Woooo Hooooo

08th December 2011
At last I finally got out with my camera after spending nearly 7 weeks in bed with a bad back. I didn't venture too far away from home as I dare not risk putting my poxy back out again but thankfully some Short Eared Owls had turned up at a site just down the road and I couldn't resist a visit.

There seems to be a huge amount of these beauties turning up all over the country which is apparently due to a good breeding season on the continent. Short Eared Owls are found in our country too but it's normally further north, these birds will migrate south during the winter months and are joined by birds migrating over from the continent which increases the numbers.

Unfortunately the site is even more well known now thanks to a bird watcher putting it further into the spotlight by posting the location on the web. This has turned it into a circus and the amount of people turning up is a joke, you wouldn't mind if they showed a bit of field craft or were quiet but it's the complete opposite. There are car doors slamming all the time, talking at the top of their voices and a general disregard for the Owls. To me it shows what these so called bird watchers and wildlife photographers know about Owl's.. ZERO...

Another thing I noticed was all the photographers were out of their cars. I was shocked to see this as I normally shoot from the car when photographing Owl's as it's the only way to get close views and frame filling shots. Of course you can get lucky and get a close pass standing there but you've got more chance of a close pass using your car as a hide.

Anyway, enough of the soap box, as I said all the photographers were out of the car so it was pointless me staying in mine so I got out and set up. The light was great and it wasn't too long before a few Owl's started hunting. This was when I had another shock to the system. All of a sudden it was like being at a showbiz event, I never heard so my shutters going off, it was like a machine gun nest on the western front. To be honest I panicked a little bit, the Owl's I could see were miles away so I scanned the area thinking I had missed one that was flying close by but I hadn't. At the time I had a 1.4xtc on my 600mm lens giving my a focal length of 840mm, looking through my viewfinder they were specks in the distance. The constant noise of the machine gunning shutters kept the Owl's out of reach for frame fillers so I grabbed a few distant shots.

I was getting a little frustrated by now but there was one bird hunting the same strip of grass over and over again and it wasn't a million miles away but it would need the use of the 2xtc giving me 1200mm of reach. Light was good and I had nothing to lose, there was no way they would be coming any closer with this amount of people about and it was a shame to waste this light. Thankfully it was the right decision and I got some decent frame filling images of these beautiful birds.

The best shot from the session with the 2xtc attached.

I really wanted some perched shots of the Short Eared Owl's as it's been on my to do list for some time now but this was going to be difficult. I decided to try a first light approach knowing most people wouldn't be there... well I was right about the people not being there but the Owl's were not flying either so that was a wasted effort.

Even if you get there first, like I did on a few occasions, and stay in your car, it isn't long before someone pulls up and gets out so I decided this was a lost cause until I took the gamble on a visit during a pretty dull day.I pulled in to see no other cars and the Owl's were already up and flying about, I sat in the car for a while watching them before moving into position. The difference was amazing but not a surprise to me, they were flying over the top of the car and all along the hedge line right in front of me. I kept my finger off the shutter button hoping one would land close by then bingo, one landed right in front of me on a bush. What a great feeling,I've not had this feeling since I captured my first perched up Barn Owl, such a rush.

Close up crop..

Even the flight shots were better from the car, more difficult to track but they came really close and gave frame filling head ons, it was a shame the light was flat but I still came away very happy with what I had captured..

A few more images of the Shorties..

This isn't a great image, light was poor, there's also grass in front of the Owl and it was taken with a 2xtc attached but it's why I love to photograph Owl's. No other bird species have such great facial expressions as Owl's do, each one has it's own little character..

Thanks for looking but be warned, there could be more Owl's in my next post :)