Since around mid November, Short Eared Owls have being arriving back in the UK to over winter, I have been splitting my time between two different sites within the home counties.
Short-eared owls are medium-sized owls with mottled brown bodies, pale under-wings and yellow eyes. They are commonly seen hunting during the day. In winter, there is an influx of continental birds (from Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland) to northern, eastern, and parts of central southern England, especially around the coast.
It`s size measuring 34–43 cm in length and weighing 206–475 g. It has large eyes, a big head, a short neck, and broad wings. Its bill is short, strong, hooked and black. Its plumage is mottled tawny to brown with a barred tail and wings. The upper breast is significantly streaked. Wingspans range from 85 to 110 cm Females are slightly larger than males. The yellow-orange eyes are exaggerated by black rings encircling each eye, and large, whitish disks of plumage surrounding the eyes like a mask.
Watching these magnificent birds gliding and hunting over open grass land is a joy to watch, they just seem to float on the wind.
Being as these owls hunt at anytime during the day, getting up at the crack of dawn was not needed (thank God).
One site is some sixty miles from home, the other only eleven, both sites offer equal opportunity for some fantastic photo`s, great fun, all day being out in the elements during winter.
Make no mistake, these owls do not come in very close, all the images on this page are heavy crops taken with an 800mm lens.
Both sites have between four to five Short Eared Owls in residence, but it is unusual to see all the birds flying together. The above image is my favourite so far from the last 3/4 months.
Saying that, I was lucky to get the above image of a pair flying together.
I have lost count of the hours and miles travelled since early November in pursuit of these fantastic birds.
Timing with the weather seems to be key, in the majority of cases, these owls will not hunt in the rain or very high winds, they quarter over fields and grass land in search of prey, small mammals, especially voles. They take other small rodents, shrews, rabbits.
The image above of the Short Eared Owl “backlit” was taken just before Christmas in the late afternoon as the sun was going down.
The time they spend in the UK is all too short, it is very easy to get obsessed with these birds, they are truly magnificent………..
The patterning of the Short Eared Owl offers perfect camouflage from it`s intended prey.
This last shot is typical of a Short Eared Owl, flying silently just above the top of the long grass watching and listening for it`s next meal.
Please click on any image for a larger view.