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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Barn Owl gores and swallows Field Vole - a photographic account

Now it's not often that I devote an entire post to just one bird, but after a magnificent encounter with one of the Barn Owls along the Pocklington Canal last week, and with many good shots in the can, I see no reason not to indulge ... not least because I managed to capture one of the locals not only catching, but also skinning and then devouring a whole Field Vole!

Here's said bird then, ringed I see, and a probable male because of its white throat.

The barbed wire fence is I think a bit of a detractor from that 'natural' feel, and a few close range twigs spoiling the image on one or two of these is a definite bummer but overall most of these are A ok. See what you think .....

I've seen this pale ghost of a bird a couple of times over the past year or so at the same location but the light has never been good enough to take photographs ... touch and go at 4.00pm on this day but whilst the sun shines!
nice swooping shot as he veered away from me at the last minute ... real shame about that smudgy twig!! (photoshop job methinks)

As I waited and ate a sandwich on the canal side yon Barn Owl was having a spot of bother with a local crow.....

Not sure about these  ... panning from light to shade as he came back down to earth after the crow mobbing and the auto focus struggling to keep up, nonetheless revealed a couple of 'interesting' captures!

liking the way the sun is catching those flight feathers with dark trees in the background ... more I look, the more I like this pic!

I was in my element again ... just waiting, camera poised .... sandwich within arms reach, enjoying the moment and the late afternoon sun. And then he was back and this time perched a bit closer on a good looking gate (not that I have a random gate fetish ... just a composition thing!)

.........having a look at me maybe but more likely scanning for brown furry creatures in the grass. Now it got really interesting ... he flew off but perched on a fence about 60 yards away, then he swooped into the grass


All a bit blurry I know but just think 'action pic on u tube' and you'll get the picture!

I reckon that's a Field Vole he's caught and I was really thrilled to be capturing this - times like these I often think of switching to video but hey hindsight eh?

So I keep on snapping and glory be - me old 'Barny' carried the Vole up on to a fence post and proceeded to partially skin the poor (and hopefully expired!) creature.
Ok here's the public health warning - if you don't want to see a bird eat a mammal scroll up now!

Knew you'd wanna see! So here's all decent shots in sequence ... not the sharpest with fading light but given my almost total leaning towards hand held picture taking, these are a good advert for what can be achieved 'sans tripod' with my trusty and irreplaceable 400 Canon. Let the feast commence ......




..... and I reckon that's a Barn Owl burp!

Some pretty weird facial contortions going on there I must say, but always tricky swallowing a whole rodent in one ... so fair do's! Can't help thinking though that the 'skinning' of the fur was part n parcel of making the prey easier to swallow? Anyone who's got any first hand experience of this and would like to share your thoughts then please do!

So that was a truly epic photographic encounter with surely the most haunting of our breeding British owls and I was totally enthralled .... struggling a bit of late are our Barn Owls due to loss of breeding habitat so if you want to do a simple thing to help them out you could do no worse than join your local Wildlife Trust ... here in the Yorkshire branch we are taking active steps to preserve the habitats they need to keep on thriving.

So good looking was this bird that he even gets a photo of him going ... surreal references to 1980's chick flicks featuring Susan Sarondan not withstanding, check out the margination on his flight and tail feathers ....

... and then he was gone to hunt in pastures new but not before a parting fly away shot ...

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing sequence of images Tim. I too really like the one with the dark trees and the owls feather lit by the sun.
    I can't believe the owl swallowed its prey whole, what an amazing day.