15th January 2016
The forecast was for a bright sunny day so time for another attempt at photographing Short-eared Owls, but where to go, Heartwood Forest or Rainham Marshes? Well the last time I went to Heartwood Forest is was getting very muddy so by now with the recent dowpours it must be an absolute quagmire. Also it is a public access site so walkers, dog walkers and even the rather over-ambitious photographers can disturb the owls and cause them to fly to another area.
On the other hand, although the best viewing area at Rainham Marshes is a public footpath, the owls hunt over the reserve and therefore cannot be disturbed. Rainham is of course further but it takes me 25 minutes to go to Heartwood and only 45 minutes to get to Rainham, so Rainham it was.
I skipped the reserve and headed straight down to the river wall towards the Serin Mound. As I approached the Coldharbour Lane car park a pair of Stonechats were flitting around in the scrub. Whilst the male absconded across the river bank, the female stayed behind and posed quite nicely in a Hawthorn bush and then on an old dock stem.
So now on to the business in hand. The first owl appeared at 1.45pm hunting along the top of the landfill site. It disappeared from view a couple of times and eventually flew down the hill, crossing the road and out on to the marsh via the Serin Mound. By the time I got down to the cycle path it was quartering the marsh on the far side at least 200 yards away. It then started flying towards the river wall and settled on a fence post not far from the footpath that runs parallel to the wall.
It seemed quite settled so I made my way round the path eventually getting with 70 yards of the bird and started taking photographs. The bird was still settled so I edged closer taking more shots as I went. Eventually I got within 40 yards with the owl totally unperturbed, just looking around and enjoying the sunshine. It doesn't get better than this!!!
I did manage a flight shot but unfortunately it was flying away, so that will be the challenge next time.