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Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Confimed Pairs of Little Owls - on 2nd February, 2013

First of all, I hope that you are able to view my new 'large format' blog without any trouble. If you have a problem with viewing it, please contact me at richard@peglermail.co.uk.

Owling having been virtually completely eliminated during the latter half of January, due to wet and windy weather with poor light, I was determined to do better on Saturday as, although it was quite breezy, the sun was shining brightly. Ever hopeful of getting better views of the Little Owl at my Site No.31 in Calke Park. that's where I headed. Arriving just before 9.00 I had a good look round, but couldn't spot the owl, so settled in to watch and photograph some of the other birds there (possibly to feature in a future post). Half an hour later, I was out looking for the owl again, and had it spotted. However, for once, it was in a reasonably accessible place. What is more, there were two of them! I'd once suspected that, out of the corner of my eye, I'd seen a second owl fly between two trees, but here was confirmation.

A stealthy approach got me the two owls in the same frame but not, unfortunately, in the same focal plane. The view was also a bit too obscured by branches, as you can see below.

Little Owl - my Site No.31
A further tangential approach brought the owls into approximately the same focal plane, but somewhat more separated in position. However, I'm delighted to have managed images of a pair of owls here.



Little Owls - my Site No.31
These images were taken when I was still at quite a distance. A further attempt at approach failed, probably not helped by having another photographer following me (you can see that the left hand owl is looking at him whilst the right hand one is looking at me) and a vehicle bumbling around just behind us. They flew!

I spent some more time with the other birds, and then relocated the owls, separated and in less photogenic locations, although nearer. You can see that the second one, below, looks quite relaxed!


Little Owl - my Site No.31
As I'd taken something over four hundred shots by now, I set off home for lunch, with a view to going out in the afternoon.

Armed with a picnic, I set off at around 14.30 and headed off to the east, as there was a talk at Rutland Water that I fancied attending. I stopped at a couple of my Little Owl sites on the way, but didn't have any luck. It was getting a little more breezy, and the clouds were coming in too.

I stopped at my most recently found LO site (the first time I'd been back since I found it), but nothing was visible. I hung around for about an hour, chatted to a few passers-by, and went to investigate other possible trees in the vicinity, but only succeeded in putting up a male Sparrowhawk which fled along a stream bed.

I was just approaching my car with a view to departing, as it was getting dark, when I noticed an owl had appeared in the hole where I'd previously seen it. It looked vaguely strange until I realised that there was another owl lurking behind it!

Unfortunately, for reasons that I won't go into, it's not currently possibly to make any sort of stealthy approach - but I have a cunning plan for some time in the future! Watch this space, as I feel that this site may eventually yield some nice images. In the mean time here are some heavily cropped record shots, taken at 1/50 second and 1600 ISO, which (just about) show the two birds.


Little Owls - my Site No.34
As it was nearly dark, and no further meaningful photography would be possible, I went to a spot about three miles down the road with some tasty-looking buildings. I was sitting with my window open so I could see the buildings, chewing on a sandwich, when this thing flashed by my elbow less than 3ft (1m) from me. Next thing I knew was that it had settled on a stump about 2ft (0.6m) off the ground and less than 6 ft (2m) from me. It was a male Sparrowhawk!. I just had to sit and watch it as it was too dark to photograph, photography through the closed windows of my Smart is virtually impossible, and mainly because it was too close for my lens to focus on! - I did try!

The excitement didn't end there, however, as only a few minutes after it had departed, a Barn Owl flew out of one of the buildings, landed in the field in front of the building, and then did a short flight into what I believe was a stream (for a drink?). A few minutes later it was off, flying away from me. This is a place where I should have no difficulty in setting up my hide unobtrusively, and at a (legally) safe distance that will not disturb the owls. If this was later in the year, it could just be a male roost, but at this time of year I suspect that I've found a nest site. I will not be entering the building to investigate, however! This will be done via distant observation.

I never did get to the talk at Rutland Water - there's only so much excitement that one can take in a day!

48 comments:

  1. Wow Richard that's amazing! what a wonderful experience. We don't have such owls in the neighbourhood. Did you already see my new bird blog: www.mijngevederdevrienden.blogspot.nl (my feathered friends)?

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    1. Thank you Willy. Yes, I did see your new blog (very nice!), but I've been a bit busy to comment.

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  2. Nice BIG images now Richard, but your page doesn't fit onto my screen now, I have to scroll left and right!!!

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    1. Thank you Paul. From a couple of comments, I've now decided that I was a bit too ambitious on the size, and so have cut it down a tad. Hopefully it now fits on your screen!?

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  3. They look like our burrowing owls but ours are always on the ground. It's weird to see those little guys in trees. Great catch!

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    1. Thank you Dina. They're very closely related to your burrowing owls, and it is even known for them to occupy rabbit burrows, but that is relatively rare. Nests in holes in trees or in derelict farm buildings is the norm for natural nest sites - but they readily take to nest boxes.

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  4. What an absolutely fantastic day. I'm not sure I would even remember to take a picture if I saw two beautiful owls like that. From Findlay.

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    1. Thank you Findlay. It was a really great day for me!

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  5. So, SO, SOOO cute!!! their little angry faces are adorable!

