From my studio window, I’ve an ideal view over the Yorkshire Wolds. I prefer to preserve my French home windows huge open for so long as the climate permits. At the moment of 12 months, I usually discover myself distracted from my easel by the autumn fowl migration. As large 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 large numbers of summer season 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 will count on an inflow of birds from Scandinavia and Japanese 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 look at 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 manner south. These birds use the UK like a service station, refueling earlier than they proceed on their journey. This area can also 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 head to head with a polar bear. No less than half of the species of birds discovered within the UK are migrants, and these embrace birds which might be often considered native, like bullfinches. Even Nordic robins and blackbirds are recognized to fly throughout the channel to take pleasure in a winter in Yorkshire.
You additionally get mini-migrations, throughout the UK. Skylarks are resident within the UK all 12 months spherical, however will usually depart open moorland and head to low lands when temperatures drop. In actually chilly snaps, meadow pipits will depart the moors in the hunt for heat and meals. Some keep native however others make their manner all the way in which 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 could 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 studies 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 almost double this dimension. They’re significantly enticing with yellow-gold feathers and piercing yellow eyes lined with black, which makes them appear like they’re carrying mascara.
Search for brief eared owls after rain
Among the finest issues about them from my standpoint is that they usually hunt in daylight, which makes them simpler to look at. One winter I heard a few area the place brief eared owls had been recognized to hunt. I waited for a nasty spell of climate earlier than I visited. Figuring out owls effectively, I used to be conscious that windy, moist climate impacts their capacity to hunt so the interval instantly following such a spell is the time to look at them out searching. It had rained regularly for 36 hours with sturdy winds. I knew they might 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 because of get higher the next day.
I opened my curtains hopefully the next morning, nevertheless 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 may 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 monitor street and because the fog cleared I noticed two brief eared owls chasing each other. One of many owls sat on a publish proper subsequent to the street. I switched off the engine and free wheeled in the 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 appearing so naturally. It fluffed all its feathers out and because it did so small clouds of mud puffed out. This high quality mud is named powder down and consists of powdered feather. The fowl started to fastidiously preen its flight feathers. Because it ran its beak by way of them it raised its wing over its again, bending the feathers proper around the again of its head. I believed it will 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 high situation first. And what magnificent feathers they had 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 extra 45 minutes admiring it earlier than it instantly took off to hunt. It had been a exceptional expertise. I had reeled off over 1,000 pictures in lower than two hours and couldn’t wait to get again to my studio to begin 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 a couple of concepts of what to color subsequent.