As I was explaining in part 1, one of the things I don’t do often enough is just slow down and concentrate on an opportunity that’s in front of me. This next one actually came about while I was cleaning my teeth. Looking out of the window is a good view along the track of the garden along the side of the pond. The pond has a couple of islands and a makeshift bridge has been put in place (a ladder with planks on – check my previous post, 2nd image of the grounds near the boat). I had noticed that a Pied Wagtail was picking off flies from the multitudes in the air and often sat on the plank, mainly in the evening. I decided I’d go and see that evening and when I saw a bird land there I waited until it had a beak full of food and it headed back to the nest. I got in place with a view to getting some shots of the aerial antics. Not as easy as it seemed!
There were two birds with this habit. One was a jumper, the other a flier. The jumper ran across the plank and would jump and flick it’s wings to pick off insects closest. The other would actually fly through the clouds and land back on the plank. My guess was that the jumper would be easiest to try and get shots of but I’d try my best with either.
The plan was to stop down the aperture a little to try to get extra depth of field and so needed to bump up the ISO to compensate. With a 500mm lense at only about 15 feet away meant it was still quite shallow.
This is the jumper – you can see the number of insects in the air.
I wouldn’t be exaggerating by saying I took hundreds of shots trying to get a decent image or two with the bird in an interesting pose and properly in focus. Despite the fact that the “jumper” didn’t go too far from the plank, the movements seemed so random (to me – it of course knew exactly what it was doing!) that it was hard to judge where to shoot. Here are a few of the ones I came closest on –
These were all taken at 1/3200s, f6.3 and ISO 800 with -0.7EV to counter the bright sun burning out the whites on the bird. I never really did get the shot I had in my head but I guess the closest would be this one –
Getting to spend so much time just observing and listening to the surrounding wildlife was a joy. In the evenings we could just sit right outside the barn, watch the swallows and martins hawking insects over the pond and the incredible agility of the Pied Wagtails as they dance through the air to snatch at any insect too slow. I wished I had a video camera to record it, amazing to watch and just a few feet in front of us. While sitting out on evening we could also hear Tawny owls in the wooded area up the track. We went out at dusk and did manage to spot one flying the edge of the woods, we also saw loads of bats flitting through the air. Around the “gateposts” seemed to be a great place to watch from.
I decided after hearing the owls that I would get up at daybreak and see if I could find one with enough light to get some shots. Sure enough when I made my way up there at 5am I could hear a few calls back and forth. I eventually tracked one down and took some shots. The first I only got 2 clicks of and messed up the exposure, however a bit of fiddling with the RAW file actually produced a reasonable image –
The owl then relocated to a slightly more open area and I was able to take quite a few shots as it casually glanced around. Great to see!
Up in the woods is a small derelict cottage. I wished I had taken some shots as it was great to investigate. Hugo (the owner) told us that Barn Owls used to nest in there but since the roof had collapsed further and there was little shelter, they have not been seen. I hope he takes my advice and considers putting an owl box up there again, it’s such a perfect place! I was lookig around this ruin and found what I believe are a couple of the Tawny Owl feathers – I took some images and popped a pound coin next to them for scale –
My final part of the pembrokeshire blog will concentrate on my experience of visiting Skomer Island which we did twice.
Though just a week spent there, Little Barn certainly made an impression on us both and hope we can get back there again.