Monday, 16 May 2016

The world's largest owls

I recently spent a great day on a Bird of Prey photoshoot with Alan Hewitt and Andy Howey.  All the birds were captive bred and reared but it was a great experience and wonderful to see such beautiful birds at close quarters.  It was also good to be able to take advantage of Alan's experience as a wildlife photographer and to learn more about the birds from Andy.  The cast included little owl, tawny owl, long-eared owl and kestrel, all of which will feature in this blog in coming days.  We also met two of the world's largest owls which, despite their different appearances, are closely related.

This is the Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo).  It has the orange eyes of a dawn and dusk hunter.

This is the snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus).  Unlike the eagle owl above, the snowy owl is on the British List.  This one is a young male in the process of losing the barring on his chest which will eventually become pure white.  His native home is the Arctic tundra and he has insulating feathers around his beak and on his feet (which also come in useful in north Northumberland).  His yellow eyes show he is a daytime hunter.

The only free-flying bird we met was a barn owl.  Unlike a wild owl, it flies in a straight line close to the ground in a long dive between handlers, presenting a real challenge for my bird-in-flight photography skills, especially on a rather misty cloudy day.  However, I did manage three photos almost in focus.

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