Lessons in Photography

We found that we had forgotten all that we ever knew about how to operate our cameras this week when we went on a bird of prey photography session.

The first bird out was this slightly leucistic barn owl, whiter than normal and the go-to bird if they are asked to provide a bird to fly rings up the aisle at a wedding.

There were two different eagle owls flown. First, the magnificent Bengal Eagle Owl:

Then a young Spotted Eagle Owl. This was a big occasion for her because it was the first time she was out flying for a group:

The leather falconry jesses and transmitter dangling from her legs

She started off very wobbly and unsure but then really got into her swing. Next was a Harris Hawk:

And finally a Lanner Falcon. I didn’t even attempt to photograph her in flight because she was so fast. Here she is mantling her wings over the lure after she caught it:

Sky Birds of Prey Display Team in Tonbridge, Kent

We were very pleased with these photos but, then again, we did take 2,000 shots between us so some of them were surely going to be alright. I enjoy photography and am annoyed that I don’t make a greater effort to know my camera better so that I can get more out of it. My Welsh grandfather was a professional photographer for a while, although never of wildlife, and he leaves behind him a wonderful legacy of photographs that are still much loved and appreciated in the family.

Having finished my chocolate, I’m wondering if my sister is prepared to give me some of hers. John Williams 1961

Back in the meadows, this photo from last week had us puzzling over what prey it was in the fox cub’s mouth. Maybe it is a crow – but could it be a black cat?

This reminded me of when our daughter’s cat was desperate to interact with a fox in our garden a few years ago, and used to wait for it under the bird feeder:

The fox was prepared to pander to the cat and allowed itself to be chased off, only to leisurely double back round to the feeder again.

I really hope that the foxes in the meadows are not catching cats, but here is one with a pheasant. Pheasants are only very rarely sighted here – how far do the foxes travel to hunt for their food?

The fox and pheasant also appeared on a second camera:

He has also been seen with a young rabbit this week:

Down by the ponds, there has been another visit by a Grey Wagtail:

And the colour-ringed starling has been seen again, although I still can’t read that ring:

This blackbird has caught a dragonfly:

The Common Darter dragonflies are emerging at the moment and so it was probably one of these in the beak of the bird:

A female Common Darter, just emerged with its shiny wings

I got excited when I saw this damselfly because I thought it was a new species for the meadows:

An apricot-coloured thorax and brown at the end of its tail – I hadn’t seen one like this before

However, on further investigation, I discover that female Blue-tailed damselflies, a common species for the meadows, have five different colour forms and this is the one called infuscens-obsoleta.

A crow brings an large piece of bread to the water to soften it:

And tenderly feeds some of it to its chick:

Marjoram, beloved of all sorts of bees and butterflies, is just coming out into flower in the meadows:

Marbled White on marjoram

And in the allotment, a parsley plant is going to seed and was covered in hundreds of these Common Red Soldier Beetles, easily recognisable by the distinctive black tip to the wing cases:

The meadows are cut once a year and all cut material needs to be taken off in order to slowly remove nutrients from this ex-agricultural land. Lower nutrient levels disadvantage bullying grasses and so allow other plants to flourish. In the autumn, an enormous pile of the cut hay is created in each meadow. These then slowly reduce in size as bags of the hay go out with the fortnightly green waste recycling throughout the next year – until it is time to start all over again.

One of these piles of hay had a Buff-tailed Bumblebee nest in it and this has been dug out by a badger to get at the bee larvae. Badgers have an amazing sense of smell and, not only can they smell the bee nest, they can also smell when it is at the right stage to make it worth their while going in to rob it:

The hay pile, dug out at the bottom

The bees were to be seen wandering around in disarray:

Then the queen, twice the size of the other bees, flew in and crawled into a crevice at the back of the diggings. All the other bees piled in on top of her:

Perhaps they are going to try to rebuild the nest, although I’m sure it will only get dug out again.

This was an interesting pattern to see on the steamy window of the bathroom:

A house fly’s mouthparts are only designed to suck up liquids. If it wants to eat solid food, it secretes saliva and digestive enzymes out though its proboscis, waits for a few seconds for the enzymes to break the food down into a liquid, and then sucks everything back in again. But, here, it is simply drinking up the condensation on the window, whilst creating the intricate pattern that caught our eye:

I also found this Common Zebra Spider on the bathroom floor this week. Not sure how it got there, but I took its picture as I was taking it safely back outside:

This tiny jumping spider accurately locates its prey with those enormous four front eyes and then jumps on it

In the wood, we have now completed the second of our monthly dormouse nest box monitoring visits and again, sadly, there were no signs of dormice. All the Blue Tit nests in the boxes are now finished and are abandoned.

We did, however, find this beautifully camouflaged hairy caterpillar curled up on one of the old nests:

It is the caterpillar of the Buff Footman moth and is probably about to pupate.

I saw two of these male Red Longhorn Beetles sitting on dogwood leaves and looking rather splendid:

And this Comma butterfly was posing so nicely for me on an oak tree:

It has been some time since we caught up with our son who is spending a year travelling around the world with his girlfriend. They have left the Americas and are now in Africa. After an eye-opening several weeks volunteering at a school in Tanzania, they have visited Uganda and are currently in Kenya.

Teaching at a kindergarten in Tanzania

They have seen these domesticated Sanga cattle throughout their travels in Africa
The Lipstick Bird, or Great Blue Turaco, seen in Uganda
Lionesses at Maasai Mara park in Kenya

Their next stop is Sri Lanka. By now, it seems to us like they have been travelling forever. But we are expecting them home in a couple of months, and what tales of their adventures they will have to tell.

3 thoughts on “Lessons in Photography

  1. Although troubling, I wonder if the fox had taken a young badger? It does look like an animal rather than a bird..

    1. That is indeed not a happy thought…and actually all three of this year’s badger cubs have unfortunately disappeared. However, the fox cub seems to be having no trouble carrying this prey and surely the badger cubs would have been really quite sturdy and heavy by this point of the year. The very dry year and consequent inaccessibility of earthworms is what I think the problem was for the young badgers. Oh dear.

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