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!