Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Introducing "Tyrion" the Little Owl

Tyrion, the Little Owl, at 3 1/2 weeks

Meet Tyrion, our new Little Owl Chick!

He was hatched out here at the Centre earlier this year, and is a huge success for us in being the first little owl we have bred, and a commendation for our new aviaries. Our breeding pair of little owls have been here for three seasons, the first in their old aviary, last year moved around a lot during the season due to new accommodation being built, and finally this year with all things settled we had success!

You have seen this photo above before, but it is one of my favourites. It really shows off how little he is on top of the gate. Of course the lovely iron work of the gate helps make the picture.

With most youngsters, but especially ones we rear, I normally try to do a few photo shoots for the record. These then act as souvenirs too for us keepers, and gets the animals used to cameras. So far with Tyrion we have had two shoots. Another hopefully in the next couple of days, and then a final one when he is fully feathered in a week or so.

They really do grow quickly, and are fully grown and looking like an adult owl in roughly 10 weeks! Incredible when you think about it. They normally start out as little ugly balls of fluff, but then develop in to beautiful owls... a real ugly duckling transformation.

I have never shot black and white, and very rarely change a photo to black and white. But I liked this one above, but it just didn't feel right in colour, so I tried a change and like it more this way.

These ones are from our second shoot, maybe a week later than the first, and you can see the difference already. Much more sure of himself and stable, bigger and more feathers.

We try to take our owl chicks away before 3 weeks old if we want to train them to join our flying team. You can take them later than this, but it is much more difficult, far easier to get them young and really imprint them on yourself. All our flying owls think they are people in little owl suits :-)

Getting him started at an early age! Always good to have a peeking owl shot.

Little owls often look really grumpy, good to see that Tyrion has mastered that look already!

I normally get the fisheye lens out at some point on a photo shoot, it doesn't always work, but when it does it gives a unique looking photo.

You can't beat a good old portrait though :-)

Keeper Lucy is rearing Tyrion, and will soon begin the flying training. Hopefully by the end of the summer he will be a fully fledged member of the flying team!

Thanks for looking :-)

Saturday, 27 June 2015

June's Catch up.

Little Owl Chick

Just a quick post today to share a few pics from this last month. We have a new little owl chick, first time we have bred them here at the Centre, and we are currently rearing him to be part of our flying team. I have spent a couple of shoots with him to get some record shots of the little one growing, and will do a post sharing some photos of just him probably later next week, but thought I would show this one above. 

This is of him when he was only about 2 and a half, 3 weeks old. It is so far my most popular photo on my Facebook page, and I particularly like it because it shows off how small he really is. And boy, what a great gate he is perched on! :-)

Another reason I shared the little owl photo early, is because the others in this post are not great... but it shows you a work in progress.

Drogo, our new male pine marten, is becoming great at positioning for photography. I am now trying a few different things out and playing with the light a bit. Not really working at the moment, but you can get an idea of what I am trying for.

This was perhaps the closest to what I had in mind, the lens flare was deliberate, but unfortunately the light fell in an area where it was impossible for me to avoid the obvious pen background. I'll think of something though, may be a case of getting him used to some false background or allowing the grass to grow longer along the back. 

 Finally, a couple of photos of frogs. Can you spot the difference?

Above is a marsh frog, and below a pool frog. Some of you may remember we had some young pool frogs in where our water shrews are now. Reared from a young age, when bigger we released them in to our water vole pond. They had been rather shy, but this year have really become bold and are out quite a lot to be seen.

No I am in know way an expert in frogs, and I still get confused about the differences between marsh, edible, pool etc, but there are two thing here that show you its a pool frog. Most obviously the beautiful vivid green/yellow dorsal stripe down the back (although some marsh frogs can show similar too, I did say it was confusing! :-) ) and when you know what you are looking for, you may be able to see that the pool frog also has a more pointed and longer snout than the marsh frog? Can you? Course you can, have a closer look :-)

Oh finally, let me share a video with you of me feeding the pine martens.

OK, for those interested in "Instagram" i recently discovered it, and am actually enjoying using it. I have only uploaded photos I have taken on my phone currently, but am running out fast so will move on to my other photos too to keep it going. If interested, drop by and have a look. You will find me as @themattbinstead I'll mention more about that on my next post. 

