So far this month, I've had a fairly abysmal month for owling, partly due to poor health and even worse weather, but also due to the fact that this is not the easiest time of year to see owls. The leaves are on the trees and lush, the female owls are (hopefully!) sitting on eggs or tending young, and the males are keeping out of the way, bracing themselves for some frantic feeding duties soon.
On 2nd May I was out with my pal Titus. Little Owls were seen at three sites, but not a single photo resulted! The first was a surprise find (the actual nest hole of my Site No.40) with the owl departing as soon as our eyes met, and the second two were at known sites by the light of my headlamps as we passed.
At my Little Owl Site No.18, I set up my hide in the evening of 5th May and waited for the male owl to appear. It didn't do so until 20:07, after the light had gone, and at a slightly different position from where my camera was pointing (I use a tripod in my hide). It was not even there for a second before departing - before I'd time to move the camera. Knowing it would be watching the hide I sat there, and it returned 15 minutes later, by which time the light was worse. however, I did manage to move the camera and get off a few images before it flew to the nest hole and disappeared inside. The second image shows it about to depart.
|Little Owl - my Site No.18|
I returned here on 19th May, but the owl didn't show until 21.10, when it was starting to get quite dark. This time my lens was pointing at its emergence point but I failed to activate the shutter in time - its departure was instant! However, it was exactly 15 minutes again before it returned, having spent some time calling from a nearby tree. This time, however, it flew back to the nest aperture, and stayed for about four seconds before diving into the nest hole. Sadly, at this time, the light was hopeless. The following were taken at 1/25th second at ISO 1,250, with a -1.0 step compensation to stop the camera trying to over-compensate for the lack of light. The first of the next two images is pretty much as taken (just a bit of noise reduction and sharpening), and reflects the scene much as it was. The second has been lightened and the white-balance adjusted dramatically, but probably gives a better image (although both are 'soft' focussed and greatly inferior to the first two images). I'm not sure which I prefer.
|Little Owl - my Site No.18|
You can tell how dark it was by the size of the owl's pupils!
My local patch is continuing to be difficult due to the cattle which the farmer gives a wide range of freedom to - up to three interconnecting fields with gates left open. I have had several messages of encouragement with regard to the safety of cattle, but only last week there was another report of a person being trampled to death whilst out walking with a friend. My Site No.02 presents no problems as it is located in arable land, but my sites Nos. 11 and 30 are a bit hazardous. On 16th May one of the owls was out on the roof at Site No.02.
|Little Owl - my site No.02|
No cattle were in sight when I came to cross the field to get to Site No.11, but no owl was seen there. I then set off for site No.30 and was about to go through the open gate and enter the field with the nest tree in when I found the herd just a few metres from the tree! I did a quick passage through a nearby closed gate into an arable field and managed to get to a position where I could just about detect an owl through the bins. It is (just) visible in the following image, but you might not spot it (I suspect my mate Paul Riddle will see it instantly, however!).
|Little Owl (it is visible- just!) - my Site No.30|
Before anyone tries to find this site, I should point out that it is nowhere near public access and the farmer is not beyond taking drastic action against trespassers - yes, I do have permission!
There have been a few other owl sightings, but none have resulted in any usable photos, other than on 9th May, when Titus and I were on our way to a turn of duty on the Rutland Osprey Project on a dull and windy day, and I found a Little Owl sheltering from the wind in the ivy at my Site No.21.
|Little Owl - my Site No.21|
Due to other commitments, I'm unlikely to get much more owling in this month, so I might be a bit quiet for a while. Here's hoping June brings better fortunes!