Wednesday, 6 February 2013

More Barn Owls

Being disappointed with Monday's Barn Owl pictures and with the weather looking reasonable I decided to go back to Waltham Brooks on Tuesday evening and have another go. On the way I called in at Swanbourne lake in the hope of seeing the Firecrests. None about but I did see an unusual leucistic Jackdaw.

Leucistic Jackdaw

Leucism is a condition which causes pigment defects, making some of the feathers white or very pale. Unlike albinism the eye colour is normal. I have seen this a number of times in Blackbirds but this is the first time in a Jackdaw. There are suggestions on the web that this is becoming more common in many breeds of bird.

Recent trips out have resulted in a shortage of the "small brown birds" but arriving at Waltham Brooks I was pleased to see a lot of movement in the scrub and headgerows.
This Chiffchaff posed nicely to have its picture taken. My first sighting for the year.


I also had a Goldcrest sitting on the fence in the open within six feet of me. It must have known that I am desperate to get a good picture of a Goldcrest. My Camera was out of reach and even if I could have got to it the bird would have been too close to focus on. We watched each other for about 20 seconds and then it disappeared into the gathering gloom. I don't think I have ever seen a Goldcrest stay still for that length of time.

The first Barn Owl appeared about 3.45 with two more following quickly behind. I had picked a good spot and had a couple of flybys within about 15 feet but unfortunately I only had the sun for about a quarter of an hour. After that I was back to the previous days problems of high ISO and slow shutter speeds.

I had not realised how difficult it would be to keep the Owl in focus, particularly when it was heading straight for me, and I had a lot of wasted shots. It is difficult to know when to try to take a picture and when it is best just to stand and watch the bird. You can miss a lot hiding behind the camera.

I also found that I needed the sun to get a reasonable shutter speed but with the sun out the face and leading edge of the wing were over exposed. These pictures have all required work in photoshop to reduce the contrast.

One good picture and standing in the cold for a couple of hours is all forgotten

There have been reports on the Sussex Ornithological Society of one of the Waltham Brooks Barn Owls having something sticking to or sticking out of its chest. This is visible on the picture below. I have no idea what it is but it has been there for at least a few days and does not seem to be restricting the birds movement. Lets hope it is not doing any long term damage.

My initial disappointment at the quality of this second round of pictures has dissipated slightly as I realised that I could recover a few of the pictures. There is no sun tonight but I think I will soon be going back for another go. The good thing about photographing birds is that you always know there is a better picture out there waiting to be taken.

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