Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year's Owls

After the chaos of the snow followed days when it seemingly never got light. Mist and fog loomed and when that cleared, there was still no sign of the sun. And so ended 2010, with me hardly going out during December. The New Year brought an almighty hangover, and so on 2nd January, I dug out my camera, and inspite of the weather, headed out for a look at a new spot in Staffordshire, which had been producing some good short-eared owl shots lately.

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!

The owls seemed oblivious to people around, and at times looked like they were going to land on some of the walkers!

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.


olympus said...

Very good photos.Is that bird common in Uk?Iam from Greece and here is not so easy to find it

Pete Walkden said...

Not very common, and can be difficult to find during the winter too, when they're further south in the UK as they favour remote spots. They're one of my favourite birds, so I tend to travel a lot to find them!



olympus said...

Thanks for the reply.You can see mine at
I love this bird also but i have seen it only twice in my life.
Thanks for sharing the photos and the info

Steve Seal said...


Max Silverman said...

Cracking shots Pete.