December 10 2013 Latest news:
Monday, January 7, 2013
Every month, we are following in the footsteps of local wildlife photographer Jonathan Lewis. Here is his perspective of what was happening in wild Norfolk during December.
Over the last month I have been devoting nearly all my time to photographing a barn owl that has moved into a field near my kingfishers.
The owl was born during spring last year and will have left the safety of its parents around the end of summer.
Winter is a really tough time for barn owls; they evolved in warmer and drier climates and are not that well adapted for the prolonged cold and wet of British winters.
Despite what looks like a very warm plumage they are actually poorly insulated and need a consistent level of additional food to make up for energy burnt keeping warm.
Finding this extra food during the winter can be trickier as small mammals become less active.
Not only are they susceptible to the cold but also to the wet too; if you have ever seen a barn owl in flight you will have no doubt noticed how amazingly quiet they are.
This silent flight is made possible by their soft feathers and allows them to hunt very effectively, but the downside is that they are not very water-resistant which means during wet periods they cannot hunt.
These issues combined with a lack of life experience in a young owl mean that if we get a long cold spell during January or February its chances of survival may be reduced significantly.
Time will tell whether it will make it through the winter but during cold periods I have been leaving out a small amount of food which gives it a helping hand when it cannot catch enough.
A main part of my job as a photographer is planning out how to get new and unusual shots. It can be a frustrating process as so many factors, many of which are out of my control, need to align in order to get the image.
I have been working towards getting wide angled shots of the owl coming into land on its favourite post. I’m not there yet but I am making progress.
In order to get the shot I want I leave my camera right next to the landing post and remotely take the photograph from my hide when the owl comes in to land. One morning last week I was surprised to see that the owl attempted to take control of the photography and land on my camera!
It’s small interactions like this that make being a wildlife photographer so rewarding. I hope that my owl survives through the winter so it can raise a family of budding photographers next year!
If you want to see barn owls then a great place to start your search is Strumpshaw Fen, close to Norwich. Visit around dawn and dusk for the best chances to spot this amazing bird.
January wildlife to watch out for…
- Snowdrops bursting through, one of the first signs of new life
- The arrival of whooper swans
- Short-eared owls on the North Norfolk coast
- Courting squirrels chasing each other around trees
Jonathan Lewis in a wildlife photographer based near Norwich. He runs a variety of courses and tours both in Norfolk and further afield. For more information visit www.norfolk-wildlife-photography.co.uk or www.facebook.com/norfolkwildlifephotography.