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Sunday, 20 November 2011

Local Short-eared Owl - on 19th November, 2011

I had paid a couple of visits to a place quite close to me, in the hope of seeing Short-eared Owls. I'd been told that location hosted SEOs a couple of years back. However, I'd not yet seen any there. However, on Monday I visited the LROS website for the first time in a couple of months (most remiss of me as it is a mine of good information) and saw that this location had recent reports of SEOs. As it's only a mile and a half (2.5 km) by car and then a half mile walk, it needed further investigation.

On Tuesday afternoon I went there, arriving at about 14.30. It seemed like a long wait in a stiff cold breeze, but at least there was some sun - to start with! It then got cloudy, and quite cold, and then the sun set, and then it started getting dark. I'd almost given up as photography would be impossible, and was talking to another person, who was also here for the owls, when a single SEO showed at about 16.30. It was only just possible to see it, and definitely well-beyond photography as it didn't get close. All too soon it was gone.

I was back on Wednesday, but this time it was dull and misty from the word go. Eventually a single owl showed at 16.20 - far too dark for photography again, but at least it came a little closer as it left the area, allowing a couple of  'record' shots.

I was out there again on Thursday. This time, having been joined by my Tuesday companion, we'd pretty mush given up as nothing had been seen by 16.30, and the light was dire again. My companion suggested a walk back to the car park by a route that I'd not explored before, and from a high point we saw three SEOs together in the sky at a considerable distance.

Saturday saw me there again, and I was half expecting a crowd at the weekend, but I found myself alone for the duration. It was a continually dull day and a little misty, but this time a bird did me the favour of appearing at  15.15, whilst there was still some light (just about - I was trying to get flight shots at ISO 2500 with shutter speeds running around 1/250!)

Short-eared Owl - near Ashby de la Zouch
 The bird stayed around for about fifteen minutes, but always keeping its distance. At one point it landed on the path that I'd walked up to get to my vantage point! After doing a dive for prey it headed off along the path, behind some trees. However, five minutes later it was back, closely followed by a couple with a dog! It was only when I looked at the photos that I noticed it had prey in its talons.

Short-eared Owl, with prey

The bird disappeared for a while again, presumably enjoying its supper. However, ten minutes later it was back, and calling loudly and persistently. The next thing I knew it was flying round above me very close, still calling loudly. By now, however, it was getting on for four o'clock and the light had gone enough that even at ISO 3200 I couldn't get a decent image, although I must admit that, given time (or more experience of these conditions!), I'm sure I could have come up with more appropriate camera settings and better results. The following is the best of a very bad bunch!

OK, so there's not a lot of detail in any of the above images due to poor light and high ISO, and I must do better, but they'll do to be going on with - just !!

Didn't manage to get out today as the weather was foggy, and I thought that my time would be better spent doing some DIY at home, so that I'm free when the weather next improves - but I'll be back there soon!


  1. Terrific results Richard considering the poor light conditions. Looking forward to some more when you get them in good light!

  2. Thank you Paul. I'm hoping to find some free time and fine weather soon. However, getting both at the same time is proving a little difficult at the moment!!!

  3. Thank you Mike. However, I feel the need to do rather better than this! Maybe I'll get lucky!

  4. Nice one Richard - lovely images of what must have been a thrilling encounter. I'm yet to even see one, although, like you, free time has not been abundant of late.

  5. Thank you Christian. You'd think that, being a retired person, I'd have all the time in the world to go birding. However, I seem to be spending all my time catching up with the projects that I should have done when I was working, but had no time to do!


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