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Monday, 22 December 2014

A Celebration - on 22nd December, 2014

The real trigger to my interest in Little Owls started late in 2009 when I was seeing some wonderful images of Little Owls taken by someone (who has now become a good friend!) in my home county of Leicestershire. Having contacted this person, I was very privileged to be taken out on two mornings to learn the field craft associated with Little Owls (my eternal thanks to you - you know who you are!). Three days after my second session, on 20th December, 2009, I found my first Little Owl site. Sadly, the owl disappeared from here early in 2010.

However, it was on 22nd December (only two day after finding Site No.01, and exactly 5 years ago today) that, on my way back to my car after a fruitless walk on the footpaths round what has now become my local patch, that I spotted a Little Owl on top of the chimney stack of a derelict building - beside where I'd parked my car!

This is, therefore, a celebration of five years of my Little Owl Site No.02 - a site which is still going strong today!

- and here is an image taken of that first sighting.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) at my Site No.02 - on 22nd December, 2009
I soon established that there was a pair of owls here, although it was a while before I managed an image of them together.

Little Owls at my Site No.02 - on 16th February, 2010
This next image was taken that same day.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 16th February, 2010
My excitement at the prospect of this pair mating and producing young was dashed when, on 27th May, I found the remains of a Little Owl on the footpath that runs past the building that is their home. I understand that, because the feathers have been plucked rather than severed this is indicative of predation by a bird of prey, rather than something like a fox, and as a Sparrowhawk had been regularly staking out the barn I reckon this was the culprit.

Little Owl feathers from my Site No.02 - on 27th May, 2010
Sightings here became somewhat more sparse that year, as one might expect(!), but the remaining owl did hang on.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 16th November, 2010
The snows in December brought a couple of photo opportunities.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 3rd December, 2010
This next image is not from the same frame as the header that is current when this post is published. The snow flakes are genuine, caused by a gust of wind! This is possibly my favourite of all my Little Owl images.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 7th December, 2010
The following image is never to be repeated as this area was bricked up by the farmer shortly after this was taken.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 21st December, 2010
Sightings continued to be quite sparse during the first half of 2011 and then, to my utter confusion, I saw an adult with two fledged juveniles at the barn on 7th July, 2011! Here are some images from that day.



Little Owls (juvenile) at my Site No.02 - on 7th July, 2011
I ended up the day with the distinct impression (but no 'proof') that there were three juveniles here, and that I'd possibly seen both adults too.

As usual, when juveniles are starting to 'spread their wings' an adult is never far away. This one was keeping an eye open from a low roof, probably whilst trying to get some rest!

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 13th July, 2011
The juveniles got more and more adventurous and then, all too soon for me, they were gone!

Little Owl (juvenile) at my Site No.02 - on 22nd July, 2011
The winter that year brought more photo opportunities, including the first one below (from Christmas Eve, almost exactly three years ago) that features on my 'business cards'.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 24th December, 2011
Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 6th January, 2012
Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 26th February, 2012
Both owls were being seen during the first half of 2012, and the first juvenile was spotted on 11th July. At least three juveniles fledged from the site, but I managed very few photos of them that year. Here's a couple.

Little Owl (juvenile) at my Site No.02 - on 22nd July, 2012
Little Owl (juvenile) at my Site No.02 - on 4th August, 2012
Little Owls are none too fond of wind and rain, but there are exceptions to this. One day in August, 2012 I was watching an owl from the comfort of my car when, suddenly, the skies blackened and the rain came down like stair rods. To my amazement, the owl did not duck back into the shelter of its home, but spread its wings and took a shower. This was the first time (but not the last) that I'd seen this behaviour.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 16th August, 2012
Opportunities to take photos of the pair of owls together are few and far between at this site. On most sites, where the nest is a hole in a tree, it's not unusual to see a pair together in, or near, the nest hole entrance. My Site No.02 is a very large space by comparison (which means the juveniles can fledge without setting foot outside) and with several exit points available. So, although it's not unusual to see a pair, they are usually apart. Such opportunities are, therefore, not to be missed!

Little Owls at my Site No.02 - on 6th September, 2012
I didn't take many more photos at this site that year, but here's one I rather like.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 22nd September, 2012
For one week only each year, the foliage on the Russian Vine which covers much of the east side of the roof of the barn turns bright red - and then, suddenly, the leaves are all gone. I've tried a few times to capture this with an owl in the frame, but not succeeded in achieving this to my satisfaction. This is my best effort so far.


Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 6th October, 2012
The owls survived the winter snow that year.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 21st January, 2013
On 10th July, two juveniles were spotted. The next day I set up my hide to try and get some photos, but the only juvenile seen stayed distant, and an adult bird kept a watchful eye on the hide.

Little Owl (juvenile) at my Site No.02 - on 11th July, 2013
Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 11th July, 2013
Another session in the hide two days later gave me a closer image of a juvenile here. If it had been three inches to the right I'd have got its feet in!

Little Owl (juvenile) at my Site No.02 - on 13th July, 2013
I only have evidence of two juveniles fledging from the site in 2013.

This is another of my favourite images from this site.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 3rd August, 2013
An attempt, in October that year, to capture an owl in the crimson foliage failed completely, but I did get my first 'Little Owl in flight' image (sort of!).

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 17th October, 2013
Here's a couple of images from later in that year.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 22nd November, 2013
Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 26th November, 2013
The year 2014 started with promise. The owls were being seen and seemed settled enough.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 26th February, 2014
Little Owls at my Site No.02 - on 25th March, 2014
I was conscious of the fact that most of my images from this site feature the decaying building that is the owls' home. I'm always happy, therefore, when I find an owl away from the building.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 21st April, 2014
Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 29th April, 2014
Around May time, I stopped seeing the pair of birds, and assumed that the female was already sitting on eggs after a very mild winter. However, after 19th May, sightings became very sparse, with only three sightings in June and just one sighting in July (on 6th). To put this into context, I probably pass, and check on, this site around three times a week. There had been a roof fall on the barn, and I wonder if one of the birds (and perhaps eggs or young) had fallen victim to this event. No young fledged from the site in 2014.

By the middle of August I'd come to the conclusion that I'd probably lost the birds at this site, but then on 14th there was an owl on a pole beside the barn, and it seemed very active during the short time that I was there.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 14th August, 2014
Thankfully, I continued to to see a bird here, although not as frequently as I would hope to.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 18th September, 2014
You can probably understand my excitement when, on 22nd October, there were two Little Owls present on the barn, and they've been seen together since then too. Possibly the remaining owl attracted a 2014 juvenile. More recently, sightings have increased again and I feel very encouraged for the future

I consider myself extremely lucky that this site has been continuous for five years. There's virtually no chance that either of the current occupants are 'original', as the average life span of a Little Owl is only around three years. I am, however, keeping my fingers crossed for a mild winter and renewed breeding at the site in 2015.

Here's another image from the site - not the best, but my most recent.

Little Owl at my Site No.02 - on 11th December, 2014
Recently I've become more aware that I'd like to concentrate a little more on capturing owls in their environment and not being so occupied with trying to get close portraits. I also need to capture more action, including flight shots. The environment aspect with Site No.02 might be a little one-dimensional, but maybe there will be opportunities for action images. Virtually all my photography is opportunistic, but I may have to set up a project in 2015!

Sorry if this post has been a little self-indulgent on my part. I hope, however, that you've found some interest in the story, and enjoyed some of the images.

Thank you for dropping by, and for all your visits to, and comments on, my blog in 2014.

It just remains for me to wish you a Very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year

31 comments:

  1. I can't wait to see what delights to put on show in 2015,I know one thing for sure you've had an amazing year.
    Sue and I ,wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a cracking New Year.
    John.

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    1. Thank you, John. My very best wishes to you and Sue too.

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  2. Wonderful reportage, Richard. Congratulations on five years in the company of Little Owls. I can think of no finer companions and I wish you many more years of success with them. I am sure they consider you a friend.

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    1. Thank you, David, for your very kind words of encouragement.

      I hope that you and Miriam have a wonderful Christmas, and I hope that I can contribute to your enjoyment of 2015!!

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  3. Some truly amazing images from the site, it's fascinating to see how things have progressed. I would have died happy to take that image of the owl with the snow but also like the image with it taking a shower in the rain.
    Have a great xmas and new year Richard

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    1. Thank you, Doug, for your visits and kind words in 2014. My best wishes to you for Christmas and the New Year - maybe we can meet up sometime?

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  4. a Happy Christmas and good owling for 2015.

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    1. Thank you, Adrian. Have a great one yourself!

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  5. Yes you have been self-indulgent in this post Richard, and why not, your entitled to be! It was fascinating to read all about the birds at your No 2 site, an excellent read accompanied by some outstanding images. Keep it up and looking forward to the next chapter and maybe some more young birds in 2015?

