Notes on Use of This Blog

1. I have a policy that I always reply to comments on my blog, even if it's just to say thank you.

2. Please don't submit comments that include your own web address. For obvious reasons, they will not be published.

3. I'm now on Twitter - @RichardPegler1

Sunday 28 August 2011

Owls Old and New - w/e 28th August, 2011

I've not posted any owl images for a while. The truth is, I haven't taken as many photos of owls as I usally do, although August is alrerady a record month for me for Little Owl sightings. However, below are a few images that I have managed since my last owl posting.

My LO Site No.02

This is a site on my 'local patch'. Unfortunately it seems that a number of people have picked up on this site, mainly through this blog, and the disturbance to the owls by some of the less sensitive photographers seems to have put them through a rather nervous patch. I have resolved to continue to be vague about locations and try to avoid, in future, publishing images which give locations away too easily. I'm pleased to say that the birds are settling down again, and I do request that, if you do seek out this site, you treat the birds with respect.

Little Owl - my Site No.02

Having gone through a period of seeing up to three juveniles at this site, I am now (with one recent exception) only seeing a single adult bird - or at least that's what I believe. I've commented on this before on these pages, wondering whether I'm actually seeing two very similar-looking birds. Bearing in mind that Little Owls are quite capable of changing their appearance by changing their posture, I'd be interested to hear whether you think that all the images from this posting from this site, taken over the period of a week, are of the same bird.

Little Owl - my Site No.02
My LO Site No.06

A bit further from home than my local patch is my LO Site No.06. I'd not seen any owls here for a while, so I was pleased to find the more confiding of the pair out when I visited on 23rd August. This is, to my mind, the prettiest of all the Little Owls that I monitor. With those big bushy 'eyebrows'. it doesn't seem to have that same angry or accusing look that many of them do.

Little Owl - my Site No.06
My Lo Site No. 12

Back to my local patch for another of my Little Owl sites. Here, I have not been seeing the adult birds since the farmer installed a pigeon scarer, but up to three juveniles have been showing regularly. I have still not managed the image that I want to get, and a recent setting up of my hide for three days coincided with the farmer needing to do some work which disturbed the birds. These are the best that I've managed so far.

Little Owl (juvenile) - my Site No.12
My LO Site No.23

This site is on my route to Rutland Water, where I am one of the large team  of volunteers on the Osprey Project. I only found this site a month ago, and I have few opportunities to vist it as it is the most distant of my LO sites. The appearance of the owl here (only seen one so far) makes me wonder if this is a recently dispersed juvenile that has taken up residence. I still do not have the images I would like - this is my latest one.

Little Owl - my Site No.23
My NEW LO Site No.24

Whilst manning the Leicestershire and Rutland Onithological Society stand at Birdfair last weekend, I picked up a few hints and tips on possible Little Owl sites. So far, one of them, not far from my home, has yielded a result - my LO Site No.24 to add to the list of sites that I monitor! On my first visit, I just found a juvenile out in the open. I hope to get some better images in the next week or so.

Little Owl (juvenile) - my NEW Site No.24
During the course of my owling travels I do, of course, occasionally find other wildlife that I like to take photos of. I see a lot of Brown Hares, particularly as it's getting dark, but rarely manage an image of one. This is one I did catch close to my Little Owl site No.23

Brown Hare - near my LO Site No.23

Recently, the number of dragonflies/damselflies that I've been seeing has increased dramatically. I really don't have much success with my birding lens on these, and find it almost impossible to achieve focus on the smaller damselflies. Here are some of my recent efforts (none of them 'rare'!).

Emerald Damselfly (male) - near my LO Site No.08

Ruddy Darter (male) - neasr my LO Site No.08

Migrant Hawker - near Belton
If you compare this image with that on my previous posting concerning a Migrant Hawker in my garden, you will see what I mean about the difference in markings on segment two of the body.

Common Darter (female) - Rutland Water

Common Darter (male) - Rutland Water

I rather like the articitic effect of this image of a Small Copper - pity that it has a damaged wing!

Small Copper - Rutland Water
Cormorants - Rutland Water

Finally - please can anyone help with the identification of the rather sinister-looking bug, found on the walk back from one of my owl sites? To my mind it looks like some sort of wasp.

unidentified bug - near my LO Site No.06

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Migrant Hawker - another 'garden tick' - on 22nd August, 2011

Sitting in the garden, enjoying a refreshing mug of Earl Grey, I was suddenly brought up with a start by the arrival of a dragonfly which obligingly settled on a Viburnum bush in the garden. It first struck me that this was very small and a little drab as far as Hawkers go. I was hesitant in my identification at first as the markings on the second segment seem a little different to most photos of Migrant Hawkers that I've seen (blue band broader, and pale off-white band closer to the blue band), also, I didn't get a chance to look at the side of the thorax. However, I'm now convinced (please let me know if I'm wrong), so I'm calling it another garden 'lifer'.

