Barn Owls and Little Owls
20/11/13I have been working for some time on a site very close to my home where a Little Owl is regularly seen. I wanted to see if I could encourage it onto a post for photographs. I set up two posts with containers attached to the back at the top for mealworm, and also put out mice and day old chicks. The mice were regularly being taken, and as they were mainly put out late in the afternoon and had gone in the morning, I assumed it was the owl that was taking them, and not an opportunistic magpie or crow.
I decided to set up a Trail Cam to work out was going on. The first results were that the mice were indeed disappearing, but no evidence of what was taking them. I realised that the cam responded to heat and movement and that birds were not triggering it. So I set it up on Field Scan, taking a photo every minute. I then discovered that the main visitor, and the one taking the mice was actually a Barn Owl. Over a period of weeks of monitoring both a Barn Owl and a Little Owl have been seen every night, and possibly a Tawny Owl. What is even better is that on more than one occasion the Cam has recorded a Barn Owl on each post at the same time, a Little Owl on each post at the same time, and a Barn Owl on one post and a Little Owl on the other post. So the site is regularly visited by at least 2 Barn Owls, 2 Little Owls, and possibly a Tawny Owl.
The Cam, however, disappointingly has to date shown that they are only visiting in the dark, the earliest visit being 4.40pm and the latest 7.10am.
I realised that any photographs would have to rely on flash photography. I read carefully about this topic in nocturnal birds, and came to the conclusion that this would not be in any way harmful. However, I wanted to make sure this was not disturbing these birds, and so introduced the flash slowly, gradually moving the flash guns closer to the posts. The birds have not reacted at all to the flash guns going off, and continue to regularly visit the site. I don’t have a lot of experience of flash photography but wanted to get the flash guns close to the birds. This would reduce the chance of slaty blue eye, and also allow me to use a reduced power and therefore a shorter duration of flash and increase the chances of freezing any movement.
The photos in the Section of "Recent Work" are the results of my first attempts. It has been a great experience. Amazing to see one Barn Owl perched on top of the flash gun on a tripod while the other one was sitting on a post. Hope to continue to get more photos, including the Little Owl, hope that they will eventually appear in daylight, hope to get 2 Barn Owls together, or two Little Owls, or one of each - but think 2 Barn Owls and 2 Little Owls is being greedy.