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Saturday, 11 January 2014

Owling - The End ! - December 2013

It's well over a month since my last post featuring an owl, and that was a brief post with a single image. I also said that I was going to be busy in December and so there'd not be much owling done. This turned out to be only partially true, but what owling I did was rewarding in terms of sightings of Little Owl, ending up with my third best month of the year, only surpassed by March and July.

On 6th December, a shopping trip had me passing my LO Site No.02. Only one of the owls was out (the norm these days), and I didn't take any worthwhile photos.

On 8th December I was heading off to the east of my home, and found that the pair of Little Owls at my Site No.41, displaced from their home when half their nest tree came down, were out in their usual roosting tree, and well hidden. I've come to the conclusion that these owls have found a new home in a cavity in a tree on the opposite side of the field to their original home, but that it's not that comfortable for them as they're usually both out in all weathers! If only they'd take up residence in the box that we provided!

Way-back in March I'd been sitting in my hide photographing the Little Owls at my Site No.34, and frustratingly hearing more LOs to my right and to my left. At the end of this session, I left my hide and there was another pair of LOs in a tree less than 200 metres away. This was the pair which had been calling on my right. The proximity of this pair (now Site No.36)  seemed far too close to No.34, but both pairs stayed put until they were evicted by Jackdaws at the end of the month. As I drove away from Site No.34, I spotted the owl that had been calling on my left. This was located a more healthy 450 metres from Site No.34. I called this Site No.37, but never saw an owl there again, and was beginning to think that it was an owl just passing through - until 8th December when I saw an owl sitting there again. The light was dire! It was also there when I passed again, later in the afternoon.

Little Owl - my Site No.37
No more owls were seen that day, but on Thursday 12th December I was out owling with my pal, Titus. I went to Titus's place via my local patch, where one of the LOs was out, but dozing, in one of its favoured spots at Site No.02.

Little Owl - my Site No.02
Titus and I found the owl at Site No.37 was again in exactly the same place as four days earlier, but in slightly better light.

Little Owl - my Site No.37
That day, the only other owls we saw were at the nearby Site No.34.

On 14th December, a quick run out to deliver their Christmas present had me seeing a LO at my Site No.17, but no photos were taken, but another delivery run on 15th resulted in LOs being seen at Sites Nos. 34 and 37 again! At No.37 it was in exactly the same position again and I was beginning to think that it'd been glued there, but it flew up to watch me from another position.

On 17th December, things started looking up. I saw five Little Owls over four different sites. One of these (Site No.30 on my local patch) is, I believe, inhabited by a single owl which probably once fledged from my Site No.02. This is a relatively confiding owl but is a real devil to photograph, because it favours sitting where there is a mass of small branches. You can see what I mean from the next image. The second image is the best that I could manage that day - and the bird didn't move.


Little Owl - my Site No.30
On 19th December, Titus and I had an afternoon on Cannock Chase. The results weren't that good, but we did call in at my LO Site No.15 and confirmed that all seemed well as both owls were visible. There's still no immediate prospects of a relatively close-up image due to the field being under cultivation. At least, now the leaves are off the tree, it's fairly easy to find the owls!

Little Owls - my Site No.15
On 26th December, I got my pass signed for an hour or two out, so returned to my local patch. Three Little Owls were seen at three different sites in the space of 27 minutes! As I approached Site No.30 which is a long way away from any public right of way, I was horrified, through the mist, to see a couple with two dogs (one looking to be somewhat hyperactive) approaching the nest tree. They passed within 10 metres of the trunk of the tree and I thought that my chances of finding an owl were zilch! However, I was wrong! Here's a couple more from Site No.30 - the first, again, emphasises the problem with the twigs here. I told you this owl was confiding!


Little Owl - my Site No.30
28th December brought sighting of three Little Owls at two sites. And then just over an hour and a half out on 29th raised five Little Owls at five sites, with the last one (shown below), being found a little after sundown.

Little Owl - my Site No.06
Owling wise, 2013 was a disappointing year. It got off to a good start with several new sites and plenty of sightings. Then the very late second blast of winter came, and I'm convinced that huge numbers of owls of all species were lost. Breeding was drastically reduced, and the prospects looked very bleak. However, I get the impression that things are improving and the mild weather, although windy, is OK for the owls. Hopefully, they'll get a good start with breeding in 2014, and numbers will start to pick up again. I've still not seen an owl, other than Little Owl, for a few months, however!

2014 has started well for me with, already, two new Little Owl sites, and some slightly better photographic opportunities. More on that in my next post!

12 comments:

  1. Beautiful images Richard. Saw this on the web the other day and thought it might interest you - if you haven't seen it already....http://www.flickr.com/photos/31216459@N07/galleries/72157636047517706/

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    1. Thank you, Phil. Had a look at that web page, thank you - some really outstanding owl images there!

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  2. Great images Richard, I like the grumpy look of the last one. I find it weird the owl's haven't taken to their nest box that you erected, perhaps they'll move into it once they get down to breeding?

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    1. Thanks Doug. I reckon they all look a bit grumpy in this post! Maybe they're fed up with the wind and rain?

      It would be great if they decided to breed in the box, but currently there's no indication that they've even been in there - should've used the old 'Tipex round the entrance hole' trick to help check this!

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  3. Hi Richard,
    A very interesting read!
    I really hope the LOs will breed successfully for the sake of the species and your pleasure!... and mine looking at your pics and good news!!
    I will soon publish a couple of pics of a Long eared!
    Keep well and lets cross fingers for the new season!

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    1. Thank you Noushka.

      The Little Owl scene is continuing to be encouraging, with eight seen yesterday over six different sites. I 'm hoping that some of the singles will find mates soon. It means I will lose a few sites, but would be good news for for the long-term prospects.

      I'm looking forward to more of your amazing SEO images.

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  4. Wow looks like you had a right old owl fest in December mate, hope things keep improving for you in 2014!

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    1. It was a good month for Little Owls, Paul, but I'm all but up to December's total, just half-way through January, so things are looking up!

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  5. I always really enjoy your Little Owl pictures. It's like they are all really different little characters. I got to see a Long Eared Owl at the weekend. From Findlay

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    1. Thank you Findlay.

      Your LEO was a great find. It's a few years since I saw one and my photos are about the same as yours!

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  6. Richard, although the year was not the best for your owls, looks like a very good December may portend a better 2014! We wish your owls all the best.

    Here, our winter has produced a few new sites to explore for Great Horned and Barred Owls. Hopefully, we'll be able to catalogue a good number of Burrowing Owl nests also.

    Have a good weekend!

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    1. Thank you for your good wishes, Wally. The weather is continuing to be very mild for the time of year, but extremely wet. The remaining owls seem to be doing quite well so far.

      I wish you all the best with the Great Horned and Barred Owls - maybe one day I'll see one in the wild if I come to USA!

      All the best to you. Richard

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