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Saturday, 28 April 2012

Mopping Up!!

Mopping Up? - probably what most of us have been doing over the last couple of weeks!! Will the rain ever end? When was St. Swithin's Day?

Anyway, because of the foul wet and windy weather that seems to have been without let-up for the last fortnight, I've done very little on the bird-watching front. This gives me the opportunity to do a mop-up on a few recent things that I've not posted about.

I've not seen too much of our Sparrowhawk lately. These next images were taken during the bird's last (brief and unsuccessful) visit to our garden. I originally had this bird down as a juvenile male, but a few months down the line I'm beginning to think that its probably a female, as it seems quite large, even though the barring on the breast is a bit rufous - anyone any thoughts on this?

Sparrowhawk - our garden
On this same day, a male Reed Bunting payed us a visit. He came quite a few times, but I've not seen him for a while now - hopefully he didn't fall victim to the Sprawk!

Reed Bunting (male) - our garden
The day after this, I attempted some owling, and found an owl at one of my sites, where I'd not seen one since January.

Little Owl - my Site No.08
Just up the road, the Tree Sparrows were showing well.

Tree Sparrow - Staunton Harold Reservoir
My next stop was at a farm near Shepshed (my LO Site No.24), where I had recently put up a Little Owl box. I sat in my car and observed the box, with nothing happening. After an hour or so a Little Owl flew from behind me and settled in a distant tree. It stayed there for about an hour before flying off to my left. After about another hour, with the light fading fast, I gave up waiting.

Little Owl - my Site No.24
As my nearest LO site (No.17) was only a couple of miles away, I headed off there, just to see if an owl was out - there was one, but high in a distant tree, so only a very poor record shot was obtained, which I won't post here.

Nothing very exciting is visiting our garden at present. It's easy, in those circumstances, to overlook how amazing some of the common birds are. The Goldfinches' flashiness seems incongruous with the more subdued tones of most of our other garden birds.

Goldfinch - our garden

About a week ago, a brief owling run, foreshortened by the onset of heavy rain, resulted in just three owls being seen, and only one (just about) being photographed, at one of my sites, near Twycross.

Little Owl - my Site No.17
After this, I was walking to one of my LO sites near Snarestone when the heavens opened, and so I turned back, but only after I'd grabbed some shots of a Linnet and a Blue Tit in the hedgerow beside the track.

Linnet (male) - nr. Snarestone

Blue Tit - nr. Snarestone
On Thursday I did another turn of duty at Rutland Water. The Ospreys were busy sharing the incubation of three eggs, but it was a disappointing session, photographically, not helped by driving rain for most of the time. It started brightening up towards the end of my shift, and I was looking forward to trying to find some owls on the way home. Unfortunately, however, the night shift showed up a little late, rather than the 10 minutes early that I expected and so, by the time I left at 20.30, the light was long gone. A stop nearby at where I'd found my latest Little Owl site revealed nothing. 

On my way home from my previous watch at Rutland Water, I'd stopped off at a place that looked owly, opened my window, and immediately heard Tawny Owl. Sitting watching, I'd had three in sight at one time, and was pretty certain I heard a fourth, and possibly a fifth!! I'd been hoping to get back to this place after this last shift, whilst there was still a fair bit of light. However, at 21.00 it was as dark as the previous time. As it was windy, I wasn't too hopeful of seeing any owls, but again, immediately I stopped and opened the window, I heard calling Tawnies. It was not long before one perched on the telegraph pole beside me, with another perched the next pole down, and a third "kee-wick"ing behind me. I spent nearly an hour here sitting in my car just listening and (as far as was possible) watching as they flew around and perched in various places. It was so dark that I only managed some record 'silhouette' shots. I must try to get here a little earlier next time when there's a bit more light!

Tawny Owl (#1) - nr. Knossington

Tawny Owl (#2) - nr. Knossington


  1. Nice post mate, QUALITY Sprarrowhawk images. I know what you mean about this dam rain, its spoiling our owling mate!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Paul. Looks like wet, and even windier tomorrow, but maybe a little better on Monday - fingers crossed!!

  2. Great pics Richard, as Paul says the Sparrowhawk are real quality :-)

    1. Thank you Alan. I was lucky that this bird was only about ten metres away!

  3. I don't know about female/juv. male Richard, but what I do know is that the first image especially, is SUPER sharp and of immense quality!

    Great to see a Tawny.

    1. Thank you Christian. Although, relatively close (about 10 metres), the photo was taken through the conservatory glass which, fortunately, I'd recently cleaned! The image wasn't that sharp to start with, and was sharpened during the post-processing. I'm hoping that one day the visiting Sprawk will sit there facing me in full sun - please!!!

    2. I would never have guessed they were through a window! Brilliant stuff.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Further to my comment above, I'm hopeless as estimating distances. For shorter distances I usually estimate by trying to imagine how many people laid head to toe along the ground I could get between me and the object, and then mutiplying that number by 2 to get the answer in metres.

      The metadata for my camera does not indicate at what range the camera was focussed at when the image was taken. My good friend, Paul Riddle came up with a useful suggestion - after the shot, just focus your camera on the object again, and read the distance off the focus ring on the top of the lens. Simples!!

      From this, I can tell thet the Sprawk was about 14 metres (45 ft) away when I took the picture, with the glass 5.5 metres away (hence the comment about it being fortunate that I'd cleaned the window - not so important if your hard up to a window).


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