Although April, for me, was a record month for Little Owl sightings, from a photography point of view it was not good. This was totally due to my wife's (continuing) illness. Instead of going out for hours on end owling, I've been popping out for an hour or so, just checking on the owls from a monitoring point of view, and then coming home to do the cooking and the housework!! On Thursday, however, she was improved enough that I felt comfortable leaving her for the afternoon and evening whilst I did a turn of duty on Osprey Watch at Rutland Water.
On the way there, I stopped off at my Little Owl site No.18, near Oaks in Charnwood. I had a quick scout round, and had a very quick view of one of the owls leaving the nest tree and flying off into a nearby tree. I hadn't got time to put any effort into relocating the owl, so set off to Rutland Water.
Before leaving home, I saw that I'd missed a Glossy Ibis that had been seen up until early afternoon from the hide from which we do the Osprey monitoring. I arrived to find that the bird had been re-located on the Egleton side of the reserve - and I was tied to my turn of duty on the Lyndon side!! Oh well - you can't win them all! I was even told that the Grasshopper Warbler that had been singing, and occasionally seen, next to the monitoring hide on the previous couple of days, had not been heard or seen that day.
I arrived at the hide to find both the Manton Bay Ospreys present. The male had recently taken over incubation, and the female was on a nearby perch, tucking into the tail end of a good-sized Pike that the male had brought in earlier. I settled into my watch and was on my own for a short while before a couple of ladies from Manton village turned up to see what the latest situation with the Ospreys was. We were soon joined by a couple, from north Norfolk who had come on a weekend trip to birdwatch at Rutland Water. I was rather envious when they told me that they lived within walking distance of Cley!
By 6 p.m. I was on my own again. The Ospreys weren't doing much, and I amused myself, first by listening out for Grasshopper Warbler and watching five Mallard chicks that were possibly being a little too independent of their mother.
Next was a pair of Gadwall that had been hanging around at the far end of one of the channels, but decided to swim past the front of the hide. Fortunately the sun had gone in by now, as it would have been in the wrong direction.
As the evening continued, the birdsong rose, and then started to die down again as the Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers, and Reed Buntings went to bed - and then, briefly a couple of times I think I heard the Grasshopper Warbler a way off - but no sightings. Suddenly a bird popped up above the ledge of the hide less than a foot from my nose! I don't know who was most surprised (no, this is not the 'surprise' mentioned in the header to this post), but it was so quick that I did not even manage to register what type of bird it was. However, I suspect that it was a Great Tit as, not too long after this, a Great Tit started scavenging for spiders, etc. round the windows of the hide, before going into the reeds and coming up with something that looked like a snail.
There was a little non-bird excitement later in the evening when an old DH83 Fox Moth biplane flew over, heading south.
My shift was almost over, with the light disappearing rapidly, and I was reflecting on the lack of bird action that evening, when I was surprised by a Barn Owl suddenly appearing beside the hide, and briefly quartering the small area round the hide. I don't know why, but my camera just didn't want to focus on this bird - maybe it was the lack of light, coupled to the whiteness of the bird. I didn't get the shot I would have liked to get, particularly the one where it dived for its prey - but then the bird was none too successful in its attempt either! The few images that I did get in the short time before the bird disappeared were not good, but it was another magical interlude with an owl!
On my way home that night, as I passed my new Little Owl site No.21 (no images yet, so not previously mentioned on this blog) I could see the LO in the distance, sitting on a fence - It'll have to wait until another time!