Project Bella

 

I received a call from one of the local park rangers telling me of a Barn Owl seen hunting over some local meadows, and wanted to know if I would be interested in popping over. I think she could tell by my reaction that the answer was yes, especially as I was there nearly before she had put the phone down. After looking at the location in the day I decided I’d pop back that evening just on the off chance that I may see the owl in question, what I saw that night just took my breath away. I have always had a love of Barn Owls from a very young age, I could just sit there and watch them for hours hunting, gliding and going about their business. I’ve spent years photographing them and observing the gracefulness and beauty that they share with anyone in sight, but to have one 2 minutes from where I live was just amazing. 1st SightingThat afternoon a few hours before dusk I set my camera up in the treeline looking out into one of the meadows and through some netting over my kit and myself to blend in, although I was hoping for some amazing sightings I was trying not to get my hopes up. Two hours had passed and nothing, light had now faded and I was considering calling it a night. I scanned the back meadow for one last time and there she was, a beautiful female Barn Owl hunting in the fading light.

Next Visit

There was no way I wasn’t going to go back the following evening, this time I set my kit up but at the other end of the meadow but still well hidden and camouflaged. Unlike the previous day there was no waiting for her to visit, 10 minutes after setting up she flew straight past me with no regard to the abnormal camouflaged lump hidden in the trees.

This was to be it for what seemed like an age, as I packed up a couple of hours after the sighting she decided to return and hunt in the middle of the field. Anyone that has seen a Barn Owl hunting will know what a magical experience it is watching them hover and working there patch. I slowly picked up my camera and took a couple of images, but with low light and a heavy kit I was never going to get amazing shots.

Birth of the Project

After a couple of good sightings and a discussion with the ranger who had told me about the owl originally I decided that I would run a project photographing and documenting the owls movements and any other sightings (we were hoping for a male to appear). Unfortunately the weather was taking a turn for the worse and heavy snow kept coming covering the meadows making it hard for her to hunt, she was coming out later than before making it hard to take any images but I still took them as record of her behaviour. Days turned into weeks and although I had frozen toes in the frosty mornings and freezing hands in the cold evenings it was a pleasure to witness her each and every time. Over several weeks id managed to capture images of her hunting in the meadows as well as images of her observing any movements in the long grass form nearby trees, and despite the bad weather she was still catching her food well and I would often see her carrying her prey to her favourite tree and eating it.

We were now into mid-March and I had witnessed some amazing sightings and captured lots of images and data, and then it happened. As I was photographing her in the bottom meadow she was joined by a male Barn Owl, could this be it. I watched the male keeping his distance but new that there could be a chance that love may be in the air for Bella. For several visits after that Bella was alone, sadly the male didn’t appear again whilst I was there but I hoped that he was still in the area as it would be amazing if there were a breeding pair of Barn Owls.

 

The following day id woken up to a thick layer of snow on the floor with even more coming down from the sky, my 1st thoughts went to Bella. I went out that afternoon and set up as normal, only to wait 20minutes before being joined by Bella. With it being cold and crisp but bright and sunny I decided I’d do a few backlit images of her for a change, she stayed in the top meadow and was hunting for ages, at times it seemed that she was just hovering for me to get my image. Of course with every press of the shutter button I was hoping that id got the image, and that id got her in focus and not missed my chance. Once light had gone and she had moved off into the lower meadow I packed up went home and smiled at the images she had allowed me to get of her, my thoughts then turned to the conditions she was facing and hoped that despite the heavy snow she had managed to catch her prey.

The above image is my favourite as it just shows how beautiful she is, the harsh light from behind highlights the amazing wings and body shape of this amazing creature, sadly as well as this being my favourite image this also tells the end of a story.

 

Here I am now writing this blog over 3 weeks since the above image was taken, and sadly there have been no further sightings of Bella. All the local rangers have been looking out for her as well as me and despite many visits there has been no sign of her. We were hoping that there was a chance she may be in her nest with the male but neither have been seen out hunting, sadly we feel that she may well have stayed in her nest due to the terrible weather and starved herself. We are of course hoping that this isn’t the case and are desperately hoping that one of us gets a sighting or any signs that she has survived, but I’m afraid the signs aren’t good and we fear we may have lost her to Mother Nature.I will of course update my Facebook page Colin Edwards Wildside if there are any changes, let’s hope the story of beautiful Bella can continue.

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