No, I've not been watching the football - I wouldn't know one end of a football from the other - but just busy catching up with things after a week away at the end of May.
Other than a minor re-modelling project taking up some my time - limited because I don't want to be disturbing the birds (it's an excuse that my wife will accept!) - I'd not done too much in the garden and not 'garden ticked' a new species for the year since the end of March. Then, at the beginning of June, I got three garden ticks in a week, two of which were 'lifers'! OK, so none of them were at all spectacular, or even remotely rare (except in my garden), but they were exciting for me.
The two 'lifers', both of which only put their feet down in the garden for a matter of seconds, were Jay and Jackdaw. I only managed (record) shots of the Jay.
|Jay - our garden|
The first for the year during that week was Stock Dove . At times there were a pair, and we're still getting the occasional visit from one of them. I love the iridescent colours on the neck
|Stock Dove - our garden|
Whilst we are not getting as much variety as we do in the winter, food consumption is probably at its highest ever. We're currently getting through in excess of 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) of bird seed per day, and that doesn't include the fat balls and peanuts, although consumption of these is relatively insignificant in comparison. Woodpigeons, collared Doves, and Magpies are responsible for much of the consumption, although we do have plenty of parents of other species bringing their juveniles to the feast. Water consumption is also high - probably about half a gallon (2 litres) per day, not all of which is drunk!
|Starling - our garden|
Out and About - Mainly During Dedicated Owling Excursions
On 5th June, which happened to be my birthday, my wife and I went out to an antiques centre to have a look around after a spot of lunch in their café. I managed to engineer it so that I saw two Little Owls on the way there, and a further LO on the way back. However, no owl photos were taken but this Red-legged Partridge was up on a low roof at one place and, very unusually, did not seem disturbed by my presence!
|Red-legged Partridge - at my LO Site No.17|
The following day I was out with Titus doing a spot of owling. We only saw six Little Owls over five sites that afternoon and evening, and no owl images worth sharing resulted. However, at my LO Site No.46 a Red Kit passed by, and a minuscule spider was spotted in the foot well of my car. This latter item was carefully removed and placed on the ground, where it kept being blown by the breeze. You can possibly gauge how small it was by the fact that you are looking at it on a regular (if somewhat dirty - it was a country lane!) Tarmac road surface - I hope that I've got the I/D correctly.
|Red Kite - by my LO Site No.46|
|Green Orb Arianella - by my LO Site No.46|
At my LO site No.42, we didn't see any owls but this historic aircraft flew past at about 5 mph (8 kph) - thankfully there wasn't a head-wind! OK, so it might have been a bit faster than that. It's a 1935-built Aeronca C-3 with a 40-45 hp engine. It seems that it's usually locked-up somewhere in North Yorkshire and rarely given an airing!
|Aeronca C-3 (built 1935) - seen in Leicestershire|
On 12th June, Titus and I were on Osprey Project duty at Rutland Water. I saw one Little Owl on my way to pick up Titus and we saw a further five Little Owls at five different sites on our was there - not too bad a tally! I was particularly pleased to see an owl at my latest LO site (No.47) as the owl is rather elusive here (I've only seen one at a time) and the only image I had previously was of it peeking round a branch. These aren't brilliant but they're my best yet.
|Little Owl - my Site No.47|
A few minutes after this, I got some images at my LO Site No. 44 which I'm quite pleased with as photography here is usually difficult.
|Little Owl - my Site No.44|
At Rutland Water, we had a rather uneventful shift, although the weather was fine. Here's a couple from that evening.
|Reed Bunting - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve|
|Mute Swan - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve|
On the way home we added another Little Owl to the daily tally.
On Tuesday 17th June, Titus and I had an evening out. The weather had looked promising, but it came over extremely dull as we were on our way, and it didn't look as if it would be a good evening for photography. We only saw three owls over three different sites and, amazingly, managed some images.
I was particularly pleased to get an image from my LO Site No.40. I first found this site in April, 2013 and had only had three sightings here since then, and not managed a single image. I'm glad to have managed one on this occasion, even if it is only a record shot. I'm also particularly pleased with the image from my Site No.41 as, in my opinion, the very low light levels have added to the atmosphere of the image.
|Little Owl - the first image from my Site No.40|
|Little Owl - my site No.41|
On Wednesday 18th, my wife and I met up with my brother and his wife at Elton, in Cambridgeshire. We had a very good lunch at the Loch Fyne fish restaurant there, and followed up with a visit to the gardens at Elton Hall. I'd only taken my D300s with the Tamron 28-300 lens on it. It's not a good lens, but it does have a basic macro ability. The gardens were splendid, and I did take a little time photographing the male Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly that was patrolling an ornamental pond. Several times it coupled with a female in mid-flight performing the 'wheel', but it all happened so quickly that I was unable to get an image of this. When the female broke off the mating she went to roost under the eaves of a two-storey building, so I never did get any photos of her.
|Broad-bodied Chaser (male) - Elton Hall, Cambridgeshire|
I also photographed a damselfly here. I'm not an expert on the Odonata and, at first, this one had me stumped, but I now believe that this was an immature female of our most common damselfly - the Common Blue Damselfly (or Common Bluet).
|Common Blue Damselfly (immature female) - Elton Hall, Cambridgeshire|
I also took some shots of this very common bee.
|Buff-tailed Bumblebee - Elton Hall, Cambridgeshire|
Two Little Owls had been seen on our way to Cambridgeshire, and one on the way back, but no usable photos were taken.
