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Sunday 31 March 2013

A Brilliant Encounter !!! - on 30th March, 2013

Yesterday morning, in spite of changeable weather, I went out owling on my local patch. I made a late start as I was waiting to see what the weather would do. It was cold and breezy, but sunny, when I set off. I drew a blank at my Little Owl Site No. 12, and then set off for Site No.02. As I now I know that it was a one-off situation (it's not been seen since), I can own up to it being this site where I'd seen a Barn Owl in the nest barn, and was worried about the Little Owls. I drew a blank here also.

I set off on foot towards Site No.11 and saw, from a distance, the farmer under the nest tree feeding the sheep. No point in going there! It was time to divert and go to my Site No.30. This was my most recently discovered site on my local patch. I'd found a LO there in November and not seen one since (although I had visited and determined that the evidence was there) as access is difficult and currently involves a certain amount of wading through water. As I entered the field, I thought I saw a Little Owl in the nest tree. I started the stealthy approach and it immediately dulled over and stated throwing it down with snow! You can imagine my surprise when I saw that the owl had stuck it out and was still there when the snow stopped. Unfortunately it was in a very inconvenient place for photography. I tried several different angles and these were the best that I could come up with.

Little Owl - my Site No.30
I'm pleased to say that the owl was in the same place when I departed, and I consider this a result! - And no, this wasn't the encounter alluded to in the title!

I was now at a part of my local patch (which consists of one farm and a couple of outlying fields) where I very rarely visit, so decided to look for more potential owls sites. No owls, or evidence of owls, were spotted, and I'd just started walking back towards where I'd parked my car when I found that I had to cross a dip between two fields which was filled with ice-covered water. Fortunately I had on my wellies. However, half way across, I got my right foot stuck in the soft mud under the water and went my length! I was soaked in zero degrees water and covered in soft mud. Fortunately, as I went down, I managed to get my camera onto a tussock of grass, and it stayed dry, if a bit muddy. It definitely was time to go home.

As I got back to my Site No.02 again, I was delighted to see one of the owls out, sitting where I'd not seen one before - a slightly different photo opportunity at this site was not to be missed, no matter how uncomfortable I felt.

Little Owl - my Site No.02
The owls at this site are very similar in appearance, and for a long time I used to think that there was just one owl here. However, the male is quite confiding, whilst the female is a nervous bird. I was pretty sure that the two sightings I'd had since the Barnie intrusion had been of the female. This one, I'm pretty sure, was the male. He just sat and looked at me, and was still in exactly the same spot when I left. I'm now feeling a little more relaxed about the owls here. And no, this wasn't the encounter either!

Having got home I got cleaned up, had a change of clothes, cleaned up my camera and binoculars, had lunch, and did a bit of photo processing before setting off mid-afternoon for some more owling.

To cut a long story short, I visited  three of my sites and had no luck at any of them. As it was now about 17:30 and the light was fading I thought it might be a good idea to try and find a new owl site. I headed down a lane which I've always thought looked very owly, but never spotted anything. I stopped a couple of times to scan around and at the second stop, in a gateway, I suddenly spotted the glowing form of what looked like a Tawny Owl sitting in a hole in a tree about 200 metres away!

I moved the car out of the gateway, and out of sight of the tree, and put my on wellies as there were more icy puddles to cross. I then did a settings check on my camera. By the time I'd done this there was no sign of an owl! Undeterred I decided to go investigate, being quite stealthy as I did so.  I eventually got to the tree, and it looked very promising. However, I couldn't  check under the tree for evidence as there was an impenetrable fence and vegetation between me and the tree. I continued past the tree and scanned a few trees in the next field before returning, noticing that there was an 'escape hole' on this side of the tree.

