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Saturday, 17 May 2014

Short But Sweet - on Wednesday 14th May, 2014

I had a call from my pal, Titus, asking if I'd like to do a short spell of owling on Wednesday evening. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as you will see later!) my wife had only just told me that the meal she was cooking that evening was going to be rather late, and so I declined Titus's offer. 

In the event, we'd finished our meal by about 18:30 and so, having found that Titus was already on the road and a fair way away, I decided, as it was a really splendid evening weather-wise, I'd go and do a bit on my local patch.

A week ago I was of the opinion that of the four Little Owl sites that I had active on my local patch at the beginning of the year, only 'old faithful' (No.02) was still active as I'd not seen owls at the other three (Nos. 11, 30, 45) for a few months. As the other three only had single birds present, I was of the opinion that they'd all gone to find mates. Then on Monday I was out with Titus and went to check No.11 and saw an owl in the nest cavity - so here was one of the three that was still there!

So this night I was going to try and check on the other two. I arrived at my usual start point for visiting my local patch, and a Little Owl was out on the chimney stack at 'old faithful' (No.02). It was a bit noisy there as two Lapwing were interacting with each other.

Lapwing - my local patch
Also, beside the track in front of the barn, a male Yellowhammer was grubbing around in the grass. This area is very good for Yellowhammer, but I don't often take the time to try and photograph them. I really should do as they are super birds!

Yellowhammer (male) - my local patch
I was now feeling quite positive about the evening as I set off to investigate LO Site No.45. I don't know what made me do it, but I approached No.45 from an unusual direction. I was keeping my eyes well peeled and suddenly spotted something suspicious in a Willow tree about 120 metres from what I believe to be the nest tree for No.45. I moved my position slightly to one side, and spotted an eye looking at me! Now the only image I've ever had of an owl at No.45 was one from about 150 metres distance on a misty day - it was just a tiny silhouette! On that occasion, and also on the only other time I've ever seen it, it disappeared as soon as it saw that I'd seen it, so I had it down as a nervous bird. Today, however, (if this was the same bird) I was to be more lucky. It let me approach and take photos, and was still there when I left.

Little Owl - my Site No.45
I was now feeling even more positive and continued on my way to try and check out LO Site No. 30. I knew that the chances were that there'd be cattle in the field, and I was not wrong. A sizeable herd of cows, calves, and a bull were gathered round the nest tree. There was no way I was going in there!

I kept the right side of the gate at about 200 metres distance from the nest tree and scanned the tree (which was straight into the sun) with my binoculars - and saw an owl! Whilst watching it, a second owl flew from the area of the nest cavity to a low stump and then back again. Not only is No.30 still inhabited but there's two of them! I suspect that the second bird seen was the female which had just taken a break from incubating for toilet reasons.

Little Owl - my Site No.30
I then set off to see if the female Wheatear that I'd seen twice in a particular area of a field was still around. I didn't see the Wheatear, but there were more Lapwing in the field. Whilst watching them I briefly heard a sound which sounded a bit like a Long-eared Owl and, following a tip from owl guru Paul Riddle, I started making squeaking sounds. What I wasn't prepared for was the Fox cub that popped out of the hedge to investigate and popped back in again as soon as it saw what was making the noise - so no images!

Continuing on a circular route, I found myself back near LO Site No.45 again, and scanned the nest tree and the tree where I'd earlier seen the bird, but didn't find it. I then started scanning adjacent trees  - and immediately spotted a Barn Owl out in daylight! It's my guess that this was a male owl which was roosting away from the nest site and a female sitting on eggs.

Barn Owl (male)- my local patch
Now I've been debating whether to confess to this but I'll do so - although my main passion is owls, this was the first Barn Owl that I'd seen this year. I've not really made much of an effort to find them but usually, by this time of year, I'd have seen a few. The crazy thing is that I've discovered that Barn Owls are a bit like buses. You can wait forever, and then two come at once. The very next evening I was out and saw a second Barn Owl a good 20 miles (30km) from this first one.

It was a very short evening - all this happened within an hour and a quarter of leaving home - but the feelgood factor was really there. I'd confirmed continued occupation of two sites I'd thought I'd lost (one with a pair in residence) and found a Barn Owl on my local patch - the first seen there since 25th March, 2013.               Sweet!!!

Thank you for stopping by.


  1. Lovely picture Richard. Lovely to find Barn owls. I know there are Barn owls near me at Swineham, Wareham. I hope we will get to see one and maybe if lucky get a picture of one.

    1. Thank you, Linda. Best wishes for finding (and photographing) the Barn Owls near you. Don't forget that it's illegal to approach nesting Barn Owls without a special licence!

  2. Great story, Richard. I think that it's the serendipitous nature of birding that contributes to its appeal. I am sure that in another life you'll come back as an owl and lead others on the kinds of quests you engage in right now!

    1. Thank you, David. Your last sentence has a note of truth about it as, metaphorically speaking, I often find myself putting words into the mouths of the owls I'm observing, as if they were commenting about my presence! I guess it helps me be aware of what their reaction might be, and safeguards against disturbing them.

  3. Lovely post Richard,great to see the Barn Owl,not many around these days,also loved your Lapwing in flight great captures.
    Love the rich colours of your Yellowhammer,and thank you for your offer,might take you up on that,perhaps next year,really kind.

    1. Thank you, John. It will be my pleasure!

  4. I saw Barn Owls as well this weekend, that are really beautiful birds (even though the chicks aren't that cute). I really, really like that Yellowhammer picture. And don't worry about my mothing, nothing will ever take over from birds as my number one passion. From Findlay.

    1. You're right about those Barn Owl chicks, Findlay. You'd have to be their mother to think they're beautiful!!

      Pleased to hear that birds are still favourite with you!

      Best wishes to you and the family - - Richard

  5. As usual, you've done a very good pictures, Richard! Nice picture of lapwing in flight. Our compliments!
    Have a goog week :-)

    1. Thank you, Michał and Piotr. Have a great one yourselves!

  6. Great to see that an owl is still present at site 45 it seems to be enjoying the evening sun.
    Well done on finding the barnies that really is good news considering the bad weather we had over the last few winters.
    Was the juvenile fox from the same area you got the adult?

    1. Thank you, Doug.

      The juvenile Fox was a good mile or more from where I saw the skinny adult. However, I was out on my local patch again last night, and saw a large adult only about 500 metres from where I'd seen the juvenile. Unfortunately this one was approaching the low nest of a pair of my Little Owls and the male owl was calling out a warning. I decided to intervene and got to within about 30 metres of the Fox before it decided to take off! I was starting to wonder if Foxes ever attacked humans!!!

  7. Great stuff, Rich!
    You make it soooo lively!
    I really enjoy reading your adventures even if my time is short again for blogging!
    Pic N°3 is the kind of photo I find thrilling, what a gorgeous environment they live, no wonder they do quite well!
    Glad this season is off to a good start!
    Cheers, keep well and thanks for your kind visits always much appreciated :)

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Noushka. I draw a lot of inspiration from your own work, although I have absolutely no illusions about ever reaching your standards!


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