would like any advice on anything I have mentioned or touched on here in this blog post then please drop me a line here, alternatively please go to my One To One page. For more than one person there is a discounted rate and I often get couples and friends all attending together. To enquire about free dates please email me, many thanks.