As the country freezes in one of the coldest spells of weather for decades I have spent almost the last month moving from one location to another location in the hope of photographing Barn and Short-eared Owls in there habitats,and hopefully some close up shots.Over the last 7 days I have concentrated my efforts solely on alone male Barn Owl which has taken up residence over farm and marshland not to far from my home.I’d watch for hours on end some days and go home with nothing but the smile on my face as I’d laugh to myself knowing that dealing with wild animals is not always as predicable as you’d think.This laughter this week has also been tinted with sadness also as I’d watch a starving Barn Owl hunt over snow covered fields,making simple errors when diving for food,being mobbed by Rooks and Crows as they’d watch the Barn Owl do all the work and then rob him of his catch,knowing that all the energy the Owl had expended hunting was now in vain due to being mugged by the ever present,opportunist Crow family members.
I have had some really beautiful and close encounters this week with this Barn Owl as he hunted for the healthy population of voles this area has with the constant rustling vegetation I’d witnessed as these rodents woke up and starting going about their daily tasks, as I lay in what for the owl to show up.The saddest thing for me was just watching the Barn Owl frantically trying to locate and hunt for prey as the ground had a small blanket of snow covering it which was made ever worse by the weather and cold conditions these and many more animals are facing during this unprecedented spell of cold weather we are having.I can say though on the few times I witnessed the Barn Owl hunting he was very successful in catching his prey and out running the Rooks,Crows that tried to take his catch,a real struggle for life and survival on all sides though,and with more snow predicted I fear for every animal that lives outdoors.
On one occasion the Barn Owl came almost alongside me and started to hover as he’d seen something below,I couldn’t believe my luck,the sun was starting to go down and here I was looking like a bush, listening to the wing beats of one of my favorite birds that has enchanted me from childhood,he allowed my a few images until he called time and disappeared-WOW!
I managed to capture the moment he was flying off with what looked like streamers attached to him but they were pieces of long grass he’d picked up with the vole he’d caught the following two images show you this funny spectacle.
I am going back shortly once the forecasted snow has fallen to see this Barn Owl I’ve become quite fond of, hopefully he will have been able to survive the continuing cold spell which I do hope will break very soon to give everyone a break. My aim is to continue photographing this owl for as long as he lets me in this area.
With a dusting of snow and temperatures of minus-4 with the wind chill, the cold,winter weather didn’t dampen anyone’s spirit’s on the Birdwatching for Beginners Walk,at Carsington Water, Derbyshire today with a brillant turn out of over 25 people that braved the icy conditions as the winter sunshine shone down on us all.
Carsington Water has been a very popular visitor attraction since the reservoir was opened by the Queen in May 1992,the reservoir is owned and operated by Severn Trent Water and is a centre for outdoor activities.Today I joined the rangers and Matt Merrit Editor from the Birdwatching Magazine as we took a trip around this beautiful reservoir,I was invited by Matt to take photographs for an article that will be in the March issue of the magazine.Introductions out of the way and we headed around the reservoir looking out for what ever birds would brave the conditions and show up,stopping off at various different places and making best use of the wardens knowledge of this area.
As you can see from the photograph above conditions where very clear and cold but we didn’t have a great deal of luck apart from the usually common species,but we did managed to find a Redshank feeding on the shoreline and a lone Lapwing against the snow,the images can be send below
Carsington Water run these walks on the first Sunday of every month and they also put on more advanced walks that specialise in certain species and are aimed at the more experienced birdwatcher.Myself and Matt had a great day and it was lovely to meet such nice people and I hope you all learned something. look out for the article which will be in the March issue of the Birdwatching Magazine and if you would like to join the next walk please contact Carsington Water 01629 540 696 and they will tell you all the details you need or alternatively drop me a line on my ‘Contact’ page and I will answer any queries you may have.
Thank you all for your support during the last year,and I hope to have helped you in someway with regard to Wildlife Photography and seeing the beauty of the natural world.Just wanted to finish the year as I started with a photo of my all time favorite UK bird “The Dipper” fishing here on the river
Makes a change from a Robin at this time of year I thought and this was taken yesturday and it was freezing. Next year I am hoping to photograph 12 months in the Life Of The Dipper, documenting the character and behavior of this fascinating bird during the different season’s,building a better picture and understanding of this bird through the medium of photography.
So what ever you are doing over the Christmas period I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.And lastly a big Thank You to Andrew and the team at RapidWeb for a brilliant website!
Spent a lovely day yesterday on a One To One with Gary Copeland,Derbyshire in the Peak District looking for Red Grouse,after a slight walk to one of 3 places I visit regularly we got into place and waited for this very shy bird to show up.The heaths and moors of the peak district are an eerie exposure of peat covered moorland sitting about 600m (2000 ft) above sea level. Large wind carved eroded rocks sit among vast plateaus and rock formations supporting a healthy population of Red Grouse. These iconic moorland birds make their home on these moors and are reliant on their camouflaged plumage to blend in to this habitat.The image below shows where we were and gives you an ideal of this habitat.
