|Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on December 26, 2012 at 3:15 AM|
Firstly can I just apologise to the members of this site that received Spam emails last week through this site.Unfortunately its one of the downsides of running your own website and was beyond my control,sorry.
I trust everyone is enjoying the holiday season and the time off work has given me some time to work on a new Short Eared Owl site.There are up to 8 birds there and its a site that is quite local too which is always handy.The area comprises of open damp moorland dissected through the middle by some sort of dis-used landfill.The Owls hunt either side of this area and show towards late afternoon most days.Research is always important where wildlife is concerned and a couple of trips combined with walking the Dog gave me some ideas in the best place to set up.
I have always found that a dry afternoon after a previous night of heavy rain and wind is the best time to go for Shorties as they would have been un-able to hunt in the bad weather.This is because they almost entirely rely on sound to locate prey.Last Saturday was such an afternoon so I gave it a go.
I arrived with the Dog at about 2.30 and although it was dry the wind was up a bit.The landfill provides a natural wind barrier so my idea was that the Owls would hunt in the lee of this `hill` to maximise the ability to hear the Voles without too much wind interference.It would also mean that they would have to hover (a favoured hunting technique) below the top of the landfill bringing them within camera range.
A wasnt Ghillied up but was in my basic camo gear and just set up the tripod just behind some rocks and settled down.I had to wait until about 3.15 before the first Shortie arrived but he was too far for pics.It didnt take him long to make his way towards me though and the first shots were in the bag.
When shooting on open ground like this your eye gets `pulled` to other movements and one such instance resulted in a fly through Merlin.Way too fast for me to lock onto despite recently aquiring a new Canon 50d with much better auto-focus than my previous camera.Another incident resulted in a male Hen Harrier quartering the hillside about 400 metres away.I took a shot just for record purposes but what a stunning Bird that was.
The next Owl to come close enough for a shot was one of two that were having a dispute quite a distance away.At first he didnt notice me but when I made a `squeak` he came and hovered about 10 feet above me giving me quite a good stare.He flew off and started to hunt about 30 metres away where he gave me my best opportunity of the session for a hovering shot.
The sky was grey and the light was failing which meant high iso and low shutter speeds so my hit rate wasnt great but pleased to have come away with something.All in all I had 4 Shorties around me on that session and the research on the site had paid off.They should be around until at least March so hopefully it will give me some more opportunities but hopefully in some better light.