Late this afternoon/early evening it was again very mild and spring like, too good to waste sitting in home watching the telly so I dragged myself out to see my new favourite friends......The Tawny Owls. It has taken me nearly six years to find an accommodating Tawny that will show before it gets too dark, and these particular birds definitely fit that bill! Having the normal nocturnal habits that this species possess they are not!!! I'd have been quite satisfied if they were to show themselves just as dusk was falling, but they go completely against the grain and are quite willing to show even in the daytime.
So when I arrived today to see if they were showing I was again surprised to discover both birds were out foraging in the undergrowth on the edge of the small group of trees they call home. I didn't stop the car for fear of spooking them, instead I drove past and pulled up a safe distance away. The camera gear was prepared and then I reversed back up keeping the spinney/copse on my right hand side. The first bird was still perched up in the same spot, just a couple of metres in from the edge of the spinney. It didn't even lift its head up to take a look at me! Instead it seemed intent just to stare at the leafy undergrowth, I could only assume watching for prey? To give you a feel for the environment and how close I was to the owl this first image is full frame and taken at 300mm.
Then without notice it pounced down into the leafy foliage at the base of the trees. It wasn't easy to see as it was very shaded and perfectly camouflaged, I could make out that it was nearly chest deep in dead leaves and twigs. It stayed there partially hidden for a few minutes, maybe it had caught some prey? Finally it took flight and landed on a verge side fence post, it hadn't made a kill, oh that would have been nice to see and photograph.
I then noticed the second bird fly out from the copse further down and up into one of the more mature trees that surround the area. This gave me a chance to get a shot out of the passenger window, but just as I was focusing it took flight and this image below was the result. Oh so near to nailing that perfect take off shot!!
My attentions were then quickly reverted back to the first bird but it had gone! I'd no idea as to where so I started to systematically scan the undergrowth. It was quickly re-located up high in the spinney canopy, its huge dark profile giving it away. It was then joined by the second bird, I then realised why they had so suddenly retreated, a couple of joggers were making their was towards us. My only option now was to sit back and wait for the coast to clear and then wait for the next bit of action to commence.
The owls sat together not moving for the next half an hour, there was a nearby tractor making a right racket that was obviously disturbing them. Eventually silence fell upon the whole area and the owls started to rummage around in the spinney again. One of them flew over to the mature tree again but this time I was completely ignoring it as the second owl swooped down and landed in the grassy paddock area not 30 feet from where I was parked! I had never seen a Tawny Owl on the ground before, I'd no idea as to what it was doing but it gave me 10 seconds of full unobstructed views, no doubt about it my best ever Tawny experience so far, thankfully I'd got my camera with me to capture this unique activity.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time, this evening I was blessed with fantastic viewing, it was a real privilege to witness and an encounter I will never forget.