Where to start for 2012, at first I thought I would be struggling for images for a review. The weather has hampered alot of birding this year. Things were looking grim and very dry at the start, despite a slight flurry of snow, not much actual rain had fallen, winter visits to Welford resevoir looking for Goosanders was a waste of time the resevoir looked like a small puddle, Pitsford wasn't much better. At this rate by the time the waders returned for breeding they were going to have a hard time, they eventually did have a hard time but not because of lack of water. Yep, the Native Americans can do a rain dance but they can't match the rain dance of local water authorities, all they had to was announce a hose pipe ban and the skies just opened and it seems someone forgot to turn it back off.
However the winter star bird was without fail the Short eared Owl. Normally a few of us would stand in a field, freezing our proverbials and if we were lucky get a few "record" images and be happy and just watching the owls. The end of 2011 saw a massive invasion of Short eared Owls, one site (maidwell) holding 30+ birds, in previous years you'd be lucky to start off with 5 and by February have just one or two. The only negative thing I can say about Short eared Owls is it seems to drive birders "mad" aka OWL FEVER. Seriously I was meeting people who had travelled from as far as Somerset, Wales and Kent but I'm pleased to say 99% of the people visiting behaved brilliantly, no chasing of the owls, parking their cars in sensible spots. Sure there was the odd one or two who I had to have a "word" with but the rest were great to meet. I even met one man and woman who were bemused as to what was going on (non-birders) after a brief chat and showing them what all the "fuss" was about, he got talking to me about the Buzzards that nest in a copse on his land and how Swallows were his favourite bird (mine too) and got an invite to his farm, which I took up when the Swallows returned, I love it when chance meetings create a friendship like that, as a result during the summer not only did I have a great place to photograph Swallows but got to watch from a safe distance a pair of Buzzards raise some juveniles. In one winter I managed to get more images of Short eared Owls then I have in five years of photographing birds, was I bored with them? NEVER! Sadly this winter the Short eared Owls have been in short supply with only one reliable site which selfishly I'm keeping quite about...for now. But the Short eared Owls played a sneaky move in 2012. For the first time I was able to photograph one (there was at least three) bird all the way up to the 3rd of June which is when I last saw it, did it stay all year? Not sure, it could've done! So the first image is of a winter Short eared Owl and the second was taken at the tail end of May (27th I think). I completely messed up the exposure as I've never photographed Short eared Owls in warm,sunny weather with rape seed in the background. I was actually photographing Skylarks and Yellowhammers when it popped over the hedge, I picked my jaw up off the gorund and still in shock snapped away for me this was one of my highlights of the summer. Please on the last two, left click the image to see proper size, Blogger won't let me put the size I want on here :(