Entries Tagged ‘Short-eared Owls’:

Changing Seasons

Filed in Articles, Workshops on Sep.19, 2021

Our seasons are changing now from Summer into Autumn. The nights are drawing in and its a great time to be out with your camera, providing you with some of the most beautiful and intense colours of the year.

Craig Jones Wildlife Photography


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Merry Christmas

Filed in In the Press, Projects, Wildlife on Dec.19, 2011

As the year draws to an end now and my favourite time of year is just around the corner; Christmas, I would just like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Many thanks to all the wonderful people I have met this year on my workshops and trips and I do really hope I have helped you all, inspired you all in seeing the wonderful and amazing world of wildlife around us at the same time getting the very best from your kit to use on the ground in the simplest of ways. I look forward to welcoming all my clients booked on my many trips for next year and one to ones.

With all my Christmas shopping done early this year I spent the least amount of time within the urban jungle I live in, fighting my way through this habitat in which I am least equipped for, I just have the last dash before Christmas to get the cream for my trifle, which I do each year, a family recipe from my late mum which I still make each Christmas as a form of comfort in more ways than one.

Having done this all early this has allowed me more time to carry on my work with the amazing and graceful Short eared Owls on the north west coast of the UK. Having spent many days and hours at these owl sites I have got use to alot of their patterns, their larders in which they store their catch while the going is good. They are beautiful birds and often I have this place to myself as I watch for the slightest movement on the ground.  They are normally late risers and their liking for a lie in sometimes catches you off guard and one minute nothing.

Then once you make a cup of tea or do something else and look up there before you is the flapping of their wings and the faint call or hiss as they awaken and start gliding through the air with those large wings, a mixture of beats and flaps followed by a graceful soar then this routine is repeated as they hunt. I am always greatly touched upon seeing wildlife go about their lives around me and this spurs me on to hide away more, not wanting to break that trust you build up over time.

These images I have been processing took me back to my recent time spent with these owls, where I relived every moment as I was processing each special moment captured. Some I shot into the natural light, some I under-exposed and over-exposed creating a hi key effect which I love. I also used the blurring effect to create movement with some, this gives the image a sense of movement and when shot in portrait composition it gives a dramatic effect which brings my creative side to the surface. You pick up the subject as early as possible then with your camera and lens firmly attached to your tripod follow or pan keeping your focus on the subject the best you can.

Hidden away having watched these owls now for some time I got alot of information about their ways and patterns and I chose to hide away, low to the ground hidden and camouflaged with the wind in my face to take any noise away from the approaching owl, no fast movements, nothing that would make these owls jump or be scared in his pursuit of food.

I saw him coming towards me so here I waited, waited and then once he was so close he almost filled my viewfinder and I pressed my shutter capturing several amazing close ups, this is one I love with the sense of movement captured in the wings by the slow shutter speed while I nailed the focus on his face, giving that sense of impending movement to the image. Every moment I spend with nature is special to me and everyday my life is enriched with its beauty and time spent with these owls of late was no exception, a wonderful, close, special moment with this owl as he went about his business and I watched and marvelled at his skills in hunting and catching prey, his flight patterns, his calls, his ability to fly and turn without warning, just amazing!

For me wildlife photography is about using your skills and knowledge of wildlife together in the pursuit of capturing an image from the wild where nothing has been changed by man. As a professional I think I have a duty of care to not only the subject but also to the general public to show an image as seen on the ground. This approach is the whole foundation to my work. In an age when there are lovely images everywhere you look I think images should be judged today on the amount of effort and knowledge and fieldcraft used in order to capture an image as personally I don’t like anything that is to contrived or set up where the animal is made to do something in order to get an image almost like a master and servant, where if you do something you get a prize for that, it has to be unplanned, unscripted and true for me.

My passion for wildlife goes alot deeper than just an image, I watch, study, listen and spend time in watching their behaviour, trying to work with the animals and sometimes when I get an image I feel I have cheated the subject by using my skills in capturing that given image by laying in weight having studied them I hope that makes sense. When I watch an animal I have that connection and I shoot with my heart and eye and I build that trust and care for the subject and when I have taken the image and captured that priceless moment I worry if I have betrayed that trust built up through patience, fieldcraft and care.

I care about every image I take and what I do, I love wildlife and nature means the world to me, it has helped me in life and instilled a great peace from an early age, nature helps in many ways, its beauty brings joy in so many ways and its presence in people lives helps them to live and breathe and at this special time of year it’s even more important I feel to embrace what we have around us all. A few of my favorite images from the last twelve months are in the following slideshow, showing the true beauty of wildlife.

One of my Barn Owl images graces January’s issue of the much respected BBC Wildlife magazine which is on sale now, its always lovely to see your work in print. I spent two months watching and photographing this male Barn Owl during one of the countries coldest spells of weather for decades. At times it was hard to watch as he was hunting in all weathers and times of the day in a desperate attempt to feed in order to survive, how cruel nature can be to its own sometimes. he did survive though and all ending well for this fellow. Thank you to Wanda for requesting the image and Sophie Stafford, the editor, for having this image in your magazine.

