This weekend I visited my girlfriend and we decided to go out on an evening walk around some lakes near to her house. We started off by visiting a quiet spot where there are often Great Crested Grebes, and there were two pairs there just as we thought. They were performing their beautiful courtship dance in the middle of lake and it is always a real privilege to be able to watch it. It was a little too far away to get a good shot but I did manage to get an individual as he came up from a dive.
There were the usual culprits to be found on British waterways; the Mute Swan and the Mallard Duck. In fact, with one Mute Swan we had quite a close encounter as it approached us on the lakeshore. It seemed to be after food but with nothing to give, the individual quickly moved on. On the same piece of water were a pair of the ever present Mallard Duck. They started to swim towards the reflection of the setting Sun and I took the opportunity to go for a more arty approach, the colours were beautiful and the water surface was incredibly smooth.
On our way home we saw something large flying off across the meadow. At first, I thought it was a Buzzard as it had a long brown wingspan and it was flying off from a post. Then after a moment I realised it was definitely not a Buzzard, its head was too broad and its underside was almost completely white. My heart was racing as I suddenly realised that this was a Short-eared Owl, there were in fact two birds and perhaps a third. Unfortunately we were the wrong side of the river and could not get close enough for a photograph. So we decided we would head down to the same spot the following evening.
As you can see we were in luck on the second night, although I have to say we did have to wait a while. We set ourselves up underneath some electricity pylons, to try and ensure our silhouette was not immediately obvious, and waited for nearly two hours. Eventually, I saw a low flash of white sweeping across the golden grass and I knew we were in luck. The owl was hunting in complete silence with such agility and beauty, it was one of the most wonderful wildlife encounters I have had in a long time. The large yellow eyes were glowing in evening sunlight, the white face staring intently across the meadow before disappearing headlong into the long grass.
As the light started to fade, we noticed another owl hunting nearby and when the two birds had sighted one another, they flew up high into the sky before heading back down towards the grass. We were able to observe the one bird, I managed to photograph, without disturbing it by staying still and keeping as quiet as possible. The amazing thing was that there were plenty of dog walkers around and people enjoying the Spring sunshine. The owls did not seem to be bothered and continued hunting until we left them in peace. What a wonderful way to spend an evening in the early Spring sunshine and what was better was that I got to share the moment with somebody else, for a change.