Due to other pressing matters, I've only had a couple of brief owling excursions in the last few days. But how they've paid off !!!
On Wednesday I had to make a visit to the farmer on my local patch, and whilst there I had a quick look round. On top of some huge cylindrical bales of straw there was the familiar dark shape of the top of an owl's head, with its eyes just about peeking over the top of a bale - amazingly, this was the first time that I've ever seen a Little Owl on a bale! As soon as it saw that I'd seen 'him' it disappeared.
I continued my amble, thinking the owl was long gone, and about ten minutes later, when I rounded the pile of bales, there was a Little Owl lurking on a lower bale behind the tallest of the pile.
|Little Owl - my Site No.12|
I'm not sure who was most surprised - the owl or me, but it didn't hang around for long, doing that stretching thing before it departed.
I took a circuitous route back to the viewpoint from where I'd first seen the owl - and it was back on top of the bales again, in exactly the same place, but this time with its head sticking up rather more. The following image is a terrible 'portrait' of an owl, but for some reason that I can't explain, I like the composition. I guess you really need to see it blown up to about A3 size to fully appreciate it!
|Little Owl - my Site No.12|
The following day (Thursday) I took a break from the chores in the evening, as the weather was glorious. I left it a bit late to depart, calling first at at a farm where the farmer has a Barn Owl box with a camera in it, and where the owls only returned about a month ago, laying six eggs over the next couple of weeks. If the eggs are viable, they should be hatching any day now, and it then remains to be seen whether they will successfully rear any young so late in the year! It was great to watch (and listen to!) the female in the box.
On the off chance, I called at my nearby LO Site No.03 where, in mid-August, I had re-discovered an owl which I had not seen since March 2010. Bingo! It was there again in exactly the same place. Unfortunately the bright sun was getting very low by now, and was almost directly behind the owl from my roadside viewpoint. The garden that the nest tree is in is very narrow and so, in order to get the sun behind me I had to actually walk under the tree, about 15 ft (5 metres) from the owl. Now here's a good tip! Little Owls aren't nearly so nervous if they don't think that you've seen them! I slowly and nonchalantly strolled past, looking dead-ahead and slightly towards the ground. When I got to a safe distance again, I then gently turned round with my camera already raised. As my eyes were hidden by the camera in front of my face, it didn't seem threatened even then. It was only when I lowered the camera that it decided to depart. I managed several shots before then, but not with any variety in them
|Little Owl - my Site No.03|
It was too late to think in terms of setting up my hide and awaiting its return as it was going to be dark in half an hour. I don't know what made me decide to visit my LO Site No.16. The only time that I had seen an owl here was in freezing fog as it was getting dark on 21st December, 2010. Subsequent visits revealed nothing, and the farmer was unusually uncooperative when I requested permission to explore more thoroughly. I had pretty well decided that this was a chance sighting of a non-resident bird.
On this day, I arrived and parked my car on the opposite side of the road and sat and waited as it got dark. Suddenly an owl appeared exactly at the spot I'd seen one in December! It's a poor image as what little light there was, was in the wrong direction.
|Little Owl (A) - my Site No.16|
Having banged off a few shots, I suddenly noticed that a second owl had appeared at the other end of the roof apex.
|Little Owl (B) my Site No.16|
It was not long before they were concerned by my presence and departed, but I heard them calling for quite a long while until it had got quite dark and I departed - as I did so, I noticed an owl on the ridge of a distant barn. Thus ended a magical evening of re-discovery.