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Monday, 1 December 2014

Seeing Double!! - on 20th November, 2014

It's only been five years since my passion for Little Owls first started. I keep detailed records of my Little Owl sightings, and it will probably come as no surprise to you to hear that 2013 was a record year for me for the total number of Little Owl sightings - 223 in the year. OK, to people like my good friend, Paul Riddle, this probably seems like a rather low number, only averaging out at just over four sightings per week.

What did surprise me, however, was a realisation early in November that I was set to double that number in 2014. Thus it was that I set off for an afternoon's owling with my pal, Titus on 20th November with 442 sightings under my belt - only 4 more required to double 2013's total. 

By the time I'd reached Titus's place I was only 3 short, with a sighting of a single bird on my local patch.

The next sighting was at my LO Site No.46 when an owl was seen in what is affectionately known as 'the bum hole'!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.46
Twelve minutes later we were looking at a LO at my Site No.41.


Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
Just round the corner, we found a collection of Corvids.


Rook (Corvus frugilegus) - near my LO Site No.48
With the Rooks were numerous Jackdaws, one of which was adorning the head of a sheep.

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) - near my LO Site No.48
The next Little Owl sighting was at my Site No. 23 where an owl was making one of its rare appearances, on its favoured RSJ. If I'd realised it at the time, I'd probably have tried for a photo, as this was the point at which I'd 'seen double'.

Nor did I take any photos when we saw a bird at my Site No.34!

We did, however, find an owl at Site No.43 where we've started to see birds again after a period of absence. Here's a 'record shot'.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.43
Further down the road, at my Site No.42, an owl was out on a barn door.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.42
Although we were standing on a busy road, 65 metres away, the owl quickly ducked back into the barn. It was then I noticed the second owl up in the nest tree. These owls are usually very nervous so I did not expect any luck when I decided to try a nonchalant stealthy approach. I fared far better than expected, although the owl did fly the moment my eyes were averted to check my camera settings.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.42
OK, so this image will not win any prizes, but this is probably the second to best shot I've got at this site!

From here we went on to pay a quick visit to Rutland Water. The Slavonian Grebe that was being seen in the area was only just visible, and I didn't manage any shots. We did have some amusement with the large 'raft' of Coots that had formed in North Arm. It was quite a spectacle when they all did a noisy short scud across the surface of the water.


Coot (Fulica atra) - Rutland Water - north arm
Heading homeward as darkness was falling, we picked up yet another Little Owl at my Site No.48.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.48
So we finished the afternoon with me seeing nine Little Owls, topping 'the double' by a further five.

I felt quite smug about this until I reflected on the possible reasons for it, and realised what the answer was - most of the year I'd been revisiting established sites on a relatively set route. Not withstanding disasters, I'd been bound to see more owls. What I'd done too little of was the time-consuming occupation of prospecting for new sites. Even more worrying is that, because of the lack of this effort, I've probably lost more sites than I've gained in 2014. It's time I got off my backside and put some work into finding more sites - a process I started last week, with a positive result!

I'll take this opportunity to apologise to my fellow bloggers if I've neglected you somewhat lately. As well as getting some household projects under way, I've been very busy putting together a talk on Little Owls for a local Naturalist Club. This is now done, and my talk will be delivered on Friday evening.

Thank you for dropping by, and don't let the commercial aspects of the run-up to Christmas grind you down (emotionally or financially)!

28 comments:

  1. I hate the Christmas grind!!! All of it. None of it is good. Stunning photos today....your Rook and Jackdaw pics are wonderful. Thought of you when we went to visit our Burrowing Owl site. They're still there together doing well. It always good to keep on the sites you know of........little by little. I think you've done an awesome job keeping track of the ones you know about. Thanks for always watching over them.

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    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Chris. One day I hope to see Burrowing Owls in the USA. I'd like to be able to compare them with our Little Owls.

      If Christmas starts getting to you, just go out doors into the wild and let nature do its work!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  2. Fabulous photos Richard, they are just amazing. Congratulations on topping your number of Little owls in 2014 and it is not finished yet :-) Have a great week Diane

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    1. Thank you, Diane. I've already added a few to the list - but I am in no danger of triple vision!

      I hope your week is very special. Best wishes - - - - Richard

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  3. That's a healthy number of owls well done on documenting them all. Great Rook images I find their bills fascinating to look at on monitor, you had some fantastic light on them. My favourite has to be the LO on the stable/barn door

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    1. Thank you, Doug. I too tend to get drawn to the bare face of the Rook round its bill. I was pleased to get that light on the Rooks which showed some colour in the 'black'.

