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Friday 25 March 2011

Owling Update - and two new Little Owl Sites

Since my last owling post on 8th March, I've seen a few Little Owls, and also added two new LO sites to my list.

11th March

A visit to my local patch turned up both LOs at my Site No.12. I got an image of the first one in the barn, but the one on the outside of the barn emerged from between some bales in full flight, and I missed nailing the flight shot!

Little Owl - my Site No.12

Just down the road at my Site No.02 the female bird was in her favourite place on the barn.

Little Owl - my Site No.02

14th March

Acting on a tip-off, I added Little Owl Site No.18 to my list - near Oaks in Charnwood. I'd visited here the week before, and found nothing. Only a single bird was seen and that departed when I got to within 200 metres - so no images! I've been back three times since and not relocated the bird, but I did see a drake Mandarin on a more recent visit!

18th March

A week later, a trip out to buy bird seed for the garden birds had me making a small diversion to my LO Site No.15 near Croxall (Staffordshire). I was pleased to see that both birds were out. I think that I've only once managed to capture an image (and a very poor one at that) of two Little Owls in the same picture. As I set off to take some photos, I put up a Corn Bunting. It's more than two years since I've seen one in this area, so I was rather pleased to grab a record shot.

Corn Bunting

Both the LOs at this site seem to me to be painfully thin. I hope that they are OK

Little Owls - my Site No.15

Little Owl - my Site No.15

19th March

The following day I went on a very enjoyable Birdwalk round Thornton Reservoir organised by LROS (Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society). No photos, except of a Mink and the local 'Barnacle Goose' resulted, but I was tipped off about a Little Owl site not far away. After the walk I headed off there, taking three other people with me. I'm pleased to say that I was the first to spot the LO (It'd have been embarrassing if someone else had spotted it first!). In fact, I'm 80% sure that I could see a second bird too. This is now on my list as my Site No.19. Unfortunately, no sensible images are likely to arise as the tree is right in the middle of a sown  field, rather a long way from public access. The images below are very heavily cropped.

Little Owl - my Site No.19

I'd taken sandwiches and so the rest of the day was spent owling. I didn't have much luck, but I couldn't resist returning to one of my more recent sites - my LO Site No.17. I set up my hide on top of a farm trailer, and didn't have to wait too long before one of the birds emerged. It spent a lot of time checking me out from various angles and locations, and then the second bird emerged and did the same, favouring different vantage points. This time I managed to sort out which bird was which, by the patterns on the heads. The only problem I had was that I did not want to get out of my hide whilst the birds were in view in case I spooked them. It was two hours before I got away!

Little Owl (A) - my Site No.17

 Little Owl (B) - my Site No.17

Little Owl (A) - my Site No.17

25th March

After another attempt at finding an owl at my LO Site No.18, I headed off to site No.19 to see if any better images were possible. They weren't, but at least I was able to confirm that there were two LOs here. You probably won't be able to spot them in the first heavily cropped image below. With the aid of the lines which point at the shoulders of each bird in the second extremely heavily cropped image, you might be able to find them. I don't think that I'd have spotted them if I hadn't been sure that this tree was occupied by owls!

 Little Owls - my Site No.19

Most of the rest of the day was spent in trying to find new owl sites. None were found but I did get several good pointers and some promising locations. I decided to round off the day with yet another attempt to see a LO at my Site No.05 near Snarestone. I've many a time seen a single owl here (never a pair), but not since October last year. I stopped my car and peered through the hedge at the distant nest tree - bingo, it was there. I went back to the car to get my camera and returned to find the bird had gone! Fortunately I managed to relocate it - sitting beside a second bird! Distance, messy branches in the way on the tree, and shooting through a hawthorn hedge half a metre in front of my nose (which fogged the image), meant a pretty poor record shot resulted, but by greatly increasing the contrast (to reduce the fog) I have at least got a record of the pair. 

Little Owls - my Site No.05

Not a great day photographically, but to see two pairs of Little Owls was a real excitement for me.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Redpoll Retrospective

The Redpoll that were visiting us on a daily basis since December last year were last seen on Sunday 20th March. I know that is only two days ago but as, up until then, it seemed that if I looked out of the window they were there more often than they weren't , I can't help feeling that they have gone. I'd got extremely fond of them while they were around, and was starting to recognise individual birds. There was quite a lot of variation in plumage, with one male bird being extremely pale and with a beautiful red breast. We had up to six of them at one point. Below are some of the images that I've taken since they last featured in one of my posts. OK - so they're not the best of images, but they're all shot through glass.

7th March

8th March

11th March

14th March

17th March

18th March

As this is the first time that we have had Redpoll, other than a brief visit by two in the Spring of 2010, I can't see that this is likely to happen again - a winter to be cherished!!

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Back to Owls - on 6th & 7th March, 2011

Having been laid up with 'man flu' since the day after my owling marathon of 24th February, and not feeling like going out until this week - it would have been pointless anyway as my coughing and wheezing has been frightening humans, so the birds would have fled before I got within a mile - I eventually had a short excursion on Sunday, and popped out to my latest Little Owl site - No.17. When I found, and photographed, the birds in February, I was sitting in my car. This time I took my hide and waited - but not for very long. One bird came out and flew straight to the roof of a nearby outbuilding. However, it didn't stay long, and as the light was difficult I didn't get very good results.

Little Owl - my Site No. 17

After only a few minutes the second bird emerged and also landed on this roof, but didn't even wait long enough for me to swing the camera round to it. After that, the birds appeared a few times, on posts and in a small tree, and I lost track of which bird was which!

Little Owl (2nd bird - I think!?) - my Site No.17

Little Owl (not sure which one!) - my Site No.17

I didn't stay out too long on this first excursion as I'd promised to be back at tea time. However, encouraged by not feeling too bad after the outing, and by a good weather forecast for the following day (Monday), I decided a day out was in order.

The objective of the day was to find a new owl site. To cut a long story short, I didn't succeed in this, but I did find several sites with good potential with pellet evidence, or eyewitness confirmation, to support my suspicions. These will be followed up over the next few weeks. However, as my travels took me past the access point for my LO Site No.08 on the Staunton Harold estate, I thought I'd have a walk to see if I could improve on the images from my February sightings here. Although I only found one bird, I was lucky that it was the confiding one. The following images were taken on foot without disturbing the bird from its perch. I even found myself talking to the bird - must be going nuts! I swear that the bird is looking at me with sympathy in the second image!!!

Little Owl - my Site No.08

I had intended to stay out until around 7 p.m., but by 5 p.m. I realised that I was feeling somewhat ropey so headed for home - quite pleased with the day. I met some very friendly and helpful people in my travels - one lady, who declared that she had a passion for Barn Owls, asked me if I knew what the most common owl was. I said that I believed that the most numerous was the Tawny Owl. She said "no - it's the Teat". It wasn't until I saw the twinkle in her eye that the penny dropped - Teat Owl - Tea-towel.