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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

March and April Little Owls - 2017

Occasionally I find myself on the receiving end of a gentle prod, usually from my good friend David, encouraging me to feature an owl or two. I've not written much about the owls lately, so here goes!

March, 2017

The number of sightings of Little Owl for March (19) were slightly up on last year (17), but the number of sites these sightings ranged over was well down from 9 sites last year to just 5 this year. I won't go through all my sightings but just speak of a few days that resulted in some photos - of variable quality!

Saturday 4th March

The Little Owls were busy at my LO Site No.02 not long after I arrived just before dusk. First the male arrived on the remains of the roof of the barn.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male) - my Site No.02
Eleven minutes later the female showed from inside the roof, and then also perched up on the roof timbers.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (female) - my Site No.02
As it was getting too dark for photography, I set off homeward, spotting a Barn Owl on my way home. I just about managed a record shot.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)  - near Ashby de la Zouch
Friday 10th March

A trip out mid-morning until early evening resulted in the sighting of five owls, although it wasn't totally an owl-based excursion. It was very dull and rather misty, and I nearly didn't go out at all!

At my LO Site No.34, both birds were visible - just!

Little Owls (Athene noctua) (male + female) - my Site No.34
Having spent some time by Eyebrook Reservoir, I made a rash decision to visit a place around 60 miles (100 km) away that I'd been told was a sure fire place for some unusual Little Owl photos. I'll not go into any details, but I didn't get the photos I'd hoped for and this was the best that I could manage! 

Little Owls (Athene noctua)
My numbered Little Owl sites are all ones that are relatively local to me, or on routes that I regularly travel. That last one does not fit the bill so has not been included in the monthly tally that I mentioned. I expect, however, that I shall return there sometime, as it has potential.

Sunday 12th March

An evening visit to my LO Site No.02 had the male owl emerging at 17h53.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male) - my Site No.02
It wasn't until 18h26 that the female joined him. They copulated almost immediately.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male + female) - my Site No.02
Thursday 16th March

This day I had an afternoon out with pal John. Pairs of Little Owls were seen at two sites, although we didn't realise that we'd seen two at Site No.37 until we looked at our images after getting home that evening! My excuse is that photographic conditions were difficult, trying to shoot through numerous intervening twigs that were constantly moving about in the wind, and so I was struggling to find the bird through the lens and achieve focus. Furthermore, we have only ever seen a lone bird here, so were not expecting there to be a second bird.  In fact, I'd commented to John as we left the site that it would be great if we had a pair here!!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male + female) - my Site No.37
Thursday 30th March

I'd had a break from the owls as I had been away in Devon, where I'd not seen any owls at all. This was a few days after my return when John and I were on Osprey duty at Rutland Water. The afternoon resulted in me seeing four Little Owls (one of which was at my Site No.02, on my way to John's place) and one Barn Owl. The most exciting find was an owl by my old Site No.21, where I last saw an owl in July 2013! Sadly, the only owl images I obtained that day were of a sleeping owl at LO Site No.02.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male) - my Site No.02
April, 2017

April 2016 had been my worst month ever for Little Owl sightings, with only 3 sightings over 3 sites (i.e. single birds at each site). Happily, April 2017 was a distinct improvement on this, although not great, with 13 sightings over 5 sites. The events of 8th and 12th April have featured previously on this blog, so I will not cover them here.

I'll just give a few notes from a couple of dates which resulted  in some images.

Thursday 20th April

This was an afternoon and early evening out with John. It resulted in me seeing 5 LOs over 4 sites, with two of the owls being on my way home from John's house. The exciting event, although no photos resulted, was seeing an owl at LO Site No.47, where I'd last seen an owl in August 2016.

There was good news at my LO Site No.41, where the nest tree had come down earlier in the year. The owls are still around, and we suspect that they are living in a hollow part of the fallen trunk of the tree.  I managed some photos of one of the owls in the failing light.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
I only photographed one of the owls at Site No.02 on my way home from John's. The second owl was in a really dark corner and not findable through the camera lens.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male) - my Site No.02
Monday 24 April

A quick trip out in the afternoon on this day resulted in disappointment at my LO Site No.17, where the roof of the building that was home to the owls was found to have suffered serious damage, with no prospect of the owners trying to repair it. Enquiries resulted in me being told that the owls had not been seen for a while. I suspect that they have gone.

I did, however, see a Little Owl at my Site No.03, and another at No.02. Here's one from No.03.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.03
I've had a few sightings of Barn Owl over the past couple of months, but mainly fleeting glimpses in the distance. I've not seen a Tawny Owl for ages, so must try to put that right. This last winter, I really missed having sessions with Short-eared Owls, and have made arrangements to ensure that this is rectified - albeit in the distant future. I've just arranged a week in a remote thatched blackhouse on the island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

As usual, I'm not sure what my next post will be - possibly about my first encounters in 2017 with damselflies.