      My New Year's Resolution will probably be to try and get more images of owls that show them in their environment, rather than close protraits, and also to try for some flight shots - I've far less flight shots of Little Owl than I have of Barn Owl!!!!

      I hope that your week is going well - - - Richard

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  4. It's an amazing record, Richard. It must give you an enormous amount of satisfaction to have amassed these records over the five years you have been observing these owls. I can well understood that there is a certain amount of seeing the same individuals over again, but surely there is a great deal of value in this, as you are monitoring the status of the breeding sites you know about. It's a level of dedication I find quite remarkable.Good luck with your quest to locate new sites. By this time next month Miriam and I will be able to say, "See you later this year!" Yippee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. I'm sure that the continued recording of sites does have some value, David, and my records get submitted to The County Recorder. I do, however, now feel the need to be a little more enterprising.

      I too am getting excited about your visit next year. I'm going to try and sort a couple of things out in the next week or so.

      Best wishes to you both - - - - Richard

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  5. That's fantastic news Richard,great to hear numbers are on the increase and to record and monitor there numbers,that's true dedication.
    A big well done,love your Rook shots very attractive bird.
    John.

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    1. Thank you, John. The increased number of sightings tends to hide the fact that there have been too many breeding disappointments this year - too many pairs have lost one of the pair, and too many pairs have disappeared completely. It might not be a coincidence that the worst areas seem to be where there is a higher Buzzard and Red Kite population.

      Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

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  6. Your Little Owl images never fail to be 'naturals' Richard. Also the Crow on the sheep's head is brilliant, and the shot of the Coots scudding across the water is excellent. Finally....your comment re 'the commercial aspects of Christmas getting one down' is very apt.

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

      My very best wishes - - - Richard

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  7. Congratulations and good luck with the talk.

    I must set myself a project like this instead of just bumbling around.

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    1. Thank you Adrian. With your artistic talent, technical skills, and entertaining take on life, I think you'd deliver a brilliant talk. You should do it! I'd certainly come to watch and listen if you were not too far away.

      With best wishes - - - Richard

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  8. Hahaha!!
    No ways I'd feel neglected by you!
    You are such a great and faithful follower :)
    I just love your LO publications!
    Well, since you have figured out why you saw more of these cute birds in 2014, I guess you will be quite busy looking for more.. I truly wish you good luck, it would be wonderful to increase your list even more!
    Keep well Richard :)

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    1. Thank you, Noushka. I'll do my best!

      Take good care of yourselves - - Richard

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  9. I hope your talk goes well on Friday. I like the image of the Little Owl on the stable door. It is amazing that you find so many Little Owls!

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    1. Thank you, Linda. It'll be the first time I've talked in public for a couple of years, so I'm a little nervous.

      Some might say that the Little Owl numbers are a sign of a mis-spent retirement!

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  10. Richard, Wishing you succes Friday!
    As Always I enjoyed your captures. The Little owl on the barndoors is outstanding for me.

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    1. Thank you, Roos. Your comment, and the comments of others, mean that I'm getting more and more convinced that I need to concentrate more on images which show owls in their environment. It does, however, give me a small problem as I don't want to risk the owls being disturbed by too many people recognising locations and visiting them.

      My best wishes to you - - - - - Richard

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  11. NINE Little Owls in one afternoon! I am both impressed and quite jealous! What a fantastic day that would be for me! Very nice update on the LO status, Richard. The populations will always fluctuate and we poor humans will never find ALL of the birds in an area, but the work you have done, are doing and will do in the future cannot help but add important data to the bank of knowledge of this species. Very nice job, indeed!

    Great images of the Rooks as getting the exposure right with all that black plumage is not easy!

    You will do well tomorrow evening and wish I could drop by to learn all about Athene noctua.

    Christmas is my favorite time of year and could never drag me down. Gini wouldn't let it! LOL!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Wally. My talk seems to have been well received, but I did overrun the timeslot a bit! I held forth for about 110 minutes! Will now work on a cut-down version!

      Best wishes to you and Gini - - - - Richard

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  12. Hi Richard!
    Thanks for your comment :)
    About Xmas, you got that right... I hate this time of year!!
    Keep well and warm............. it looks like dull and dark weather is upon us for quite some time... Not good for pics!

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    1. In some ways, Noushka, I'm glad that the weather here is poor at the moment. I've got so much 'stuff' to do that I'd have been frustrated at not being able to get out with the camera and my new lens!

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  13. Well done on making 2014 a record year for your Little Owl sightings Richard, circa 450 is an outstanding achievement, keep it up!!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, Paul.

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  14. We will be away for a couple of weeks but just wanted to wish you a very Happy Christmas and all the best in the New Year. Diane

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    1. Thank you Diane, and my very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to you too!

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