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    1. Thank you, Paul, for all your inspiration in 2014, and for all the good work you do for the owls.

      Best wishes to you and the family for Christmas and the New Year.

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    2. Just been catching up.
      Gr8 stuff
      Love the Rain bathing image - never seen this.
      Cheers SteveE

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    3. Thank you, Stevie. For some reason your comment is attached to Paul's comment! I saw rain bathing on one other occasion, but in almost identical circumstances - totally different site, but on a roof, warm day in summer, sudden rain shower, and same spread-wing behaviour.

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  6. I count 38 images here Richard, my favourite is No 19 with wings spread out on the roof, you may never see this ever again, closely followed by No 34 because it typifies the view of a Little Owl you would encounter only by a search for this bird in natural habitat.

    A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

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    1. Oh dear, Pete. I've overdone it again, haven't I!

      I confess to it being your influence that has caused me to realise that I need to pay more attention to showing these birds in their environment.

      Incidentally, do you remember using one of my photos of a Little Owl perched on a protrusion on the side of a trunk of a large oak tree? I'm sad to report that this oak tree snapped off about three metres from the ground in the summer - I've not managed to find the owls since then.

      Have a wonderful Christmas, Pete, and keep up the good work.

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  7. HI Richard You have out done yourself on this post today as it has a wealth of stunning Owl shots. it is wonderful how you follow all the going on's of the various sites. I love you header andthank you for your.greetings. My Christmas card will be posted on Christmas Day.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Margaret. My best wishes to you and the family for a wonderful Christmas on the Isle of Wight.

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  8. Richard it is fantastic to read all abouth this site No.02 of the Little Owl. A spacific picture I can not single out. Love them all.
    Hope that 2015 will be an as fruitful Owl year with much more captures to enjoy.
    Wishing you and your loved ones a mary Christmas and a happy New Year.

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    1. Dank je wel, Roos! My very best wishes to you too!

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  9. Fabulous shooting Richard, they get so close. Have a beautiful holidays.

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    1. Thank you, Bob. My very best wishes to you for Christmas and 2015.

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  10. Hi Richard! Fantastic pictures of owls!!!!!
    The magic of Christmas never ends and its greatest of gifts are family and friends…
    Best Wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!!










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    1. Thank you for your visits in 2014. My best wishes to you both for 2015.

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  11. Nothing self-indulgent about this post Richard, I am really happy to read about this resumé of your LO sightings, what a story!
    A great choice of pics, I was delighted with the one where it is flat on the roof taking a shower!! Wonderful photo!
    Keep well and enjoy those last 2014 days!

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    1. Hi Noushka. Sorry to take so long to reply to your kind comments. I've been purposely staying away from my PC so that I can spend more time with my wife over Christmas.

      I wish you and Patrick a happy and healthy 2015, and hope that it is filled with wildlife!

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  12. Richard, this is a really wonderful homage to a very special species. Throughout this post, as I read your descriptions of each superb image, one fact kept hitting me in the face - your love for these feathered life forms! THAT is what birding - and life - is all about.

    Gini and I hope your Christmas was Happy and we look forward to the continuing story of Pegler Birding in the coming year!

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    1. Sorry to take so long to reply, Wally. I decided that, over Christmas, I needed to spend more quality time with my wife, and leave the PC alone for a change. In consequence, we had a very pleasant Christmas, thank you.

      I hope that you and Gini had a great time, and that 2015 brings you both health and happiness. I'm sure that your blog posts will continue to give me enjoyment, amusement, and inspiration thoughout the coming year.

      My greatest thanks for your visits and kind comments in 2014 - - - Richard

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  13. what a wonderful celebration of the Little Owl. Happy 2015 Richard

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    1. Thank you, Dave. My very best wishes for 2015 to you and yours.

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  14. Hi Richard, A little late seeing this post, Happy New Year to you and your wife. I love the pictures of the LOs in the snow.

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  15. If you're looking for your comment and my reply to it, Stevie, it's above where, for some reason, it's attached to a comment by Paul Riddle!

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I'm pleased to report that the anonymous spam problem seems to be solvable without using word verification. I'm now just using the 'Registered Users - includes OpenID' option in Blogger settings, and I'm not getting any spam - touch wood! I've also not received any contact from people saying that they are no longer able to make comments.