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Sunday, 28 June 2015

One Of The Better Days! - on 25th June, 2015

Thursday brought round my regular afternoon/evening session with Titus. I had no idea that it would end up so satisfying on several counts!

On my way to Titus's place I called in at my Little Owl Site No.02. I'd featured this site in a post at the back end of last year. Sadly, on my return from Scotland at the end of May, I found that approximately 50% of the roof of the barn that was the owls' home had collapsed, and the owls were nowhere to be found. Over the ensuing weeks, I'd continued to look - more in hope than expectation. So you can image my joy when I eventually located an owl at this site on this day.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.02
Having set off with Titus, no owl was seen at my LO Site No.47, but at No.44 an owl was soon spotted in the deep shade of the oak tree that is its home.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.44
I think Titus was just about to drive off when I spotted a juvenile LO poking its head up - our first juvenile LO sighting of the year!! This was particularly exciting as we had high hopes for this site in 2014, but then the owls disappeared for six months.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile) - my Site No.44
Less than an hour later we had further excitement when I spotted a Little Owl, sitting in a hole in a tree which we've checked on several occasions as being a likely looking location. It definitely looked at home here - so new LO Site No.51!!! However, this is not going to be an easy one to monitor.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my new Site No.51
We were heading for Rutland Water, but just before we reached Langham we spotted a pair of Red Kite fairly close. Titus managed to find somewhere to stop the car and one of the birds obliged. Sadly the skies were cloudy at this point.




Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - near Langham
We started on the Egleton side of Rutland Water with our main objective being to try and find some dragonflies. I was keen to get more practice with the semi-macro ability of the Sigma 50-500. So far it has exceeded my expectations, the shortcoming being mainly due to my own inexperience. 

The first dragonfly spotted was a Hairy Dragonfly, which didn't play ball, but settled high in a tree where I couldn't get an unobstructed shot. No macro here then! The two dark lines on the side of the thorax of this species (shown in the second image) are a diagnostic feature of this species.


Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) (male) - Rutland Egleton
A little further on, a Four-spotted Chaser also kept its distance. I'd taken better images of these a couple of weeks previously, but those will wait until (possibly?) a later post.


Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (female) - Rutland Egleton
The macro came into play briefly with a quick attempt at a mating pair of Common Blue Damselfly, but I only managed two frames before they were gone.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male & female) - Rutland Egleton
I really got to use the macro facility when I found some Common Emerald Damselfly. I don't think that the lens performed too badly? Strangely, we only saw females. This species is one of a group of damselflies known as 'spreadwings' because of the way they hold their wings when settled. However, in the third image this particular individual was holding its wings close to its body. Perhaps this was because it was eating?



Common Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Rutland Egleton
The last dragonfly spotted was my first Ruddy Darter of the year. This too stayed distant, there being a large area of vicious nettles between me and it.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (female) - Rutland Egleton
I also took some photos of a couple of butterflies. I'm quite pleased with the detail in the Large Skipper (a very small butterfly) image. I'm disappointed that the Brimstone was so badly damaged.

Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata) (male) - Rutland Egleton
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) - Rutland Egleton
We wanted to fit in a visit to the Lyndon side of Rutland Water too, so left the Egleton side a little before 18h00. At the Lyndon side, we set off towards Waderscrape Hide, stopping to photograph a Meadow Brown on the way.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) (female?) - Rutland Lyndon
Titus continued to Shallow Water Hide, whilst I dropped off at Waderscrape Hide. It was relatively quiet there for a while, but I did take a few images of some Reed Bunting. I think that the first two images are probably of a juvenile, whilst the third (which I include because I've never noticed a Reed Bunting raise its crown like that) is an adult female.


Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (juvenile?) - Rutland Lyndon
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - Rutland Lyndon
Excitement struck again that day, when a Water Vole came out of the reeds and made directly for a plant in the water, which it them promptly nipped off at water level and took back into the reeds. This was repeated three times and, fortunately, Titus came back during the session in time to witness and photograph the event. I was sitting in totally the wrong place, so most of my photographic attempts were foiled by intervening vegetation. Here's a few 'record shots'.



Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius) - Rutland Lyndon
With as few owls to check on during our return journey, Titus and I left at around 19h30, stopping to take a photo of a Whitethroat on a wire above the track as we walked back to the car.

Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) (female) - Rutland Lyndon
We stopped for half our picnic at a point where we can observe Little Owl Sites Nos.34 & 36. Nothing was seen at first and then I spotted a LO slap bang halfway between the two sites. It was hunting from a tree, and then disappearing into the hedge. We suspect that it was feeding a fledged juvenile, but we never did work out which of the two sites it belonged to!

En route to our stop for the second half of our picnic, I grabbed some quick images of a Kestrel on a power pole.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (female) - near Lowesby
The farmers at LO Site No.41 had been telling us how one of the LOs had been scolding their cat when it came down the road a couple of nights previously. When we arrived at the site, we sat and had the rest of our picnic whilst watching, in the gathering gloom, both adult owls hunting for food and taking it back to the nest hole. At one point, the farm cat came strolling down the road and one of the owls flew down to within a metre of the road and shouted at the cat as it went past. It then continued shouting at the cat and dive-bombed it, and eventually settled on a telegraph pole just above us as the cat walked past us.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
We might not have seen any rarities that day, but the day had been interesting, amusing, and exciting - certainly one of the better days!

Thank you for dropping by.