The image above is of the hard to capture/see female who looked in stunning condition,perched on these large rocks that litter this beautiful landscape, the weather was good to us in the morning but in the afternoon the weather changed and at 570m ( Altitude-meter in my watch) above sea level you get a real sense of the environment as you look to the sky and see the changing weather approaching.Neverless Gary and myself had a great day and I was pleased for gary as he managed some lovely images and learned alot about the Grouse,approach,what to look for etc.
I managed to capture a male Red Grouse up on a stone wall walking up and down, like something of the famous ‘Red Grouse Whisky’ advert where he is seen posing and performing,very funny to watch,seen below in this image
The Red Grouse is one of those beautiful birds that live a quiet and shy life,a very jumpy bird I have found over time and the secret is just simply to get into place with as little disturbance to the bird as possible and wearing camouflage clothing,make sure the wind is blowing towards you as this will take your scent away and just wait for them to show up,they often fly around alot and take some time to settle.I run Red Grouse In The Peaks workshops, where throughout the year I have certain dates where I take up to four people to the best site at that time of year or like Gary I can do a One To One at one of these site’s also. It’s all designed to get the best images for the client as I can and a better understanding of your chosen subject using my proven fieldcraft techniques and other simply tips I teach and showing people the beauty of nature.
And the male turned up just before we left and posed for us and I managed this portrait of this beautiful bird, a great day was had by all,thank you for your company Gary and a Merry Christmas.
I have been photographing Short-eared Owls over the last couple of weeks at one of my sites on the North-West Coast of the UK where they migrant to in the winter months, it’s pre-dominantly a stronghold for Short-eared Owls during the non-breeding season and this time of year.Most Short-eared Owls are upland,pasture and moorland hunters,but during the colder months in these areas their prey becomes scarce so the birds move to areas where their food of voles,rodents and other small mammals is more abundant, hence why they are said to migrate during this period when really its just about surviving the colder months.
They favour coastal,marshland,reedbeds and rough grazing habitat during the winter months,often coming down to lower altitudes from their upland/moorland summer habitats. With the weather being so wet over the last few weeks the opportunities to see them, let alone photograph these most beautiful of the owl family have been very slim on the ground but I managed to capture some images.But over the next 2 months I hope to get some beautiful shots of these owls hunting like I did last year with the image below.
I love their faces with their ‘Disc-Like’ shape to it and those ‘Fierce’ looking eyes that for me make these a beautiful looking bird.They are one of the few owls that regularly hunt and appear in broad daylight,often visible at long range,listen out for the males call, a deep, booming sound – ‘boo-boo-boo-boo’ when you are looking for them.During this time of year they are very tollerate of other birds/owls and most of the time can be seen hunting together over the marshland here where numbers of 15,20+ have been counted in the past in this area alone,with one communal roost with a maximum of 28 owls in it.
I will keep my blog updated on my progress in capturing these birds ,weather permitting,but in the meantime when you go and visit marshland,coastal reedbeds etc just look out for these birds especially at this time of year and listen out for their calls and remember their eye sight is amazing so wear muted,camoflaged clothing to ensure you give yourself the best chance of seeing these beautiful birds and try to stay as still as possible.Good luck and if you would like any futher help and advice on these birds please contact me and I’ll do my best.
I have been working on a project for a few weeks now where I have been trying to capture one of my favorite birds,the beautiful ‘Whooper Swan’.This shy bird is the biggest of our swans and on the north-west coast there is in places a high population of these birds.with its long,flat forehead and yellow bill its a beautiful bird. I have been spending as much time as possible watching these birds,where they go,where they fly to and feed,the way the sun sets hoping to capture them in an almost ‘Watercolour’ painting effect inspired by my friend and wildlife artist Ian Griffiths (Griff) who paints wildlife for a living and has some amazing work,click his name and see his beautiful work
I watched for some time how they made their approach into their roost and tried where possible to get level with them so I could give the impression I was level and flying alongside them.One of the key things I tell people is the need to get to know your subject and how they move, how/where they live, all key factors to getting that all important photograph.Mother Nature gives clues to us and I show people how to read these and get close without impacting on their lives and in turn making for better ‘Wildlife Photography’
They where so beautiful to watch and for such a large bird where very graceful when flying and landing.I also heard their loud trumpeting call ‘Whoop-Whoop-Whoop’ hence there name ‘Whooper Swan’ I hope you enjoy some of the images I took and this time of year they live on large lakes,marshes,rivers,estuaries and fields so look out for these beautiful Swans when out out and about