Photographer captures short-eared owls sparring over Norfolk meadow

Photographer Brian Shreeve, captures a beautiful short-eared owl on camera. Picture: Brian Shreeve

Photographer Brian Shreeve, captures a beautiful short-eared owl on camera. Picture: Brian Shreeve - Credit: Brian Shreeve

When they're on the hunt for their furry food, the odd dispute can happen.

Brian Shreeve captured these two short-eared owls sparring after one surprised the other as it swooped over a meadow on the edge of the Broads.

Hemblington-based Mr Shreeve, 70, a keen wildlife photographer, rates the birds as one of his favourite subjects.

Mr Shreeve set out with his wife Ann on a frosty morning to see if they could spot the daytime feeders winging their way over the marshes.

'The peace and quiet, no people, no sounds of vehicles, just us and nature, it was magical,' he said. 'The sun, very bright but still low in the sky, bathed the marshes and meadows of several acres in a golden hue.

'Ann, my spotter, soon located a distant bird. Yes, it was a shortie, but too distant to image.'

The couple crept to a closer vantage point, where the light was on their side.

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'It did not take long before Ann whispered that she had spotted a second bird, this one much closer,' said Mr Shreeve. I followed it through my camera viewfinder as it twisted and turned across the meadow. It was close enough for my first shots.

'I continued to track this bird, when suddenly it spooked another which had been resting amongst the grassland. Both birds became aggressive to each other with talons exposed, but the short encounter was over in seconds, with no apparent damage inflicted.'

Mr Shreeve's camera captures the faces of the birds, along with their piercing yellow eyes and beautiful markings, in a series of pictures he rates as amongst his best-ever.

Across the county from the early morning drama, Britain's only charity dedicated to owls and wild birds of prey has been given a £73,200 lottery grant to recruit and train more volunteers.

The Hawk and Owl Trust will employ a coordinator to oversee its Heritage Hands project at Sculthorpe Moor reserve, near Fakenham.

The scheme will train volunteers in skills such as species and habitat recording on the land it manages.

Nigel Middleton, the trust's conservation officer for the Eastern Region, said: 'We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

'This will enable us to give people a much more rewarding volunteering experience with the opportunity to learn new skills, and encourage more local people to try their hand at conservation through fulfilling volunteering.'

The Hawk and Owl Trust works to protect wild birds of prey and their habitats. Birds of prey are at the top of the food chain and are very dependent on the quality of the landscape.