Thanks for looking :-)

Friday, 12 June 2015

New Pine Martens

Pine Marten, Martes martes

At the end of last year we acquired two new pine martens at the BWC. Those that know me well, or have followed my blogs, know I that the pine marten is my favourite animal. I have a particular bond with one of our females called Bonnie, a story I have told many a time, and may repeat here at some point in the future. 

Anyway, after moving our new male Drogo on to display earlier this year, I felt the time was right a few weeks ago to start some training. The evening where lighter, I had some time and he had settled well and even started following us around when we went in to feed him. 

He now hand feeds well, a bit snatchy, but that will calm with time. Fingers and jam is still a way off, but I will get there :-) Will he ever be as "friendly" as Bonnie or Clyde?.. I would be surprised, but then you never know.

Feeding comfortably I then started getting him used to the camera, being tempted to different areas of the enclosure, and the shutter going off. He doesn't keep still! But I have managed to get a few photos I am very happy with!

The light in the evening is good, but only falls in patches in his pen, and move around quite quick. I managed to catch it right in a couple of cases though and while he is learning to pose and go where I ask, I am learning where the light falls at different times of the evening. It is a work in progress, and one in which we both have to help each other out and work together. 

This bond with an animal is what I love, and is really pulling me back to my roots... something I need at the moment. I am beginning to learn his limits, and he is beginning to really trust me when I ask him to do something new.

Handsome chap ain't he! :-) He is a good lad, and I am thoroughly enjoying my evenings with him. I haven't forgotten the others, I still spend time with them all, but since they are so steady I can afford a bit more time with Drogo at the moment.

Our other new pine marten, Daenerys, is still housed off display. She will be on display at some point, but it will mean retiring one of the others off so will take time to see who and when is best.

I have been working with her too. I have spent many an evening with her already, but not really training. Only watching and getting her used to me being there. The other week I started, and originally thinking she would take a long time to "tame", she had proved me wrong and is making much faster progress than Drogo, despite me starting later with her!

She regularly hand feeds, is less snatchy than Drogo at the moment, and even comes up and tries to steal food from the bowl before I am ready! Good stuff. I have stated some jam training with her the last couple of nights, so expect some bloody fingers soon :-)

Isn't she beautiful! A real stunner. Bonnie will always be my number one girl, but I don't think I have ever seen a pine marten more beautiful than Daenerys! 

The pen has poor backgrounds for photographs, but I just wanted some record shots and was happy with the above. 

While working with the two newbies, I realised I didn't really have any good photos of Hamish, another of our martens. He is a small male, a little runty actually, but full of character and personality. Here is one I took of him the other evening.

I will post a video of them feeding soon, just a couple more clips I hope to get before editing.

Thanks for looking :-)

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Photography Day

Hedwig, Snowy Owl

Last Friday a good friend of mine, Darren Rowley, came along to one of our owl photographic days. Darren helped me when I first started getting in to photography with all manner of things, and even came with me to a shop to try a few different cameras out before I settled on Nikon.

Having not seen Darren for a while, I freed up the day so I could tag along for the photography and of course to catchup. Here are just a few of the photos I took.

We currently use a few new places/perches for out owls. A few reasons for this, but mainly it saves walking to the very far end of the reserve when there are plenty good enough perches in the woods half way along!

As always, we try and place the owls in two or three different areas each for variety, and try and keep the perches as natural as possible.

We only fly the tawny owl and barn owl on our photographic days. Time is the main reason why we limit it to these two, but they are also the most used to flying "off-site" so to speak.

Our barn owls are currently flown over our wetland area, but once our wildflower meadow is in full flow it will be stunning to see them fly above the colour of the flowers.

Unfortunately our gate has seen better days... or more accurately, has seen our three highland steers! We can still make use of it however at the right angles.

Of course, you have to finish the day with Ethel! :-)

Once the day was over, Darren and I decided to stay on and do a bit with the mammals and the soft evening light. I do love the owls, but I am a mammal man at heart... and I always think that shows with my photographs too.

We spent a bit of time with McTavish, including having trainers slashed and bitten!

Finishing up at the foxes and catching the late light before time beat us.

The sun went behind some clouds and the evening was over, but I went back a couple of nights later to catch the very late light in our deer paddock. I didn't get exactly what I was after, and had seen the night before, but I was quite pleased with these two.

I have been working with the pine martens a lot recently. Photos of them coming up later this week.

Thanks for looking :-)