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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Weather or Not - on 16th February, 2017

No, that's not a typo in the header. I'd not been out with John for our 'regular' Thursday afternoon for three weeks - partly due to the weather and partly due to severe toothache followed by an extraction. We'd pretty-much decided, therefore, that we'd go out on this Thursday (16th Feb.) no matter what the weather. We were relieved to find, the day before, that the forecast was not too bad.

On my way to pick up John (it was my turn to drive) I stopped at my Little Owl Site No.02. I've been seeing a pair here regularly of late, and I saw both on this occasion, although one bird only showed for a second or two. The sun was shining and I managed some shots of the male bird.


Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male) - my Site No.02
The skies clouded over soon after leaving John's place and by the time we found our first owl, at Site No.37, it was fairly dull. This was no bad thing as the views at this site are 'into the sun'.


Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.37
We stopped for our picnic lunch by my LO Site No.34, and one owl was seen, but I did not attempt any photography.

We then continued to Eyebrook Reservoir in the hope of getting some Kingfisher images. The water at the inflow was extremely muddy and we only had one glimpse of a Kingfisher (no photos) as it flashed down the inflow to the reservoir.

After a while here we gave up and headed round to the hide on the western side of the reservoir. There were plenty of birds out on the water, but all at a great distance. Not wanting to come away totally empty-handed, I took a few shots of a drake Goldeneye which was spending three times longer under water than it was on the surface.


Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) (male) - Eyebrook Reservoir
The light was failing rapidly and so we decided that it was time to head for home. As we left the hide we felt the first drops of rain. We were back in the car, and I was just about to pull away, when a Robin alighted on the hedge just in front of us. Never one to resist an obliging bird, I fired off a few frames.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Eyebrook Reservoir
It soon started to rain quite heavily and, as John wanted to be home by 17h00 we skipped a few of our normal stops, and only saw those owls seen on the outward journey.

I dropped John at his home at around 16.45 and, as Lindsay wasn't expecting me home until between 18h30 and 19h00, I called again at my LO Site No.02 and sat in my car and waited. I'd seen the Little Owls mating here on my previous two evening visits. The first owl (the female) showed at 17h00. This bird is quite distinctive in its appearance as it has a flattish head and bushy 'eyebrows'.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (female) - my Site No.02 at 17h00
The light was already failing quickly, but I was thankful that it was not sunny as the light would have been directly behind the bird, making matters even more difficult. She stayed in this spot for a few minutes before flying up to the top of the end wall.


Little Owl (Athene noctua) (female) - my Site No.02 at 17h04
It was nearly ten minutes later when I  heard an owl calling followed by the male bird appearing in the remains of the building. It was somewhat darker already.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male) - my Site No.02 at 17h13
Almost immediately he flew to the end wall, which had been vacated by the female.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male) - my Site No.02 at 17h13
The female then arrived at a point below the male.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (female + male) - my Site No.02 at 17h16
She was holding her wings low to indicate that she was ready. 

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (female) - my Site No.02 at 17h16
This didn't seem to work, so she flew up to join the male.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (female + male) - my Site No.02 at 17h18
They then mated, but my images were rubbish. There was rather a lot of noisy flying around after this and, eventually, the female returned to her previous perch and started calling again. She was joined by the male, and mating took place once more. By now it was quite dark, so please excuse the lack of quality in this last image taken at 500mm, ISO 2500, 1/8th second - handheld!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (female + male) - my Site No.02 at 17h36
They flew off again after this episode. I stayed for a little longer, but realised that, even if the owls had returned, I wouldn't have been able to see them - so I set off home.

It wasn't the afternoon I'd hoped it might be, but it was, nevertheless, most enjoyable.

Thank you for dropping by. I suspect that my next post might be on garden birds - unless something interesting happens in the interim!

26 comments:

  1. Excellent post Richard and a nice insight into the lives of these Owls backed up by some nice photos.

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    1. Thank you, Marc. The owls are an important part of me surviving the winter months!

