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Sunday, 28 June 2015

One Of The Better Days! - on 25th June, 2015

Thursday brought round my regular afternoon/evening session with Titus. I had no idea that it would end up so satisfying on several counts!

On my way to Titus's place I called in at my Little Owl Site No.02. I'd featured this site in a post at the back end of last year. Sadly, on my return from Scotland at the end of May, I found that approximately 50% of the roof of the barn that was the owls' home had collapsed, and the owls were nowhere to be found. Over the ensuing weeks, I'd continued to look - more in hope than expectation. So you can image my joy when I eventually located an owl at this site on this day.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.02
Having set off with Titus, no owl was seen at my LO Site No.47, but at No.44 an owl was soon spotted in the deep shade of the oak tree that is its home.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.44
I think Titus was just about to drive off when I spotted a juvenile LO poking its head up - our first juvenile LO sighting of the year!! This was particularly exciting as we had high hopes for this site in 2014, but then the owls disappeared for six months.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile) - my Site No.44
Less than an hour later we had further excitement when I spotted a Little Owl, sitting in a hole in a tree which we've checked on several occasions as being a likely looking location. It definitely looked at home here - so new LO Site No.51!!! However, this is not going to be an easy one to monitor.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my new Site No.51
We were heading for Rutland Water, but just before we reached Langham we spotted a pair of Red Kite fairly close. Titus managed to find somewhere to stop the car and one of the birds obliged. Sadly the skies were cloudy at this point.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - near Langham
We started on the Egleton side of Rutland Water with our main objective being to try and find some dragonflies. I was keen to get more practice with the semi-macro ability of the Sigma 50-500. So far it has exceeded my expectations, the shortcoming being mainly due to my own inexperience. 

The first dragonfly spotted was a Hairy Dragonfly, which didn't play ball, but settled high in a tree where I couldn't get an unobstructed shot. No macro here then! The two dark lines on the side of the thorax of this species (shown in the second image) are a diagnostic feature of this species.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) (male) - Rutland Egleton
A little further on, a Four-spotted Chaser also kept its distance. I'd taken better images of these a couple of weeks previously, but those will wait until (possibly?) a later post.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (female) - Rutland Egleton
The macro came into play briefly with a quick attempt at a mating pair of Common Blue Damselfly, but I only managed two frames before they were gone.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male & female) - Rutland Egleton
I really got to use the macro facility when I found some Common Emerald Damselfly. I don't think that the lens performed too badly? Strangely, we only saw females. This species is one of a group of damselflies known as 'spreadwings' because of the way they hold their wings when settled. However, in the third image this particular individual was holding its wings close to its body. Perhaps this was because it was eating?

Common Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Rutland Egleton
The last dragonfly spotted was my first Ruddy Darter of the year. This too stayed distant, there being a large area of vicious nettles between me and it.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (female) - Rutland Egleton
I also took some photos of a couple of butterflies. I'm quite pleased with the detail in the Large Skipper (a very small butterfly) image. I'm disappointed that the Brimstone was so badly damaged.

Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata) (male) - Rutland Egleton
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) - Rutland Egleton
We wanted to fit in a visit to the Lyndon side of Rutland Water too, so left the Egleton side a little before 18h00. At the Lyndon side, we set off towards Waderscrape Hide, stopping to photograph a Meadow Brown on the way.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) (female?) - Rutland Lyndon
Titus continued to Shallow Water Hide, whilst I dropped off at Waderscrape Hide. It was relatively quiet there for a while, but I did take a few images of some Reed Bunting. I think that the first two images are probably of a juvenile, whilst the third (which I include because I've never noticed a Reed Bunting raise its crown like that) is an adult female.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (juvenile?) - Rutland Lyndon
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - Rutland Lyndon
Excitement struck again that day, when a Water Vole came out of the reeds and made directly for a plant in the water, which it them promptly nipped off at water level and took back into the reeds. This was repeated three times and, fortunately, Titus came back during the session in time to witness and photograph the event. I was sitting in totally the wrong place, so most of my photographic attempts were foiled by intervening vegetation. Here's a few 'record shots'.

Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius) - Rutland Lyndon
With as few owls to check on during our return journey, Titus and I left at around 19h30, stopping to take a photo of a Whitethroat on a wire above the track as we walked back to the car.

Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) (female) - Rutland Lyndon
We stopped for half our picnic at a point where we can observe Little Owl Sites Nos.34 & 36. Nothing was seen at first and then I spotted a LO slap bang halfway between the two sites. It was hunting from a tree, and then disappearing into the hedge. We suspect that it was feeding a fledged juvenile, but we never did work out which of the two sites it belonged to!

En route to our stop for the second half of our picnic, I grabbed some quick images of a Kestrel on a power pole.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (female) - near Lowesby
The farmers at LO Site No.41 had been telling us how one of the LOs had been scolding their cat when it came down the road a couple of nights previously. When we arrived at the site, we sat and had the rest of our picnic whilst watching, in the gathering gloom, both adult owls hunting for food and taking it back to the nest hole. At one point, the farm cat came strolling down the road and one of the owls flew down to within a metre of the road and shouted at the cat as it went past. It then continued shouting at the cat and dive-bombed it, and eventually settled on a telegraph pole just above us as the cat walked past us.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
We might not have seen any rarities that day, but the day had been interesting, amusing, and exciting - certainly one of the better days!

