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Saturday, 9 December 2017

A Three-Owl Day - on 3rd December, 2017

Up until around a couple of years ago, a three-owl day when out owling in these parts would have been considered to be below par -  the norm was usually somewhere between four and seven Little Owls per session. Things then began to take a dive in the spring of 2016. There was a small recovery in the number of sightings early in 2017, but then the situation declined dramatically after May this year, with only two or three Little Owl sightings a month (none in September!). I was, therefore, excited to sight three Little Owls over three different sites on 3rd December. However, to achieve this, I did have to break away from my recent 'close to home' initiative.

The first sighting was at my LO Site No.37. At first I couldn't see an owl here, but then, by moving position, managed to spot one hiding in the branches. I then managed to find a better, but not great, position. It had, of course, already seen me!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.37
By changing position again, I managed a less obstructed view. It would have been nice to have had a clear view, but this was better than nothing.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.37
I didn't stay out for long and, having had a quick picnic lunch, I headed homeward again. I was delighted to see a Little Owl once more by my Site No.41. The nest tree came down earlier in the year and the owls disappeared a few weeks afterwards, having spent some time living in the fallen hollow trunk of their tree. I'd then gone from the end of May until mid-November without seeing an owl here.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
My final sighting was after dark (so no photos) at my LO Site No.02. 

OK, so three owls is nothing to write home about, but it was a wonderful day as far as I was concerned!

I'm not sure what my next post will be about. With the recent cold weather, and heavy snow forecast for tomorrow, I'm not sure what the photographic opportunities will be, but the garden birds are on the increase with 20 species dropping in so far today. However, Mrs P. is away for six days from tomorrow, so I might even spread my wings a little!

Thank you for dropping by.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Bits and Bobs - November, 2017

For a number of reasons, it has been over three weeks since my last blog post, so I thought I'd better take a grip on myself and come up with something before questions are asked!

A few weeks ago, I stated that I intended for my birding activities to change, with a return to a focus on owls, and an endeavour to stay closer to home. In some respects, I have managed to adhere to this intention. My excursions have been rather more frequent, but shorter in duration, and resulted in virtually no photography! They have not, however, been totally fruitless.


Many of my shorter excursions have been in the late afternoon specifically to try and locate owls as dusk falls. I've had a few sightings of Barn Owl over two different sites, and a couple of sightings of Tawny Owl at one site. I have not had too much success so far with Little Owls as no new sites have been found, although I have had around a dozen sightings over three of my original sites. I've also recently found what was one of my more reliable owl nest trees to be totally destroyed - it's in a location that is out of bounds in the summer. The only photos arising from these sightings were from my old LO Site No.02. All but two of these sighting were in 'night time' situations. I have, therefore, little to show for my efforts. Here's a few shots to 'put you in the picture'.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.02
With luck, I may get some half decent owl shots in the not-too-distant future.

Other Excursions

All my birding has been relatively close to home. Hawfinch are in the county (and country) in unprecedented numbers, for reasons that I'm not aware of. There's one location that they have been reported from that I have now visited four times - so far without any luck. I have, however,  taken advantage of my time there to photograph some of the winter thrushes (my Fieldfare shots were awful, so don't appear here) that are in the area - not forgetting the Robin!

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - Battram
Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Battram

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) - Battram
I have been to Hicks Lodge a few times. So far, the most interesting sightings have been of thirteen Goosander, and a number of Snipe (not counted but around 10) that were doing their best to look inconspicuous in the evening light. Apart from a lone female, all the Goosander kept their distance.

