There are very few of my Little Owl sites that I can observe (rather than quickly view) at close-quarters without disturbing the owls. Therefore, most of my close photography is achieved by a stealthy approach, looking nonchalant and avoiding eye contact for as long as possible, before banging off a few shots and then retreating - hopefully leaving the owls in situ.
Once in a while I take my Stealth Gear Chair Hide and set it up near to a nest site, in order to be able to observe and photograph the owls for an hour or so without disturbing them.
I have two Little Owl sites which are on private land and too distant from the road to be able to photograph the birds in any detail. There are plenty of others with the same problem, but both these two sites are in fields which, as soon as the land dries out sufficiently, will be filled with cattle. I'm too vulnerable to accidents in my chair hide in a field full of cattle! Time was, therefore, running out.
My LO Site No.34 was discovered early in 2013, and I had great plans for photography sessions, but then Jackdaws took over the nest and evicted the owls. Now that the owls are back it was time to try again.
The other site was my most recently found site (No.46), and a preparatory session in my hide here featured in my last post.
It was quite bright and sunny when I left home on Sunday late morning, but rather windy. The weather forecast had the wind dropping a little as the afternoon progressed. My intention was to have a session at No.34, and then move on to No.46. Little Owls are not fond of wind, but the prevailing wind direction meant that there was a good chance that the owls might be seen in their sheltered nest openings.
I arrived at No.34 to find, to my delight, that there was no sign of either owl. I quickly set up my hide, unobserved, halving the distance between my usual observation point and the nest tree. I immediately started to doubt my wisdom as the wind was howling against the hide, and the protruding camera lens was juddering, in spite of being on a heavy tripod. I then sat and started to eat my lunch whilst I waited.
It was only about half an hour before one of the owls showed. It had me spotted immediately.
|Hello! - what's that?|
It very quickly relaxed, taking only the occasional look at my hide, but observing its surroundings.
|That looks interesting!|
For me, one of the wonderful things about Little Owls is that they seem to be full of character. It's often not easy to appreciate this with a quick and distant sighting, but sitting close to them for a time soon reveals how special they are. I took over 250 shots during this session, and I've retained 43 of them - a much greater percentage than I usually do, but they all show the owl looking different !
No, I'm not going to show you all 43 as, unless you're as passionate as me about them you'd probably be bored silly, but you will get a selection.
The owl was relaxed enough to have a preening session.
|I need to get to that itch!|
A particularly windy period caused the owl to pop back into his nest cavity. I took the opportunity to answer the call of nature and then move my hide closer, halving the distance yet again. I was now about 15 metres away.
The owl was back again after a few minutes, and clearly saw that the hide had moved, but still didn't exhibit any discomfort.
|I'm sure that's moved!|
The wind, rather than abating, was getting stronger still, and the light levels were changing dramatically, from bright sunshine to heavy cloud, and then back again. The owl still managed to catch forty winks!
After its nap, it was alert again.
|What IS that down there??|
It still took the occasional look at my hide.
|Did someone cough?|
In the end, the wind really got very strong, I was getting rather cold (although the temperature was 9 deg. C, the wind-chill factor was great), and the owl decided that it'd had enough.
|Time to go!|
I packed up the hide and headed off towards Site No.46, arriving to find that the owls weren't showing, but the wind had veered round so that it was blowing directly at the main nest opening. I sat there debating whether it was worthwhile setting up, particularly as I'd got rather chilled. My mind was made up when a weather front suddenly arrived with the mother and father of all hail storms, and the temperature dropped in seconds from 9 deg. C to 0 deg.!! It was time to go.
I'm now waiting for a suitable day to return. Monday was windy and today has been wet.