At the end of December, I had ventured over to Willington Pits, in the hope of seeing the long-eared owl, but it never seemed to get light and my word was it cold. I did see 2 bitterns, a barn owl and as darkness closed in, a shortie, but no joy on the main target, and no photos worth airing. Took a couple of hours for my feet to defrost too.
I arrived a bit early, and after photographing the sign for the meadows (always handy, so you can refer back and not get lost), I trudged over to the area recommended for the birds. There wasn't much about, apart from a few crows and a lone kestrel, though I was soon joined by Ken, Ian and Stu, which raised my spirits.
None of us were entirely sure where was best to stand, so we picked somewhere with a good vantage point over the area and hoped. As usual, hawk-eye Ian spotted the first owl, and we were soon watching it quarter the fields. At some distance... and it initially stayed that way. Landing in a small tree, the shortie was caught by surprise by a kestrel, which knocked it off its perch, as these rather blurred pics show.
The bird soon disappeared into the undergrowth, and we didn't need to wait long for another to appear. By this time, I'd moved around from the others, gambling on a different spot, and it paid dividends. The owl flew right past me on a couple of occasions; too close to get it in the frame. Though me tripping over the tripod as I spun round following it, probably didn't help!
Sadly the light never really materialised, but using the manual settings for a change helped, and although the end results were a tad dark and noisy (it is a 50D!!), they were recoverable, and I got some reasonable images.
The owls were still hunting when we decided it was too dark for pics, and I stood nearby just watching one for a short while. Fabulous birds to watch and photograph. Just wish some would choose somewhere to winter, closer to home... or anywhere that doesn't involve the dreaded M6.