On Thursday 19th, Titus and I had one our regular Thursday afternoons/evenings out. I did my usual trick of picking up an owl on my way to Titus's place.
We drew a complete blank at the first two LO sites (Nos. 47 and 44), but had a distant sighting of one at No.46. Just round the corner, at No.41, one of the LOs was roosting on a telegraph pole and another was seen when it delivered a meal to the nest cavity!
Our biggest excitement of the day was on arrival at LO Site No.34. We arrived to find two juveniles out of the nest cavity and in the tree. This was, for both of us, the first sighting for of juvenile LOs in 2014. Our excitement was enhanced by this being one of two adjacent sites where we had high hopes for breeding in 2013, but then both pairs were evicted by Jackdaws.
The nest tree is some distance from the road, and I only got record shots of one of the juveniles.
|Little Owl (juvenile) - my Site No.34|
In the last image, the owl has just started an attempt to return to the nest cavity. I was horrified when, a few seconds later, it made its way down the slope and lost its footing as it did so, plunging at least 4 metres into the hedgerow and ditch below and out of sight from our position. concerned that we might have contributed to this situation (we'd been standing beside the car) we got back into the car and waited. It must have been a good hour before I saw a juvenile appear just below the nest cavity. I can't be sure it was the one that had fallen but the odds are that it was.
We next went to my Site No.40 (where sightings are very occasional) and were delighted, for the first time, to see two adult birds here.
We really wanted to return to No.34 to observe the juveniles, and I'm so pleased that we did so because, whilst there, a juvenile appeared out on a limb at No.36 and was fed by an adult bird - a site where, recently, we'd feared that the Jackdaws had done the dastardly deed again! So, where we'd had such a disappointment in 2013 gave us our first juveniles of 2014 - BRILLIANT!!
On our way back home, in the low evening sunlight, an owl was still out at No.41, and not in the tangle of branches that it usually is.
|Little Owl - my Site No.41|
My LO site No.44 is one of the most reliable that I have, and it's very near a road so we shoot from the car. We usually call by here on the outward journey and the light is always behind the birds. We don't call on the return journey to minimise disturbance (although there are cars and people passing by all the time). As there'd been no sign of the owls on the outward, we decided on a late return visit - and were surprised to find that, at this time of year, the sun gets round to a better position just before it dips below the horizon. I got my first ever images of a LO here in sun!
|Little Owl - my Site No.44|
It was a pretty good tally for the day, with 12 Little Owls (3 of which were juveniles) being seen over 7 different sites.
On Sunday 22nd I had a morning visit to my local patch. I bumped into the farmer as I arrived and he told me that later he'd be releasing some cattle into the field that I intended to pass through. They'd be a herd of cows with young calves - and a bull! This is not a good combination! To give me a head start he unlocked a gate for me so that I could get to my destination more quickly. Unfortunately I got distracted at the cattle's drinking pond and started taking photos of damselflies - I'd never seen Large Red Damselfly here before.
|Large Red Damselfly - my local patch|
Realising that time was marching on I quickly continued and drew a blank at my LO site No.20. As I got back to the stile into the cattle field the cattle came thundering into it. As my only alternative was roughly a four mile (6 km) deviation I decided to risk it. I was a bit worried at first when they continued towards me but I stood my ground waving my arms and they stopped about 10 metres from me and then turned tail!
On my way back I took some photos of a model flying machine - it's good practice for flight shots. I stopped to talk to 'the pilot' and had my second narrow escape of the day when one of the other 'pilots' with an extremely fast model with about a two metre wingspan suddenly found his controls locked out and the plane missed my face (so I'm told) by about 6 inches (15 cm)! I was told, in no uncertain terms, how lucky my escape had been!
My walk continued, and I photographed the female of a family of Whitethroat, a Brown Hare, and an evil-looking fly which I believe to be a Scorpion Fly.
|Whitethroat (female) - my local patch|
|Brown Hare - my local patch|
|Scorpion Fly? - my local patch|
Although I observed four Little Owl sites that morning, no owls were seen. My luck, or lack of it, continued that evening when I sat in my hide at another site hoping to see owls, particularly juveniles, but to no avail. Seven hours were spent that day looking for owls and not a single one seen. It doesn't always work out as one hopes!
This has been a long post as I'm catching up, following my report on my Scottish trip. I promise to try and make the next post somewhat shorter!
Thank you for dropping by.