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    1. Thank you. I've never really thought of them as having angry faces - more pensive really!?

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  6. Beautiful series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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    1. Thank you Gary. Best wishes to you both.

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  7. This is just great, - well done!

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  8. Great photos of the owls. They are so beautiful and getting two at once is extra special.

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    1. Thanks Mick. I feel very lucky getting two in the same shot!

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  9. Great images Richard especially number three and four (it's a talon thing with me, sorry) but also like the two with the two tucked up inside the hole.
    I had a look on both IE8 and my default of Firefox and can't see any problems with the larger format :)

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    1. Thanks Doug. I've got a thing about their feet too!

      Thanks also for your observations re browsers, etc. I've had some comments from people who find that they can't see the whole width on their screen so I've now reduced the size a little. Doesn't quite have the same impact - but possibly easier to get away with sub-standard images!!!

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  10. Awesome, awesome post Richard! Being heavily involved with Burrowing Owls in the States, I am so in love with your Little Owls. These are smashing photos! I especially like the second shot of the pair blending into the tree limbs and the two owls in the hollowed out limb. The entire post put a huge smile on my face :-D Your settings look fabulous on my Firefox browser.

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    1. Thank you, Larry, for your very kind words. A Burrowing Owl is high on my list of 'want to see' birds. The first hurdle is to persuade my wife that a return to USA for a vacation is a good idea - or else try to get my pass signed to go there alone!

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  11. Little babes, what eyes they have. If you look into their eyes, you will be mesmerized. Beautiful photos Richard.

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    1. Thank you Bob. I'm delighted that you enjoyed them.

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  12. Size does matter. I've been publishing in a large format from the begining. It looks great! Love the owls!

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  13. Wow, what a great day! Awesome shots of the Little Owl! They are so cute!

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    1. Thank you Eileen - it was a very satisfying day!

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  14. Despite the challenges you got some amazing photos! It's so cool the way they blend into the bark of the trees. You did a great job on these!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Gail. They can be quite difficult to see sometimes. There were three other bird photographers around at the time, and none of them had spotted the owls. Two of them even had difficulty spotting them when I gave precise directions as to where to look.

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  15. What a terrific post! Love seeing the last images of the tree to give a perspective on the owls' nesting spot. What a wonderful day you had!

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    1. It was a most enjoyable day. Thank you, Wally, for your kind comments.

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  16. I always keep a few rocks handy, just in case the birds of prey are too close to focus on!!!

    Great set of pictures.

    No problems looking at the site (apart from jealousy!) in safari.

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW.

    Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. I like the idea of the rocks, Stewart!! I'd have probably forgotten to open the window before lobbing one, however!!

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  17. what a wonderful outing and fabulous owls to enjoy; thanks for sharing Richard

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Carole.

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  18. WOW Richard, that is quite an interesting observation!
    First I believe you can do pictures much better alone than with another photographer, naturally!
    With a hide you can get fantastic shots, although I would be thrilled to manage the first ones in this post!
    I bet you will come up with great news of successful breeding and great photos too!
    Lousy weather here too, please keep it in England!! LOL!

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    1. Thank you Noushka. I guess that more than 95% of my photography is done alone, except on the relatively infrequent occasions that I'm in a communal hide. However, when you're out with friends, or bump into someone you know, it's sometimes necessary to be sociable - even when it does reduce the likelihood of a good result!

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  19. These are incredible shots. You did an awesome job and I bet you're glad you went back out. I am a newbie to bird hunting and spend hours at least once a week hitting desolate back roads and hiking into areas.

    But, I haven't see any owls yet. And, I certainly don't have any captures as marvelous as these! My husband was thrilled I had taken to bird watching until I told him how much money we need to step me up to the next level zoom lens.

    I do so hope you have luck at this spot and get even more shots. These are marvelous!

    I am Cherokee and tradition holds that if we have an owl come to us or we get a sighting of one it is a warning that an end is coming. Usually it indicates the death of someone. We had a white owl in Maine buld a nest in the tree in our front yard and give birth to two lovely babies. Within a few weeks my mother passe away.

    Just recently, I had an owl visiting every morning. I never saw him and couldn't find him but he was here for about two weeks every morning. Shortly thereafter we lost our two sons in a car accident.

    There have been a few other times owls have come and people have passed on but these two stuck out in my head. So I really don't know if I want to see any owls!

    Well that was unasked for information but I hope you found it interesting. This is true for all Cherokee. You can Google and find out!

    Happy owl hunting and I hope you don't have any Cherokee heritage! I am 1/4!

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    1. Wow Jackie! I'm so sorry to hear of your tragic associations with owls. To me they are creatures of absolute joy - so I obviously have no Cherokee blood!

      Best wishes with your new hobby, and I wouldn't blame you if you didn't specialise in owls!!!

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  20. Wonderful captures of these adorable little owls!

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  21. Well done Richard for finding pairs of LOs. Lovely images, look forward to images of their young when they appear later:-)

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    1. Thank you Linda. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for results!

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  22. What a wonderful opportunity, even with the interruptions. These images are really stunning...bravo~

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    1. Thank you Mary. Opportunities like these are very much cherished!

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  23. Beautiful series. Fantastic that you got two in the one shot.

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    1. Thank you Amanda. It's always a treat to see a pair together!

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