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