Owl Heaven

I’ve been after some decent short eared owl shots all Winter but so far have only managed long distance sightings and pictures. However recently I’ve been watching one on the moors above where I live and you can almost set your watch at the time it hunts a particular field. The field is some distance away from the road so I sit there willing the owl to venture closer toward me. Last night I watched it quartering the moor on the lookout for its evening meal and on a few occasions it plunged headfirst into the long grass, always emerging with empty talons.

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Gradually it began to get closer and I could see its stunning orange yellow eyes as I looked through my viewfinder. I had the shutter almost continually pressed and with my fingers crossed hoped that some of them would be OK.

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It’s always difficult looking at the back of the camera to see if you’ve got the shot and it always seems to take a lot longer getting home so you can review them properly.

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The owl barely seemed to notice me as it intently hunted the voles and mice which make up its diet. They are about the size of a barn owl but their wingspan is much greater at around 1 metre. These owls are unusual in that they prefer to hunt in the daytime silently dissecting the moorland for a sight or sound of their prey.

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They are resident breeding birds in the North of England but during Winter are joined by birds from Scandinavia, Iceland and Russia heading South to avoid harsher winters.

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The Short-eared Owl is mottled yellowy-brown but paler underneath and has dark circles around its stunning yellow eyes. It gets its name from its short ear tufts which to be honest I’ve not really noticed.

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This visit closer to the road and my “hide” (car) lasted about 5 minutes before the owl moved further and further down the fields until eventually disappearing. An absolute pleasure to see this bird and to finally get some pictures I’m happier with!

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When Woodpeckers Attack!!

It’s that time of year again when the great spotted woodpeckers in my local wood start pairing up and looking for nest holes. Last year I watched three nests successfully fledge and so far it looks like two of those nest sites have already been snapped up. The third though seems to have attracted the attention of two rival males who were checking it and each other out at lunchtime today.

While one perched on the hole to check out the facilities the other kept dive bombing it in an attempt to perhaps scare him away from thisĀ  high rise des res. He wasn’t taking the hint though and after an internal inspection perched higher up to consider the options while his rival looked on.

 

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The second male then suddenly swooped down, calling loudly and aggressively harrying the other in a whirl of black and white in an attempt to move him on.

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The plucky potential nest owner clung on and after a few moments returned to the hole and disappeared inside keeping a wary eye out for his rival.

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Sealed With A Fish.

So after a few near misses with the fish pass I decided to take the following day off work as I was sure it was going to happen very soon. I was all set up by 7.30am and I didn’t have long to wait before the male arrived on the perch fish in beak. There was no sign of the female so he departed after a few minutes and for the next hour or so I had to make do with a fishing cormorant, nesting long tailed tits and a bathing mallard to keep me amused._JM10714Finally the female arrived on the perch and within seconds the male arrived with a fish only to see the female head upstream. Beginning to think I was in for another fruitless day I resigned myself to some pictures of a forlorn kingfisher with his unrequited fish. But then back she came and noisily announced she was receptive to his offer.

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They moved closer and finally she took the fish!!

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Sealed with a fish.

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Our patience had finally been rewarded, he got his mate and I got my picture. But to me the best moment was just after the fish pass when he raised himself up and stretched to his full height, looking ever so proud of himself and full of the joys of life.

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He left her to her fish which was by far the biggest he’d offered so far (who says size doesn’t matter) and she eventually managed to get it down after a little bit of a struggle.

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I’ll be leaving them alone for a bit now so hopefully they can begin a family and toward the end of the month there may be some noisy and colourful new additions to the riverbank.