I walked past the tree and turned as I did so - and there was a Tawny Owls sitting there!! My guess is that it was no more than 7 metres from me. I very quickly banged off a number of shots, winding back the lens from 500mm to 270mm as I did so. I just managed to get all the owl in at 270mm! Unfortunately the light had changed somewhat in the 10 to 15 minutes since I'd set up the camera, so a lot of blurred images, but a few were reasonable. The owl barely moved a muscle whilst I photographed it. I then turned and walked away, with it still sitting there. I can tell from the camera data that this whole encounter lasted just 17 seconds. When I was about 100 metres away I looked back and it had gone.

Tawny Owl - undisclosed site, Leicestershire
This is a totally different location to the site where I found Tawny Owls out in the daylight twelve days previously. Subsequent visits to that site made me realise that I was never going to get photos from there once the trees had leafed up. This new site, however, less than half the distance from my home than the earlier one, has distinct promise!

Friday 29 March 2013

Manton Bay Ospreys - on 28th March, 2013

The Osprey season has started at Rutland Water, and this was the first turn of volunteer duty of the season for me and my pal Titus. We were on the evening shift at Manton Bay but I left home at 12:45 to go to Titus's place. On the way I stopped at my Little Owl Site No.02, and found an owl out on the end of the barn, in spite of the cold wind. Admittedly, it was on the south-west corner of the roof so a bit sheltered.

Little Owl - my Site No.02
Having transferred my kit into Titus's car, we set off for Rutland Water. Our journey takes us down some single-track roads with passing loops, and some of these were still rather hazardous with snow and ice. We called at eight of my Little Owl sites on the way and, disappointingly but not surprisingly (because of the cold wind), didn't see an owl at any of them. However,  it was not possible to stop in most places and do a proper check as the gateways and passing loops were full of huge piles of snow from where the snow ploughs had dropped it. We did manage to stop at one place, however, but all I photographed was a female Kestrel.

Common Kestrel (female)
We arrived early for our shift on the Lyndon side of the reserve, and so decided to spend a short time at Shallow Water Hide, where one gets a slightly better view of the Osprey's nest. Concerns had been growing about the whereabouts of 5R (the Manton Bay male Osprey - no woossey 'people' names for our Ospreys. They are all known by their ring identification, and even the unringed female in Manton Bay is known as just that - 'the Manton Bay female'! More commonly the breeding male Ospreys return from their overwintering grounds (usually West Africa) before the females. The Manton Bay female had returned on March 21st, and it was now nine days later than 5R had returned in 2012 (March 19th).

As we approached Shallow Water hide we were distracted by a hunting male Kestrel.

Common Kestrel (male) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
Once in the otherwise empty hide we saw that the water level in the reservoir was somewhat higher than I'd seen it before. The westernmost perching post was leaning at a crazy angle, and the perching post nearer to the nest (on which the Manton Bay female was sitting, consuming a large Trout) was leaning somewhat too.

Osprey (Manton Bay female) - Rutland Water
It was soon time to depart again and move to Waderscrape Hide. The Kestrel was still outside the hide, hunting.

Common Kestrel (male) - Rutland Lyndon
 We arrived to find one solitary visitor (actually another member of the volunteer team, but 'off duty') in the hide. As we set up the kit the MB female was still on the perch, eating the trout. Just after 17:00 we'd only been set up a few minutes, with Titus helping the visitor to the 'scope, and me scanning the skies when, simultaneously, I noticed a descending Osprey and the MB female took her fish to the nest, and 'mantled'. The mantling didn't last for long, however, as the female accepted the new arrival. Titus quickly spotted the green ring on the bird's right leg - surely this was 5R! I quickly got on the radio to the visitor centre, and Paul dashed to the monitor for the nest camera. He quickly confirmed (in a very excited voice) that it was indeed 5R, back from his winter stop in West Africa. I'm afraid that our own excitement was probably expressed a little more noisily than convention requires, but what the heck - we kept chuckling for the rest of the shift!

