Tawny Owl Diary - Working locally

At the beginning of the month I was very fortunate to speak at the AFON Now For Nature Conference which was held at the amazing Natural History Museum in London alongside several amazing photographers from YWPUK. My talk was titled “Nocturnal Wonderland - The Tales Of Staffordshire’s Tawny Owls”, and as the name suggests, my topic was about the Tawny Owls I have been photographing in Staffordshire, which I have been doing for over the last four years. When preparing for my talk and creating my slideshow I knew I had a lot to say as it’s a subject I could ramble on about for hours, but unfortunately I only had a limited amount of time and needed to be quick, concise and to the point. I spoke about Tawny Owls as a species, how to photograph them, the number of individuals I have found, Tawny Owl chicks and certain individual owls I know very well. It was two slides during my talk that inspired this blog post - the number of individual owls I have found and individual owls I have come to know. What working with Tawny Owls has done has enabled me to work close to home which allowed me to work with these certain individuals even if the encounters are far and few in between, but regardless, it has taught me how to best photograph them and where I am most likely to see them. One Tawny Owl that could not be more local to me is Rufous. She is an owl that hunts in the many fields behind my house and an owl that has nested in the woodland opposite my street, but irritatingly, she keeps me awake most nights screeching away, which I do love really as it’s nice to hear her... On occasions, I have also seen her sat on top of my neighbours houses as I make my way to work in the early hours of the morning but of course I didn’t have my camera to document it! She eludes me 99% of the time and she’s tricky to photograph, but even a short glimpse or sound from her fills me with joy. This particular image of Rufous was taken last year, a night before I headed to Australia which I took alongside the country lane that runs beside the field behind my house. When I see an owl along this lane I always know I am in for a good night of ‘owling’ and what’s strange is that where Rufous is sitting I also photographed her partner who is a grey morph owl in the exact same tree, same branch and with same pose... They both must favour this tree for hunting from! 

The map pictured shows just how local all of my Tawny Owl photography is. Those red pins are scattered all around my small hometown of Biddulph and slowly creep towards Congleton and Leek, however I feel no need to go any further. Within those pins are several nest sites, where chicks have dispersed too, dozens of owls I know well and also several other species of owl! Each pin represents an individual owl, but some that are close together maybe the owls partner or the same owl photographed somewhere different within it’s territory. The map to me is somewhat a work of art, it shows all of my progression and dedication to Tawny Owls but most importantly it has led to me understanding them more. I am sure I will continue to find more owls around Biddulph and I can’t wait to add more data to the map, but what I love most about getting to know these individual owls like Rufous is that it is much more exciting than seeing an owl I’ve never seen before simply because I know them and I guess you could say it’s like seeing an old friend... Maybe that sounds stupid, maybe it doesn’t, but these owls mean a lot to me and I hope I get the chance to photograph Rufous sometime soon…