Initially I checked out the marshes where I'd be heading later in the day, and was pleased to spot a pair of short-eared owls performing some aerial acrobatics, albeit somewhat far off. And later, I spotted a marsh harrier heading by.
Nearby was the reserve Far Ings, and this location seems to pay dividends to locals, who bag wonderful shots of bitterns, marsh harriers and bearded tits, plus occasionally the likes of a passing osprey. Sadly the weather dampened down anything that might have shone that morning, and my timing seemed out, as I arrived in the main hide to find I'd just missed a passing bittern (and later discovered after I'd left, I missed a merlin!).
Such is bird photography. The weather seemed to be brightening up a bit, and Stuart had now joined me for the remainder of the day, and hopefully the main event.
Readers of this blog know how much I adore owls, and any chance / excuse I have to photograph them, I try to take. Some of the very best short-eared owl shots I've ever seen had come from this spot, so I hoped my luck would change. The weather had certainly changed, and the sun was now out, with a light but rather chilly breeze.
After seeing the owls performing at the other end of the area from where we'd set up, we opted to wander down the road to both get a bit closer and also try to warm up a bit. Annoyingly, the owls refused to come closer, and the only chance for a decent shot when a lone bird flew over from behind us, left me cursing my camera when it wouldn't lock on. Stuart bagged some lovely shots.
As the light was fading and our cars were at the other end of the road, we wandered back towards the area we'd been originally stood, and it soon dawned on us that the gathered crowd had something rather special nearby. Unbelievably, a short-eared owl was perched only a few yards away from everyone, and didn't seem to be bothered by the excited photographers one little bit.
Needless to say we took advantage and joined in, getting shots from the other side of the road - I had to back off to fit the bird in the frame, and switch to portrait to compose the image.
The slightest movement of the owl brought on a wave of shutter clicks, but it just sat there. Eventually, after a bit of a preen, scratch and ruffle, it moved away and down into the undergrowth, leaving everyone with huge grins and images of an unforgettable day.