The Little Owl at my site No.02 continues to thrive, in spite of the prowlings of the local Sparrowhawk. On 29th July I arrived to find the LO looking worryingly puffed up and with closed eyes in a more exposed position on the roof than I'd seen it before (images below - all 'double clickable').
The farmer, whose land the barn is on, arrived and I told him of my concerns. However, within a few minutes of him going the LO suddenly perked up and appeared normal once more. Shortly after this, a couple of ramblers arrived, and asked what I was looking at. I then showed them the LO through my bins. As they crossed the stile, the LO was disturbed and flew to the far side of the building. I've never seen an owl on the west side of the building before, so some slightly different image settings.
Resolving to come back later and check on this owl, I set of southwards. I had decided to take a look at my site No.09, where I've not seen a Little Owl since March, in spite of several visits. To my delight, I quickly spotted a LO in the nest tree. I then did a quick 'double take' - it was a youngster!! I checked in with the farmer who was in his front garden. He was delighted to be shown the owl as he had not seen one since I had last seen one here. I told him that I was not too hopeful of an image as, in my limited experience, it seems that youngsters are somewhat more wary of people than adult LOs (unless you are in a car or hide). As there were cattle in the field, setting up the hide was not a sensible option, so I tried a stealthy approach on foot. I didn't get much closer than 200 metres (see heavily cropped image below) before it was off, straight into the nest hole!
As the owl had disappeared, I had a look round the field, closely shadowed by the cows. I didn't see the adult Little Owl before I disturbed it - great! - an adult and a juvenile where no LOs had been seen for nearly five months! As I returned to my car, I saw that the juvenile was out again, and managed some more distant shots (one of which is below) before it took to its heels again.
I returned to site No.09 today (Monday 2nd August) with my hide, but again the cows were in the field. The juvenile was in the nest tree again, with its back to me. This time my stealthy approach got me to within about 150 metres before it turned its head through 180 degrees and saw me. I managed a few shots before it disappeared into the nest hole.
Another distant Little Owl shot - head swivelled through 180 degrees
This time I settled on a different approach, working on the principle that youngsters, although cautious, are also impatient. Whilst the bird was in the hole, I made an approach to a position at 90 degrees to my original (with reference to the tree), and stood alongside a hedge approximately 30 metres from the tree. I only had to wait about ten minutes before the owl emerged again - with a stout branch between it and me so that it could not see me. I stealthily approached keeping the branch between us. Fortunately the hedge gave way to a gateway approximately 15 metres from the tree, so I was then able to carefully sidestep to see the owl. It saw me immediately, but there were about 10 seconds of eye contact (and shooting time) before it decided to leave the area. This gave me my first ever 'LO in flight' shot - even if it was only a poor DA shot!
Little Owl (juvenile) Site No.09
On the way home, I checked my owl at site No.02 again. It was on the chimney, but soon flew to a tree about 100 metres down the lane. Whilst I was watching the owl a female Sparrowhawk flew past the owl straight up the lane towards me, settled in a tree three metres away from me in my car, and scanned the barn ten metres away - it's a good job that the owl was not dozing in the same position on the roof as it had been that morning! This is the site where one of the owls has already succumbed to a Sprawk.