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Saturday, 10 May 2014

Spring is Sprung - early May, 2014

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz,
I wonder where dem boidies is.
De boid is on the wing - but dat's absoid.
I tought the wing was on the boid!                        (ANON)

In my last post, two weeks ago, I said that I was "Back in The Groove". Well I feel that I still am to a reasonable extent, although things have been a little slow between then and now - largely due to less than optimal weather, with other commitments interfering when the weather was better. However, there have been some highlights.

On the penultimate day of April, I went out onto my local patch to try and sort out what was going on with my owl sites there. I was singularly unsuccessful in this, being thwarted from visiting two of the sites due to frisky cows with calves - in one field there was a bull also, and the whole herd thundered towards me as soon as I looked over the stile into the field. I did find that the female Wheatear from more than two weeks earlier was still in the same place, so maybe it's going to stay there?

As I returned to my car with my tail between my legs (as far as owls were concerned), one of the Little Owls from my Site No.02 was out. I was trying out a new metering setup on my camera and it was only later that I found that I'd made a mess of things. The first shots were OK, but the subsequent shots, when I'd got a lot closer, were grossly over exposed. With manipulation I found that I could get the bird looking quite presentable but it was the background that looked extremely odd, so I'm only showing a couple of the more distant shots.

Little Owl - my Site No.02
On 1st May, Titus and I were on duty for an evening Osprey Watch at Rutland Water. Prospects for the afternoon and evening were not good as the weather was dull and showery.

As we passed though the village of Queniborough there was the charming sight of a whole school full of kids out in the playground dancing round the Maypole. It's a sad reflection on this modern world that, if I'd taken photos I'd probably have been arrested!

A while later, at my LO Site No.44, an owl was out in spite of the drizzling rain, but sheltered against the trunk and under a stout branch.

Little Owl - My Site No.44
 Just up the road at Site No.46 an even braver owl was out on a distant fence post!

Little Owl - my Site No.46
A few minutes later and we were looking at a LO at my Site No.41 - we were having amazing luck, considering the weather!

Little Owl - my Site No.41
Our luck continued, with sightings at Sites Nos. 36 and 42, although no sensible photography resulted. I came to the conclusion that, as we were only seeing single birds where we were recently seeing pairs, that the females were now sitting on eggs. This would also explain why the single birds were sitting out, and active in poor weather - they were now having to feed two mouths!

Titus and I have been very unlucky with the weather and light during our duties at Rutland Water this season. This was our third session, and again it was with horribly dull grey conditions and a wind that was blowing the drizzle into the hide. The situation with the Ospreys at Rutland Water is more interesting than any TV soap, with a convoluted plot and the odd side plot too. This, however, will possibly feature in a future post to this blog.

Our session here was relatively uneventful. Unusually we had a pair of Tufted Duck in front of the hide. Although a common bird, this is the first time I've seen them in front of the hide. The reason has to be that this is a diving duck and, until this year, the water in front of the hide has been too shallow for them.

Tufted Duck (female) - from Waderscrape Hide, Rutland Water
Tufted Duck (male) - from Waderscrape Hide, Rutland Water
Whilst most of the Osprey action takes place on the opposite side of Manton Bay to the hide, this year there's a new bonus to being in the hide and that is the regular and frequent appearance of Water Voles. They've not been easy to photograph so far as they tend to only come into view when they're crossing relatively narrow channels and by the time you've spotted them and got your camera on them they've gone, and the poor light hasn't helped either! I did manage some slightly better images than on my previous attempts, however. I'm really looking forward to capturing these in better light!

Water Vole - from Waderscrape Hide, Rutland Water
I'd hate to mention a turn of duty at Rutland Water without showing you an Osprey. Sadly we did not get an Osprey come very near us that day, and this is the best that I could do.

Osprey (male - 33(11)) - from Waderscrape Hide, Rutland Water
And here's one from the nestcam - female (Maya) nearest camera.

Osprey (female Maya and male 33(11)) - from nestcam
The weather continued to be relatively unpleasant on our way home, but we did pick up further sightings of Little Owl at my Sites Nos. 34 and 40, so seven owls seen over seven sites - not too bad for a poor weather afternoon/evening when the main activity was Osprey watching!!

During the week that followed this I only had a couple of owling sessions, both of which were entirely focused on trying to find new owl sites. In this I was only partially successful in that I heard a Little Owl calling briefly, but could not find it. Whilst there on the second evening, just as it started to get dark, a Fox hove into view. I shall be looking out for better views of this creature, but keeping quiet about it as they hunt foxes in these parts!

Fox - just off my local patch
Titus and I had one of our regular afternoons out this last Thursday (8th May). The weather was terrible, being wet and windy for most of the time, and our expectations were extremely low. I'd seen one owl on my way over to Titus's place which flew up onto the chimney stack at my LO Site No.02. This distant shot of it checking me out was taken from my car.

