From my studio window, I’ve an ideal view over the Yorkshire Wolds. I prefer to preserve my French home windows vast open for so long as the climate permits. At the moment of 12 months, I typically discover myself distracted from my easel by the autumn chicken migration. As enormous flocks of birds fly overhead in formation, I can’t assist however put my paintbrush all the way 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 enormous numbers of summer time migrants akin to 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 embody 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 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 assume only a few months in the past these birds might need come nose to nose with a polar bear. No less than half of the species of birds discovered within the UK are migrants, and these embody birds which are normally regarded as native, like bullfinches. Even Nordic robins and blackbirds are identified 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 12 months 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 manner 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 instances this will 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 notably engaging 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
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 couple of discipline the place brief eared owls have been identified to hunt. I waited for a foul spell of climate earlier than I visited. Figuring out owls nicely, 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 sturdy 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 in opposition to the window I heard the forecaster say the climate was resulting from get higher the next day.
I opened my curtains hopefully the next morning, but it surely was nonetheless raining. It was alleged to cease mid-morning so I set off anyway. However as I acquired 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 in opposition to the wind display 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 submit 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 instances earlier than heading off to hunt.
I acquired my digital camera out and snapped away. I used to be stunned 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 superb mud is named powder down and consists of powdered feather. The chicken started to rigorously preen its flight feathers. Because it ran its beak via them it raised its wing over its again, bending the feathers proper around the again of its head. I believed it could be intent on searching after such an extended spell of dangerous climate however this owl was in no rush. It needed to get all its feathers in tip high 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 outstanding 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 outstanding afternoon and had given me fairly just a few concepts of what to color subsequent.