Anyone who's main passion is owls can tell you that it tends to be a relatively lonely occupation. Much of the time the search is fruitless, and it often involves sitting quietly and on one's own for long periods, particularly as much of it takes place in the twilight hours. Sometimes, especially if no new discoveries are made for a long time, I find myself starting to get a little demotivated and little things like windy weather, the threat of rain, aches and pains, or just plain 'too much to do at home' mean that I don't get out as much as I should do. I seem to be going through one of these patches at the moment and have, this week, made a conscious effort to get myself out of the rut, and with partial success.
One thing that does help keep me on the straight and narrow is my regular Thursday afternoon/evening out with my pal Titus White. - that's not his real name but an alias to protect the fact that he has Barn Owls nesting in his garden (think Latin name). I met Titus about three years ago when he was given my name as someone to ask about some pellets he was finding in his garden which he knew were not from his Barnies. Since then we've become really good friends and, unless the world is falling apart, we get together every Thursday afternoon and do a spot of owling together. These Thursdays are most enjoyable and quite productive, even though we do seem to stick to the same approximate route for our travels each time. A couple of years ago, Titus started accompanying me on my Osprey Watch duties at Rutland Water and in the summer months our Thursday evenings, once a fortnight, are spent there.
This post relates to the first of our non-Osprey afternoons after the transition from the winter month norm of taking a (late) picnic lunch out with us, to taking a picnic evening meal with us so that we can make the most of owling opportunities as darkness falls.
The afternoon started off cloudy but bright, with little wind, and prospects were quite good. On my way to Titus's place, I pass my local patch. One of the Little Owls was out at my Site No.02. This was taken from my car.
|Little Owl - my Site No.02|
Having transferred to Titus's car, we headed out. Our first sighting was at my LO Site No.44, where both the owls were out and sitting cosily together. I'd been wondering if, because of the early mild weather, mating and incubation may have started early this year, but the indication from this day was that the renewal of the pair bond was probably still taking place. These two images were also taken from the car. Fortunately it was cloudy by now as, otherwise, these two images would have been into the sun and virtually impossible.
|Little Owls - my Site No.44|
Just up the road, at my LO Site No.46, one of the owls was out on a distant post. Sadly it was still cloudy, as sun would have helped immensely here.
|Little Owl - my Site No.46|
A short while later, the second owl here appeared in a cavity in the nest tree.
Passing by my LO Site No.41 no owl was seen, which was a little worrying as the owls are usually visible here, but nearby building works were being very noisy that day, which might have had a bearing on the matter.
We next parked by sites Nos. 34 and 36. At first we didn't see any owls, but then I noticed one on a log at No.36. A little later, a Little Owl flew into the nest tree of Site No.34 and, almost immediately, the second owl appeared in the nest cavity. We were now up to seven owls (or, in my case, eight).
No.36 was the location where I'd approached a couple of weeks earlier, shielded by a small herd of cows. There were no cows on this occasion, and it was my turn to try for the shot (Titus had had his turn the previous Thursday!). The owl let me walk past, and back again, without moving. I'd set my camera up before the approach, but the light conditions when I got there were totally different and I shot at much too low a speed so the images weren't that good.
|Little Owl - my Site No.36|
We next moved on to LO Site No.42. Sightings here are rather rare and only seem to take place in very good weather. We weren't to be lucky on this occasion and, after an hour or so, decided to give up and check out a few more sites, but still with no luck.
We returned to LO Site No.41 and had just spotted what we thought to be an owl when a group of three off-roaders came through extremely noisily. I took some photos of them, which wasn't the smartest thing to do as they looked as if they were going to give some trouble - until another car arrived. Amazingly, however, they didn't disturb the owl. It was starting to get dark by now and the owl was on the shady side of the tree. I only include this shot as I rather like the entanglement that this owl is often found in - although it doesn't make for easy photography!
|Little Owl - my Site No.41|
We could still hear the off-roaders ahead of us so decided to avoid trouble and turn back. We stopped at a place where, at various times over the past couple of years, I'd seen Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and Common Kestrel all perched in exactly the same place (and I mean within a couple of inches - although obviously not at the same time!). It was all but fully dark and only just possible to see anything (we were parked about 100 yards/metres away), when something appeared in an opening - a Tawny Owl. This is just a record shot, but this afternoon and evening out has now given me the incentive to try and do better with the Tawny Owl here (and the Barn Owl, for that matter!).
|Tawny Owl - undisclosed site|
We had no further sightings on our way home but we had had a nine-owl day (or, in my case, ten), which was not a bad haul.
Tomorrow (I'm writing this on Wednesday 16th April) it's back to Rutland Water, with three eggs in the Osprey nest, a relatively good weather forecast and the prospect of some good owling and other sightings along the way, and in good company! I'm looking forward to it!!!