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Sunday, 4 April 2010

A Day With The Master - on 3rd April, 2010

Today I had the very great pleasure of a day out with Leicestershire Little Owl guru, Paul Riddle. Paul kindly invited me to come and see some more of his patch. Paul is the absolutely perfect host, always doing his best to make sure his guests get the best views, often resulting in him missing out on photographic opportunities himself. This day resulted in ten Little Owls being seen (and, for me, two more being heard!).

I set off a bit early for our meeting, so decided to call in at my Little Owl site near Packington, where I have not seen either of the birds for a few weeks. They were not visible at 08:00, but there was a pair of Mallards on the roof of the barn where the LOs live! I took a few shots of some distant Goldfinches, and then managed to grab a few shots of some scurrying Grey Partridge.



Grey Partridge

Having arrived at Paul's house, we decided that, for a change, we would indulge in some non-owl birding, and set off towards Eyebrook Reservoir. However, the lure of the Little Owl is never that distant, and so we called in at a few places en-route. At one of Paul's sites near Countesthorpe we didn't spot the bird until it flew from a barn - we had been looking at the nest tree on the opposite side - so no photos taken. At another of Paul's sites, near Kilby, we had more luck, with the male bird (which Paul has affectionately named "Scabby") sitting there for our delectation. The second image below shows the female bird that was there when we returned in the evening!

Little Owls at Kilby

We stopped on the approach road to Eyebrook Reservoir to scan the tree where Paul knew that there were Little Owls. They were soon spotted, but far too distant for my camera to do any good with. From the bridge over the inflow, we found a Red Kite, then an Osprey, then three Buzzards. At one point we had them all in the air together, although at a great distance. Paul spotted my first Swallow of the year. Whilst there, it was a pleasure to meet Eyebrook aficionado, John Turner

the bird on the right was very well hidden!

Little Owls, from the approach to Eyebrook Reservoir

Eyebrook Reservoir from the inflow

Osprey from Eyebrook Reservoir

Having left Eyebrook, we headed back to Paul's home to pick up his Landrover for a bit of off-roading. One of Paul's Little Owl sites at Whetstone was our first destination. Here, both the birds were found.

Little Owls at Whetstone

From here, we set off for another of Paul's sites at Countesthorpe. This one was inaccessible to the Landrover, and so we only had very distant views. The images here are only really record shots. I include the first one as it shows how the breast feathers on this bird produce a striped pattern. If you double-click the image (as with all the images on my later postings) you will see a larger/clearer picture.

Little Owl at Countesthorpe

After this, we headed off to Peatling Parva. The Little Owls were on the wrong side for me, and so most of my shots were through the windscreen. In my car, this would have been hopeless, but as Paul's Landrover has a relatively flat and vertical windscreen I found that this was not too much of a problem.

Little Owls at Peatling Parva

Thank you Paul for a brilliant day! Paul has his own report of this day, on his blog at Unsurprisingly this, to a large degree, is very similar to my own!

After this I headed home, with the intention of trying to find some new LO locations on the way. However, it started chucking it down with rain before I'd gone far, so I dropped this idea. Near home it brightened up again, so I called in at my LO site near Packington again. No LOs were seen, but they were heard - one in the barn, and one faintly heard returning its call from a great distance. I wonder if this is a new site, or just a far reaching bird?

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