Osprey (MB female left, male 5R right)
Whilst the MB female might have been pleased to see her mate, she wasn't exactly effusive about it. She kept hold of the fish, and soon took it back to the perch to continue her meal. At one point she took it back to the nest to taunt 5R with - and then took it back to the perch again. Eventually she took sympathy with 5R (he'd probably had a long journey that day and was quite tired) and took him the remains of the fish, which 5R then took away to the nearby 'fallen tree' to consume.

Osprey - 5R departs with his supper
Usually it's the male Osprey that does the fishing, often eating the head first, before taking the 'tail' to his mate (and family). It must have been a pleasant change for him to be fed a tail end by his mate!

My appologies for the quality of the images. The light was very poor by now.

Whilst on duty at Waderscrape we were also intrigued by a couple of Cormorants sporting mohican haircuts. I understand that, in winter, older male cormorants develop more white in the face, but this pair seemed to have taken this to extremes!

Cormorant (mature male) - Rutland Lyndon
I'm afraid that I am not as robust as an Osprey, and although our turn of duty technically finished at 20:00 (it was never going to happen as it was dark by 19:00) the cold (the temperature had fallen to zero degrees) was getting to me and so, at 18:45, we started to pack up, and were on our way home by 19:05.

We broke our duck on the owl front as, at my LO Site No.29 I spotted a Little Owl fly off in the headlights (Titus didn't see it), and a few seconds later Titus saw a Barn Owl fly in front of the car (which I didn't see as I was looking sideways for the second Little Owl).

For us this was a brilliant way to start the Osprey season.

For more on the Rutland Ospreys, please visit where you will find a wealth of information. Better still, visit Rutland Water itself !!!

Wednesday 27 March 2013

The Intruder - on 25th February, 2013

I'd been really looking forward to three days of wall-to-wall owling whilst my wife, daughter, and granddaughter were in Disneyland, Paris. So what happens? We get snow and high winds which blocks roads. The owls were not going to be out in that lot!

Sunday was a write-off as the snow was blowing horizontally, and I had plenty to do at home. On Monday, however, I felt stir-crazy, and set off out after a very early lunch. My intention was to visit a few places where my Little Owls might be found sheltering from the wind. 

I drew a blank at the first place I visited, but there were Yellowhammer everywhere. These were extremely nervous birds, but as I stood with my back to a barn one flew and landed on the ground not 6 ft (2 metres) from me. It was there for less than a second before it spotted me and fled, and it would have been too close to focus anyway, but I did manage a couple of shots of one that landed on a fence about 30 ft (10 metres) away.

Yellowhammer (male) - Leicestershire
I then moved onto my next Little Owl site, where I can partially see into the nest barn from a distance. No Little Owl was visible at first, but then I saw a Barn Owl further back in the building. The instant I spotted it, it was out and away. My camera was set up for inside shots, so I messed up with the photography. Most of my attempts were totally out of focus, and wrongly exposed. The only salvageable images of any sort were what I believe are commonly known as DAH shots.

Barn Owl - undisclosed site, Leicestershire
Although the owl crossed the hedge line, it did so only briefly before coming back and continuing to the far side of the field, dipping down and landing at the foot of a hedge a good couple of hundred metres away.

Barn Owl
I was able to walk along the lane to a point where I could clearly see both sides of the hedge running away from me, but I couldn't get a view from an angle. I was sure the bird was in there and probably only about 30 metres away, so I hung around. Suddenly it emerged from the opposite side of the hedge to which it had entered from, and was off! Again, frustratingly I couldn't achieve focus until it was really far away. This is the best I could do. I only offer it because I like the atmosphere of the image.

Barn Owl
Now I don't see too many Barn Owls, and whilst I was delighted to see this one, it also left me with some worries! Had my Little Owls fallen prey to this intruder. I set off to see if I could find either of the owls in some of the most likely spots. I found one of them had been hiding in up in a tree and nervously flew as I approached, alerting me to its presence. It would not normally be up there in these weather conditions. I failed to find the second owl.

