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Monday 29 March 2010

Re-vamped Blog Layout

Having had several unsuccessful owling expeditions - not even finding owls on any of my existing sites (although I haven't tried them all recently), I thought that I'd spent a little time trying to improve the appearance of my blog. Then I thought that I'd better post something to 'try it out'. I've had one of the 'Stealth' chair-hides since the beginning of the year, and it's had some use, but never in my garden - so yesterday I had an hour in it and took a few shots. Nothing very exciting happened, but it was good to see the Wren again after a long absence - must try to do better with Wren images! I know that many birders are very anti-squirrel, but I happen to quite like them. A useful tip - if you are fed up with them nicking all your nuts and burying them, just give the nuts a light mincing in a food processor. They then just eat what they can, and go, leaving plenty for the birds.

House Sparrow



Grey Squirrel


This fellow wasn't in our garden, but lives in the road outside the front of the house. He spends quite a lot of time sitting on cars and isn't worried by moving cars - but he is wary of humans and dogs.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Yellowhammers (et al) on Cannock Chase - 19th March, 2010

I have bemoaned the fact that all my recent visits to Cannock Chase have resulted in my arriving in dull weather. Thursday (when I dropped in with my wife on our way back from a day out in Shropshire) was no exception. When Friday dawned bright and clear I thought that I'd take my chance! I arrived at the feeding station to find the best spots occupied by people who had parked their cars side-on, so for an hour I was a bit distant from the best action (when the Redpolls arrived, for example). However, I did get half an hour in a prime position before the skies greyed over. In this time I concentrated on my main objective - the Yellowhammers. However, there was plenty of other action too, with Bullfinch, Willow Tit and Jay providing some variety. On this day, the water was proving to be as much an attraction for the birds as the food - hence the several rather unnatural shots at the water bowl. Must return and try my hand at some better shots of these last birds - and who knows; I might even be lucky enough to get something a little better than a record shot of Redpoll!

Yellowhammer (males)

Willow Tit

Great Tit

Lesser Redpoll (female)

Lesser Redpoll (male)

Long-tailed Tit

Bullfinch (female)

Bullfinch (male)

Having decided that I'd had the best of the light, I set off back homewards. I'd not gone half a mile before a Jay flew across in front of me and settled in a tree on my left - had to twist myself into an awkward angle to shoot through the passenger window!


Wednesday 17 March 2010

Only A Few Hares - on 16th March, 2010

Had to go to Quorn to pick up some gig tickets in the afternoon, so decided to have a look round locally for potential owl sites. I soon spotted a likely looking tree for Little Owls down the drive to a farm near Seagrave. I met the farmer's wife, part way down the drive, who readily gave permission for me to have a look round. It had been two weeks since they had seen Little Owls in the tree that I had spotted, but they had been on holiday in the interim, so weren't up-to-date. Unfortunately they'd had to severely prune the tree in question, and on examination it looked very recently dismembered, and I suspect that there was now nowhere for the LOs to to be, although the trunk was covered with ivy. They mentioned that Barn Owl was often seen, and possibly nesting in a disused barn that they pointed out, also Tawny were sometimes heard locally. Most interesting however, was that six Long-eared Owls had been there for a while - probably four years ago. Having looked for signs of LO in the tree, I decided to take a wander round the farm. Little was seen except a very distant flock of Lapwing, a somewhat closer flock of probably more than five hundred Fieldfare, and a few Hares (plus one rabbit). I sat it out until after just after dark - but no owls were seen or heard, and as I was getting rather cold, I called it a day!

Brown Hare

Monday 15 March 2010

A New Little Owl Site - on 15th March, 2010

The day started bright and sunny, so I set off to visit a farm where I have been hoping to find Little Owls (they have been there in the past). Sunny it might have been, but when I arrived there was cold wind blowing (even howling at times). Not the weather for LOs, I thought, so I decided to give up on owls for the day and go to Cannock Chase to do a bit of 'general birding'. As I left the farm, I came across the farmer, who invited me into his home, and proudly showed me a Barn Owl on his tele - live from a camera on the farm! I spent a further hour in conversation with the farmer, and his son (who was the instigator of the owl box and camera), before setting off for Cannock. I hadn't got far before the skies greyed over. Time for another rethink (every time I go to Cannock Chase it's grey weather). I stopped to eat my sandwiches near Sibson, overlooking a tree which I noted as being worthy of future investigation - and lo and behold there was a Little Owl. Permission to investigate was kindly given by the farmer, and so a few distant shots were possible. Next time I will go in brighter weather, and set up my hide. This is my ninth LO site.

Friday 12 March 2010

Little Owls at Staunton Harold, on 11th March, 2010

In the afternoon I had an appointment with the Staunton Harold Estate Manager, so that I could be given a pass to explore the estate for owls. I arrived a bit early, so went to check on my most recently found Little Owl site. I couldn't find a bird in the tree that I originally saw one in, but as I headed off to keep my appointment, I saw a LO in a nearby tree. I hadn't got the camera with me, so no shots.

After my meeting, armed with my new permit and my camera, I set off back to my site - but the owl was not where I'd left it - time to explore! Having negotiated the electric fence, as I walked round the tree nearest the tree that I'd earlier spotted the owl in, I saw her (I currently believe it was a female LO) and she saw me - just time to bang off a quick shot before she departed hurredly.

Little Owl (believed to be female)

I decided to leave well alone, and have a wander round some more of my newly found patch, identifying a few more places to investigate, before returning about half an hour later to the owl site - there was the owl in the tree that I'd first seen it in that afternoon. This time I was able to take many photos without disturbing the bird, just by moving around very slowly. For much of the time it was not even looking at me.

I thought that this seeking-out of Little Owls was increasing my powers of observation, but now I'm not so sure. It was only when I got home and started processing the 150 or so images that I'd taken that I realised that the bird was holding a vole!! I'd noticed that its beak seemed orange rather than the usual yellow, but hadn't associated that with the possibility that it was bloody!! I now also feel quite certain, working on patterns on the head, that this was a different bird to the one that had flown earlier, and that this was a male (judged by body shape).

Little Owl (believed to be male)

On the way back to my car, I stopped to take a few shots of some of the birds on the lake. Unfortunately, the Little Grebe was too distant for any useable shots.

Pochard (drake)

Pochard (female)


Sunday 7 March 2010

A New Little Owl Site on 7th March, 2010

As it was beautifully sunny, and I had started to think that it would be a good idea, for my records, to take some pics of my little owl sites themselves, rather than the birds at the sites, I set off on this mission. My first port of call was my site No.1 at Staunton Harold (no bird seen). I could not resist stopping to look at a tree that I'd identified as a likely one in a different part of the estate, and yes, I'd got my eighth LO site! I can't get near to it until I get permission to go through the electric fence - something that I intend to try and do tomorrow. On the way into the estate I took a few shots of the pair of Shelduck that have been resident this winter. I visited three other LO sites, but only one had a bird visible.

Little Owl at my site No.8

Shelduck (drake on left, female on right)