Tawnies are the U.K’s most common owl but, because of their nocturnal habits, they often prove a difficult subject to see and photograph. My hide allows the opportunity to observe, photograph and film a wild tawny owl at close range. The main perches are approximately 50 feet from the hide – allowing for practically full-frame images (cropped-sensor cameras with 500mm lenses). The area is lit with LEDs, so you do not have to be concerned with using flash.
What can you expect?
A pair of tawny owls regularly visits this area and it is the male bird that tends to show in front of the hide. The female is more reserved but if you are lucky you may see her or even hear the pair interact.
Every night is different – sometimes the owl will be in & out quickly and may be “done and dusted” in a few short minutes. On other occasions he seems to have all the time in the world, and may sit in front of the hide for an hour or more.
What sort of shots will you get?
You can expect to get good portraits of the owl(s) and the natural setting allows for a large variety of perches – giving opportunities for some great and varied images. You can check out the gallery for some further examples. Please don’t expect to get action or flight shots – I light this small area with LED lights that the birds have become accustomed to and comfortable with. The lighting is great for photography & video and also provides a lovely ambient light to watch the birds in the nearby trees while they contemplate coming to the perches.
Photography tuition is not provided (I’m sure you don’t need it anyway) but I am more than happy to discuss suggested camera settings.
What about video?
The LEDs give you the option to shoot video. This is an excellent way to bring your subject to life and is a great accompaniment to the portraits.
Is there any other wildlife to see?
Although owls are the main focus the area is occasionally visited by badgers, bats, foxes, roe deer & muntjac – so always keep an eye open for the unexpected.
What does it cost?
An evening session costs £70 for one photographer; or £120 (£60 each) for a maximum of two photographers. I accompany all visitors to the location and stay for the duration of your visit.
The owls are completely wild and free – they are not trained or tamed, so please be aware that I can never guarantee 100% that the birds will show. In the unlikely event that your evening is a blank and there is no showing, you will not be charged. I think that’s as fair as I can be.
What equipment will you need?
DSLR Camera, lenses (I use a 200mm-500mm zoom on my Nikon D500 and this is ideal – occasionally the birds may perch extremely close to the hide), batteries, memory cards and a tripod is essential as you will likely be shooting at low shutter speeds. A gimbal or video head for your tripod will assist but is not essential.
In addition I suggest you bring a small comfy seat (you will be in a pop-up hide and I can provide a seat but some people prefer to bring their own). It is a good idea to bring a torch as it will be pitch black when we finish the session (again, I’m happy to provide one if needed).
Fen Drayton is a small village which lies approximately 8 miles north of Cambridge. The village is easily accessible by road – with excellent links to the nearby A14, M11, A1, A428 and A1307. My address is c5mins from Cambridge Services (A14, junction 24).
The meet point is my home address in Fen Drayton, Cambridgeshire. This is a short drive from the owls. You will be able to park adjacent to the hides which are a short walk away over flat ground.
The hides are on private land but please do not stray onto the adjacent farm land or other properties, thank you. There are no toilets on site – beforehand visitors are welcome to use the toilet at my home.
Please remain as quiet as possible when we enter the hides & make sure phones are switched to silent. Under no circumstances should visitors attempt to call the owls or approach them. Flash photography is not permitted.
Finally – although the setting is very safe, all visitors should mind their step as there are a few natural trip hazards in the area (tree roots/stumps) & extra care should be taken when entering or exiting the hide.
I look forward to welcoming you and hope you have a fantastic evening.