The day started bright and sunny, so I made up my mind to take an afternoon off and do some owling. After lunch I got the kit together, and it started throwing it down with rain as I got to the front door. In case it was just a shower, I set off for my local patch and sat opposite the barn which is home to Little Owls. I couldn't see a thing through the rain which didn't let up for half an hour. When it did let up I had a quick look round (no owls seen), and as it looked as if it was only a matter of time before it rained again I decided that I'd go to places where I was never far from the car. I set off for my nearby new LO Site No.25, where I have not managed any images yet, but before I could full y check it out there was a hailstorm which, in the strong wind which suddenly got up, came sideways and hurt like hell! Time to pack up and do some shopping!
I came out of the shops just before 15.00, and the sun was shining again. When are Short-eared Owls most likely to be active? - in fine weather after rain! So I set off to my local Shortie site. I'd just got through the gate before the half mile walk to the usual viewing point, when I spotted a shortie two fields away. I soon got there but, unfortunately, the sun was literally a few minutes away from dipping below the horizon. The first few shots were grabbed at inappropriate settings, and subsequently scrapped. I did, subsequently, manage to get set up and grab a few distant images.
|Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch|
Suddenly there were two birds together, but the sun had now dipped out of sight, so photography got a bit more difficult. Regrettably the birds kept their distance.
At one point one of the owls dropped into the field nearest me, but over the horizon. When it came up, it had prey (possibly a Vole) in its talons. Unfortunately I only managed a DA shot!
|Short-eared Owl - with prey|
These two birds disappeared off to the north from a point about 600 metres to the east of me, but a few minutes later I had two owls approximately 400 metres to the west of me. By now, however, it was getting too dark. I'm not sure if I'd seen four owls, or whether the first two had very rapidly made their way round to a new location. I did grab a distant image in the darkened sky.
I'm used to seeing SEOs in coarse grass, but the sightings this day were with them all hunting in meadows with relatively short green grass, and with some success. They weren't the only ones having success in these meadows. At one point a Buzzard also caught something, but was 'mobbed' by one of the owls (I was concerned for the safety of the owl!). Later, a Fox also managed a kill in the same meadow. I'm not sure what it caught but it was chomping on something small (shown in the second image below). The fox seemed rather large, so may have been a male
|Fox - near Ashby de la Zouch|
I gave up when it got too dark to see much, but returned again this afternoon (Saturday 10th Dec.). This time there had been no rain, and I didn't see a SEO until it was too dark for photography again. I took a small diversionary route on a path through a young plantation on my way back to the car, and was suddenly surprised by a SEO zipping between the trees towards me, only turning round when it was about 10 metres from me. If only I had been prepared, I could have taken a great shot with the in-built flash on my camera as it was so close! Oh well - you win some you lose some. I'm still trying to win a few!!