I have always been dubious of so called wildlife experiences. In my experience they never live up to their billing. So I did not have very high expectations for the birds of prey experience with Feathers and Fur.
Among the experiences offered by Feathers and Fur is a photography session with a selection of birds of prey. It sounded great on their website; a small group of six, freedom to move around for the best shot and even direct the falconer to get the shot you want. The group size is limited to six so there is little chance of someone getting in the way. I thought it worth giving it a try
The three of us arrived to find that the other three photographers booked on had cancelled. After the mandatory health and safety talk we headed to the field where the birds would be flown. Care had been taken to make the area photographer friendly with stumps and trees as props and one edge of the field had been planted up and a screen fence built to hide the car park.
Sadie the falconer and owner explained which birds she would be flying and what they would be able to do. Among the birds we would see were the Barn Owl, Great Grey Owl, Common Buzzard, Tawny Owl, European Eagle Owl and the Peregrine Falcon.
The first bird out was the Barn Owl. This light coloured owl with a very distinctive face and plumage is a photographer’s dream. He was perched on a tree stump and then in the fork of a tree. Having lenses poked in his face did not seem to worry him at all. We also had a chance to get him in flight. Sadie had him fly from the tree repeatedly so we could get a good shot which was far more difficult than I thought but having the chance to repeat the shot helped.
The next bird was the comical looking Great Grey Owl. Bright yellow eyes set in a face of grey feathers just asked to be photographed in close up. We spent some time taking portrait shots of this bird with a delightful face.
The Common Buzzard was next and, Sadie informed us, this bird would be flying a fair bit. It was helpful in positioning ourselves to know that the bird would land flying into the wind. We positioned ourselves and got some great shots of the buzzard, wings and talons outstretched.
The Tawny Owl was the smallest of the bunch and was great for portrait shots. Sadie placed him in a hollow log. This gave us some great natural looking shots of the bird in its natural setting. All the time we were taking photographs we learnt more about the birds and their habits.
From the smallest to the largest the next bird was the European Eagle Owl. This bird has a 2m wingspan so, to help us know what lens and where to place ourselves, Sadie stood there with her arms held wide. Prepared and ready we were able to get some dramatic shots of this great bird and its massive wingspan.
The final bird, we were warned, would be very difficult to capture in flight. The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest bird on the planet and can reach 180mph in a dive. Following the falcon at that speed was very difficult but Sadie’s knowledge of how it approaches helped. Even so the best shots of the Peregrine were when it was feeding on the ground and when perched on the falconer’s glove.
The whole birds of prey experience was fantastic. The session is relaxed and there is plenty of time to work out the best angles, to try different settings and backgrounds. I had gone with the intention of taking some close-ups and getting shots of birds flying. I achieved both with out the need to direct the falconer such was her knowledge of what photographers wanted.
The Photography Session at Feathers and Fur surpassed my expectations and more than lived up to its claims. At £50 for two hours the photography sessions are certainly good value for money. You can find all the details at www.feathersandfur.co.uk
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