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Kestrels, Little Owls and Red Squirrels

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The great thing about the Internet and Twitter in particular, is that I have got to meet absolutely loads of people who share my passion and excitement about the natural world. Many of these people also share my love of photography. One of these is Austin Thomas. Austin has taken some incredible shots and it is well worth taking a look at his website to see some of them. You can access it by clicking the link below.

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On Friday lunchtime, I headed up Austin’s so he could show me his ‘patch’ and in particular show me a couple of sites that he has been working on for the last year or so.

If you are interested in wildlife and photography, we are always looking for opportunities to get closer to our subjects and gain their trust, as this will lead to photographic opportunities that may not emerge otherwise. Many of us feed the birds in our garden, not only to help sustain them, but so we can get closer to them and get to build up a trust and relationship with them. If you have ever been lucky enough to have a robin feed from your hand, you will know how special that is!

Austin has been putting in a lot of hours at a couple of sites in particular; one at a farm where a female Kestrel visits and then another where there are a pair of Little owls.  Through many, many hours of time spent, they have gradually got used to his presence and his patience has been rewarded. By offering them small amounts of food on a regular basis, he has built up a trust and relationship. They are wild animals, yet now have come to tolerate him and allow him to photograph them.

I was extremely lucky to take advantage of all Austin’s hard work and to go and photograph these two incredible species. The results were some of the best photographs I have taken!

The light at the kestrel site was perfect, with the Spring sunshine behind us. The kestrel gave me a good look from her roof top vantage point and was suitably wary of my presence as Austin is usually there on his own. Through moving slowly and laying down on the floor, virtually under his car, she felt confident enough to come close, giving me the chance to test my growing skills in photographing birds in flight! My heart was racing as she alighted about 12 metres from me. We had about 15 minutes with her before she was off , back into her own world…. but what a special 15 minutes it was!

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The following morning, we were up early and off to another farm. The old buildings here are not only home to a pair of Little Owls but a pair of Barn Owls too!! I was just a tad jealous! We had had a brief view of the Barn Owl pair when Austin showed me the site the evening before and had seen both Little Owls as well, but the light was too low to photograph so we planned to come back early the next morning.

We were at the site at around 7am. Again, as Austin usually goes on his own, we were unsure how these birds would react with me there too. We photographed from the car, but the owl definitely knew I was there and spent a lot of time up on the farm buildings watching and deciding whether it was safe to come down.  We were patient and eventually he felt bold enough to come down and pose for me! I absolutely LOVE these owls. They are such characterful birds and very expressive, making them brilliant  to photograph.

I tried to show this in my photographs and was thrilled with the results! I particularly like this first one, as it sums up Little Owls and their habitat. They are incredibly well camouflaged and, even when you know where they are, they are incredibly difficult to see!

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This little chap strutted his stuff and posed, enabling me to get some shots I was really pleased with…

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The rest of my photos from these sessions can be seen on my FLICKR account.

We then had a drive up to the National Trust site at Formby to see the Red Squirrels. Sadly, the light was pretty low and, being inside a pine forest, I struggled to get a decent shutter speed for these great little characters. There were lots of them around and they were fantastic to watch. They are a particularly dark form, many being more dark brown and grey. I got a couple of shots I was pleased with and will definitely return to this site, as it is about the closest for me to get to, to see these great little characters.

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I must say a massive ‘Thank you’ to Austin for sharing these special sites with me and allowing me to benefit from all his hard work and dedication. It was a total pleasure and a real treat.


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