Behind the image — Short-eared owl

I originally planned to photograph a different owl species that afternoon; barn owls are a common sighting along the riverbank and country roads close to where I live. I have watched a couple of individuals at one particular location for the past couple of weeks that year, where I had a rough idea of the time they would come out to hunt, and the weather conditions favourable to the birds to allow them to hunt effectively.

I parked up opposite a country road facing the riverbank, awaiting the arrival of at least one individual barn owl, where it had had successful hunts previously. The sun was lowering behind me and provided the ever enchanting golden hour, which has slowly become my favourite time of the day for my wildlife encounters. The barn owl swooped and glided in front of me, continuously moving back and forth, hovering every now and again before diving down feet first with the set intention of grabbing a meal. As it began to venture further away up the road, I noticed another bird perched on a fence post next to the road. The body was too far away to make out a distinctive shape, one I would associate with a bird species I could already identify from a fair distance. That bird then flew in my direction, and it was then that I could confirm that it wasn’t resembling the pure white complexion of the barn owl. That bird was a species I hadn’t previously encountered. That bird, being a short-eared owl.

It landed on the barbed wire facing me, with the golden sunset illuminating the owl and it locked its gaze on me for such a long time. I was entranced by its yellow eyes as I watched it down the viewfinder. It hardly moved, a surprising feat while it balanced on the thin barbed wire, its talons tightly gripped, the chest feather partially separating from a light breeze coming across the neighbouring fields. I was in absolute awe. After taking multiple shots, I lowered the camera and just sat and stared at this bird. I felt privileged to be in the presence of something that I wasn’t expecting or planning to find, and I always enjoy little surprises from nature. It makes me fall in love with wildlife all over again.

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