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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Owl Watching

After an abysmal record on the owl front in May this year, I've decided that June has to be a better month. The pattern of my Little Owl watching has changed somewhat in the last week or so - rather than chase round as many sites as possible to see if any owls are showing, I'm finding it more rewarding to choose a site, and sit it out until an owl appears. This seems to be the best way of doing things at this time of year, when most pairs of Little Owls are looking after chicks, and out and about more, gathering food for them.

Friday 10th June, 2011

With a relatively early start, I spent three hours in my hide at my LO Site No.17. I wanted to try and get an image of an owl emerging from the barn, and the sun is off this aspect of the barn by 10.30. It was a long wait, and at one point I had to leave my vigil to answer the call of nature - which is when I took the following image of a distant Red-legged Partridge - just to try out the new lens!

Red-legged Partridge - at my Little Owl Site No.17
Eventually, an owl landed on a post beside my hide (it had obviously been away from the nest site when I arrived). This was not the best place for it to be as I was set up with my camera facing forward. I had to quickly dismount the camera, lower the flap at the side and take a few shots. It did, however, sit there obligingly for a while.

Little Owl (presumed male) - at my Site No.17
The bird flew off after probably about twenty seconds, and I sat and waited - and waited! Eventually a bird started calling loudly from inside the barn and, after about ten minutes came to an aperture in the barn. It only stayed for about five seconds before diving back inside the barn and resuming its calling.

Little Owl (presumed female) - at my Site No.17
As the bird continued to call, I stayed put in my hide. I passed the time by watching a young Rabbit in front of the hide.

Rabbit (juvenile) - at my LO Site No.17
Eventually it was time to go home for lunch as I'd agreed to take my wife out in the afternoon. I lifted the lid on my chair-hide to find that I was being watched from a distant fence on my left. Still seated, I grabbed a few quick photos through the morning ground mist - well no,  actually there was a galvanised gate close to me, between me and the owl, and a bar got in the way, causing the misty image. As soon as I lifted myself out of my seat to try for an unobstructed shot the owl was gone - but I quite like the misty effect anyway. 

Little Owl (presumed male) - my Site No.17
After lunch my wife and I went out to get some garden bird seed. My LO Site No.15 near Croxall is only a short diversion off the route. Both birds were out and distantly visible in the nest tree - it's currently not possible to approach the tree as it's in the middle of  a planted field.

Little Owl (A) - my Site No.15
Little Owl (B) - my Site No.15
On the way back home with the bird seed, I lifted an image of a Buzzard leaving a roadside pole. I missed the pole-sitting image - it's going to take a while to get used to the new lens, so that I can react quickly, as everything works the other way round!

Common Buzzard - near Lullington
Monday 13th June, 2011

It was a nice warm sunny evening, and so I set off to my LO Site No.18, near Oaks in Charnwood. As I entered the field through which I access the nest site, a Little Owl flew out of a tree into the field about 200 metres away. It soon flew off again, in the direction of the nest tree, but then flew into a tree only about 150 metres away, so I grabbed this distant, heavily cropped, 'safety image' before it flew off again.

Little Owl - my Site No.18
I then headed off for the nest site, and arrived to find that the foliage on the nest tree had grown dramatically since my last visit, and that it was only possible (just!) to place my hide so that I had a view of one of the two entrance holes used by the birds - to view the second hole I would be looking straight into the low evening sun. There was a further problem in that, whilst the surroundings of the first hole were in sun, the hole itself was in shade. I decided to stick it out as I was hoping that some youngsters might appear, and after about an hour an adult bird flew across in front of me. It then made several more passes and, several times, landed in the nest tree or an adjacent tree, but each time totally invisible behind foliage. Eventually it landed in an exposed position - off to the left of my hide, and in shadow surrounded by sunlight. Again it was a case of quickly dismounting the camera, and poking it hand-held through a side window. For the next hour or so, the bird continued to make appearances and only settled visibly on the same stump - not giving too much in the way of variety of image, apart from the pose of the bird. Eventually the light got too bad and I gave up. I'm going to have to change my strategy here for future efforts I shall ask!

Little Owl - my Site No.18
I notice that this owl has very dark feet, I guess that it's either from grubbing around in the ground for worms, or due to a not too clean nest cavity with youngsters in. I shall probably be watching this site more closely now as I'm hoping to see some youngsters soon.


  1. great job the one you do with these creatures....i do my best helping them with a few boxes, but i havent has success..........(yes with the scops owl).

  2. Thank you El Campero. That's a great job that you're doing with the owl boxes too. I hope that you are lucky and that they soon get occupied! I have never seen a Scops Owl in the wild - only in 'captivity'.


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