Tawny Owl Diary - Every New Beginning Has An End

As a wildlife photographer I find it hard not to get attached to the species I photograph, especially species that I put all of my time and effort into finding. Tawny Owls have always had my heart and seeing chicks, hearing their call and being in their company has always been special to me, ever since I found my first one several years ago. I have been lucky over the years to find and photograph several chicks and this year has been no exception, as towards the beginning of May I was lucky to find two in a new location. The smaller of the two chicks was a real poser, preferring to roost low down in the trees, whilst the other was really high up, almost always out of sight. In all honesty, these were some of the best views I have had of Tawny Owl chicks in daylight and throughout all of my time I spent there I was smiling, I was just so happy to be there in the moment photographing something so precious. I guess it’s hard to explain to someone the feeling I felt if they’ve never been in a similar situation, but it really was magic and these encounters are memories that will certainly last a life time. Unfortunately, this blog takes a sad turn, as with all wildlife, you cannot stop the inevitable and sometimes you have to accept whats happened and move on because thats nature. Every new beginning has an end and the end for this chick came far too soon. As perfect as this chick was sat for photography, from an owls perspective it was unsafe. Below the branches it was precariously balancing on was a small stream and it was sat above this stream every time I was there, either snoozing throughout the day or at night it would be calling and moving from branch to branch over it. The last time I visited it was moving around the trees, it looked as if it was trying to move higher up. It was calling and flapping its tiny wings as it tried so hard to move and at that point it was getting late as my plan was to photograph it the following morning, hopefully in better light - so I headed home to get an early night ready for the morning. My alarm rang at 4.30am and I was back to the chick just before sunrise and I noticed straight away the chick wasn’t where it had normally been sitting for the last few days. I wasn’t surprised as I assumed it had moved higher up in the trees to join its sibling. I began to search and found the bigger owlet and as I searched harder I had no luck. Weird, I thought, I didn’t want to give up and I checked every inch of every tree before throwing in the towel, something I didn’t want to do. I still had hopes and thought it was well camouflaged but when I returned a few hours later to have another look I saw something that almost brought me to tears. Face down in the stream was the Tawny Owl chick, I can only imagine it passed away from drowning or the exhaustion of trying to get free. I was deeply saddened, but nature is nature, sometimes it is raw, eye-opening and not at all how you had hoped, but most importantly I was lucky to see this chick alive and photograph it in all it glory before its end…