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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Red October - Missed! - mid-October, 2013

Until recently I had two very reliable Little Owl sites (sites where I stand a better than 50% chance of seeing an owl if I visit in 'sensible' weather). Sadly, one of them (my most recently found site) featured in my last post, and I'm almost certainly down to one now. By coincidence this happens to be all but my first site (No.02).

A feature of this site is that the building that the owls live in has a Virginia creeper growing over it. Since I've been monitoring the site this has spread from the southern end to the point that it now almost entirely covers the roof.

In springtime this creeper becomes covered with bright green leaves. However, in October, it turns to the brightest red, but it's only in this condition for about a week - then the leaves suddenly drop and it's back to bare branches.

I was determined to get an image of an owl against the red leaves but, for the most part, the red leaves coincided with bad weather. I spent three hours in my hide one morning, before the sun went round to the wrong side of the barn. During that time I had a Little Owl call from close behind me and then, about an hour later, a call was heard from inside the barn. The following day I was back again, but I only stayed for two hours as it got very cold and windy, and the light went. Even if the owl had appeared the shutter speed would have been too low to freeze the wildly rustling leaves. Again I heard the owl close behind me, and also off to my left, during this time.

Next time I went, the leaves had gone!

Here you can see the effect of the red leaves, when not all had turned. And, yes, there is a Little Owl visible in the picture!

Little Owl - my Site No.02
This next shot was taken just two days later, and is the shot I was set up for - but without an owl. You can see that this is a favourite perching place by the lime on the tiles.

the shot that didn't happen - my Site No.02
This next sequence, with the leaves gone, was taken a week later - I didn't even bother getting out of my car! The owl had been tucked down, but stood up more prominently soon after my arrival. Then a Buzzard was heard calling distantly - and started getting much closer, so the owl made a break for home.



Little Owl - my Site No.02
In spite of my stated intention to do better in October than I did in September, I am, in fact, doing far worse. Other than Site No.02, I've only seen Little Owl at one other location (not one of my sites), and heard them at two others. To this I can only add one sighting of Barn Owl, and two instances of Tawny Owl calling. The weather forecast looks as if the rest of the month will be barren too.

18 comments:

  1. Hi Richard!
    Thanks for dropping by on my blog, sorry I didn't take the time to translate...
    I should have since the subject is so very important and hits every one of us.
    Time and back pain are the main reasons... :(
    You post is a little sad...
    A pity site N°2 is down.
    And the weather is not helping.
    I bet you would have love to take pictures of LO against the red leaves...
    We don't alway manage what we set to do, but sometimes we are reward with great surprises!
    Let's cross fingers the LO population remains stable or increases.
    I am such a fan of yours, following quite closely what your recent discoveries were!! ;-)
    Cheers my friend...... from another foot fetishist!! LOL!

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    1. No need to apologise, Noushka. My French isn't too bad (although it's getting worse through lack of use!), and Google Translate does a pretty good job!

      Thank you for your kind words.

      I always consider it a bonus when a planned shot actually works out, but it's still a disappointment when I'd waited a year for this one- and missed it!

      I'm hoping for a really mild winter, with a reasonable amount of rain and little wind, so that the wildlife can come back from the brink that some species are at.

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  2. Hi Richard If there is am Owl is that first photo I cannot see it. Lovely shots of the ones I can see and the red leaves are lovely.

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    1. Thank you Margaret. If you look carefully, you can just see a pair of eyes peeping over the foliage about halfway along the top of the chimney stack!

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  3. I'd just be really happy to get an owl shot, I wouldn't care what it was sitting in or where it was. I'll get one soon and then after that I might think about leaves and stuff. From Findlay.

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    1. With your dedication and expertise, Findlay, I'm sure it will not be too long before you find one. Would be happy to discuss owls with you.

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  4. I'm really struggling to see the owl in the first image, is there one really there? Great images but still I'm struggling at my LO sites, they're either not there or don't come close, not good.

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    1. Hi Doug. If you look at the facing wall of the chimney stack, on the very top there's a thin frond sticking up vertically, just to the right of middle. Just to the left of this, almost exactly in the middle of the stack, you should be able to see a pair of pale eyebrows over a pair of eyes!

      Until the leaves are off the trees, this time of year isn't usually very good for Little Owl sightings for me, but this year has been exceptionally bad. The year started off brilliantly with bumber months in February and March, and I was all set for a year of good photo opportunities. Then that second period of very cold weather seemed to knock everything for six, and it seems to have gone downhill since. I've not lost hope yet, however. Inspired by Paul Riddle's efforts, I feel that I should start giving these birds a helping hand with a nest box programme. I could never hope to match his energy and dedication, however!

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  5. Superb flight shots Richard.
    John.

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    1. Thank you John. I'm not usually that lucky!!

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  6. Great sighting of the Little Owl Richard, superb.

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  7. it took me a few minutes but I eventually got the Owl in pic1

    They really are special birds.

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    1. They are, Dave. Thanks for dropping by.

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  8. What a shame the owls didn't help you out with a showing amongst the red leaves, it would have been a stunning image.

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    1. But wouldn't life be boring without all these little challenges!

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  9. Fantastic photos but I am sad you did all the work on the broken tree and they have not moved in. I heard the little Owl right outside the night before last, grabbed the camera and as I walked out it flew off. If only I knew where they nested, but I cannot prowl over other people's land here and my French is not good enough to explain. One day I will get a photo!! Have a good week. Diane

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    1. I've not given up hope yet, Diane, but it doesn't look too good.

      Good luck with your own quest for a Little Owl photo. Little Owls don't travel far, except when they're dispersing as this year's youngsters. Unless they are this year's birds, I'd be surprised if the nest cavity (or building) was more than about 300 metres away from where you are seeing them - probably much closer than that!

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