Where are the Owls

Along with many other Midlands based wildlife photographers, I am struggling to find the rather elusive Short Eared Owls (SEO) this winter.  The usual hot spots have had a few showings and indeed, I have seen the SEO at distance and at dusk on a few occasions.
The weather forecast was looking good, so I decided rather than a late afternoon session as usual, to try the other end of the day - sunrise.
My drive to the unkept field where I hoped to find the Owls hunting at first light takes me just under and hour, so setting off at 06:15am to be in place and set-up by 07:15am.  Expectation during the drive was high as the sky was almost cloud free and the temperature was just about 1oC.  PERFECT.
No sooner had I clipped the 1Dx and 500mm lens into my Wimberley, I saw the flight of an Owl in the distance.  Damn !  The light was still poor.  ISO 1000, speed set at 1/1000/sec, a quick check of a test image was looking dark on the back of my camera body.  It will be okay.
A couple more quick test images, zoom in and see what was flying - a Barn Owl - Wow !

  A Barn Owl hunting before sunrise - 500mm f4, ISO 1000, 1/1000sec

A Barn Owl hunting before sunrise - 500mm f4, ISO 1000, 1/1000sec

The Barn Owl was flying and diving into the long grass, over and over.  I counted 7 unsuccessful dives, but all of this taking place over 100 yards from my position.  The Barn Owl stayed low and sometimes dived within one or two seconds of the previous dive.  Lots of voles I have to assume.

  A wild Barn Owl hunting before sunrise on a cold winter morning.

A wild Barn Owl hunting before sunrise on a cold winter morning.

The Barn Owl had flown back and forth along the far edge of this field twice now.  I glanced over my shoulder to see that in another minute or two the sun would appear over the horizon and the available light should improve dramatically.  It was starting to look good.  I just needed the Owl to fly a little closer.  Even at 75 yards, I would achieve a good image using the 500mm lens.

And then it disappeared off into the small copse behind the field.  The sun finally rose but just too late.  

I waited another two hours, enjoying a healthy and happy conversation with a local farmer who was walking his gorgeous Boarder Collie.  No more Barn Owls and also no sign at all of the Short Eared Owls either.

As in previous blogs, the images I captured this morning are not worthy of a place in this website gallery, so will only appear here in this blog.

Thank you for reading.  Please click the like button to the right of this text if you enjoyed reading this blog.  Mike