Little Owl - my Site No.02
As I lowered my camera from taking this shot, something caught my eye. There was a Mallard duck nesting half-way down the roof, just below the owl! I know that some ducks nest in trees, but I had no idea that Mallards would nest on roofs!

Mallard (nesting female) - my LO Site No.02
Unsurprisingly, Titus and I only saw two owls that afternoon (Little Owls at sites Nos. 44 and 41) and photos were only obtained at 44, although these are some of my better ones from here (where dull weather is actually a bonus). Torrential rain had us curtailing our evening out by two hours or more, with virtually no chance of finding more owls. We even found our way blocked by a large fallen tree which, we were told, had come down just minutes before our arrival, giving us a few miles of diversion to get round the obstacle.

Little Owl - my Site No.44
The weather forecast for the next few days is continuing to be rubbish (wet and windy) and so I'm not sure when my next photographic foray will be.

Thank you for stopping by.


  1. Wow, what a great vantage point you must have to photographs the Ospreys. As far as I can recall I have never been in a position to look down into the nest. As for owls, I have nothing to rival you continuing amazing Little Owl odyssey, Richard, but yesterday while on a local trail (right behind my house in fact) I came across an Eastern Screech Owl sitting at the entrance to its hole. I expect to post some pictures on my blog over the next couple of days. Miriam is anxious to see it so we'll go back tomorrow and see whether it is equally obliging.

    1. Thank you David. I nearly said something in this reply about the Ospreys and the nestcam - them I saw your follow-up comment.

      I hope you get some good images of the Eastern Screech Owl, and am looking forward to seeing them on your excellent blog.

  2. Hi again Richard: I was just rereading your account and it now dawns on me that the nest shot of the Ospreys was from a web cam> That explains the proximity. Duh!

    1. If I'd got that close to an Osprey nest I'd have been in very serious trouble as the Osprey is a Schedule One Protected species here (the highest level of legal protection available), and I don't have a Schedule One licence (which are usually only granted to very limited numbers of persons having a very good reason to get anywhere near a nesting bird, and are specific to species and situations such as ringing (banding) etc.). Guarding against human intrusion is one of my duties when I'm on Osprey Watch, with procedures that ensure that the police are quickly in attendance if necessary. Fortunately, as the monitoring of the nests is well publicised, such measures are very rarely necessary - most intrusions, although also rare due to locations, are unwittingly commited by 'Joe Public' out for a stroll off the beaten track.

  3. The LO'so are brilliant as usual I also think the water voles are pretty good too I know how quickly they vanish when they think they've been spotted. The Fox looks a bit skinny to me I wonder if it has cubs nearby?
    I look forward to reading about the Osprey soon...A proper soap opera at last :)

    1. Thank you, Doug. I too thought the Fox looked a bit on the thin side. I couldn't make out in the poor light and at that distance whether it was a male or female - I suspect a female as I think I may be able to see teats on some of my images.

      I want to get a few Osprey images under my belt before I do a feature post.

  4. Yet,another superb collection of brill images,love the Osprey such a majestic looking Bird,love the Fox on his rounds,but the Water Vole has to be my favourite,because It's on my to see list.

    1. Hi John. Thank you for your kind comments. If you're ever up this way with a little time on your hands I can pretty-well guarantee showing you the water voles. Why not come up for Birdfair in August? - if you've never been to it you've been missing something which I know you'd find amazing! You would also see the Ospreys and you might even see some Little Owls ;-}

  5. A gorgeous post again Richard!
    Some shots are fabulous even if you had trouble with your new material!! LOL!
    It happens to everyone I think... well to me at least!
    I agree with Doug, the fox is quite thin.
    I feel better knowing your weather has been as bad as ours! LOL!!
    We had to go to Spain to try our luck, but even there we had a great deal of wind and thick clouds and to top it all, the birds were not much present.... :(
    Ah well, we will do better next time hopefully! :)
    Thanks for sharing all this, can't' wait to see more of the Osprey saga!
    Cheers, keep well!

    1. Thank you Noushka. Sorry to hear that the weather hasn't been in your favour! We're getting some great weather now - it's about time too!

      The camera (or lens?) is still playing up. I occasionally get an electrical disconnect between lens and camera. Further investigation is needed.

      Still haven't managed any decent Osprey images to illuustrate an Osprey post.

      Have a great weekend. - - - Richard

  6. Fabulous pictures, Richard! Well done! You are very good photographer of nature.
    Warm regards from rainy Poland

    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Michał and Piotr.

      I hope that your rain has passed and that you're getting the beautiful warm and sunny weather that we are getting at the moment. Have a great weekend - - - Richard


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