Barn Owls – Tyto alba
Some Wildlife species seem to possess an almost iconic allure and Owls appear to be one of them. In this country probably the most iconic of our native varieties is the Barn Owl. Its allure is no doubt due, in part, to the fact that it is the species most often seen or, certainly, noticed. It’s ephemeral, almost ghostlike, appearance as it glides silently in the dusk or when caught in the glare of headlights sticks in the mind for ever after.
As a potential photographic subject it can be elusive and, if encountered at all, only be so in conditions of light and circumstance that completely preclude the possibility of meaningful images to the standards now expected as the norm. It is most likely to be seen quartering fields and hedgerows in the twilight and at a distance such that fairly sophisticated camera equipment will be called for to get anything approaching a decent shot.
I was lucky this year in finding a spot where a pair of Barn Owls could be seen hunting, either in the early morning, or from about one in the afternoon. A convenient hedgerow, full camouflage and endless patience ultimately produced the “goods”. These birds hearing capabilities are incredible and, from personal experience, it would seem that they react adversely to camera shutter noise but if you are well concealed and can react quickly enough then, provided you have a camera with a decent frame rate, you should be able to get a number of images as it glides silently by. The bulk of its flight will be by gliding slowly and silently (a special wing feather feature assists it in this), so, with a little luck, you will not need to have to work at the shutter speed normally required to obtain sharp images of smaller winged, fast flying species such as ducks.