Quite fortuitously an opportunity to photograph some birds of prey owned by a local falconer came up today, and with blue skies and warm sunshine it was an opportunity not to be missed. With six birds ranging from a small falcon to a snowy owl there was plenty of variety to keep a small group of photographers engaged for a few hours.
The session started well with the small, agile falcon providing a good test for everyone as it flew low and fast around us as his handler tempted him swinging bait off a line. Many of these birds are fitted with radio equipment (see above) for those unplanned moments when they disappear hunting wild quarry or something far more interesting.
This happened with the two Harris Hawks that came out next, when the pair decided to investigate the tree line and woodland close by instead of staying with the group.They did manage to retrieve them both, albeit after a good half hour search by car for one of them by it’s handler. These really are a beautiful looking bird, much slower than the falcons, more graceful in flight, but with rich flume of various shades of brown, and a striking yellow beak.
The most temperamental of the flock apparently was the inquisitive juvenile Russian Steppes Eagle, which proved most entertaining on it’s perch, cocking it’s head frequently at all the cameras clicking around it. He proved easy, if a little precarious to attract it’s attention.
I’ve been trying to photograph our local wild barn owls for a few months now unsuccessfully, and whilst today’s barn owl wasn’t flown it was the first opportunity I’ve had to photograph one these iconic birds up close.
Perhaps the easiest and most photogenic of all was the impressive Snowy Owl, which being predominantly a ground dweller, duly obliged by wandering around on the ground hunched over like a little old lady as well as sitting obediently on it’s perch. She has the most vivid yellow eyes I’ve ever seen, and was quite happy for me to get very close with my 50mm lens.
Huge thanks to Wiltshire Photography Group for letting me gate crash their event, and also to Michael Gale for letting us photograph his wonderful birds of prey.
A few more photos can be seen in the gallery here: