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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Slow Owling!! - 1st to 20th May, 2013

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!

20 comments:

  1. Superb collection Richard,love the first two images.
    John.

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    1. Thank you John. It's been a while since you posted on your blog. I hope that all is well with you both.
      Best regards. Richard.

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  2. Hope all is wel health wise Richard. Took me ages to spot the LO it wasn't where I was expecting it :) Well spotted. Great images and out ouf the two from site 18 I prefer number 2 but the first one gives an idea of how dark it was so conveys a story.

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    1. I'm fine thanks Doug - just a minor glitch that made me feel like staying in, coupled with old age! Thank you for your comments.

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  3. Splendid owls - I think I like that last one in the ivy!

    The wildlife here is pretty remarkable - but I would not mind a woodpecker or two!

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW.

    Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thanks Stewart. I'll swap you a Woodpecker for a Kookaburra !!!

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  4. Well I'm hoping your health gets better so that you can find all the amazing owls:) I'm in the same boat as you. Too many things going on right now and I've had to take a break from the birding a bit. Incredible pictures of these little guys!

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    1. Thanks Chris - I'm fine now. I hope that you're back in the saddle soon - looking forward to more of your adventures!

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  5. They are absolutely fantastic Richard, I would love to see one so close as that.

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    1. Thank you Bob. If ever you're up this way, give me a shout and I'll see what I can do.

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  6. The first image is a stunner mate, but to be fair they are all good....I am sure that like me as soon as the weather settles and the juveniles are showing we'll be back out there doing our thing!

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    1. Thank you Paul. Keeping my fingers (and everything else) crossed for a warm and windless June!

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  7. Hello, I've just come across your beautiful photos of the Little Owls. It's a while since I've seen some. Where I lived, many years ago, I used to often nip out and watch them in some old barns nearby, but I've visited since and the barns have been converted to housing. They are wonderful birds.

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  8. Great images Richard, never tire of seeing your pictures of these owls, I would love to see them for real. Glad you are better. I can never quite understand how people manage to get trampled to death by cattle, I have lived in the countryside for most of my life and walked through fields with cattle, never experienced a problem with them.

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    1. Thank you Linda. Maybe I will, find the courage again, but the herd that I encounter most seem to like stampeding towards me!

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  9. Thank you Wendy. It' sad to see owl habitats disappearing. Barn conversion is a great problem, but in this area we also suffer from the authorities demanding tat dead trees be cut down!

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  10. Hi Richard.
    Just dropped by to see if all is well.
    I hope your health has improved,and hope to see you posting soon.
    I'm getting back to my old self,and back at work.
    Take care.
    John.

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    1. Hi John. I'm just fine thank you, but been out of touch for a while as I've been up in Scotland, and I'm now trying to catch up with a whole raft of things.

      Hadn't realised that you'd been out of action. Hope you are now recovering well.

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  11. Sorry for the very late comment Richard (I'm struggling with blogging at the moment) and to read you've been unwell. Hope you are fully fit now. Super photos again. I did struggle with spot the owl though ;-) not sure I ever did find it, by the time I'd finished I was seeing them in all directions...it was great fun trying though ;-)

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    1. Thank you Jan. My health problems were only an inconvenience, and certainly only relatively minor (won't go into details!). I'm fine now, thank you. I might do an update showing the owls position later.

      Sorry not to have replied before now, but I've been up in Scotland, and I'm now trying to catch up with a whole raft of things.

      I hope that I'm not reading anything too sinister between the lines, and all is well with you. Richard

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