Whilst looking around, I put up a Brown Hare, and managed to get a few distant shots. It always amazes me that they don't get their legs tangled up, especially when you look at the image below!

Brown Hare
This next one looks as if the hare is flying - it certainly appears to be some distance off the ground!

Brown Hare
I only include this next one because I've never really thought that hares had much of a tail, but this image shows that it's got quite a substantial tail!

Brown Hare
I guess that this post, to some extent, reinforces the 'Never Give Up' message of my previous post.

I've since spoken with Leicestershire's owl guru, Paul Riddle, who has given me hope that the Little Owls may have come out of the intruder situation unscathed. I re-visited again yesterday (Tuesday 8th) and there was no sign of the Barn Owl, but one of the Little Owls was on the sunny side of the barn, sheltering from the cold easterly blast. I shan't be happy, however, until I see two owls here again.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Never Give Up !! - on 18th March, 2013

The weather forecast for the week was pretty dire, so when I woke up on Monday to find there'd been a very heavy frost, and the sun was shining brightly, I did the few chores I needed to do first, and then set out just before 10:00 to find some owls. The temperature outside was a balmy 12 degrees C, but I'd not gone above two miles (3km) when I found myself in thick fog and the temperature dropped to 2 degrees C. I'd learnt on 5th of the month that sometimes it just pays to press on and not give up, so I did so.

At the first site I stopped at, I couldn't even see the building where I'd first seen an owl on the last day of February. It was only a couple of hundred metres away, but totally obscured by the fog.

I next went to my LO Site No.08. If an owl hadn't been sitting out on a branch in silhouette I'd never have spotted it. You'll get the picture from this first image (totally unretouched).

Little Owl - my Site No.08
With a little experimentation when I got home, I found I could make a bit more of this same shot by hugely increasing the contrast and boosting the colour, as shown in the first image below. However, the mist emphasises the graininess.

Little Owl - My Site No.08
From here I went to another site, but nothing doing, so I decided to visit a farm which I supplied with a LO nest box last year to see if he'd had any luck with it being occupied. On the way I found that I needed to answer the call of nature, so diverted down a country lane. Having sorted myself out, I set off again and a short while later noticed a shape in a tree as I passed. I quickly reversed back up, and there was an owl!

Now one thing about fog and mist is that it flattens everything, and it's hard to judge distance and perspective. The owl had its back to me, and at first I thought that I'd seen a Little Owl in a near tree, but when I looked through the binoculars I saw I'd got a Tawny Owl out in a more distant tree! Yes, a Tawny out in the daytime!

I grabbed a few shots with its back to me, through the car window, and then slowly got out of the car and entered the field. However, I only managed some safety shots from just inside the field next to the car, when the owl ducked down into the tree. At least it had had the decency to look at me first so I got a shot showing its face! I'm keeping the image for later in this post, for reasons that will become apparent!

I then went off to visit the farmer (who is also a birdwatcher) who was only a few minutes away. Although he was seeing a Little Owl on an almost daily basis, he was only seeing the one. Furthermore there was absolutely no sign that the owl box we'd erected had even been looked at by an owl, although he often sees the owl in the tree that the box is in.

I then told him about my encounter with the Tawny Owl and he was quite excited as he'd not seen a Tawny in the area for years. I explained where it was and he said "do you mean that tree over there?" - you could see the tree from his farm! Amazingly, with a friend, he'd been considering putting a Barn Owl box in this self same tree! I strongly advised against it - Tawnies and Barn Owls don't mix to the best of my knowledge!

Now, bearing in mind that I'd been looking at that tree with the Tawny through the fog, so it all looked flat and grey, you'll understand that I had to do some major tweaking to the photos I'd taken when I got home. You can imagine my amazement when I discovered that I'd got two owls in the frame! I'd not spotted the lower bird!

