There is a real air of spring around at the moment among the UK countryside, with the odd spell of frost or even snow on the higher grounds, just to add to the confusion for nature. 2011 was one of the warmest years on record with lengthy periods of warm weather each month right up until the end of the year. In with the New Year and again those mild, warm temperatures seem to be still with us with little promise of the cold spells we’ve had in previous years.
On the ground nature is confused, the sudden warming temperatures for this time of year is playing a cruel game with nature, one minute warm the next an overnight frost. You can see and hear the birds singing to attract a mate, defending their territories with great cause. Dippers displaying and starting to gather nesting material, the countryside really feels like it should be much later than it really is due to the influence of the warmer weather.
Mother Nature is powerful though and animals and plants will overcome and survive. I believe as nothings is as powerful as nature. While being among wildlife you get the impression that you’ve missed something or they have, what I mean is by watching the behaviours of the wildlife its seems that winter has been by-passed and were heading straight into the season of spring. I really hope that the cold spells of weather that nature has endured in 2010 and 2011 wont now come along and catch the wildlife out as that would be one of the cruelest lessons in which to learn from. However, I fear that this could happen quite soon.
As each year passes and we hear that a warming record has been broken, or nearly broken again, it provides further evidence that unfortunately we are not just seeing a natural cycle of global warming, but instead humans are having an effect on the climate. I am not qualified on paper to start debating what is right or wrong I just know on the ground among wildlife things are changing and I do hope nature won’t be caught in between these warming temperatures and strange happening among the seasons.
Over the last three months though there has been one bird that seems to be doing really well within the warming temperatures and that is the beautiful Short-eared Owl that seems to have invaded many areas of the UK feeding on the bountiful supply of rodents. The internet is awash with brilliant images showing this often rarely seen owl outside of the breeding season. Recently I have spent back to back days there trying to capture different angles and images of these stunning owls.
Over that time the owls are late risers and rarely come out before the early afternoon but I go there at dawn and wait as you never know what may happen, as the site has other birds of prey. Fortune often rewards me and I was lucky enough to see a lone Shot-eared owl hunting in the morning light. I’d located an area in which these ground dwelling birds roost overnight and then just suddenly appear in the afternoon. I set my gear up overlooking this area, not to close to disturb them, placing my converter on my long lens as I waited.
Often the periods of waiting were greater than the time I’d see them but for me it’s just the enjoyment of being around wildlife. That’s enough for me anything else is always a bonus. I often say I could sell all my camera equipment tomorrow and still be happy sitting and watching with my binoculars.
I have witnessed them diving for prey, perched in the morning light, and hunting in the pouring rain, which is very rare to see. This is a costly exercise for owls as they don’t do well in rain. As I witnessed this it does pull on my heart strings as you just know that owl is hungry and gathering enough food to stay alive. It was tough viewing this.
I also have had some lovely encounters with a pair of Barn Owls that have lived in this area for some time now. They appear when they want to and unlike some Barn Owls I photograph in Norfolk they are rarely seen in the day. They don’t have any routine here and this Barn Owl came out as the sun was setting and gave the whole area a lovely warming glow and feel, which is a welcome relief if you have been there since before dawn. You have to use fieldcraft skills and patience when photographing owls as they sometimes fly past you, and in this case straight at me. Another amazing encounter as the sun was setting. I am really lucky to see and witness this.
Their hearing is one of the best in the animal kingdom so great care when you start to shoot is needed otherwise they will bank off from where they hear that noise, in this case the camera shutter, so hold your nerve and wait and then press when you’re happy. I’ve seen some wonderful behaviour in both the Short-eared owls and this pair of Barn Owls recently that I have tried to capture within these images.
After the success of my previous wildlife workshops with Calumet Photographic I have several others now lined up on their seminars page. Two dates for the amazing Spring/Summer Tides in Norfolk covering this event which has captivated me for many years and Sping Time on the Moors in the Peak District. For those that live in and around the capital, London, I will be doing a two day Beauty of Wildlife workshop at Calumets Drummond Street branch on April 14th and 15th. These workshops are open to all skill levels and backgrounds within wildlife photography.
The workshops are designed to give you the best opportunities to take the best images from your day in the field whatever nature throws up. To ensure that everyone’s needs are met the workshops are limited to 8 participants. You’ll be in good company, sharing your ideas, images and love of photography amongst the beauty of wildlife.
You’ll take your photography to the next level and in the process you’ll immerse yourself in your photography and I will be right there giving you a personal photography lesson. For more details click here to be taken to Calumets seminars page, then either click on the Drummond Street branch in London or the Manchester branch to see the full list of wildlife workshops that I am doing in conjunction Calumet Photographic.
Many thanks and I look forward to seeing you.