There was a man who lived on the North West Coast of England, he loved animals and birds were his favourite subject when it came to photography. He was new to wildlife photography and had a very basic camera and lens.
It was Jan 2013 and the snow covered the fields that ran along the coast of Fleetwood and Cleveleys. He had heard that the Waxing bird had arrived from Scandinavia for the Berries, this happens when the country they are native to have a bad harvest so they travel to the UK to feed.
Dressed in his usual green camouflage gear he headed out looking for the Waxwing but had no luck finding them, when he heard from another photographer that there was an Owl seen at the Private School next to the sea front close to where he lived.
Never seeing an owl in the wild and not knowing the different species that were local or visitors he had no idea what to look for but went and looked for it. He arrived at the location and scanned the 3 large fields that were covered in Snow. He was very excited when a shape in the distance appeared flying low and landing on a fence post.
He was to far away to see what the Owl looked like so he watched its behaviour for half an hour then went home to do some research on this his first Owl he had seen in the wild as a wildlife photographer.
After some research the Man who I will call Blackie spent his first day looking following the Owl round the 3 fields, he soon learned that you can go to a bird, chase or follow it. Blackie soon realised that you have to wait for nature to come to you, let the Owl do what it’s there for to hunt for food and to not interfere in its natural behaviour.
The snow melted and the Owl stayed in the fields hunting for short periods of time then perching on certain posts. Blackie notices a pattern that the Owl has when it hunts and made plan to wait in cover for the Owl to fly past. His excitement was one he would experience many times in the years to come.
He was on his own with a Short Eared Owl it looked so big with what seemed like a huge wingspan a round face with huge yellow and black eyes. It arrives on the coast in winter from the Bowlond area of Lancashire went the temperatures lower up in the hills.
So his first wildlife adventure had started and he didn’t know how good it was going to be over the next 3 weeks. Lying in ditches for hours not moving, just waiting for the Shortie to appear. He found that the eyesight of the shortie and hearing were one that would give the Owl the upper hand everytime.
With that said Blackie had his 22 years army fieldcraft skills instilled in him and by putting them to good use made it an even match between Blackie and the Owl. So the plan of action was set, he would wear the same clothing for the whole period of filming, be there before the Owl hunted. And most of all give the Owl respect not cause any disruption to his life as it hunts to survive the winter.
The first week went by and Blackie came home in the evening with a smile on his face as he showed his wife his first Owl images. His love for the Owl had started and he would dream of the day ahead, would it still be there, where would it appear.
Week 2 started and Blackie found that Shortie would sit a on a post in the afternoon close to where he was lying, so he stood up slowly and looked at the shortie who stared back at him. He took some shots then lowered his camera. Blackies heart beaten like a Cartoon character his jacket bulging at every beat. He was stood 59 feet from his first Owl in the wild
From that first meeting things just get better, he could get closer by moving 2 paces at a time very slowly. He also learned that birds have a habit of going to the toilet just before take off. Knowing this he could get ready for some action shots. He spent hours in the owls company filming from ditches shrubs and undergrowth getting great images that still sit high on his top pictures.
The moment I loved and still is 1 of 2 images that are my best Owl images is when I lay in a small shallow hole lying down. The shortie came past and as I looked through the lens it looked straight at me. The look on its face was just brilliant and is why I love wildlife photography.
After this beautiful moment i just looked at my camera hoping i had captured this unique image. It was such a lovely moment it made the whole experience so special. But things were to get better and after a few weeks of getting to know the Shortie. I turned up one afternoon when the light was really nice and bright and went i approached the area where the owl perches i spotted it sitting in the midday sun. I walked slowly towards the owl and stopped and took one image.
All i can say is the owl and me got to know each other over a 4 week period and i would not see it in the fields again so it just shows you that you should take every opportunity and make the most of it with causing any distress to the Animal you are filming.
the rest of my images were all taken in Jan 2013 some may say 2015 on them but that’s when i edited some of them.
The Adventure Climax
There are no words that explain what happened on the last Friday i was filming, i was walking away because the clouds had come in and it was about 1600hrs in the afternoon, when i Barn Owl appeared in the fields where the Shortie was hunting and for a split second i turned to see the Short Eared Owl chasing the Barn Owl. I raised my camera and this is my Top image of all time for me.