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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Cross-Eyed Short Sighted ?!?! - on 23rd January, 2012

I'm now back on line again after being separated from my PC for nearly a week. I've also managed to process the images from my last outing to my local Short-eared Owl site, and I think that they include some of my best ones yet - although there's still a hell of a lot of room for improvement.

I arrived later than I'd hoped (at 15.40) to find one of the owls out, and very soon a second appeared. There was still some sun around, and I managed a few 'standard' flight shots.

Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch
I had also managed some images with trees in the background, but this is in a newly planted area of The National Forest and the pale green trunk protectors do not look good in photos! However, I'm not complaining as I believe that the young trees provide a habitat that is attractive to the SEOs. Nevertheless, give it a couple of years and the trees may be too far developed for them.

As is usual these days, there was a quarrel between a Kestrel and one of the SEOs. This resulted in both birds climbing high, far in the distance.

Kestrel and Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch
After the fray, the owl slowly drifted lower and nearer, and settled on a fence only about a hundred metres away. I started taking a few shots, and made a stealthy approach. In the next image you can see the effect of the green tree protectors in the background.

Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch

I got closer and closer, without the bird showing any signs of concern. It was only when I looked at the next image that I noticed that the owl appeared to have a cast (upwards and inwards) in its right eye. You can click on all these images for enlarged versions.

Short-eared Owl (cross-eyed?) - near Ashby de la Zouch
Subsequent images tend to confirm this, although I do also wonder if the eye had been damaged (in a fight with a Kestrel, for example), as it seemed to sit with its eyes closed some of the time.

Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch
The owl then left its post and flew onto the grass opposite where I was standing, although somewhat more distant. In the first image below it has its eyes closed, but in the second one you can really see that its right eye is 'elsewhere'.

Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch

After this I spent some time just watching the activities as the light was going. I ended up with three owls, and a few more images a couple of which are below.

Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch
Only 45 minutes after arriving it was too dark for photography so I set off towards home. Just before reaching the exit of the site, there was a SEO on a distant post. I couldn't resist attempting an image, and banging off several shots, one of which is not too bad for a 500 mm lens at 30th second handheld! You can really see here, however, what I mean by the detrimental effect of the tree protectors.

Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch


  1. Fantastic post Richard with excellent photographs. I really like the shots on the grass - it's a beautiful bird isn't it. You're right, he/she definitely looks cross-eyed. Interesting.

    By the way - just heard on a local bird form that SEOs are 10 mins from my house! They've been sighted 3 out of the last 4 days! I'm going to try to get up there after work tomorrow.

    Also, you're absolutely right about my being careful about what I write, I should not need to make any enemies of our farmers, especially those like the one I know who is a real boost for the owls due to his techniques.

    Gladd you're back with computer mate.

  2. Some good stuff here Richard, the image of the SEO in the grass is "top notch" mate.

  3. What else could i say, for a owl lover like me.....keep doing them!

  4. Superb shots, a great selection. I love my Owls too, I tend to hear more than I see though.

  5. Thank you Christian and Paul. I hadn't considered the owl in the grass as one of the better images, but now I'm starting to come round to your way of thinking.

  6. Thank you for your encouragement 'El Campero'. I'll keep them coming for as long as I can!!

  7. Thank you for your kind comments Marc. Just had a quick look at your own blog - some amazing images which I will take another look at tomorrow (I'm just off to bed now!).


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