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Elegant Montages Show the Beauty of Birds in Flight –

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Don’t let these beautiful montages fool you: Their creators, Roy and Marie Battell, are not birders. “Birding in the UK implies making lists and rushing about to see some poor, lost migrant,” says Marie. Instead, they’ve turned their 2-acre property into the ultimate lure for catching wildlife in motion.

The semi-retired couple sold their software company, but still make time for freelancing: Updating code, writing tutorials, and programming musical organs. The combination keeps them comfortable while pursuing their consuming hobby.

And oh, is it consuming. There are seven CCTV video cameras scattered around their property, one of which is tricked out with infrared sensors for capturing nighttime movements. Feeders are strategically placed so the birds they attract don’t make easy prey for raptors, which have their own custom perches. At night, they sometimes smear logs with peanut butter to attract deer, mice, and other nocturnal creepers. They even have a specially designed tunnel with a sensor-triggered camera for capturing insects in flight. Few critters escape their minefield of camera traps.

The result is mountains of images—upwards of 4,000 each week. Obviously not all of these are suitable for montages. Trees, rooftops, and telephone lines can draw the camera’s focus. Swarming birds, like swallows, pigeons, and rooks, can distract the camera. But once they’ve found a suitable set of photos, it’s off to Photoshop where they put the pics together and erase all evidence that the montages came from separate shots. The process has taught the couple a lot about the different ways birds fly. For instance, pigeons are competent at crowded flying, and their wings collide frequently. Small birds spend a lot of time with their wings folded, and often land that way. Raptors take off by dropping vertically from their perches, and then flapping their way into horizontal flight.

If you want to see more, check out the couple’s website, or subscribe to their weekly” target=”_blank”>newsletter.

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