Tawny Owls - undisclosed site, Leicestershire
You can guess where I'll be spending some time when we get some fine weather - the field is farmed by my local farmer!

On the way home I even managed to find a Little Owl at my Site No.18, where I not seen an owl since August in spite of several visits. 

OK, so you'd be mad to go out owling in a strong wind and torrential rain, but you should never give up unless it really is dire!

Monday 18 March 2013

Dripping With Owls - on 14th March, 2013

On Thursday my pal Titus and I went out for an afternoon's owling, pretty much on the same route that I'd taken on 5th March. Our first stop was at my LO Site No.29, where I'd been delighted to discover a pair on my previous visit - and the pair were out again, and sitting nicely side-by-side on the front side of the tree. Unfortunately, having stopped the car a hundred metres or so further down the road, one of the owls dipped back into the nest cavity before any photos were taken. The remaining owl, however, seemed to be totally unfazed by our presence.

Little Owl - my Site No.29
We next went to check on the Barn Owl site that I'd been concerned about. From the road we could see that things seemed to have settled down again and so left well alone.

Next we went to the location where, on 5th, I'd found two new LO sites adjacent to one of my recent sites, and had a look around. Although we didn't see any owls at this time, we were able to sort out the nest situation for one of these new sites, and a 'probable' for the second. As no owls were visible we decided on further exploration, and probably only just over a quarter of a mile (400 metres) away a Little Owl flew from beside the road as we approached, closely followed by another. One disappeared, but the other stayed around as we took photos through the car window - new LO Site No.38

Little Owl - my new Site No.38
After this we explored a little more before heading back to the area of Sites 34, 36, 37, and now 38. The weather was closing in and getting cold, windy, and very dull, but that didn't stop one of the owls from Site No.36 from being very active around the distant nest tree. Eventually one of the owls from No.34 also showed in the nest cavity. No photos of any merit were taken, however.

As it was getting dark we set off to find somewhere to eat our sandwiches. We'd barely got any distance at all when a Little Owl flew out of a tree and down behind a hedge - new Site No.39. This gives me five Little Owl sites within an estimated one mile (1.5km) radius in an area that I first visited in January, and four new LO sites so far this month - an absolute record for me!

As I'd seen a LO on the way to Titus's place, this also gave me an afternoon's sighting of 8 Little Owls over 6 sites - not too bad for a cold breezy day! Pity the photo opportunities weren't so good!

Friday 15 March 2013

A Great Afternoon Owling - on 5th March, 2013

It was bright sunshine when I packed myself up a picnic on Tuesday 5th, and set off to try and find some owls after lunch. I was only a couple of miles (3km) from home when I ran into thick fog.  Should I turn back? I kept going, however, with my first objective being my Little Owl Site No.18, where I've not seen an owl since last August. I arrived within a mile to find that the road to this site was closed. Two miles (3km) further on the next access road was also closed - it was time to have a change of plan!

My revised plan took me past my Little Owl Site No.29, where I'd had three sightings of a single owl last August, and nothing since, in spite of several visits. I'd come to the conclusion that this owl had departed as the nest tree didn't look to be in very good condition. I was, therefore, surprised to see two owls sitting in the nest tree as I drove past! Brilliant! Unfortunately this is a single-carriage road with few passing places, and anyway the birds were at the back of the tree, so I parked up, and walked back. I didn't manage to get decent shots of the pair together without intervening branches - but at least it was a pair!

Little Owls - my Site No.29
Just up the road from here is my LO Site No.21. I'd only had sparse sightings of a single owl here since I found a dead one close to the nest tree in 2011, and then I'd only seen one on a distant barn, not in the nest tree. You can imagine my delight when I found one this day sitting at the entrance to the nest hole. It was only much later in the day that I noticed that I'd managed to knock the image stabilisation on my lens into "stage 2" stabilisation. This is the only reason I can think of (considering how brightly sunny it was) for all my photos up until that realisation point (including the ones above) being blurred. However, I have managed to salvage a few with a bit of sharpening and not too much cropping.

