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Saturday, 29 June 2013

It's Time I Got Back To The Owls - end of June, 2013

I have to confess to losing my owling 'mojo' of late. The reasons are several, not the least of which is the distraction of our garden which is being frequented by Great Spotted Woodpeckers and their offspring! Buying another camera body has also kept me busy. There will be more about this in a later post.

Anyway, this is supposed to be a blog with an emphasis on owls, and so I'd better do something about it.

Most of my owling this month has been ancillary to other activities, so little photography has resulted. The few dedicated owling forays, with hours spent in car or hide, have resulted in nothing!

I pass through my local patch on a regular basis, and the owls seem to be doing OK at my Little Owl Site No.02 in spite of a break in (egg collectors suspected). We've now installed a well-hidden surveillance camera (an amazing bit of kit!). This was the male owl on one of its favoured perches on 12th June.

Little Owl (male) - my Site No.02
On 20th June, my pal Titus and I were on duty at Rutland Water. It was an absolutely foul day day weather-wise, with torrential rain and strong winds setting in just after 14:00. On my way to Titus's place (at around 13:30) the male owl was out at Site No.02. When the weather set in we fully expected that we'd have an owl-less afternoon. Surprisingly, on our way to Rutland Water, an owl was out on a distant fence at my LO Site No.21!

Little Owl - my Site No.21
Our turn of duty was between 17:00 and 20:00 and, at this time of year, we would normally expect to be enjoying good light. However, the visibility conditions were the worst I've ever experienced whilst on this shift. If we hadn't have had the ability to hook into the web-cam, we wouldn't have had a clue what was going on. Just to give you some sort of idea, a Mole put in a brief appearance outside the hide at 18:45 (that's pretty-much three and a half hours before sunset - it was only one day off the longest day). I grabbed some quick shots of the Mole, and then saw, to my disappointment that they were all badly blurred. It's only when I looked at the data that I saw that, in spite of being set at ISO 2000(!), the shutter speed was 1/40th second. No wonder I didn't 'freeze' a scurrying mole with a 500mm lens!

We didn't hold out any hope for owls on the way home that night, but as we passed my LO Site No.23, where I haven't seen an owl since December last year, and then previously not since August, 2011, a  Little Owl was in a tree near the road ahead of us. I called for Titus to stop (he was driving), and we grabbed the safety shot.

Little Owl - my Site No.23
Fortunately the owl obliged by staying there whilst we moved a bit closer - no, the light was even worse than earlier in the evening, but the subject was static this time!

Little Owl - my Site No.23
We were totally unprepared when we found an owl in a tree right beside the road at Site No.21, and it disappeared up the field whilst we sorted ourselves out. I did get some sort of record shot of it in the field, but I won't trouble you with it here!

Other than that, my only other owl photos since the last owl post were taken on my way to get garden bird seed. Again it was a windy day (there have been rather a lot of those this month!), but one of the Little Owls was out at my Site No.15, sheltering on the leeward side of the oak tree that is its home.

Little Owl - my Site No.15
It's virtually impossible for me to get closer images at this site. The tree is in the middle of a field which seems to spend most of its life in crop and, therefore, not accessible.

I'd hate you to think that I manage close-ups of most of my owls. In reality, most of the time I'm only getting distant sightings as depicted above. The close-ups are the occasional lucky ones, and I'm not getting too many of those at present, even with use of the hide.

Weather permitting, I hope to get in some more serious owling next week!


  1. Total dedication, that's what I like about people like you Richard.

    1. Sorry that I misinterpreted your comment, Pete. I've now deleted my original reply!

      Thank you for your very generous comment, to this part-time birder who, currently, has his eye off the ball! Coming from someone as dedicated to birdwatching as you are, your comment gives me great encouragement.

  2. Fantastic photos, I hear owls often but seldom see them. A Little Owl dropped on to a kill the other day right by the side of the road when I was driving back from my French Lesson. Sadly I only had my supermarket special with me and not my Nikon with a decent lens! It always happens!! Have a good day Diane

    1. Wow! That would have made a great shot - if only!!! Thank you for your kind words, Diane. All the best to you.

  3. Great images Richard, I think the other day i had one of the Rutland Ospreys at Welford reservoir, I'm a right in thinking that a green id tag on the foot is a bird ringed at Rutland?

    1. Thanks Doug. Most of the Rutland Ospreys sport blue rings. We've got a couple with green rings:- 5R(04) who is the Manton Bay breeding male (that I help monitor), and his sister 5N(04), who is also breeding successfully. It could well have been 5R that you saw - he tends to be away a long time when he goes fishing!

      Hope you had a great time at Silverstone. An interesting race! Would like to have seen Webber take Rosberg at the end, as a fitting farewell. To me he's an honorary Brit! Happy for
      Rosberg though.

  4. Hi Richard, I was very dismayed to read of the possible egg thefts, some people really are despicable! If it should happen again I hope the camera picks it up and that the culprits are prosecuted. I enjoy all of your owl and other bird photos however distant, the first on this post is particularly striking. Most of my bird photos are distant due to being restricted to a 55-250mm not best quality lens for reasons of weight, very frustrating!

    I have also enjoyed the last part of your holiday. You certainly packed plenty into your time there. Wonderful photos again. Well done on the Slavonian Grebes and glad you saw the SEOs. It was also lovely to see the Dippers, Redstart, Dolphins...I could go on :-) And yes, a fabulous photo of the House Sparrow, a much underrated bird which is nowhere near as common as it used to be in some areas. I think the more common birds are sadly all too easily overlooked simply because we see them so often.

    Thank you for your kind expressions of concern on your recent replies to my comments. I have rather lost my blogging enthusiasm recently. I have had health problems and the weather and other commitments haven't allowed much time for posting although I am still intending to. Wimbledon is a distraction at the moment too :-)

    1. So sorry to hear you've had health problems, Jan. I hope it's nothing too serious. My best wishes on this one!

      It's only a suspicion on the egg thefts. There's been no sign of this pair breeding so far this year, but it's a bit difficult to tell, as so many bird, especially owls, don't seem to be bothering this year. It seems to be due to the hard winter weakening the birds, and also it seems that the Vole population has dropped dramatically.

      I understand your limitations with the lens, Jan. I'm not sure how long I will be able to continue porting the 150-500 around - hopefully a few years yet - but I feel it when I come back from a day's photography!

      Take good care of yourself!


  5. Hola, unas preciosas imágenes, viéndolas se siente uno con más tranquilidad interior
    Un gran saludo de un seguidor, desde Doña Mencia (CORDOBA)


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