Thank you for dropping by.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Anne. I hope that all is well with you - - Richard

  2. Always lovely to see your Little Owl posts, I hope they have a good breeding season this year, would love to have them down here in the South, Morden Bog would be ideal, plenty of Oak trees and there is farm land, plenty of food I would think. I realise nesting holes could be a problem if there are no holes anywhere for them to nest.

    1. Thank you, Lin - my fingers are forever crossed for the welfare of these delightful birds. It does seem that there is a dearth of Little Owls in Dorset, with Portland (where you have already had sightings) being the main (only?) location.

      Witth my best wishes - - - Richard

  3. Wow any room in the car boot for the trip to the Outer Hebrides, sounds great.
    Cracking owl images Richard. I fear my Barn Owl sitings have been similar

    1. It's not the room in the car boot I'm worried about, Doug, but the space for a third person in the bed. I'm not sure that Lindsay would appreciate it!

      Thanks for your kind words - - Richard

  4. I am glad to see this "re-dedication" to these owls, Richard! Your record for this species over the years is truly remarkable and should be the subject of a self-published book one day. I cannot think of anyone in all my birding circles over the years who has had this single-minded devotion to a species. I suspect that John should receive a little of the credit too. I hope to be reading about Little Owls and viewing your often superb pictures for many years to come. The whole ornithological community owes you a tremendous vote of thanks. Bravo!

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, David, which I don't feel at all worthy of. In reality, my contribution is a very minor one. Whilst I am a Little Owl enthusiast, and my knowledge on the subject of these birds is probably a bit more than that of the average birder, I don't consider myself to be as actively dedicated to this species (particularly in the matter of furthering their welfare - by provision of nest boxes, for example) as many other people are. If I was a younger person, with more stamina, the situation might be different. As it stands, I feel that the best I can do is to spread the word via my talks (and occasionally through this blog), and to submit the data.

      My love to you both - - - Richard

  5. The Little Owl has put you under it's spells, fantastic photography Richard.

    1. It certainly has - thank you, Bob!

  6. Hi Richard and another wonderful post of our delightful little pals. The last but one image against the darkening sky is my favourite. See you soon, John

    1. Thank you, John. I hope all is well at your end so we can have our afternoon out tomorrow. Best wishes - - - Richard

  7. Great to see that the Little Owls are doing well,they certainly brighten up a dull day,superb captures Richard.
    They safe and well.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, John. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a season in which the Little Owls bounce back towards the position that the population was in just a few years ago.

      My best wishes to you and Sue - - Richard

  8. Hello Richard,
    I really enjoy your LO's posts, I hope you will spot more nesting sites but maybe they are more numerous than you'd think, well hidden into forest areas....
    As you say, we grow older by the years and full dedication to a species is an enormous job.
    Keep up the good work of observing and recording, it is - and will - be very useful for ornitho people.
    Keep well, warm regards to both of you and enjoy your weekend :)

    1. Sorry to be so late replying, Noushka - I've been busy preparing a new talk (which will include dragons and damsels).

      Thank you for your kind words, which are much appreciated.

      I hope you have a wonderful week ahead of you. Take good care - - - Richard

  9. I am delighted that David gave you a prod :-)
    Love the photos of the Little Owl but somehow the Barn Owl is still my favourite. I have seen both here but never managed a photo. The latter has flown so close to me leaving the neighbour's barn that its feathers actually just touched my cheek, a magical experience.
    Keep well and have a good weekend, Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane. I'm rather glad that David's there to keep an eye on me. ;D

      Sorry I'm so late in replying. I've been busy putting a talk together.

      There's nothing like a Barn Owl brushiing one's cheek as it passes - I too am lucky enough to have experienced this in similar circumstances.

      Have a great week With my best wishes - - Richard

  10. Hello Richard, You did again a great job and I am glad David gave you a push to make this great blog. Have to read your other blogs so for now thank you.

    1. Thank you, Roos, for your kind words. I've not replied before now as my head has been elsewhere on developing a talk.

      I'm now off to reply to your other recent comments on some of my earlier posts!

      With my best wishes - - - Richard

  11. Hello Richard ,
    As always a super fun with you to look
    Great pictures
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Frank.

      With best wishes - - Richard

  12. Hi Richard,
    I totally smell when I see these beautiful little owls ♥♥
    I can not get enough of it either. Great. You've been able to make a fantastic series. I also see a barn owl and this is hard to photograph. I enjoyed these beautiful owls.

    Best regards, Helma

    1. Hi Helma - I suspect that something got lost in the translation in your first sentence!

      Thank you for dropping by. With my best wishes - - - Richard

  13. Hi. Thanks for your visit to my blog. Your photos are really great.

    best regards Matti

    1. Thank you, Matti. Best wishes - - - Richard


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