Short Eared Owls

23rd April 2012
Despite the current desperately needed but photographically frustrating rain and cloud, I noticed a clear night on a saturday evening and decided to get up early on Sunday to try a couple of hours at my only local Short Eared Owl site. I've been lucky to spot at least one of them on several occasions but never been in a position to get any decent photos. Not long after I arrived on site I noticed a SEO circling above the reed beds as the sun rose behind him. I quickly and as discreetly as possible (hiding behind my car) I managed to get my camera set up (D300, 500mm VR, tripod) and rattled off a quick few frames as he was silhouetted against the rising glow of the sunrise. I like the way the image illustrates the fragility of the wings.

He (or she!) quickly settled on a nearby post which unfortunately meant various reeds in between us partly restricting my view and the early hour meant I had to use a higher ISO than ideal.

The SEO was still actively watching the ground for prey whilst on the post, a habit I've observed Barn Owls do frequently, I'm sure as a very energy-efficient method of hunting. Below you can see as he got restless and prepared to fly.

As he turned and flew I managed to get one or two sharp images although being quite high I wasn't able to get any surrounding habitat in which can add something but given the number of unsuccessful trips I've had I was happy to seem in the viewfinder at less than 40-50 yards away !!

Sometime later he returned from a separate direction and settled in the grass in front of us (I'd been been joined by 2 other photographers by this time) and he turned and looked directly at us.

Suddenly the Owl heard a movement just behind him and quick as a flash pounced on an unfortunate rodent ( a short tailed vole I think) and took off to eat his victim out of view alas. You can just see the vole in his claws in the picture below.

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