Saturday, 27 February 2010

Just A Few More..Hunting Barn Owl

Couldn't resist  posting just a few more images from my recent visits to observe and photograph a local barn owl. The owl was hunting mid afternoon in good light and I was able to obtain some nicely lit shots of it hunting over one of it's favourite patches of rough grassland.
I do seem to be obsessed at the moment with the barn owl but it is such a magnificent bird to watch that I don't want to waste any opportunities to obtain more images. Therefore I will probably be posting more next week as the weather seems set to stay cold and bright. When Spring hopefully arrives and things warm up, I will move on and I look forward to the arrival of the early migrants.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Owling Again

I have made a few visits recently to observe and photograph a local barn owl. Although the weather has remained bitterly cold, the sun has managed to shine, and has I think encouraged the barn owl to hunt frequently during daylight hours. Most late evenings and nights have been very frosty with temperatures well below zero and I think it must be more pleasurable for the barn owl to hunt whilst the winter sun shines.
The owl usually appears from it's roost around four o'clock and patrols it's territory looking for an easy meal. I have observed it making a kill on two occasions, the first one it took back to it's roost site and the second kill was devoured out of site on the ground. I didn't manage to photograph the kill but did obtain some nice images of the hunting barn owl as it quartered the rough fields and embankments near to it's roost site.
I have shown a selection of the images I managed to obtain. I hope they convey to my readers some of the magic of watching these magnificent birds, as they go about the daily business of survival during the present harsh winter conditions. I also now await favourable conditions to increase my portfolio of barn owl images.I look forward to the summer months when the owls will be on the wing more frequently as they will hopefully by then have a family to feed.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Mere and Moss

This week has seen me returning to West Lancashire.I have made a couple of visits to the inland mosslands to observe and photograph the barn owl, and to revisit Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve ,where I hadn't been since last year.
Mere Sands Wood was my first port of call and I found the car park almost full. I had forgotten it was half term and lots of mums, dads,grandparents and dogs were out enjoying the sunny but cold weather. The continuing very cold and freezing conditions meant that much of the open water was frozen but there were areas warmed by the sun that were still ice free. Birds were few and far between and the kingfishers, normally a big attraction at the reserve, were absent. They may have been elsewhere but may also have succumbed to the harsh winter, only time will tell. I did manage to photograph a very nice male goldeneye in between his dives into the icy water and a grey heron provided further opportunities as he stalked his prey at the lakeside.
I moved on mid afternoon so as to be in position to hopefully photograph the barn owl as it hunted it's territory later on. I was nicely in position just after 3pm but the owl didn't show . The sun had gone and it had become very cold again. Eventually the owl did come out to hunt its territory and I was able to obtain some excellent shots, particularly of it perching up on fieldside fencing posts. From previous observations of the barn owl's movements I had found a better spot from which to photograph and this had paid off with some of my best images to date. I returned to the car cold but well satisfied with my excursion to West Lancashire and it's rich bird life. I am looking forward to more visits in hopefully warmer weather. I have posted images of the goldeneye and grey heron at Mere Sands Wood and the barn owl surveying his territory from a convenient vantage point.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Marsh and Moss

This last week or so has seen me visiting the Ribble Marshes in the Southport area and also exploring some unknown areas of the West Lancs Mosslands inland from the coast. I visited the new RSPB reserve at Hesketh Out Marsh on a couple of occasions but little in the way of bird life was about. This new reserve is not yet established and is very dependent on  high tides flooding the marsh to push the birds in. Conditions were not suitable on my visits but I look forward to future visits to this very exposed part of the Lancashire Coast when more is happening.
I moved on up the coast to Marshside  and Crossens where there was plenty of action taking place. The outer marsh at Crossens was being hunted by six short eared owls, a bittern,merlin and kestrel. I met up here with Colin Bushell well known local birdwatcher and we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours watching the short eared owls hunting the marsh. The birds never came close enough for decent images but did perch up obligingly on fence posts and driftwood on the marsh to give good telescope views. Also present at Marshside were the usual  large numbers of wildfowl but on this short winter's afternoon I didn't have enough time to visit the hides.
My other trips out this week have been to a new location I have discovered inland from the coast, on the mosslands, where I was fortunate to find a hunting barn owl. I have made three visits to observe the barn owl as it comes out to feed and hunt in the late afternoon. I was well pleased with the results I obtained but am looking forward to more visits to observe and photograph this beautiful bird as it hunts the rough fields and ditches of this very quiet part of Lancashire.
I have posted images of the barn owl , short eared owl, and also a hunting kestrel and little egret from Marshside. I hope to revisit the barn owl and this fabulous bird will be the subject of a future post.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Pink....Red....Yellow... and... Grey

Last week I managed to get out and about a bit with the camera. Most country roads and tracks were now accessible without a four wheel drive and I visited favourite locations in the Pilling and Cockerham area. It was  very cold with a strong and wintry northerly wind still bringing the odd snow flurry to the exposed farmlands and mosslands of this special part of Lancashire.
The Eagland Hill area of Pilling is always very good for an excellent selection of birds at this time of the year and is somewhere you can almost guarantee to see large flocks of pink footed geese and some of the other specialities of Lancashire like corn bunting, yellowhammer and tree sparrow. The speciality I had come to photograph and one that had so far eluded me was the Grey Partridge. Grey Partridge are in serious decline throughout many parts of Britain due to changes in farming practices and intensive use of insecticides. Thankfully Lancashire still retains a healthy population and along with corn bunting and tree sparrow  appear to be doing well.
I spent most of the time photographing the birds at a feeding station on the edge of farmland. If you sat in the car and waited patiently numbers of birds would come to feed on the seed left for them. I enjoyed the action for a couple of hours or so and then did a quick tour of other locations . I had some excellent close views of pink footed geese enjoying the afternoon sun in the centre of Pilling and a very brief view of a barn owl which flew across the road where it was impossible to stop due to the traffic.
All in all I had enjoyed two afternoons in this quiet part of Lancashire with a very nice selection of farmland birds to keep me busy with the camera. The images above show Pink Footed Geese...Red Legged Partridge... Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge.