Sunday, 15 January 2012

Cold ears, blue ears and short ears!

Being entrusted with information as to the location of short eared owls means the exact location cannot be disclosed, some for reasons many would struggle to understand would seek to persecute these beautiful birds.

Locals may recognise the scenery and I will not attempt to disguise that, suffice to say unless you know exactly where to find the birds you could pass by and not notice them.

Incorporating wildlife watching and a decent walk is no hard task on a fine sunny day, even with the low temperatures today we were eager to get out and see things.

Near Barden Moor is as close a location as I will give and our first sighting of the day, a walltopping grouse.

The view towards Simons Seat and up Wharfedale was a little misty but splendid nevertheless.

We drew a blank on our first sweep round for the short eared owls, we did hear a hoot though of a slightly different kind as the Bolton Abbey to Embsay steam express chuffed along the valley, the cold air creating a monochrome feel to the background of the photograph.

Time for a break for us but as we wandered back to the car for a warming drink from the thermos I had a lovely demonstration of the near perfect camouflage of the red grouse.

We decided on a walk in a nearby wood, I'm not sure about public access but it looked inviting and there were no keep out signs, plus ones gate climbing ability should be tested from time to time!

Flocks of small birds flitted around the tall tree tops, nearly impossible to get good photographs when they do that! Not by any means a good shot but this one is a redpoll, verified through binocs.

 The silent and stealthy movement of roe deer in dense woodland plus their colouring can make them very difficult to spot, if you do they will usually have seen or heard you first! Experience with red deer in Scotland has helped me with how to stay un-noticed or least how to not disturb them. Move a little and then wait, move again etc, repeat until deer run away...or that is what usually happens!

The other difficulty is with an automatic camera, getting it to focus where you want rather than where it thinks you want, in woodland this can be a real problem-

A great little break in our owl expedition but now it is time to resume the main event and we head back to the recommended location.

The wind had picked up by now and what was cold swiftly became freezing, numb fingers are just a bit of a nuisance with a camera in hand! Rabbits are plentiful up here but we do not get too many of this occasional variant colour.
The light was decreasing now, soft pastel shades in the sky.
We were both scouring the surrounding area for any sign of movement, occasionally the bent winged scooting flight of the grouse raised our hopes falsely...and then a chance look over a wall, a graceful low flight and perhaps the most beautiful feathering I have ever seen, a dash to get nearer without disturbing the owl and then some hasty pix in ever decreasing light.

We saw three short eared owls eventually, their mesmerising flight is so wonderful to see and what a brilliant day. Now I know where to find them I can work out how to get closer and get better photographs, most importantly this will be achieved by good fieldcraft not intrusion which could disturb these very special and treasured birds.

Many thanks to everyone who reads my blog, the words of encouragement mean a lot.


  1. Hi Dave, WOW lucky you, I haven't seen an owl since I was a child. Look forward to more photos now you know where to find them.

  2. Hi Dave, Lovely photos and well persevered finding your short ears. Lots of owls here, both barn and tawny judging by the calls every night but I reckon they must be different to yours. Ilkley Moor on Sunday at sunset was stunning ,,, no camera with me :-( Jill

  3. Really great photos - especially the deer (still looking to capture my first deer photo!) The tiny rabbit is adorable!

  4. Hi Dave. I have been following your blog for the last few weeks but haven't commented yet. Just like to say that I have been enjoying the blog, great wildlife photos and the wonderful Airedale scenery. Keep up the good work....Bob.

  5. Great photos again. Glad to see you getting out so much and enjoying life. Keep up the good work.

  6. Cheers everyone, some bright days and therefore more colourful photographs would be welcome.