Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Short Eared Owl behaviour

A short Eared Owl starts to hunt flying low over rough grass fields on the high ground of West Cornwall.  It  soon spots a vole and turns sharply to dive down to trap it with powerful talons

It guards the prey with spread wings to hid it from other birds of prey and kills it with those powerful talons

When the vole is dead it is transferred to the beak leaving the Owls strong legs free for take -off,

In the air the prey is returned to the talons to keep the beak and nasal passages clear for breathing. 

On route a feisty Kestrel swoops in and makes an aerial grab for the prey but this time the Owl wins the day and the vole is taken away to a safe location to be dispatched or stored for consumption later

Kestrel are just one of the threats that the Owl have to cope with.   There were four other shortie's working in this territory and all are constantly in dispute over this rich patch of grassland as can be seen from the final images below.

Back Lighting Owls

On good sunny days wildlife photographers usually work hard to get the sun behind them to give their subjects the benefit of full sunshine without harsh shadows but given a situation where the sun or subject position demands otherwise can often come up with some striking images.

While working with Short eared Owls in bright sunlight yesterday I often found myself in the above situation and some of my result are posted below.

My next Blog will be on hunting Shorties and it will be posted later today !

Monday, 18 November 2019

Birds of Prey Today

I started my day photographing a dramatic sunrise as it rose above the clearing night clouds to produce a very fine sunny day with light easterly winds which was just perfect to work with local birds of prey as they hunted over rough grass fields on the high grounds of west Cornwall.

First up above was a buzzard which had just caught a vole that it took up onto a fence pole to dispatch.

My second subject was a Short Eared Owl perched on the ground where it had just taken a vole, It looked like butter would not melt in its mouth but down below its talons are squeezing the life out of a large vole and it was now keeping the prey  hidden under its body in the rough grass field.

The reason that the vole was kept out of sight by the Short Eared owl was that a local Kestrel had picked up on the Owl's action and being ever an opportunist it was hovering and looking for any chance to mug the Owl to steal an easy meal !

When the coast has cleared the wise old Owl picks up the large lifeless vole and flies it to a safer stash points for later consumption so that in the meantime it can continue hunting for more voles while the fine weather continues..

Before heading for home from this nine hour Shoot I took a few atmospheric telephoto shots of the sun setting close to the LongShips Lighthouse which was six and a half miles away.  It was a fitting end to a memorable day spent with a few of Cornwall's  photogenic ' Birds of Prey '

More Shorties from today's  prolific shoot will be posted in tomorrows blog ! 

Saturday, 16 November 2019

The Cornish Warrior v The Short Eared Owls

The Image above is of a determined Cornish Warrior Peter Tonkin battling along a track full of knee high thick mud and water with high winds and driving rain trying to beat him back but nothing stops him in his quest to capture an image of a pair of Short Eared Owls in aerial combat.   So does he claim his prize this time?  You bet he does !   Check out his image below of these feisty Birds in action.

Below are a few of my own images of these magical winter migrants to our heathland high ground taken on the same shoot yesterday.  We stayed with these birds until fading light levels and cloud cover created to many exposure problems with our attempts at recording them to continue.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Peregrine Portraits

With a north wind blowing I ventured out along our southern coastline this morning looking for Peregrine sightings and I was pleased to catch up with this fine pair who's plumage was taking a fair bit of  battering in the blustery conditions.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Stithians 500mm lens test

Due to a foot reconstruction operation and delays in the return of my Nikon 500mm F4 lens from service and repairs I have been out of action for most of the last three months.

Time has healed my foot well during this three months recovery and my 500mm lens was returned safely yesterday so I was keen to get back into action today to check that all was well with the lens.

With high winds and rain I headed for the protection of Stithians reservoir southern cut-off hide where I thought the well stocked feeding station should still be able to provide a good selection of local birds to work on in the rough conditions

First up in poor light came a regular bold female Great Spotted Woodpecker that went onto the peanut feeders without any hesitation while providing me with some good perched shots both on route and before leaving,

The more timid but very photogenic local male woodpecker was next on the scene but he was far more cautious in his approach which tended to provide good off feeder opportunities before he grabbed a few nuts and departed.

A pair of raiding Jay were frequent visitors throughout the morning and they were very quick to clear up the spillage from under all of the feeders.

Other birds included a dozen Magpie that came in on regular raids.  A close busy Little Grebe that never stopped fishing,  A hungry juvenile Wood Pigeon,  A fine male Bullfinch and finally a gang of feeder raiding Long Tailed Tits

And ' The one that got away '  was a recently rare sight of a Water Rail that never quite came out of cover far enough to gain a good portrait image but all said it was good to be back behind a well serviced lens once again !!