For a few weeks now there have been good reports about a pair of Short Eared Owls that have been showing well, quartering and hunting for rodents in the late afternoon to dusk. The location was local to me being about 10 miles from where I live. I must add that the pictures posted in the Blog are from two consecutive visits to the site. The first visit the warm light was fading towards dusk before they made there appearance and the second visit they started to hunt earlier but this day it was overcast and fairly dull and flat.
This Short Eared Owl was tolerant of my presence and seemed quite relaxed. I managed to get a couple of nice shots of him perched in the tree where he stayed for about 10minutes. I think its saucer shaped face and its fierce looking yellow eyes are so distinctive and beautiful to look at.
Besides sitting in the tree the Short Eared Owl showed really well for about another 10 minutes and I managed to get some half decent shots whilst he was quartering about 50 metres away from me. It was so cold again but he still managed to get two rodents whilst I was watching.
There are few birds that match the beauty of the Barn Owl, with their buff coloured upper surfaces, white under-parts, and distinctive white heart-shaped face. They usually feeds at night but in hard winter periods to avoid starvation they are forced out to hunt by day.
Much to my delight a Barn Owl making an appearance was a bonus. He stayed well over the far side of the field sharing the same territory as the SEO’s. He went down a couple of times and caught a small rodent as can be seen in two of the pictures. Barn Owls hunting in their environment looks pretty special to me.
I managed to get out on my second visit today to photograph the Barn Owls and Short Eared Owls if they made an appearance. Only the Short Eared Owl showed but there was two of them. Unlike most owls the SEO does hunt by day visiting all types of habitat for small rodents like field voles. If food is in abundance it is not unusual for several owls to concentrate in a small area.
The Mobbing behavior by crows is very common. They are gregarious birds and react to the potential threat the Short Eared Owl poses as a predator, to them and their offspring. The mobbing often serves to harass the Short Eared Owl into leaving the area. Occasionally a mobbed owl will turn the tables to attack and kill the crow.
I have saved the best pictures to the last. I consider myself as being very lucky to have taken the pictures above. The light had gone, I was ready for home but the owls were still flying. I hoped for one more fly past so I upped the ISO to 1600 to at least give me the best shutter speed I could get and waited. One of the owls came fairly close, I managed a dozen shots and that was it. Checking the camera viewfinder the images were very dark but on the computer they looked potentially good shots. A few tweaks with the exposure settings a bit of selective cropping and the results you can see for yourself.