Monday, May 24, 2010

Scops Owls, Help!

I finished sorting through the last of my photographs from holiday, perplexed over how best to remove the “red-eye” from my Scops Owl photographs. The red eye certainly made them look fierce but obviously it wasn’t entirely accurate in depicting them. Eventually after a bit of trial and error I found that IrfanView did the job best.

A pair of Scops Owls roosted opposite our Menorca hotel in trees in the grounds of some large villas and houses; not the best place to go wandering about with a large telephoto lens and binoculars on an island where bird watchers are largely an unknown species. So we just waited for the owls to come to us as they did every night. The hotel grounds were well lit at night by ambient brightness from the building itself but also from guest’s balconies, sources of light that allowed the owls to hunt for e.g. large beetles, moths and centipedes. After dinner and sat with a sun downer each on the room balcony we set our watches by the owls, calling at 9pm from the distant trees, then between 920pm and 945pm one or the other or both would fly calling into the nearest palm tree before landing at the top of the trunk just below the fronds, from where they surveyed the immediate ground. After a minute or two they would go off to hunt, either dropping to the ground, flying to other palms or watching the ground from the top of the daytime sun canopies, a convenient perch.

Getting the pictures was a bit hit and miss, as in the darkness the camera autofocus couldn’t work leaving me to try manual focus through the dark tube of the telephoto. So I set the ISO at 3200, and using the inbuilt flash, crossed my fingers at f5.6.

Scops Owl

Scops Owl

Scops Owl

”Red Eyed” Scops Owl

A dozen or so pairs of House Martins nest in the hotel’s rear entrance, and one night there was an almighty din when one of the owls may have gone into the roosting birds to try and take a sleeping bird. This caused all the martins to panic and fly around the grounds calling, until they either went elsewhere or settled back to rest. Scops Owls are known to take small birds, possibly up to Redwing size.

House Martin

One night we were watching the Scops when a Barn Owl flew into the hotel grounds and landed in a palm tree. It was a bit far away but in the ambient light also clearly visible as it went off briefly to hunt then return to the same spot to eat its prey. I think that Barn Owl is a pretty good species to see in Menorca and it certainly made that night memorable for two other hotel guests who joined us on our grandstand balcony to see the Scops Owls.

In the daytime the canopies the owls favoured were also utilized by the hotel’s resident Kestrel, a convenient stopping off place between its vantage points of the hotel roof and balconies and thence to the ground. If it couldn’t find morsels of its own the Kestrel was not averse to robbing the efficient Hoopoe of its large insect prey.





Who ever said that holiday hotels are dull?

Oh,I think I might use one of the Scops as a header picture but can't decide which one. Help!


NicoleB said...

They are all gorgeous! Amazing what one can find in Hotel gardens, no? :)

I would take the first owl shot. Love it!

KaHolly said...

OMG! These pictures are wonderful!! I've never seen anything like the Hoope before. And the owls, wow. I'll have to look them up. I love the header you have now!! Don't see too many beautiful photos of kestrels like that! ~ks

Unravel said...

Wow that's a great set of scops-owl photos considering your setting and condition! The bird must be very close, you could even use the built in flash. The kestrel also looks very nice.

ilovepink1078 said...

Indeed very informative post. Also, interesting birds. great shots!
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