In my last post I said that things were looking up on the Little Owl front, with some encouraging news. Within two hours of publishing that post I'd seen three LOs at three different sites, two of which I'd been concerned about.
I started out at my LO Site No.02. This is 'old faithful' - my oldest site that is still active (found in December, 2009). I was pleased to find one of the owls out in a tree, rather than in one of its usual places on the roof of its home. I took some photos but, however, I was to get some better ones later.
I then walked to my LO Site No.30, pausing to investigate an area where I'd heard a Tawny Owl call at mid-day a week or so earlier. I didn't find the Tawny's location this time either, but I have my suspicions! I'd been worried about Site No.30 as on a couple of previous visits I'd found the nest tree full of Jackdaws and there was no sign of the owl, which I hadn't seen since June. As I approached this day, the Jackdaws were, again, in residence but flew off as I approached - and there was the owl sitting in its tree (I believe that this is currently a lone bird - probably one that fledged from Site No.02)! I didn't manage a photo as it dropped into the nest cavity when I was about 100 metres away.
Another ten minutes had me approaching Site No.11. The pair of owls at this site had disappeared in May, 2010 when a swarm of bees had occupied the nest cavity. However, I spotted that it had been re-occupied in January 2013 - again, probably by a bird that fledged from Site No.02. It was seen again in February and April, but I'd had no sightings since. From a couple of hundred metres away I could see an owl sitting at the entrance to the nest cavity - brilliant! Due to the twigs round the entrance I couldn't get a decent image, but the owl let me approach reasonably close.
|Little Owl - my Site No.11
I left the owl where I'd found it, and set off back to my car, which was parked by Site No.02. The owl was still in the tree by Site No.02, exactly where I'd left it, so this time I took a little more time taking photos (I don't get too many shots of the owls here in a tree - they're usually on the roof). Unfortunately there was a strong contrast between light and shade, and I've managed to burn out detail on the legs.
|Little Owl - my Site No.02
I'm delighted to report that the owl was still there when I left. It all goes to show that you can never tell what a safe distance is - two owls approached quite closely and left in situ and one owl disturbed when I was at a distance that I could only just identify it through my binoculars!
Four days later, I was back at Site No.02 and one of the owls was on the roof, and stayed put for me. It was a very dull day, so no burn-out this time. I managed to get some feet in this one - just for Doug and Noushka! This session is also featured in the new header image.
|Little Owl - my Site No.02
Later on I visited my LO Site No.17. One of the owls was out but flew off as I arrived, about 100 metres away. I managed to re-locate it, but it was in a very inaccessible position, and didn't allow for any reasonable photography. I'll let you see the following images, however, as the owl had obviously been in the holly, practising dressing up as Santa Claus ready for Christmas, but hadn't yet removed his beard.
|Santa Claus - my LO Site No.17
Another couple of days later I was out for my usual session with my pal Titus, but did my own thing for an hour and a half before we met up. During that time I saw LOs at Sites Nos. 02 and 17 again, but no photos were taken.
Since the nest cavity was destroyed, it's been the norm for us to stop for our picnic lunch by LO Site No.41. Unfortunately, the further east we travelled, the lower the cloud descended, and it was rather misty by the time we got there, to the extent that it wasn't that easy to see the owls in the distance. They were both there and (by some extremely heavy post-processing, involving massive increase in contrast and colour boosting ) I've managed to lift the images from being a rather flat grey. At that distance, however, there was never going to be any detail showing!
|Little Owls - my Site No.41
It was great to see that the owls are still hanging on there, although there's still no indication that they've been in the nest box we erected. I just hope that they are established somewhere sheltered and dry before winter really sets in. We will continue to observe from a distance.