A good friend of mine has a wild and free tawny owl on his patch Tawnies are very territorial creatures and their areas are often quite small. In its search for an endless supply of mice, rats, voles and earthworms this particular tawny is a frequent visitor to my friend's property. The bird comes regularly to visit an old farm fence post, to perch and silently to listen, before again taking to the air to continue the hunt. I was really delighted when my friend asked if I would wish to take photographs.
Tawnies rarely, if ever, hunt during the daylight hours and so, as the sun started to set and with great anticipation, I assembled my camera gear before sitting in a small canvas hide close to the perch. My gear consisted of a Canon 1DX MkII camera with a 70-200mm f2.8 L IS lens on a Gitzo tripod, along with two off-camera Canon Speedlite (600EX-RT) flashguns. The flashes were triggered by an on-camera Canon Speedlite (ST-E3-RT) transmitter set to high speed synch flash with the camera at F8, 1/640 sec and 400 ISO. In my experience, this Canon flash system works really well and it is highly reliable; well worth the investment. I settled down for the wait.
About an hour after sunset I heard an owl hooting in nearby trees, twowitawoo, towitawoo, and I hoped I would not have long to wait. Silently and seemingly from nowhere the owl materialised out of the darkness. Wings spread it drifted elegantly into view gliding slowly toward the old farm post. And with a slight realignment of its wings, the bird's talons came forward and it settled noiselessly on the perch.
As the owl landed on the post I pressed the shutter. I had half expected that as a result of the flash the bird might immediately take to the air. But no; it looked in my direction with a wise old gaze, folded its dark brown wings and settled down on the farm post. It stayed a while, occasionally turning its head as owls do with its black eyes searching the ground; and listening. I took another couple of shots and then the owl was up and away disappearing into the night as silently as it came.