Friday, 19 April 2013

Corncrake and Tawny Owls

Thursday and Friday saw me making two trips down to the Beachy Head area, making a couple of really stupid mistakes, but overall coming out of the two days with a decent result.

Thursday morning I was at Shooters Bottom just before seven o'clock looking for the Corncrake that had been reported the previous day. The wind was really harsh over the head and it was difficult to maintain your footing let alone hold the binoculars or camera steady. The gorse and scrub offered little shelter and worst of all there was no sign of the Corncrake.

By half past eight I was ready to give up and go home but fortunately the day was rescued by Mick Davis. He had seen the bird the day before and managed to relocate it again some way from the area that most of us were watching. All credit to Mick for putting us onto the bird and for ensuring that we all had good views. I managed to get off about a dozen shots of it foraging along the edge of the ride before it disappeared into the thicker cover.

I was feeling really pleased until I looked at the images and realised that they were all badly over exposed. Somehow I had managed to nudge the controls from aperture priority to manual. Worse, this has happened before, and I have lost valuable pictures. Even worse than that, I had stood there for two hours and not once checked that the camera was set up correctly.

Photoshop gives you some recovery options so I ended up with the picture above but the detail has been lost and I cannot enlarge the picture any more. I did wait around for a couple more hours and saw the bird a few times but pictures were always difficult with most of them being backlit.

Corncrake heading for cover
My second mistake was in not checking what else was about in the area. I did call in at Belle Tout wood on the way back to Birling Gap but when I opened the car door and was hit by the wind again I got back in and drove home. I checked when I got home and saw that two Tawny Owls had been reported at the wood. Another missed opportunity.

Friday morning and I decided to return to see if I could get a better picture of the Corncrake and also to see if I could locate the Tawny Owls. The Owls were first and despite them being well hidden I located them both quite easily. Looking at the pictures now I am not quite sure how I managed it.

Well hidden

Close up it looks like a Grey Morph variant
Second bird - more familiar Rufous Morph

Obviously been watching me from a long way off

but not going to loose any sleep over it

I had great fun photographing the Tawny Owls, which was just as well, as there had been no sign of the Corncrake when I finally arrived at Shooters Bottom. I gave it another hour but with the birders gradually drifting away it looked as though it may have moved on.

So, a bit of a messy couple of days birding with a number of silly mistakes but at the end of it I had seen the Corncrake for the first time and had also found the Tawny Owls.

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