posted in: Birds, Gloucestershire | 0

It was sunny in Evesham at lunchtime, where I went on what proved to be a fruitless quest for a working air machine to top up my car tyres. But afterwards, as I worked my way cross-country towards Winchcombe, I could see thick cloud sitting on the tops of the nearby hills, which didn’t bode well for the top of the scarp, and as I carried on upwards, with the temperature dropping fast and the car beeping ice warnings, I began to think about turning back.

“Fool’s errand,” I said, shaking my head at some pheasants sitting on an icy wall. They just stared back, but I thought I could see agreement on their faces.

“Oh, good grief,” I said, as cars began emerging from the gathering murk with their fog lights on, and I had to adjust mine to suit. “You’re on an absolute hiding to nothing here.”

“Madness,” I said, getting out of the car at the coppice to check the north corner of the owl field, which had seen so much excellent action on Wednesday. “On the other hand, if they decide to work this corner again…” At that point the visibility was about a hundred metres, and a thin sun was visible behind the mist and cloud, but as I stood and watched some more freezing vapour rolled in, and the visibility distance halved.

“Well,” I said. “I’m here now. I might as well go round the corner and see who’s at the wall.”

“Someone else who needs psychological help,” said A cheerfully to D, as I rolled my car up onto the verge. By this time it was about 1.30, and we stood there – at least, I did – for the next two hours. Hillyblips arrived a little while after me, and the four of us stood on the mound at the wall junction chatting, and peering at the mist. Every now and then it would thin, and the sun would strengthen, and someone would point out how much further we could see, and we’d all beg the owls to take advantage of this lovely mild spell and do some bleeping hunting…. and then the cloud would drop around us again, the sun would disappear, and we’d all get just a little bit colder than we’d been already.

It was about quarter past three when this fly-past finally took place, and A and D had both already come to their senses and left. It might look from my images as though there was reasonable visibility at the time, but there really wasn’t – most of the contrast and clarity in them has been applied by me in Lightroom. In fact I could see so little that for half the flight I thought the owl was coming towards the camera, when it was actually heading away. The fact that the autofocus caught the bird and held onto it is more a tribute to modern technology than to my skill.

I’ve gone with the side-on view as my main image because I like the context of the rimed grasses and seed heads over which the owl was skimming, while listening for the rustling noises of its prey. If I had to choose a favourite though, it would be the second photo, simply because I can’t resist the orange glare of an oncoming Short-eared Owl.