"Operation noctua" (end of week 1)

February 25, 2012  •  Leave a Comment
  • The dummy camera has been in place almost a week - and after a brief period at the start of the week when I thought I'd spooked our owls, introducing an alien object right on top of their roost site (I didn't see them for a few days), I can report (with some relief) that they clearly "don't give a hoot" about the dummy camera. All is well.
  • Last night Anna and I watched both owls on top of their roost, a metre or so from the dummy camera and tonight (after the England Wales rugby match) I took great pleasure in watching both owls act completely normally in their tree and by the dummy camera.
  • We have had another glorious day here in the south of England - virtually unbroken sunshine, temperatures double what they should be for the time of year and a gentle breeze.
  • At dusk tonight under the waxing crescent moon (slap bang next to Venus in the evening sky) both adult owls were hopping about in their tree, preening, fluffing up their feathers and looking rather dapper.
  • These are very good-looking little owls (even though I say so myself) and like many other birds are doing rather well this winter. The ground has hardly been frozen at all, worms are easy to get to (not often I can say that in February) and rodents are in plentiful supply also (as are beetles and the first moths in this very warm end to winter).
  • I have decided to put the trail cam in place sooner rather than later, as I need to build up a picture of when these owls emerge from their roosts, when they return - in order for my to be as successful as I can when replacing the dummy camera with a real camera in the months ahead.
  • The issue I still have though, will not leave me.
  • Professional photographers with their huge lenses and time to spend days out in the field would regard "operation noctua" as a piece of cake. But little old me, with limited time and only a small (200mm) lens, will have to work hard to get the photographs I desire.
  • If I had a huge lens I would have no need to use a dummy camera (the only reason I am using one is I will eventually have to get my little lens very close to the birds). If I had a huge lens I'd have no need to get within a couple of metres of the birds - and in that respect, the shutter sound from the camera would not disturb the birds. But in my case, my camera needs to be with the birds and any shutter sound will sound like a rocket going off to these highly-sensitive owls.
  • But.... I can't do anything about that (needs must) and therefore I will just have to put all the hours in I can to acclimatise these beautiful wee owls to me and my camera...
  • I really hope the effort pays off - and should I be lucky enough to get some half-decent shots of these owls in the spring (and owlets with luck), god help anyone who suggests (once again!!) "Your photos are good - you must have a really good camera!"
  • Nothing winds me up more than that statement these days.
  • It's nothing to do with any camera - its hours and weeks and months and years learning about the subject and getting in the right spot at the right time 99% of the time - and in the case of the owls - spending weeks and weeks trying to get the birds used to me and my kit.
  • This is true for many people who take photographs of wildlife and truer still for amateur wildlife photographers (like myself) who balance a separate job (if we're lucky) with far inferior kit to that used by professionals.
  • That is why I am always delighted if a photo or two of mine is/are recognised alongside professionals' work - and as I've tried to explain above.... the camera has very little (if anything) to do with it.
  • Anyway - back to the owls and as you will have read - all is well..... "Operation noctua" is still a "goer" and the two beautiful little owls I watched preen tonight have filled me with hope for the coming season.
  • I will probably put the trailcam in place sometime this week and (fingers crossed) have a short video or two to blog sometime soon....




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