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Monday, 2 June 2014

Before the Scottish Highlands - last half of May, 2014

It's well over two weeks since my last post, and that's because I've just returned from a holiday in the Scottish Highlands. I'll be trying to catch up with my friends in Bloggerland over the next few days and then I've got the 2,823 photos that I took in Scotland to work through! Was Scotland owly? - Yes it was!!

Anyway, just to keep this blog alive, here's a catchup on what I did after the session which was the subject of my last post and before my departure for Scotland.

On Thursday 15th May, pal Titus and I were on duty at Rutland water in the evening. I had a short owling session before going to Titus's place and found a Little Owl at my Site No.03. The foliage in the chestnut tree is starting to make the owls difficult to spot, but I found this one.

Little Owl - my Site No.03
Although I saw six Little Owls and one Barn Owl that day, the owl photography was a bit thin on the ground. However, one of the LO sites was a new one (I'd previously had a 90% sure sighting here a week earlier) and I managed to get some photos (sort of!) of my new Site No.47.

You ain't seen me - right!
Boo! - Little Owl - my new Site No.47
At Rutland water we enjoyed by far the best weather that we've had whilst on duty this season. The Sedge Wablers remained a bit distant during our watch but I quite like the artistic aspects of this shot.

Sedge Warbler - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
A Heron gave another shot which I quite like from the artistic point of view.

Grey Heron - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
We sometimes see Muntjac on the bund in front of the hide, but this was the first time I'd seen two. Sadly they kept a distance between them and so I didn't get them both in the same frame.

Muntjac - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
The Water Vole were showing well, and frequently. Usually one just gets a brief view in one of the narrow channels as they swim from one side to the other. The light is such here that the water often gives an almost white background, as below - not easy for photography.

Water Vole - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
If you're lucky, you catch one in 'dark water', which is better!

Water Vole - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
If it's a bright evening, the light in the left-hand channel (the most frequently crossed channel!)  only allows for the atmospheric shot.

Water Vole - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
If you're EXTREMELY lucky, you might even catch one briefly out of the water!

Water Vole - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
I mustn't overlook the whole point of Titus and I being at Rutland Water, and that is to monitor the Ospreys. We didn't get any close approaches during this session and, frankly, there wasn't a lot of Osprey action during our session there. Here is a 'screen grab' from my tablet which we use to hook into the nestcam.

Osprey (female 'Maya') - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
The following day I was watching the Starlings in my garden (back yard). The noise from up to eleven juveniles was deafening! This one was taken of them on a stick which is well 'buttered' on the back with a suspension of blitzed peanuts in lard.

Starlings (2 adults + 3 juveniles)  - our garden
This beetle was on our conservatory window. I think that it's a Longhorn Beetle

Longhorn Beetle (?) - our garden
On 19th May I had an owling session on my local patch. As I arrived, Rabbits and Grey Squirrels were foraging on the track. I know that many birders despise these creatures, but I'm not one of them.

Grey Squirrel - my local patch
I only saw two owls that evening, with no meaningful photography. However, at the second location, where I'd decided I wouldn't enter the field because of the presence of cows with calves and a bull (!), I heard a Little Owl calling and saw that it was sending out a warning to its mate about an approaching Fox - the nest cavity here is at a relatively low level.  It was at this time that the cattle decided to take themselves off through a gateway into an adjacent field that was out of view of my position. Feeling a little concerned for the safety of the owls I took my courage in both hands and entered the field. As I approached the Fox, it didn't seem to take a blind bit of notice of me. 

Fox - my local patch
I got nearer and nearer and started to wonder if I was in trouble here! I was mindful of Doug McFarlane's experience when a Fox ran at him and Doug was so convinced he was going to be attacked he dived into a hedgerow - but the Fox ran past. In my case, the Fox eventually took to its heels.

Fox - my local patch
My last excursion before heading up to Scotland was an owling session with pal Titus on Wednesday 21st May.  On the way to pick up Titus I stopped by my local patch where there were three Brimstone butterflies flitting about together in the sunshine. I'm disappointed that he second image wasn't as crisp as I'd have liked it to be and that the vegetation wasn't a little closer.

Brimstone - my local patch
Having set off with Titus, near one of my LO sites a Skylark was messing about in the road. I first turned the car sideways so that Titus could take a photo and then, as it hadn't taken fright, turned the car the other way so that I could get a shot. It was only a rider on a horse that frightened the bird away!

Skylark - near Melton Mowbray
 I saw six Little Owls that afternoon, but the photography was not up to much. This is the best of a bad bunch, but at least I get to finish with an owl image!