Migrant Hawker - our garden
This is my second garden dragonfly 'lifetime tick' in less than six weeks. I had intended to shut down my koi pond permanently as soon as I can find alternative homes for the fish, but I'm beginning to question this decision!

Monday 22 August 2011

The Partridge Family - on 18th August, 2011

No, not that Partridge Family! On Thursday I was set up in my hide at one of my Little Owl sites (waiting for the shot that never happened - but that's another story!), when a noise from stage-left drew my attention to a Red-legged Partridge, who was shepherding her young family of six chicks. They were in the next paddock to me, but then they came into my paddock under the gate. When only about 10 metres away from me the adult bird started to roll in the dust and her youngsters started to follow suite.

After just a few seconds, the adult bird got a bit carried away with her dust bath, and dirt was flying everywhere. The youngsters rapidly retired to a safe distance.

By the time she'd finished, she'd got a good coating of soil, as you can see below.

She then gathered up her youngsters and disappeared off to my right. About half an hour later I heard a familiar sound behind me and suddenly a chick ran past my hide, closely followed by another chick and an adult. I suspect that this might have been another set of birds, as I only saw the two chicks.

Red-legged Partridge - near Twycross

I wouldn't normally show an image of the back of a bird's head, but I thought that it nicely showed the birds ear tufts - something that I don't usually notice when looking at these birds. I see that the youngsters are already showing ear tufts too!

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Never Give Up !! - 13th and 15th August, 2011

Some months ago, when giving an update on my Little Owl sites on this blog, I reported that I'd not seen owls at my Site No.03 since March, 2010 and that I thought that I'd possibly found the site shortly after the nest tree had suffered a catastrophe (50% of it on the ground), and that the owls had probably moved on. I've been checking it out from time to time when I've been in the area (it's a bit off the beaten track for me), with no luck. On Saturday I parked opposite the tree and sat quietly for 10 minutes and then noticed a small movement - was that an owl behind the leaves? Yes, it was! I quickly sought access permission from the owner of the garden (thought I'd better as it was over a year ago that permission had previously been granted), but didn't manage to get a photographic bead on the bird before it was gone. OK, so the following two images (obtained from the roadside before entering the garden - and straight into the evening sun) are rubbish, but they mean a lot to me!

Little Owl - my Site No.03
Two days later I was over in Staffordshire getting some garden bird food. On my way back I called in at my LO Site No.15, where I've not seen an owl on my previous three visits, and where access is extremely limited due to the nest tree being in the middle of a cultivated field. I soon located an owl just peering over the top of a dense covering of leaves.

Little Owl - my Site No.15
By moving along the road a bit, I got a better view - then I spotted a second bird in the depths of the tree. It was well camouflaged when I took the first image, but then the sun came out and lit it up a bit.

Little Owl (no.1) - my Site No.15

Little Owl (no.2) - my Site No.15

Whilst trying to find a better vantage point I noticed, through a gap in the crop, yet another owl on the ground near the base of the nest tree. This was almost impossible to get an image of, due to the intervening crop - this is the best that I could manage.

Little Owl (no.3) - my Site No.15

As mentioned in a recent post, most of the juvenile Little Owls that I am seeing now are so far developed that it is difficult to tell them from the adults. I'm relatively confident that bird no.3 is a juvenile, but I'm not sure (from this distance) about the other two.

Friday 12 August 2011

More Little Owls, etc. - running up to 11th August, 2011

I've not posted anything on this blog since 3rd August (9 days ago!), partly due to my photographic forays being a little thin on the ground. However, it's about time that I put something up here so here goes!

Saturday 30th July

I popped down to my local patch for an hour before lunch, and found one of the adult Little Owls out on the chimney at my LO Site No.02. The wasps were buzzing round, and you can see one in the image below.

Little Owl - my Site No.02
I didn't stay long, but did see two Tree Sparrows and a flock of approximately 20 Long-tailed Tits. Two LOs were seen at my nearby Site No.12, but no usable images were obtained

Friday 5th August

At the end of a week with no birding activity, I escaped on the Friday morning and headed southwards to check out some of my Little Owl sites. Nothing was seen at my Site Nos. 05, 06, and 09, but I had a little more luck at my Site No.17, where a Little Owl was out on a distant post. To be honest, I'm not sure if this was an adult, or a well advanced juvenile - I suspect the latter, but it can be hard to tell at a distance. What a pity that it wasn't closer, as the light was great! 

Little Owl - my Site No.17
On my way home for lunch, I called in at my local patch. To my surprise, I found a photographer set up in a hide opposite my Little Owl Site No.02, near Packington. Not wanting to disturb him in his work, I had a quick wander round, took a few shots, from a distance, of the only owl seen (none of which are worth publishing here), and departed for my next site, leaving my card under the windscreen wiper of the photographer's car.

