On this day, there was a meeting at the Egleton Centre, Rutland Water, for the Volunteers on the Rutland Osprey Project. I arrived a little early for the meeting, and spent a few minutes in Tree Sparrow Hide, opposite the centre. The feeders were busy, but I only took a couple of shots of a Dunnock before it was time to go in for the meeting. Little did I know that this was going to be one of my most exciting bird-watching days - please read on !
In the morning we were taken to see the new civil engineering works at Rutland Water. These, whilst causing some disruption at the moment, are going to result in some absolutely superb new habitats in the future. During this walk, taken in bright sunshine, virtually no birds were seen - however, there were probably about a hundred of us, so we probably scared everything off! We then returned to the visitor centre for a soup lunch and an excellent talk by Emyr Evans of the Dyfi Osprey Project.
After the meeting was over, we emerged to find that the brilliant sunshine had gone. I was debating whether to go and see if the Long-eared Owls were in residence as several people had reported that they had not been there in the late morning. I'm so glad that I did go as I arrived to find three Long-eared and one Short-eared within a 20 metre stretch of path, and closer to the path than I have seen them before, although still well obscured by branches and twigs. Manual focus was essential to get any sort of image. As it happens, the sun did come out for a few seconds, and the pictures I took then are not so good, so maybe the clouds did me a favour!
The first three pictures of the Short-eared owl, below, show the ears protruding to different degrees - something that caused some people doubt as to whether it might be a Long-eared instead. However, the yellow eye, hunched (rather than upright) posture and markings on the back ('clean', rather than 'pepper & salt') were diagnostic.
On the way home I called into Cossington Meadows, where there was a good chance of seeing Barn Owl. I arrived somewhat later than hoped for - far too late for photography. As I was walking down the path to the favoured location, a Short-eared Owl was flying round the meadow ahead of me. Suddenly it flew into a tree beside the path ahead of me. Furtunately, what little light there was, was behind me, and I grabbed a number of shots in the hope that some would be recognisable. With a bit of processing I've got a few useable images.
By the time that I'd finished, I'd seen two (possibly three) Short-eared Owls, two Barn Owls, and a Little Owl at Cossington Meadows, taking the total of nine (possibly ten) owls of four different species seen in just over three hours !! I don't suppose that that will ever happen to me again !! Shame there wasn't a Tawny around !!