Little Owls

On Saturday my friend Emma and I spent a few hours in a camouflaged pop-up tent on the edge of a woodland, waiting for a bunch of wild little owls to do their thing in the trees and on a couple of perches in front of us. We’d booked this photography day with professional wildlife photographer David Plummer. It was very exciting, not only being able to shoot little owls in their natural habitat, but also learning some tricks and techniques from a fantastic photographer.

We’d originally scheduled our hide session for mid June, but unfortunately, the pair of owls that had made this part of the woodland its home had been usurped by jackdaws, so essentially, there was nothing to photograph.
Fortunately though, David managed to bait (bribe) a new pair, and they had settled in nicely by the time we turned up for our session at the weekend.

I had done one bird hide day before, and was expecting to spend the day in something like a wooden shed. But during our initial briefing David kept talking about setting up a new hide, and I kept thinking why he hadn’t built the hide yet if he knew we were coming.. So it was quite a comedy moment, when we arrived on site and were taken to a small clearing underneath a huge tree, and he started rummaging with what looked like a pile of rubbish – which turned out to be a couple of chairs and under a bunch of camouflage material. Oops. A pop-up tent was then put up, and we got ourselves arranged inside, while David was draping camouflage around the outside of the tent as well as our bright white sticking out of it. Maybe it’s time I invested in some lens wraps to tone down the bright colour and make it less obvious to wildlife.

After doing the baiting and checking we were all set, David left us to it. I was expecting we’d have to wait at least an hour or so for the owls to appear, so made do with taking photos of Great Tits and a Robin who turned up to get first pickings of the meal worms in the tree stumps. As I  was showing Emma my photos on the back of my camera, I was confused how I’d managed to take a photo of an owl when we’d not even seen any yet. It took a few seconds for it to dawn on both of us that a little owl had just landed on the tree stump my camera happened to be pointing at! D’oh!

So we started shooting away, careful not to move the cameras too rapidly as it could easily have spooked the owls. But they did seem pretty relaxed with our set up. A few times we even had two owls in front of us at the same time. One on the perch, another on a low branch less than a metre in front of our hide! And another time one of the owls got comfortable on a slightly higher branch of the tree, and nearly fell asleep there, essentially trapping us in the hide until it decided to fly off again..

Overall it was great fun, and I’m really pleased with the photos I came away with! It was certainly useful to have some guidance on settings and set-up. Since the owls were mostly perching in front of us, I didn’t get any “moving target” practice, so this is something I still need to get my head around. But that’s a project for another day 🙂

If you’d like to see a few more shots taken that day, head over to the Wildlife: Wings gallery on the website!