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Sunday, 3 August 2014

A Fine Three Hours - on 26th July, 2014

I'm currently a bit busy with some domestic projects but, last Saturday, a spell of very warm weather (30 deg C and very humid) had me putting together a picnic tea and setting off to view a couple of my more remote Little Owl sites, where I'd not visited for some time.

At my LO site No.17 I'm not sure whether I had very brief and distant glimpses of two owls or one owl twice, but the conditions were such that I'm not even sure whether I saw juvenile or adult!

Moving on to my LO site No.02, I saw one adult bird just peeking over the top at me. I'd never have spotted it if I didn't know where to look. This one, taken at a range of about 30 metres with the light almost directly behind, has been cropped so that you can see the bird.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.03
In another tree, I found a second adult Little Owl. This was even more difficult to photograph, being in deep shade with the sun directly behind it, and about 40 metres away.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.03
Given the lack of breeze, I thought to explore a length of the Ashby Canal that I'd not visited before. It was gone 17:00 when I arrived and the sun was already fairly low in the sky. The hoped-for Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) were in sight but all on the far bank of the canal!

I headed off along the towpath and was beginning to think this might be a fruitless visit when I started spotting the occasional damselfly. I realised that these were of a species that I was not familiar with - mainly because of the very obvious white legs of the males. It took reference to the book on my return home to find that these were White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) - a species that is not uncommon (although we're near the north of its range in UK), but that I'd not encountered before. Other than the Demoiselles, these were the only Odonata seen during my walk!

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (female) - near Shenton

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male - with prey) - near Shenton
I ended my walk at a point where the canal became tree-lined, and headed back. Suddenly I saw a familiar sight - a Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius)! These had been a regular sighting whilst on duty at Rutland Water earlier in the summer, but rarely seen of late.

Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius) - near Shenton
As I returned, a female Banded Demoiselle flew past and settled in front of me on my side of the canal! I managed what I believe to be some of my best images yet of this species. Several times I found myself nearly overbalancing into the canal whilst attempting photography!

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (female) - near Shenton
Sadly, I didn't find an obliging male of this species! I did, however, see a second Water Vole. It was much closer than the previous one, but it dived before I could position my camera.

It was now time for my picnic so I got back into my car and returned to my LO site No.17, parking in a place where I could sit and eat, and watch in the hope of seeing some Little Owls. I didn't have to wait long until a juvenile appeared and watched me through a clutter of fencing and other junk - unfortunately a feature of this location which is difficult to avoid in images, particularly at the range of about 35 metres that I was working at.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile No.1) - my Site No.17
Shortly after the juvenile appeared, an adult showed up too and kept a very watchful eye on my position.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (adult) - my Site No.17
With parent on guard, the juvenile started to become more confident, and came out into the open.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile No.1) - my Site No.17
With little warning the juvenile, which I had been watching intently, flew off over the rise into the adjacent field. I turned my attention back to the tall post that adult had been on, to see if it had followed the juvenile - and had a bit of a surprise! It had been replaced by a juvenile male and adult female Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)! This would have been a wonderful photographic opportunity, had I been closer!

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) (juvenile male + adult female) - my LO Site No.17
There was then a bit of a lull in the action, so I finished off my picnic. It was rather hot sitting in the car, and the sweat was dripping off me. Eventually the juvenile and adult returned however, and the wait was worth it. Note that the adult still had an eye on my position - a very careful parent!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (adult + juvenile No.1) - my Site No.17
The juvenile owl was relaxed enough that it decided to take a dust bath. Photography was even harder in this situation, due to the heat haze coming off the dust. Here's the best of a bad bunch.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile No.1) - my Site No.17
I heard an owl calling stage left, and soon a second juvenile appeared. This one then went through its own rigmarole of checking me out - Little Owls are really fun to watch when they do this!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile No.2) - my Site No.17
Juvenile No.1 was starting to look a bit tired after its adventures.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile No.1) - my Site No.17
However, it did manage to fly up to join its sibling - the only time they got close enough to get both in the frame.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juveniles) - my Site No.17
Soon, however, juvenile No.2 went off on his adventures, and left No.1 to gaze around wondering where it had gone.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile No.1) - my Site No.17
Now there was only one owl around, and this was my signal to go. It was a relief to start the engine and cool off a bit!

Encouraged by the relaxed nature of the owls on this occasion, I returned the next day - this time with my hide and tripod so that I could get closer. The results from that session will probably be the subject of a future post.

Thank you for dropping by. A hint to the probable subject of my next post is in the header that is current as I publish this one.


  1. Gee Richard!
    This post is an adventure in itself! LOL!
    Next time you'll have one perched on your shoulder and.... no one to take the pic, unless Titus is around!!
    Jokes aside (sorry can't help having fun, life's too short to remain serious!), I know the frustration of having the subject too far, but you really did well considering...
    Having two juveniles in one picture is fantastic.
    You are really doing a wonderful job at being their godfather!
    I always enjoy discovering your latest sightings.
    Enjoy tour weekend!

    1. Thank you, Noushka. This is a wonderful time of year to see all sorts of wildlife - if only the weather would be more cooperative! I hope your weekend is going well! Best wishes - Richard

  2. Liking the action from site no.17, great images. The two green woodpeckers on the post are my favourites a fantastic photo opportunity. It's also good to see the water vole, they seem to be bouncing back around your way.

    1. Thank you, Doug. Whilst I was excited to see the two woodpeckers like this, I'm really frustrated at not being closer to them. I don't suppose I'll ever see that happen again!

      Those Water Voles in the canal are, to the best of my knowledge, there 'naturally'. The ones at Rutland Water are there because of a reintroduction programme. I was amused when I was told that the ones that we were seeing in front of the Osprey monitoring hide were there because, after they had introduced the voles to planned locations, they found that they'd got three left over! It was then decided that it would be interesting to put them in the reedbed in front of Waderscrape Hide. It seems that both sexes were represented within the three, as we were seeing juveniles earlier in the year!

  3. Looks like you had a brilliant three hours Richard,love the White-legged Damselflyand Banded Demoiselle,amazing captures.
    My favourites are the Green woodpeckers,a dream moment for anyone.

    1. Thank you, John. Still frustrated that I wasn't nearer to the action with the Green Woodpeckers! It certainly made my day, however.

  4. Wow Richard, what a fine life you live. In fact what a fine life we all live who are immersed in the ever changing excitement of nature in all its glorious forms. How easy it is for us to become ecstatic about simple things, much of which fails even to attract the slightest attention from so many people. Does it get any better than the two Green Woodpeckers? Yes it does.......again, and again and again. I can't wait for the next encounter!

    1. I often reflect, David, on just how flat nature would seem if you could just call it up at will. It's the unpredictability, and particularly the surprises, that make it so exciting. Yes, there are times when ticking the boxes in an unfamiliar environment also gives a great thrill but, for me anyway, little can beat the totally unexpected.

      Will be sending you an e-mail later in the week. Best regards to you both - - - Richard

  5. Love the pictures of the Little Owl, they do look comical :-)

    1. Thank you, Linda. I could sit and watch those juveniles all day!


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