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  2. Hey Richard! They are so small! Wonderful to see the photos of the robin. I hope you are feeling better! Greetings from here sleet in the middle;-)

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    1. Thank you Anne. Sorry to hear that you too have had dental problems, but pleased that the situation is getting better. My dental situation is improving too - just down to a low-key dull ache now.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  3. For ISO 2500 and 1/8 seconds freehand you still good pictures succeeded.
    Very nice series of the owls
    Greetings Frank

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    1. Thank you, Frank. These were the lucky shots. I threw away many that were extremely blurred and totally useless!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  4. I love the Little Owl, and, you shot them. Fantastic Richard.

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    1. Thank you, Bob. Your visits are always much appreciated.

      Take good care. Best wishes - - Richard

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  5. Hi Richard!
    Nice to see you've gone out again with John and managed these lovely pics of Lo's!
    I hope your tooth ake is over and just a souvenir...!
    The Goldeneye drake is magnificent, I have not seen the species yet.
    Warm hugs to you and Lindsey :)

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    1. Little Owls will always be a great love of mine, Noushka. They keep me sane during the winter months.

      Hopefully, one day you will visit UK and we can show you Goldeneye.

      I hope that all is well with you. My very best wishes - - - Richard

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  6. Hi Richard, we are really struggling this Winter with the light and you have done remarkably well for saying how poor the conditions were. It looks unfortunately similar for this week. See you soon. John

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    1. The weather forecast for tomorrow looks pretty grim, John. This has got to have been one of the worst photographic winters in memory, as far as Thursdays are concerned!

      Hopefully will see you tomorrow - but I'm not convinced!

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  7. Great to witness a bit of owl fornication, I guess they will all be at it soon.......

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    1. This is the only pair that I've seen at it so far this year, Paul. The female looks remarkably like one of yours of the type that I mentioned in my talk at the LROS meeting earlier in the month.

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  8. Hi Richard,
    I hope the toothache has now been resolved.
    You let beautiful pictures of these beautiful little owl.
    I really love this little owl and am glad so many beautiful pictures to see of him.
    The pictures of the goldeneye are photographed beautifully.
    I really sit enjoy these beautiful pictures. Thank you.

    Best regards, Helma

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Helma. The 'tooth' is almost better.

      Little Owls are delightful birds, and I get excited whenever I see one.

      I wish the Goldeneye would have come a little closer. They are a very handsome duck.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  9. Hello Richard, thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a kind comment. I didn't realize you had a blog too. Very happy to return the visit as I have thoroughly enjoyed these wonderful photos. Having been through the same as you with dental issues, I can fully sympathize what you have gone through, and continue to wish you speedy healing.

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    1. Hi, Denise. Sorry to hear that you too have had dental issues. We'll get there eventually!

      Delighted that you enjoyed the blog. I've just seen that John has done a post on his blog too, and suspect that there might be some overlap in content! I must get over there and have a look.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  10. Sorry not to have visited for a while Richard, but I have been away in Taiwan and Hong Kong. I will be returning home on
    Sunday. I have certainly had some fabulous birding here but not a single owl unfortunately. And I don't even have a dental story to share!

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    1. How unfortunate that you've not seen a single owl, David. I'm sure you'll get over the disappointment, and take consolation in some of the other species that you've seen! ;-}.

      Enjoy the rest of your stay, and have a safe journey home.

      My very best wishes to you both - - Richard

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  11. Is it normal for LO's to be mating this early? Hopefully a better year ahead for them.
    Great shots of the LO's

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    1. Yes, Doug. towards the end of February is quite usual for them to start copulating, although egg-laying tends to take place around mid-April. Maybe February's efforts are just for pleasure. Seriously though, it's at this time that they'll be checking out breeding sites if they have overwintered at a different location, and the bonding gets stronger.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  12. Hi Richard, nice to see the Little Owls are busy at it ;-) I hope you will be able to get some pictures of the babies from this pair :-)

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    1. Thank you, Linda. I'm hoping for a brood this year too - it's been a few years since there were young here. I just hope that the building that they are in survives Doris Day - the roof is half gone already, and I think the wind today could be disasterous for what is left.

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