At my LO Site No.12, two LOs were seen but again no worthwhile images were obtained.

That evening I was out again, and started by trying to relocate the Tawny Owl that I'd seen out in daylight on 24th July. After an hour and a half, all I'd seen were Robins, and so I popped in at my LO Site No.17 (which is relatively close by) again. Once more, an owl was out on a post. This time I'm pretty sure it was an adult!

Little Owl - my Site No.17
 Sunday 7th August

I went down to my local patch in the afternoon, and found one Little Owl at my Site No.12, and two (one adult and one juvenile) at my Site No.02. I didn't get out of my car, as my main objective for the afternoon was a visit to Kelham Bridge, so only distant images were obtained.

Little Owl - my Site No.02

Little Owl (juvenile) - my Site No.02

Whilst watching the owls from my car, a movement in a bush caught my attention. It was a Lesser Whitethroat. I didn't get a very good image, but it's better than any other I've got of this species!

Lesser Whitethroat - near Packington

I'd not been to Kelham Bridge for a while (I usually find myself there in winter), so my visit was mainly a re-familiarisation with what was around. It was a little off-putting to find a rather ripe dead Hare beside the stile at the entrance. From the first hide, as well as the usual suspects, two Green Sandpiper were seen over the far side of the water. Whilst sitting in the second hide there was a thunderstorm which was quite spectacular at times. The images obtained here that afternoon were not great.

Tuesday 9th August

I started with an evening visit to my local patch, again intending to check out Kelham Bridge later - this time for owls.

At my site No.12 I found two Little Owls inside a barn, one of which, a juvenile, obliged by popping outside onto the guttering. Unfortunately, that particular end of the barn is not very accessible, so only distant shots were obtained.

Little Owl (juvenile) - my Site No.12

Down at my Site No.02 I found Steve Shaw - the photographer who had been there the previous Friday, and who had sent me an e-mail in response to me leaving my card, and with whom I'd exchanged several e-mails since. We had quite a long chat, and then Steve decided to accompany me to Kelham Bridge to see if we could see owls there.

From the first hide, we spotted three Green Sandpiper on the far side of the water, two of which are shown in the image below.

Green Sandpiper - Kelham Bridge

From the second hide, little of interest was seen, but the light from the end window of the hide was superb! I couldn't resist images of Coot and Moorhen, even though they are commonplace.

Coot - Kelham Bridge

Moorhen - Kelham Bridge

As dusk started falling we headed back towards the most likely area to see Barn Owl (Steve had tipped me off to this location - thank you Steve!). It was virtually dark before the Barn Owl appeared, and then very distant, so absolutely no chance of any images. I did, however, feel the need to take a shot of the moon - I'm glad I did because it shows me features that I'd never noticed before!

The Moon - somewhere a long way away!
After this, it was time to go home. Just as we got to our cars, a Tawny Owl started calling nearby. I returned the call and we saw it distantly as it checked us out. Two owls seen at Kelham Bridge, but none photographed!

Thursday 11th August

Rutland Water and again, as is usual, I decided to do a bit of owling on the way, even though it was a horribly dull grey day. A very brief stop during a shower at my LO Site No.18, near Oaks in Charnwood revealed two owls in the nest tree, but no images taken. My next stop was at my LO Site No.21 near Hungarton, but no owls were seen. My main interest, however, was to check out my newest LO site - No.23. I arrived to find that there was an owl up in the roof space, looking at me! Having taken a record shot from the road, I started to drive up the track towards the barn, and stopped half way. The owl had moved a few centimetres so that it could peer at me from behind a beam.

Little Owl - my Site No.23
No, this is not in monochrome - it's just that the awful light makes it look so!

I sat looking at the owl, and the owl peered at me without moving, for about three quarters of an hour. It was then time for me to head off to Rutland Water if I wasn't going to be late. I backed car down the drive and then drove across the field so that I could pass in front of the barn at a closer distance. The owl didn't move, and so I got some slightly closer images. Might have been nice with better lighting - these were all taken at about 1/80 second exposure! It must be the way it's sitting, but the first image below makes it look as if the owl has awfully big feet!

Little Owl - my Site No.23
The Ospreys were performing well at Rutland Water, but it remained dull and windy, so there was no successful photography. On the way home I stopped off at my LO Site No.21 again. I'd not seen an owl here on my previous three visits, so I was delighted when, after about twenty minutes, an owl appeared on the distant barn. I watched for nearly an hour as it slowly made its way down the field towards me, clearly checking me out. Unfortunately it was too dark to see if it was an adult or juvenile, and it disappeared off right after it got to a post about 30 metres from me.