Photography Training for Photographers

And just before I go I wanted to just update you all as I go live in the new year as PhotoTraining4U’s Wildlife Master. I will be doing a series of short films following me through some of my work in the field, tips and advice when working with animals in the wild and much more. You will see how I work, get a chance to ask questions relating to my work or questions, advice and help in regard to your own work. If you wish to join then quote the following affiliate code: 7816 when joining. Click on the small icon above and this will take you to this site which is an online site for all your photography needs.

It just leaves me to say I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and new year and I wish you all the best for 2012, many thanks.


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Bright Eyes

Filed in Projects, Wildlife on Dec.11, 2011

Winter announced its arrival recently bringing to an end one of the warmest autumns since records began with gales, icy winds and snow in parts of the UK. While the seasons change from autumn into winter there seems to have been an invasion of Short-eared Owls to various areas around the UK. These birds come down from the moorland and higher ground during our winter months to spend their time at sea level before departing back to the higher breeding grounds come February and March. The numbers of this most striking of owls has been up on last years and at this rate looks set to match the brilliant numbers of 2009.

Many of these birds are being seen across the whole country at present indicating a fantastic year for their main food source of voles and small rodents. One of the many things that is good about these beautiful birds is that they hunt in mainly daylight, particularly from mid-afternoon onwards and they can stay in an area through the winter months providing the voles and other small rodents in which they feed mainly on remain at a good level.

This year has been a bumper year for voles with the warming temperatures making it ideal conditions for these small mammals to breed. Birds are coming from the continent also to take advantage of the plentiful food source experts have recorded. Over the last couple of weeks I have visited several places of which I have photographed these owls in the past and as mentioned 2009 for me was one of the best years, but this year may just beat that as numbers and sightings continue to rise each week.

Bright yellow eyes that look at first glance as though they are frowning if they look at your directly.  With their pale faces acting to enhance their most striking of features, those bright eyes. Hidden away I watch and scan the marshland and rough grazing grounds that these owls love to feed and live on and being a ground dwelling bird they blend in so well with their plumage colours.

Their feathers a mixture of bold bands and rings forming a wonderful pattern that renders them invisible once they are on the ground. Sometimes you hear them before you see them, a loud short “bark” like call echoes across the area. They are normally late risers, starting to hunt from lunchtime onwards but I have noticed after a period of wet weather they can come out from first light, as they need to feed and recover lost time and build up those supplies of food that will see them through the cold weather.

Once in the air you witness their broad, stiff wings flap with great purpose almost in a slow motion fashion, covering the ground well with each rise and fall of their wing beats. Once they leave the sky and come down low you almost lose them among the vegetation colours, until you see their white under wings as they pass by. The distinctive black bands and bold barred tail standing proudly as they glide in between their wing beats.

I have had mixed fortune with the weather so far, after one of the mildest autumns since records begin the weather has changed getting colder with windy and wet weather a lot of time, with the odd break in the cloud sometimes, warming the areas in which these owls are at present. In weather that all owls dislike and choose not to hunt in, survival is by feeding on their larder of food which they stock pile when the goings good and keeps they going until hopefully the weather breaks. If the weather doesn’t change I have known Short-eared Owls to leave an area, vanish to warmer climets way before the late February get away, back to their breeding grounds.

Their bright yellow eyes are surrounded by smudged black makeup, set in a large round, disc like shaped face which is stunning to the eye as they glare at you before flying past. They always seem so startled by the world around them as I watch them hunt or perhaps that’s defiance, but they are full of character and self belief and watching them hunting and comb an area for prey is a magical experience to witness.

They fly warily around each other, closing and drifting apart, rising and falling, slowly spiraling in wide circles, as they drift across the marshland. Notoriously during the breeding seasons they are very territorial and fiercely defensive of their area. But during the winter months as they glide around our countryside almost in a nomadic manner are very tolerant of each other.

I am hoping the cold weather of the last two winters doesn’t happen this year as along with the Barn Owl many Short eared Owls died due to being unable to feed and break through the frozen ground that at times was covered in snow for days even weeks at a time making the whole process of finding food a real contest of pure survival.

I will be concentrating my efforts in the sites I have known for many years over the next several months and I hope to capture a few more images and spend some time filming and watching these beautiful owls. I will update my blog on how I get on during that time and fingers crossed the weather doesn’t betray them, forcing them to move on to other areas.

WWT Photography Competition 2011-2012

I am delighted to have been asked for a second year to become one of the regional judges in this brilliant photography competition. Over the last week I have judged two categories which I was assigned from the Martin Mere wetland centre. Choosing my selection from the autumn heat which then goes onto the final. When the competition closes on 31 August 2012 all regional heat winners will go through to the grand national final to be held in autumn 2012. Then the Portfolio Photographer will be chosen and awarded the grand prize of a trip to Antarctica.

The winter heat is now open until the 29th February 2012 so click on the following link for more information and details of how to enter this brilliant competition. I visit Martin Mere quite a lot, and during the winter months they have the beautiful Whooper and Bewick Swans as visitors, as they spend their winter months with us before heading back north to their summer breeding grounds. The image above was taken at Martin Mere showing three Whooper Swans flying in against the cold winter sky on a frosty day.The very best of  luck to everyone that enters.


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