The weather forecast for the week was pretty dire, so when I woke up on Monday to find there'd been a very heavy frost, and the sun was shining brightly, I did the few chores I needed to do first, and then set out just before 10:00 to find some owls. The temperature outside was a balmy 12 degrees C, but I'd not gone above two miles (3km) when I found myself in thick fog and the temperature dropped to 2 degrees C. I'd learnt on 5th of the month that sometimes it just pays to press on and not give up, so I did so.
At the first site I stopped at, I couldn't even see the building where I'd first seen an owl on the last day of February. It was only a couple of hundred metres away, but totally obscured by the fog.
I next went to my LO Site No.08. If an owl hadn't been sitting out on a branch in silhouette I'd never have spotted it. You'll get the picture from this first image (totally unretouched).
|Little Owl - my Site No.08|
With a little experimentation when I got home, I found I could make a bit more of this same shot by hugely increasing the contrast and boosting the colour, as shown in the first image below. However, the mist emphasises the graininess.
|Little Owl - My Site No.08|
From here I went to another site, but nothing doing, so I decided to visit a farm which I supplied with a LO nest box last year to see if he'd had any luck with it being occupied. On the way I found that I needed to answer the call of nature, so diverted down a country lane. Having sorted myself out, I set off again and a short while later noticed a shape in a tree as I passed. I quickly reversed back up, and there was an owl!
Now one thing about fog and mist is that it flattens everything, and it's hard to judge distance and perspective. The owl had its back to me, and at first I thought that I'd seen a Little Owl in a near tree, but when I looked through the binoculars I saw I'd got a Tawny Owl out in a more distant tree! Yes, a Tawny out in the daytime!
I grabbed a few shots with its back to me, through the car window, and then slowly got out of the car and entered the field. However, I only managed some safety shots from just inside the field next to the car, when the owl ducked down into the tree. At least it had had the decency to look at me first so I got a shot showing its face! I'm keeping the image for later in this post, for reasons that will become apparent!
I then went off to visit the farmer (who is also a birdwatcher) who was only a few minutes away. Although he was seeing a Little Owl on an almost daily basis, he was only seeing the one. Furthermore there was absolutely no sign that the owl box we'd erected had even been looked at by an owl, although he often sees the owl in the tree that the box is in.
I then told him about my encounter with the Tawny Owl and he was quite excited as he'd not seen a Tawny in the area for years. I explained where it was and he said "do you mean that tree over there?" - you could see the tree from his farm! Amazingly, with a friend, he'd been considering putting a Barn Owl box in this self same tree! I strongly advised against it - Tawnies and Barn Owls don't mix to the best of my knowledge!
Now, bearing in mind that I'd been looking at that tree with the Tawny through the fog, so it all looked flat and grey, you'll understand that I had to do some major tweaking to the photos I'd taken when I got home. You can imagine my amazement when I discovered that I'd got two owls in the frame! I'd not spotted the lower bird!
|Tawny Owls - undisclosed site, Leicestershire|
You can guess where I'll be spending some time when we get some fine weather - the field is farmed by my local farmer!
On the way home I even managed to find a Little Owl at my Site No.18, where I not seen an owl since August in spite of several visits.
OK, so you'd be mad to go out owling in a strong wind and torrential rain, but you should never give up unless it really is dire!