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The amazing owl fight in photos


The one animal that I love to see in the wild is owls. They are very hard to see because they mostly fly at dusk and dawn, and there are a couple in the village, although I've never seen them. They are five different types of UK owls and they are, short-eared owl, barn owl, long-eared owl, tawny owl and the little owl. I have seen owls in zoos and in falconries many times but I have only seen them in the wild a few times.

Earlier this week dad was driving along a big moor after checking my pine marten trail camera, when he caught sight of something light flying at the edge of the moor on the side of a hill. Dad parked up and took out his binoculars and his camera with the biggest lens he had, and walked across the moor and down the hill to see what was happening. What he saw amazed him !

Almost as soon as he got over the brow of the hill, he saw not one, but two owls ! He could hardly see what was happening because the owls were still quarter-of-a-mile away.  The owl's markings were very similar, and it's taken me a while to figure out who was attacking who from carefully going through the photos. I've called them Whitewing (who has a lighter underside to the wing) and Darkwing (who is slightly greyer). I'll explain what type of owls they are later on.

Out of nowhere, further down the hill,  the two owls came face to face, wings out wide, and claws out ! Here Whitewing is facing towards the camera, attacking Darkwing:

Whitewing (now on the right) was knocked sideways by Darkwing, and feathers flew off !

See that feather is still in the next picture ? That's because these frames all happened within a few seconds of each other. Darkwing pulls itself down to face Whitewing, who is still falling. The attacker was now on the run !

By the time Whitewing (on the right) gets its wings straightened again Darkwing is ready to go back in for another attack: (and see the feather again)

Darkwing's claws are ready for the attack, and Whitewing lets itself fall under them:

Whitewing swoops down to land on the ground, and Darkwing soon followed it:

Did that seem to go quickly ? That bit of the fight between the two owls was over in just two seconds !

But there was more ! A few seconds after that the two owls started fighting again further down the hill. Here Darkwing is attacking from higher up:

Darkwing then went round in a big circle above the other owl. You can see the farmhouse in the distance, which is actually over a mile away.

I'm not sure what the Whitewing is doing here, but it doesn't look like it is winning:

Darkwing pulls itself up while Darkwing is recovering:

This next shot is confusing, because Darkwing looks like it has light wings, and Whitewing looks like it has dark wings, but it is definitely Darkwing at the top, on the attack, and Whitewing below on the escape. (What looks like the underside of Whitewing's left wing is actually the top of the right wing):

Then what happened next is the most remarkable of all. Whitewing actually flies upside down to fend off Darkwing's attack !

But what is even more remarkable is that everything that happened between the farmhouse picture and this one was just in about three seconds !

After this, the two birds separated and one of them buzzed over a very confused roe deer !

So what type of owls were they ?

When Darkwing flew away and landed you could get a better look. I'm not 100% sure but I think the dark feathers in the middle of the forehead, the dark eyes and the white stripes where the wings meet the feathers show that Darkwing looks like Tawny Owl ! This was unusual because tawny owls are usually only seen at dusk and dawn, not in the middle of the day.

ADDED LATER: Or was it ? Kate Macrae, who is more of a bird expert than me, thinks they were both short-eared owls !

There were clearer shots of when Whitewing flew by. The dark top of the wings and white underside could make it either a tawny owl or a white eared owl, which are both very similar....

But the giveaway was the bright yellow eyes and light face which showed Lightwing was a Short-Eared Owl !

There are some short-eared owls which live in the UK but a much greater number fly in over the winter, whereas tawny owls live here all year round. Dad just wishes he was closer to get better photos, but I am really pleased to see something like this (although I wish I had been there myself !)

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Ric said...

I had a good view of a short eared owl near your village the day I called in with the dead seal cub, Jake. These are very exciting photos Nick!

xray said...

neat ! :) Thanks for sharing.

Jake said...

Dad was lucky to see them !

Jake said...

Thanks ! I think they might both be short-eared owls now, though.

Jake said...

Thanks !

Jake said...

I wish !

Christine Sutcliffe said...

Fantastic shots! :o

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