Goosander (Mergus merganser) - Hicks Lodge
Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Hicks Lodge

Coot (Fulica atra) - Hicks Lodge

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Hicks Lodge
I also had an evening at Longmoor Lake in the hope of seeing owls. I was surprised by how few passerines I saw - I think that the tree plantation is now too dense. There were plenty of birds on the water, however, but nothing of great interest.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - Longmoor Lake
Our Garden

Sadly, the building work going on behind our back garden is keeping the more timid birds from visiting us during the week, but things tend to pick up a bit at the weekend when all is quiet on the building site. We have started to see a few winter visitors in the garden. I missed the first Brambling of the winter as I was in Derbyshire photographing Kingfisher, but Lindsay (my wife) tells me it was around for about an hour. Great-spotted Woodpecker (a male) - absent for most of the summer - has started showing reasonably frequently. We're now getting occasional visits from Goldcrest (no sensible photos yet), and we've had a few visits from Mistle Thrush (but our berries have now virtually all gone!). Here are a few garden bird images from November.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (male) - our garden

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - our garden

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) -our garden
Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - our garden
I hope that it is not another three-plus weeks before I manage to get enough time and material to share with you. 

Thank you for dropping by.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Back With The Kingfishers - Autumn, 2017

I really did think, when I published a Kingfisher post three weeks ago and said that I thought it would be "my last Kingfisher post, for this year at least", that that would be the case.

On 30th October, I visited the same Kingfisher location because it can be good for other interesting birds and unexpectedly found a Kingfisher in attendance. I couldn't resist a few more photos of Kingfisher as it was a reasonably bright day. Here are a few from that session.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (male) - Leicestershire
The main interest here during that session was, however, the Water Rail. Unfortunately, although this showed for a while, it remained well-tucked into the phragmites and I only managed a record shot which confirmed the bird by its bill and a small section of its back.

On 2nd November I returned in the hope of seeing the Water Rail, but it didn't show. It was a dull day and the Kingfisher showed again, so I took some more photos although the lack of light made photography difficult for most of the time.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (male) - Leicestershire
On 6th November, it was a relatively bright day, and in considering where I should go I settled for a place near home, but in Derbyshire rather than my own county of Leicestershire. The reason for choosing this place was that it can be good for 'water birds', but also good for passerines. I'd ruled out the Kingfisher location on the basis that I'd like to see something different.

Having parked my car and set off on foot, I found the sight of a Magpie perched on top of the head of a particularly hairy beast to be an amusing sight.

Magpie (Pica pica) - Derbyshire
Arriving at the first viewing platform, I found some distant ducks, geese, and grebes, but nothing to get me excited, until towards me flew - a Kingfisher!! It briefly alighted on a phragmites stem which didn't bear its weight, and instantly flew back up the channel and out of sight.

The next two platforms didn't reveal any more than the first, and I then ended up at the hide, which was still under construction when I last visited. I was greeted with the information that Kingfisher had been showing well and frequently!

The window seats were relatively full, so I sat at the back. When Kingfisher was first spotted in the far distance, I was kindly given access to a window and pointed at the bird. It was too far away and somewhat obscured for a worthwhile photo.

Later it came a little closer and I managed a shot that was still somewhat obscured.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (male) - Derbyshire
After a while, the lady who occupied the prime seat departed, and I moved into that position. I did not have to wait long before the Kingfisher came quite close, but it was behind vegetation. With patience it was possible to get a slightly clearer shot when the breeze moved the vegetation aside. It was a pity that a totally clear shot wasn't possible as the light by then was gorgeous!

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (male) - Derbyshire
It soon departed, but came back again a short while later to a place that was a little further away, but relatively unobstructed. Sadly this place was in shade.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (male) - Derbyshire
From this end of the hide I also had three very brief (about one second) views of a Water Rail as it flew across a 2 metre wide patch of water from one set of phragmites to another. I missed getting a shot each time.

The only other photos I took were of a very distant Common Snipe - not worth including here.

I gladly gave up my seat to newcomers to the hide, and set off back to see if I could find an owl - I did, but didn't get any photos as it was too dark and my car, in which I was sitting, was facing in the wrong direction anyway.

At this point in time I have absolutely no idea what my next blog post will feature.

Thank you for dropping by