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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Back In The Groove - mid-April, 2014

In my last post, I spoke of finding myself a little demotivated, and stuck in a rut, with a statement that I was taking positive steps to rectify this. I now feel that I'm back in the groove. It occurs to me that, taken literally, these two expressions are not too different in their meaning and, to a person who's first language is not English, the actual sentiments could be totally lost. How different their true meaning is!

Pretty much throughout my interest in owling I've been propped up by my Little Owl site on my local patch - my Site No.02. I pass by several times a week and am rarely let down by a lack of sighting. I know that it won't last forever, and I'm dreading the day that they depart. These were two images from 8th April.

Little Owl - my Site No.02
The real 'reposession of the groove' started on Sunday 13th April. It was a beautiful sunny evening and I offered to take my wife out for a country drive and a 'swift half' in a country pub. We had a very enjoyable evening and managed to find an owl at my LO Site No.03 (where sightings are somewhat more sporadic than those at 02) as the sun was going down. I'm not sure about this image. I did also take one with a lot longer exposure, but the effect of the bright sun on the owl's breast makes it look most odd - and this one, for me anyway, has more atmosphere.

Little Owl - my Site No.03
The following day I was out on my local patch and visited four Little Owl sites, but I only saw one owl (at Site No.02), and didn't take any photos of it. I did, however, come across a lone Wheatear. At first I thought it was a first-year male, but I now believe it to be a female.

Wheatear (female) - my local patch
Not wanting to lose the momentum, I was out again the next day. This time I was determined to have a proper photographic session, and set up my hide at my LO Site No.18. The last time I attempted this here it was a failure as one of the owls, unbeknown to me, was already out and observed me setting up - and refused to return in daylight. This time I was lucky and both were tucked up in the trunk of the apple tree when I arrived. Fortunately one of the owls popped out briefly when the light was still good.

Little Owl - my Site No.18
This brings me to Wednesday 16th. I was getting really fired up now and set off for an afternoon and evenings owling, taking my tea with me. My main objective was to try and do better at the barn where I'd seen Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and Kestrel.

As I passed LO Site No.46, both the owls were out, but only record shots were taken. However, I am increasingly seeing Red Kites in this area and this day was one of those occasions. This was a poor image but I'm posting it here as it's showing its prey. I'm pretty sure it's got a rat! A few weeks back, in the same general area, I took another shot of a Red Kite with prey, and couldn't make out what it was carrying - I now think that this was also a rat. I'm quite pleased by this as I was talking to a  sheep farmer here a couple of weeks ago who was expressing concerns about the Kites and whether they might take new-born lambs. I tried to put his mind at rest, but now I think I've evidence that might make him look at these wonderful birds in a more positive light!

Red Kite - by my LO Site No.46
Round the corner, at my LO Site No.41, I saw both of the owls for the first time in a few weeks. One of them kindly showed me its new home - and it wasn't the nest box that Titus and I had erected! The other remained outside and allowed me to take its photograph.

Little Owl - my Site No.41
At my LO Site No.42 I had a rare sighting of one of the owls there and now believe that I know where it's nesting - and it's not where I originally thought it was! Only record shots were obtained.

As I approached the location of my LO Sites No.s 34, 36 and 43 (they're all within a few hundred yards (metres)), I noticed an owl out at No.43. As I approached it flew down to the ground and then back up into the Hawthorn. This site is a bit of a mystery as I'm not sure if it's distinct from No.36, which is very close. 34 and 36 are even closer to each other, but definitely different sites.

Little Owl - my Site No.43
I then noticed that an owl was out on a post by Site No.36 and just a few yards (metres) further on a Little Owl flew across the road immediately in front of my car, just missing me! It crossed the field and along the hedge towards the nest tree of No.34 and then, almost immediately came back and settled on a post at the roadside. This is the first time I've seen an owl from No.34 away from the nest tree! I think that the low evening backlight has helped this image.

Little Owl - my Site No.34
I then noticed a second owl in the nest tree at No.36 - was this going to be my opportunity to prove that No.43 was a separate site? I raced back to 43, but no owl was seen, adding to the theory that 36 and 43 might be one and the same 'site'.

As it was getting near dusk it was time to and set up near the barn in the hope of  some better images of a Tawny Owl or Barn Owl. To cut a long story short, nothing appeared until it was so dark that I believe it was a Kestrel that arrived but couldn't see clearly enough to be positive. It certainly wasn't  an owl!

Thursday was an Osprey Project duty day, and Titus and I got some owling in on the way to Rutland Water, I was now on my fifth consecutive day of seeing owls! However, I obviously didn't have my photographic head on that day as virtually everything I attempted turned out rubbish! 

On my way to Titus's place I stopped for a Little Owl out at my Site No.02

Little Owl - my Site No.02
One of the owls was out at my LO Site No.44, and flew down onto the road just in front of us after we'd stopped. Unfortunately for me it was on Titus's side (and he missed the shot!). This was taken after it'd returned to the nest tree.

Little Owl - my Site No.44
Only two other owls were seen that day!

Having had five owling days on the trot, I was prepared for a short break to catch up with some domestic and social duties, so I wasn't out owling again until Monday evening. Little Owls were seen at three different sites, but only one of the owls at Site No.02 provided me with an image that I want to post here - as it was one of those none-too-frequent occasions when it was in a tree rather than on the barn!

Little Owl - my Site No.02
In my previous post I noted that the Little Owls seemed to be going through the stage of strengthening their 'pair-bond'. I'm starting to get the impression that this has now progressed to the stage where the females are now sitting on eggs as I'm now tending to see only single birds, and they also seem to be a lot more active - probably hunting for two! If I'm correct, this means that hatching will probably be taking place around mid-May and the chicks will be fledging around late June/early July. Then things get really exciting - so fingers crossed!!

I'll keep you informed of progress. Thank you for stopping by.