Wildlife photography has always been a passion for me. It's not something that pays the bills, but it's something that I love, and it is great for my own mental health. Recently, I was informed of a family of Little Owls in England, and the young Owlets had just begun fledging from the nest. I took the near three-hour drive down to the location and watched these beautiful creatures.
Paul Fowlie is a wildlife photographer based in Yorkshire, England and runs various workshops or days out across the UK and Europe such as Little Owls, Red Squirrels, White Tailed Sea Eagles, and trips to Svalbard. In this case, he has been observing a family of Little Owls the past few years near his home, and he has set up some pop-up tent hides nearby to capture images.
I contacted Paul who kept me informed about the Little Owls and how they were doing, Paul continued to provide updates and was pleased to inform me that there were now three Owlets on site. From then on, it was a matter of waiting for the young to grow older and hope that they would fledge around the date I had booked to visit.
Sure enough, a few days before my journey, the Owlets had begun fledging and coming out of their nest in the tree. My excitement to see these beautiful animals was growing, as they have long been on my list of subjects to photograph. I contacted my friend, Adam Russell, who is another keen wildlife photographer, and we made our preparations to travel down to Yorkshire from Scotland.
We travelled down on a Saturday afternoon, and the weather was looking good, so we decided to see what other wildlife was in the area. We searched for hours, looking for Barn Owls or whatever else we could find, but sadly, we didn't have much luck that evening. We stopped off at one location and asked someone, because local knowledge was king.
We asked a chap if he knew of Barn Owls in the area, and he asked us for money right away. The man seemed to think we were professional wildlife filmmakers or something, even though we just tried to explain we were merely wildlife hobbyists looking for owls. He asked us to go buy him some beer and cigarettes and then come back for tea, but we passed at this, as there was something very serial killer-esque about this man. Things just seemed very off with this man, and he was very demanding.
We continued on our way, joking around about the experience we just had. We went on some local walks near some barns and staked out the locations to see if we could hear or see anything, but had no luck. It was getting late, so we pressed on to our hotel for the evening.
The Big Day
Adam and I met at reception the following morning at 6 am and headed out looking for Barn Owls again on our way to meet Paul. We briefly caught a glimpse of one sitting in the barn window from a distance, so we stayed for around 20 minutes, but it did not come out to hunt.
We arrived at the meeting point at half past 7 and met with Paul and two other photographers, Karen and Joel. We followed Paul to the location and got settled into our pop-up tent hides. Within two minutes of getting the camera set up, the owls were out in a feeding frenzy that lasted close to an hour. We mostly saw the two parent owls, but we could see two owlets in the tree and one on a stone wall in the distance. Gradually, one of the Owlets became brave enough to fly over to the perches Paul had set up and was fed by the parents.
We had very variable weather conditions all morning, with a mix of heavy rain, wind, and sunshine, so we had lots of incredible opportunities. The first hour of action passed, and then, we waited around another hour or so before we were treated to another hour of activity.
The rush I get from seeing amazing animals in nature is so special, and it is great for my mental well-being. The owls were living in this tiny tree, which you would never expect would house a family of five if you were just walking past it.
After five or so hours in the hide, we decided that was enough for the day, as the activity died down due to the owls going for a well-deserved sleep. We began our long journey home back to Scotland, thrilled by the morning experience that will live with us forever.
I hope you enjoy some of the images below.
Be sure to share any similar experiences you have had in the comments!