Little Owl - my Site No.21
Next place on the list to visit was a Barn Owl site where I'd set up a 'photographic prop' close to where I'd seen a barn owl on two occasions. I was disappointed to see, as I arrived, a farm vehicle parked right outside the two buildings which I thought were unused and derelict. I'd never investigated the buildings before as I'd not wanted to risk disturbing nesting owls. I'd also not manage to work out who owned the land, so I went up to talk to the person by the buildings. In the one building he had several tons of fertiliser in bags which he was taking out to the tractors which were spreading the stuff on the fields, and then he was stowing the empty bags in the second building.

This guy was the landowner, and I expressed my concerns about the Barn Owls. They say that most farmers are quite switched on about their wildlife, but not so this guy. He asked me where and how owls build their nests! Given that any damage had already been done, I looked into both buildings. Whilst the floor was covered in bags so I couldn't check for poo and pellets, I was relieved to see that there was nowhere that could be used by 'nesting' Barn Owls. The fact that I'd seen a BO here on my previous two visits now indicated to me that it was most likely that a male bird was using this as a roost.

It was beginning to look like a day that would be filled with 'ups and downs'. Next place on the list to visit was my LO Site No.34, first discovered in January, and with no decent images as yet. As I arrived I saw that one owl was out of the nest hole, and I grabbed a few safety shots from the car window. I'd still not discovered the problem with the lens switch.

Little Owl - my Site No.34
As soon as I got out of my car, a good 100 metres away, the owl popped back into the nest hole, so I started to set up my hide about 20 metres from the nest tree, and was still doing so when a couple of farm vehicles stopped on the road opposite me. Thinking this was the landowner, I went over to talk to them, but it wasn't their land. Suddenly all sorts of vehicles started appearing on this lane which usually only sees the occasional farm vehicle. Suddenly the penny dropped - I'd got caught up with the hunt. With about 20 vehicles parked on the road behind me I thought 'what the heck' and settled into my hide - now I discovered the lens set-up problem as I mounted the camera to the tripod and went to switch off the IS. 

I'd been there about 20 minutes, with the sound of the hunt all round me, when I heard a jangling of bells beside my hide (no side windows were open). I peeked out and there was a guy with a hawk on his wrist. He was the hunt's falconer. We had a chat through the walls of the hide (him speaking in a loud voice and totally blowing my cover), whilst he checked me out. He told me that he'd seen six different Barn Owls in one evening in this area of the county. He then departed, saying that he'd tell the boss that I was 'OK'.

Unsurprisingly it was another couple of hours before an owl showed, and by then the light was off the shot that I'd set up for.

Little Owl - my Site No.34
I waited another half hour and then, as it was starting to get dark, I decided to pack up and go to the Barn Owl site to have my tea whilst sitting in the car (too dark to bother setting up for photos). Whilst in my hide at Site No.34, I'd heard a Little Owl calling off to my right and also, a little more distantly, off to my left. I'd been a little worried that I might be keeping an owl from returning to its home. However, as I got back to the car with my kit I heard the call again, looked back, and spotted a pair of of owls in a tree only about a couple of hundred metres from the tree I'd been watching.  Although this was very close for a new territory, I had little doubt that it was, as at least one of Site 34's owls was in the nest cavity and (to the best of my knowledge) LOs are not know for 'menages a trois' - new Site No.36!!

Little Owls - my new Site No.36
Feeling thoroughly elated, I set off up the road, stopping just a minute or so later by an interesting-looking tree. As I slowed up a Little Owl flew up into the tree. Flippin' Heck!! another new LO site in less than 10 minutes!