Thank you for dropping by.


  1. Great work, Richard. I think you have proven to all and sundry that you have rapidly become a maestro of the macro. The dragonfly shots are quite stunning. And how exciting it is to have yet another Little Owl site and to discover your first juvenile of the year. The Red Kite flight shots are pretty impressive too. Oh the pleasures that await me!!

    1. Thank you, David. I'll do my best to keep everything in good order for your visit!

      See you soon - - - - Richard

  2. This is another wonderful day out. I really enjoyed your journey.

    1. Thank you, Adrian, for your kind words.

  3. Great to see a Little Owl at site2 but even better to see a juvenile. I liked the Kite images you managed to get some light on it despite the grey skies, in fact I think the grey gives a decent contrast. I know I'd put up with a bit of vegetation to see a Water Vole.
    I'm thinking of getting my old Sigma 50-500mm down from the article it I read your post I never considered it's macro ability, did you use a tripod as my old lens never had image stabilisation.

    1. You're probably right about the light for the Kite images, Doug. I did manage a couple of frames against a blue sky, and they weren't as good.

      I'm not sure about digging out the old Sigma 50-500, Doug. Mine's the recent model which has image stabilisation, and is greatly superior to my old Sigma 150-500. If I wind the length back, I can even focus at around 3 inches! No, I didn't use a tripod - the only time I ever use one is if I'm in my portable hide.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  4. Hello Richard, these are some great observations with the new location of the Little Owl. You made some wonderful photos of the Red Kite, such a stunning bird. Love also the dragonflies. The Whitetroat so lovely. And the Kestrel so beautyful. Love that Reed Bunting with his raised crown. It sure was a succesful day.

    1. Thank you, Roos. It certainly was a very rewarding day for me.

      My best wishes - - - - Richard

  5. WOW! Richard whaat an amazing post. the lighting was wonderful in these shots. Marvellous flight shots of the Kite, briliant images of Dragonflies etc and seeing a Water Vole was very exciting. I have never seen one in fact I do not think they are in N.Ireland at all!

    1. Thank you, Margaret, for your kind words. I'm sorry to hear that you don't see Water Vole over there. They're not common here, but I believe that they are making a comeback.

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

  6. Great set of images Richard, we certainly had a wonderful afternoon out, what does this week hold for us, Otters maybe?

    1. Yeah, the forcast says it's going to be 'otter!

      See you soon!

  7. Wonderful images Richard, I would love to see a Water Vole, never seen one.

    1. We don't see that many here either, Linda, so they are always exciting to see.

      Have a great week - - - - Richard

  8. Nice post Richard and well done on a few scores, LO site No 51, get in there!! Red-kites, great to watch and even better when some quality images are also obtained!! Water Voles, BRILLIANT to see even though they are still very much a rarity nowadays. Now go and beat that day if you can?

    1. Thank you, Paul. Even if I beat that day it will fall miles short of your last day on North Uist! I might have to change my Scottish venue for next year!

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

  9. What a great set of photos, love them all but the vole is quite special as I have never seen one. Brilliant photography all round, I am impressed. Have a good week Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane. My week has mainly been taken up, so far, with making an arbour for my wife (for her birthday). I could have done without that task this week as it's been so hot!

      Best wishes - - - - - Richard

  10. Congrats on the sightings! I know I know. You see a roof collapsed and you think...oh gods! Glad everyone is okay and just moved somewhere nearby. That's always stressful. I did some owl followup here as well. I have two Barn Owl sites and everyone is there thankfully. Sadly, the nesting Barn Owls in one of my sites lost two of their fledglings:( There is still one with an adult. So I'm hopeful that this one does better. I also followed up on several other owls. They have done SUPER well. I have pics in a couple weeks. That Kite is a stunner! Also very cool birds. Hope you're having a great week.

    1. You're doing well with your owls, Chris, but sorry to hear of the loss of the two Barn Owl fledglings. I look forward to seeing your pics.

      The Red Kite has one of the most graceful flights of any bird - they're a delight to watch.

      It's really hot here, and very humid, at the moment. Today was the hottest July day on record - mind you, it's probably nothing by your standards - 32 deg C = 90 deg F!

      Best wishes to you and Micheal - - - - - Richard

  11. Wow, what a delight, Richard this is a very impressive post,not only brilliant flight captures,but superb images of Damselfly,not an easy thing to capture with a Macro Lens,but you've nailed it with an 50-500 lens.
    A big well done.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, John. I'm extremely impressed by the Sigma 50-500. It's proving to be a really useful all-round lens, and I'm enjoying not having to spend the summer with two cameras strung round my neck!

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

  12. WOW, you don't post very often but when you do it is very impressive!!
    All these observations and pics in one day!
    LO's, Red kite flying, Hairy dragon, but the Lestes sponsa photos are wonderfully sharp, a great lens and great skills :)
    Congrats, Richard, keep me posted about our friends' visit....

    1. I know that I'm not posting to my blog as often as I want to, but kind words like this, Noushka, make me want to try harder. I'll try and get another post up and running today! Thank you!

      I'm very much looking forward to our friends visit, picking them up from the airport in just 9 days (almost to the minute) time from now! I sense some great days ahead!


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