From my studio window, I’ve an incredible view over the Yorkshire Wolds. I wish to preserve my French home windows huge open for so long as the climate permits. Presently of yr, I typically discover myself distracted from my easel by the autumn chicken migration. As big flocks of birds fly overhead in formation, I can’t assist however put my paintbrush right down to admire them.
An estimated 17 million birds are on the transfer now. In nature, mass actions of populations are part of the annual cycle of occasions. Already big numbers of summer time migrants reminiscent of swallows and home martins have left our shores, having come right here to breed. Now and over the following month or so we are able to count on an inflow of birds from Scandinavia and Jap Europe. These birds embrace vibrant beauties like waxwings and fieldfares which come particularly to flee the chilly and gorge on a British bounty of berries.
On the Yorkshire coast
The Yorkshire shoreline is best-placed to observe all these comings and goings. Our place, simply throughout the North Sea, is the right place for Nordic species like wrynecks to pause for a relaxation on their approach south. These birds use the UK like a service station, refueling earlier than they proceed on their journey. This area can be the place the place pink-footed geese, escaping icy blasts in Greenland and Iceland, land earlier than they disperse throughout the remainder of the nation. It’s unbelievable to suppose just some months in the past these birds may need come nose to nose with a polar bear. At the very least half of the species of birds discovered within the UK are migrants, and these embrace birds which can be often regarded as native, like bullfinches. Even Nordic robins and blackbirds are recognized to fly throughout the channel to get pleasure from a winter in Yorkshire.
You additionally get mini-migrations, inside the UK. Skylarks are resident within the UK all yr spherical, however will typically depart open moorland and head to low lands when temperatures drop. In actually chilly snaps, meadow pipits will depart the moors in quest of heat and meals. Some keep native however others make their approach all the best way to southern Europe. As these species migrate, their predators comply with. The hobbies have already adopted the swallows down south.
Quick eared owls
Among the many predatory birds that flock to our shores from northern Europe are short-eared owls. We do have our personal populations of those yellow-eyed owls, however when there’s a chilly snap in Scandinavia native numbers are boosted by an inflow of those Nordic birds. At occasions this may imply that competitors for meals is fierce and in winter time you get can teams of a dozen or extra short-eared owls searching over the identical patch of floor. I’ve even heard reviews of 20 in a single place earlier than. These owls are surprisingly small, measuring at most 15 inches. However they’ve lengthy wings that span practically double this dimension. They’re notably engaging with yellow-gold feathers and piercing yellow eyes lined with black, which makes them appear like they’re sporting mascara.
Search for brief eared owls after rain
Probably the greatest issues about them from my standpoint is that they typically hunt in daylight, which makes them simpler to observe. One winter I heard a few discipline the place brief eared owls have been recognized to hunt. I waited for a nasty spell of climate earlier than I visited. Figuring out owls properly, I used to be conscious that windy, moist climate impacts their potential to hunt so the interval instantly following such a spell is the time to observe them out searching. It had rained regularly for 36 hours with robust winds. I knew they’d be hungry when it will definitely stopped so I watched the climate forecast intently. One night because the rain lashed towards the window I heard the forecaster say the climate was as a result of get higher the next day.
I opened my curtains hopefully the next morning, however it was nonetheless raining. It was alleged to cease mid-morning so I set off anyway. However as I obtained nearer to the place the place I hoped to seek out the brief eared owls, not solely was it nonetheless wet and windy, but additionally foggy. Rain lashed towards the wind display screen and I might barely see throughout the street. However simply as I reached my vacation spot, as if on cue, it stopped raining. I turned down a single observe street and because the fog cleared I noticed two brief eared owls chasing each other. One of many owls sat on a put up proper subsequent to the street. I switched off the engine and free wheeled in direction of it. I used to be solely about 10 metres away. The opposite owl dive bombed the primary a few occasions earlier than heading off to hunt.
I obtained my digicam out and snapped away. I used to be shocked how unfazed the owl was by my presence. It began to preen its again – a transparent signal it was relaxed – after which its tail wanted consideration. It preened every tail feather in flip. It was fairly extraordinary. The owl was so shut and performing so naturally. It fluffed all its feathers out and because it did so small clouds of mud puffed out. This nice mud is named powder down and consists of powdered feather. The chicken started to rigorously preen its flight feathers. Because it ran its beak by means of them it raised its wing over its again, bending the feathers proper around the again of its head. I believed it might be intent on searching after such a protracted spell of dangerous climate however this owl was in no rush. It wished to get all its feathers in tip prime situation first. And what magnificent feathers they have been. A sandy, gold color, the plumage was barred throughout the tail and wings and its higher breast was streaked, which meant it blended completely within the grassy marshland behind it.
I had been with this short-eared owl for over an hour now photographing it in each possible place. I spent an additional 45 minutes admiring it earlier than it abruptly took off to hunt. It had been a exceptional expertise. I had reeled off over 1,000 photographs in lower than two hours and couldn’t wait to get again to my studio to start out a brand new composition. Not solely had I had the pleasure of watching the short-eared owl at such shut quarters, I had additionally seen peregrine falcons, marsh harriers, sparrowhawks and buzzards, all searching over the identical patch of marshland. And as I left, I watched a pair of barn owls additionally out searching. It had been a exceptional afternoon and had given me fairly just a few concepts of what to color subsequent.