Little Owl - my new Site No.37
Now thoroughly chuffed I headed for the Barn Owl, but arrived to find three vehicles outside the buildings with their headlights on - I told you it was a day of 'ups and downs'! Another revised plan had me heading back to my LO Site No.21, where I'd seen a bird outside the nest hole earlier in the day. When I arrived, there was still enough light that I could just make him out in the same place.

Little Owl - my Site No.21
 I sat eating my sandwiches, and then he called and flew up to a higher branch.

Little Owl - my Site No.21
 ....... it was then that I saw that there were two of them! This was utterly brilliant as it was the first time I'd seen more than one owl here for nearly two years.

Little Owls - my Site No.21
He then flew up to join the female. 

Little Owls - my Site No.21
I now realised that the 'he' had been a 'she'. Copulation followed shortly after, but the one on the left moved over onto the partially hidden one on the right, so their blushes were spared from my camera!
So ended a very satisfying day, even if the photography had not been brilliant - 10 Little Owls over 6 different sites (I'd seen one whilst out shopping in the morning).
There is a follow-up story, based round my afternoon out with my pal Titus yesterday afternoon, and this was every bit as remarkable - giving a total of four new LO sites for the month, with the month not quite half gone! I just hope the photos turn out a bit better than the above ones!

Sunday 10 March 2013

A Return To Cannock Chase - On 1st February, 2013

It'd been a long while since I had visited Cannock Chase, which is only about 25 miles (40km) from my home, so when my wife suggested we go out for lunch and then continue to the chase to watch the birds for a while, I didn't need much persuading!

We stopped for a very pleasant lunch at The Royal Oak, Kings Bromley, during which I realised a fundamental mistake that I'd made - I'd forgotten to bring bird food with me! Fortunately, the place where I buy all our bird food was en-route, and only two minutes away, so we called in and bought a bag to tide us over.

Having arrived at the usual place, we found that there were only two other cars in the area, and the best spot for parking was still available. I quickly set up some perches (not enough, as it turned out), strategically placed some seed, and settled back in the car to take some photos. Sadly, the promised bright weather never happened, but at least it didn't rain!

This particular spot on the chase is not usually blessed with unusual birds, although I did find a Hawfinch one Christmas Day, reported it on Birdguides, and regretted it ever after as you couldn't get near the place for months (until the bird eventually departed). However, you can pretty much rely on Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, and Nuthatch - and Willow Tit are usually seen if you wait long enough.

We were only there for about 40 minutes, but I took so many photos that, inevitably, the same perch appears several times over. We did see Yellowhammer, but these don't appear below as they stayed on my wife's side of the car!

Bullfinch (male) - Cannock Chase
Bullfinch (female) - Cannock Chase
The Blue Tit is a bird that tends to suffer from the 'familiarity breeds contempt' syndrome, but has to be one of UK's prettiest birds. For our overseas visitors, who may not be familiar with this bird, here are a couple of them!

Blue Tit - Cannock Chase
The other usual tits are very much in evidence here, with Great Tit being by far the most numerous.

Great Tit - Cannock Chase

Coal Tit - Cannock Chase

Long-tailed Tit - Cannock Chase
Luckily, in our short time here, Willow Tit made a couple of brief appearances. These are not the most spectacular of birds, but are always a treat to see.

Willow Tit - Cannock Chase
Another iconic British bird which, like Blue Tit, is greatly underrated, is Robin. In gardens it is not uncommon for these to fight to the death in order to keep control of their territory, but in situations like this, where there are large numbers of birds milling around, there can be several together and being quite tolerant of each other.

Robin - Cannock Chase
Nuthatches tend to be a feature of this sort of environment, although there weren't as many here as I expected to see.

Nuthatch - Cannock Chase
As we left the chase we spotted a group of male Fallow Deer. Whilst some of these had fabulous antlers, there was at least one young buck with just simple prongs, as you can see in the third image below.

Fallow Deer (male) - Cannock Chase
I'm looking forward to my next visit here - hopefully with brighter weather, and more time to hang around.!