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Sunday, 3 January 2010

Short Eared Owl

We have had many mild winters but the Xmas period 2009 brought a cold snap with quite an unusual prolonged period of snow... not that I'm complaining, quiet the opposite, providing all sorts of opportunities. Another dash to Knott End in-between the snow showers under leaden skies and I was fortunate enough to spot something sat on a fence post... a Short Eared Owl. I approached with great caution and the owl seemed unperplexed but gave me a good looking over. Sat in the car, I slowly drew the camera to my eyes and slowly opened the window, cursing under my breath the noise of the electric motor... the noise didn't seem to bother the owl at all. I took as many photos as I could, fearing the owl would depart any second... it didn't.

Moving with great caution I moved slowly and slower until the obstructing foliage was out of the way. The owl sat there quiet happily, keeping a cautious eye on proceedings and occasionally staring into the grass perhaps after a small movement, but probably melting frost or snow. 

The owl was clearly at peace with the world and sat there and began preening. This was my first proper view of such a magnificent bird and sat there transfixed for a considerable length of time. A number of cars passed without incident but then an approaching walker with two dogs on a lead.  I was able to leave the owl and 'head-off' the walker who was very understanding and quite happy to retrace her steps, I was extremely grateful to her as I returned, slowly and as quietly as possible and the owl was still in the same spot.

Incredibly the snow leaden skies began to disperse and the light improved, allowing some better photographs from time to time. After preening for five or ten minutes it was time for breakfast and suddenly with no notice – didn't ask if I'd finished taking it's portrait – swooped off at low level behind the hedgerow and across the field where I lost sight.

As you can see there was snow on the hills and surprisingly the skies were full of what I assume were pink-footed geese, surprisingly because the majority of them were heading east inland to where the snow would have been worse; I can only assume they had found a location or two where the stubble or feeding grounds was of suitable quality to receive their attention.

Two Red-Legged Partridge scurried off in an adjacent field, and it was time to go.


Christian said...

A very nicely written account Geoff to go with some brilliant images. I love the last one of the SEO especially. You must have been quite close to get them.

Geoff Gradwell said...

Missed this comment Cristina, Thanks... I was about 20 feet away but didn't have the camera equipment at the time that I do now.