Little Owl - my Site No.44
Now I must get back to processing those Scottish photos!

Thank you for dropping by.


  1. Smashing post Richard,everyone a winner,love the Starlings,Water Vole and Fox,never seen Muntjac in the UK.
    But your Brimstone captures are absolutely gorgeous,can't wait to see your Scotish photos.
    We are going next month.

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, John.

      It'll take me a while to process those Scottish photos - only just finished day 2!!

      Whereabouts are you going to in Scotland? - I was back at Grantown-on-Spey again, staying at the Grant Arms (wonderful!)

  2. What a great collection of photos, love the Vole and the Osprey but they are all superb. Have a good week Diane

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Diane. I hope that all is well with you in sunny France - - - Richard

  3. Wow a lot to enjoy on here. The heron and sedge warbler are nice but the water voles steal the show for me from Rutland absolutely stunning to see.
    The Fox made me chuckle as I had a close encounter again tonight lol. But my favourite is the lark a personal favourite bird of mine.

    1. Thank you, Doug. I missed my turn of duty at Rutland Water last Thursday as I was late back from Scotland, but my pal Titus says that the Water Voles weren't showing as well as normal - but the weather was terrible!

      I can see where your coming from with Skylarks. There's nothing like the sound of an overhead Skylark to remind you that you're enjoying a fine summer's day!

  4. Lovely pictures of the fox and I like the picture of the Skylark. Looking forward to your posts about your holiday in Scotland.

    1. Thank you, Linda. You might have to wait a while for a Scotland post. I've only just finished processing day 2 of the photos!

      I hope you're having better weather than we are at the moment - - - - Richard

  5. Great bunch of shots! Enjoyed immensely.

  6. Welcome back, Richard. Some great shots here. I especially like the Skylark. Now we'll all look forward to photographs from your Scottish odyssey. You have piqued our curiosity with talk of owls from there - now we're all wondering which species.

    1. Thank you, David. Sorry, but I'm going to keep you in suspense on the owl species for the time being. However, I'm not giving the game away by saying that they weren't Little Owls as they don't (yet!) appear in those parts.

      Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

  7. Hey Rich, what a post!!
    The heron is fantastic, he is so perfectly perched for this brilliant pic!
    So nice to see that the LO's are doing well and that you saw quite a few in Scotland.
    You even managed to "catch" a fox and even if they have made a great come-back, it is never easy to take photos of them!
    I can't wait to see some of the 2000 + pics you took in the Scottish Highlands!
    I have been there a number of times..... over 30 years ago, and I love these places, especially when the sun is out! LOL!
    You'll have to tell us more about the Osprey you're monitoring!
    Keep well!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Noushka.

      It might be a week or so before my first Scotland post - I've got a busy week this week. Sadly, the sun didn't show too much when I was there, and the light conditions for photography were extremely difficult at times. I find that I always shoot many more frames when the light is difficult (in the hope of getting something usable), and the results tend to take a bit more processing too.

      I know I've been threatening to do an Osprey post sometime, but the truth is that I've not managed a half-decent image so far this year to illustrate such a post with!

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

  8. Amazing and welcome back!!!! Wow, I've always dreamed of birding in Scotland. I don't even know how I'd owl in a foreign country. It's hard enough here in my own state for several of these birds! I still have yet to see two......I've heard them.....just not seen them:) You have a lot of amazing critters and great photos of them......but I especially love your butterfly shots. Some outings are full of wonderful wildlife encounters.

    As for your response to the parrot conundrum. We had a similar experience. Would we do it again? No. But the experience was valuable and I learned a lot about bird habits. Although I would still say I'm learning new things every day. There's just so much to understand about birds. I'll need two lifetimes to do it all:) Welcome back and look forward to your Scottish journeys. Was the food any good?:)

    1. Thank you, Chris. If ever you make it to UK, I'd be pleased to try and assist with any quest to find owls - but nothing is ever guaranteed!

      Scotland is an amazing place for wildlife, and the food where I was staying was excellent! I hope you make it there sometime.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  9. A smashing post Richard with some excellent images too! Oh welcome back, looking forward to hearing about the Scottish Owls.....

    1. Thank you, Paul. Might be a couple of weeks before my post with the owly bit of the Scottish trip!

  10. Hi Richard! All photos are gorgeous! Our favorites are with starlings, fox and butterflies.

    1. Thank you, Michał and Piotr, for your kind comments. I hope you have a good week.


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