I'd been really looking forward to three days of wall-to-wall owling whilst my wife, daughter, and granddaughter were in Disneyland, Paris. So what happens? We get snow and high winds which blocks roads. The owls were not going to be out in that lot!
Sunday was a write-off as the snow was blowing horizontally, and I had plenty to do at home. On Monday, however, I felt stir-crazy, and set off out after a very early lunch. My intention was to visit a few places where my Little Owls might be found sheltering from the wind.
I drew a blank at the first place I visited, but there were Yellowhammer everywhere. These were extremely nervous birds, but as I stood with my back to a barn one flew and landed on the ground not 6 ft (2 metres) from me. It was there for less than a second before it spotted me and fled, and it would have been too close to focus anyway, but I did manage a couple of shots of one that landed on a fence about 30 ft (10 metres) away.
|Yellowhammer (male) - Leicestershire|
I then moved onto my next Little Owl site, where I can partially see into the nest barn from a distance. No Little Owl was visible at first, but then I saw a Barn Owl further back in the building. The instant I spotted it, it was out and away. My camera was set up for inside shots, so I messed up with the photography. Most of my attempts were totally out of focus, and wrongly exposed. The only salvageable images of any sort were what I believe are commonly known as DAH shots.
|Barn Owl - undisclosed site, Leicestershire|
Although the owl crossed the hedge line, it did so only briefly before coming back and continuing to the far side of the field, dipping down and landing at the foot of a hedge a good couple of hundred metres away.
I was able to walk along the lane to a point where I could clearly see both sides of the hedge running away from me, but I couldn't get a view from an angle. I was sure the bird was in there and probably only about 30 metres away, so I hung around. Suddenly it emerged from the opposite side of the hedge to which it had entered from, and was off! Again, frustratingly I couldn't achieve focus until it was really far away. This is the best I could do. I only offer it because I like the atmosphere of the image.
Now I don't see too many Barn Owls, and whilst I was delighted to see this one, it also left me with some worries! Had my Little Owls fallen prey to this intruder. I set off to see if I could find either of the owls in some of the most likely spots. I found one of them had been hiding in up in a tree and nervously flew as I approached, alerting me to its presence. It would not normally be up there in these weather conditions. I failed to find the second owl.
Whilst looking around, I put up a Brown Hare, and managed to get a few distant shots. It always amazes me that they don't get their legs tangled up, especially when you look at the image below!
I only include this next one because I've never really thought that hares had much of a tail, but this image shows that it's got quite a substantial tail!
I guess that this post, to some extent, reinforces the 'Never Give Up' message of my previous post.
I've since spoken with Leicestershire's owl guru, Paul Riddle, who has given me hope that the Little Owls may have come out of the intruder situation unscathed. I re-visited again yesterday (Tuesday 8th) and there was no sign of the Barn Owl, but one of the Little Owls was on the sunny side of the barn, sheltering from the cold easterly blast. I shan't be happy, however, until I see two owls here again.