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Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird

Barn Owl Flight

Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird

The saying goes, “It’s the early bird that catches the worm”. This week we were challenged to get up early and capture the morning light. My challenge while in Devon over Easter, was to get up much earlier than I usually do and catch the birds! Specifically, birds of prey. I’ve been sharing a few of these images with you over the past few weeks, but this montage took some time to compose and get the feel of motion and light that I wanted. The story that I hoped to tell with this image is of the special relationship between the owl and her owner.

This is Pepper, a pure-breed British Barn Owl (Tyto alba alba), flying to her handler, Steve Hopper from South Hams Hawks and Owls. Steve is a falconer who runs a raptor rescue centre and flies his birds of prey for educational displays and photography groups. Pepper was rescued at the age of sixteen when her owner passed away. She’s now twenty one, which is very elderly for a Barn Owl! She’s almost completely blind so can only manage short exercise flights, relying upon the sound of Steve’s voice and the taps he makes on the glove to guide her to him. Watching her short flights was a real privilege. She flies high and, as Steve put it, creates wonderful “angel” shapes with her wings.

30 comments on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird

    • Thanks Jet πŸ™‚ I think the oldest recorded captive barn owl was about 25 but in the wild they will only live for about 5yrs. There are many factors in the longevity of wild owls. Habitat loss, lack of prey and road traffic are major hazards for them. Although a breeding pair may have a large brood in a good year, many of the youngsters won’t survive a year on their own. Conservation is being carried out in earnest to give our wild barn owls a better chance at survival!

  1. This is a sensational montage Sarah. Love the feeling of the owl coming in to land. I think Steve should commission you to do some shots for him. This would make a beautiful marketing image.

    • Thanks so much Jude!! Steve is actually part of my sister and brother-in-law’s photography club so I don’t think he ever needs to commission pieces πŸ˜‰ I’m happy for him to use this one (watermarked) on his new website when it’s up and running as he did let us have a bargain photo session and he puts all his profits into local wild raptor rescue! He’s taking very special care of a peregrine with a broken wing at the moment. With lots of time, patience and expertise someone like Steve can get a bird like that back into the wild eventually!

    • Thanks Ben πŸ™‚ Yes, you can never get these to work if the actual bird isn’t crisp to start with! There’s a lot of blending in the process to soften some of the feathers and increase the impression of movement. It was a joy to work on πŸ™‚

  2. Fantastic image. I love birds of prey and owls particularly. And nice to see in detail what I usually only see flashes of swooping over my car at night as I drive. Had one in my garden that I’d hear most nights for weeks. Great work.

    • Thanks so much πŸ™‚ I know there are a pair of tawny owls living near us as I often hear their distinctive calls at dusk and dawn. I haven’t found their roost though! Owls often have many perches that they visit when out hunting so it’s not easy to actually find them. Glad they’ve been swooping OVER your car and not into it!!!

      • For weeks there was one too-witting in the tree in front of the house on crisp clear nights to another too-wooing nearby.
        Sadly that is the only time I see them, the white flashes in the trees above as I drive about here.
        Luckily I see buzzards a lot though.

  3. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion | Taking One Day At A Time

    • Thanks Kat πŸ™‚ I love creating montages! It’s like painting using a selection of images as your palette. I’m always learning more as I experiment with different subjects. It’s really a case of getting to know how layers and blending works in Photoshop and trying things out πŸ™‚ I love all birds of prey so it was such a treat to meet and photograph the barn owl!

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