Wednesday 17 February 2010

Harrington Nil, Cossington Three

This time last year I was spending most of my time working out when I could get down to Milton Keynes to see the group of short-eared owls hunting around the fields and canals there. Unfortunately, these fabulous looking birds of prey don't return to the same area each year, so I've been scouring the bird news sites hoping to spot a new site.

One such place was Cossington Meadows, but having visited there last year and only seen kestrels, I wanted to try somewhere new. Harrington Airfield kept appearing and is only a few miles from Maidwell, which is another location where I saw these birds last winter. Alarm sounding at 5:30am on Saturday morning, I was soon chatting to Ian whilst trudging up the pathway to the northern most bunker.

A strange site - lots of twisted metal lying around the bunker ruins, and lots of mud too, which got caked around my boots. Lots of shrubs and rough grasses, and lots of bales of hay further up the fields. Lots of open spaces but unfortunately not lots of owls.

We think, though to be honest couldn't be sure, that we saw a merlin perched on one pile of hay, but it was so distant it may have been wishful thinking. Aside from that, we stood and froze for several hours in the fields, sheltering from the icy breeze behind the concrete structures and saw the occasional yellowhammer and a small flock of goldfinches.

Rob, Joe and Steve all arrived which kept things amusing with the banter, but didn't bring any luck with owls and just before lunch Ian and I decided we would try Rutland to see if the long-eared owls were visible.

In short they weren't and it's probably the shortest amount of time I've spent at Rutland. There was hardly anything about. And as for the long-eared owls, I saw a small portion of the top of one's head. Great. And to finish things off, we got rained on.

Rob had mentioned earlier that he might try Cossington later on, so I persuaded Ian to come along for a look and upon eventually finding the place (Ian found it, not my satnav!) we opted to just take the bins to the meadow to see what was about in the drizzle.

Bad move, as within seconds of seeing the meadow and clocking Rob further down the path, we realised there were 3 short-eared owls quartering the fields. Bugger! Needless to say we scuttled back and returned with our cameras (won't make that mistake again) to try for some shots in the gloom.

We actually had some really (too) close views of the owls as they chased each other in flight, and for the first time since getting the 500mm lens, I wished I had brought my trusty old 100-400mm out, as the birds were just too close to capture with the long-lens kit.

That said, I managed a few half decent shots and in doing so turned the day from a cold and wet disaster into something worthwhile.

So now I'm thinking about how and when I can get over to Cossington again, though the weather really isn't helping at the moment, with more snow forecast this week!

1 comment:

Max Silverman said...

Nice shot again Pete.I was told Cossington is good for Owls but do you have to wait untill dusk?What time did you see them?

The GG Shrike at Morton Bagot is worth a go at.Your big lens would be very useful.