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Friday, 22 November 2013

Looking Up!! - on 19th and 21st November, 2013

By 18th November I'd already passed my abysmal record of owl sightings for October. On Tuesday 19th November the weather was beautiful, if a bit cold and breezy, and an owling session was indicated. In the morning I visited a few old sites, but nothing was seen, and I'm dubious that there are currently any owls in residence at any of them.

I decided to have my picnic lunch by Little Owl Site No.41, where the nest cavity was destroyed in a gale and pal Titus and I erected a nest box in October. We knew that the owls were still around, but it was even more encouraging this day as I first found one of the owls in the nest tree above the box, and then spotted the second owl in a nearby hawthorn bush. I sat watching them for over an hour in the hope that one would move - hopefully towards the nest box, but they both barely twitched a muscle during that time.

Until these owls are well and truly settled I will not risk disturbing them by attempting close-up photography. This next shot, of the owl in the nest tree, was taken from my car during  my lunch stop, at about 60 metres range.

Little Owl (No.1) - my Site No.41
To continue my journey I had to pass the nest tree, so attempted a drive-by shot of the owl. Unfortunately my lens had wound back to 400mm, so I didn't get as intimate a shot as I'd hoped for.

Little Owl (No.1) - my Site No.41
About 25 metres further on I had to stop to open a gate (gated road), and was abreast of the hawthorn bush with the second owl, which showed much better from this angle, and I was only about 20 metres away. Sadly my lens had, by now, crept back to 380mm, so the quickly grabbed photo (remember, I was determined not to disturb this owl) was not as good as it might have been.

Little Owl (No.2) - my Site No.41
Feeling extremely encouraged by these sightings, I continued on my way, drawing a blank at the next few sites I visited. Way back in mid-September, I'd been given a tip-off as to where Little Owls had been seen. Several visits had been made to the locality, but nothing was seen and I was far from certain that I was looking in the right area. However, on this day, I was to be rewarded. An owl was spotted as I approached in my car. This is now my new LO Site No.42 - my first since July (I've been telling you that it's not been a good year!). As public access is rather distant (50 metres at its closest), I now have to find the land owner to see if they'll let me approach a little closer.

Little Owl - my new Site No.42
Two days later I was out with my pal Titus on our regular Thursday adventure together. We lunched at LO Site No.41, where one of the two owls was seen. We almost missed it because there was a bitterly cold wind blowing and it was well tucked in, over on the far side of the field.

Back in January I'd found a new Little Owl site (No.34) and was quite excited about it as it showed a lot of potential. This excitement was enhanced by finding, in just a few weeks, a further three sites within half a mile (800 metres) - all of them, except one, having pairs of birds resident. Hopes were dashed, however, when two of the sites (including No.34) had the birds evicted by Jackdaws. A third site was disturbed by a new barn build. The sighting of the single bird at the fourth site was never repeated.

I've never given up on these sites (the Jackdaws didn't hang around for long), and only a few weeks previously Titus and I had been saying that No.34 really was a wonderful place for an owl. You can, therefore, probably imagine our excitement when, as we approached No.34 in the car, we saw a Little Owl sheltering from the wind in the cavity of the nest tree. It absolutely made our day. These next two were taken at a distance, from the road.

Little Owl - my Site No.34
OK, so this might not be a high volume of sightings, but they are some of the most heart-warming I've had for a long while. Let's hope that this continues.


  1. Great news Richard,love the shots from site No 34.
    I see that your Little Owls have a lot to put up with,Jackdaws and strong winds.
    Lets hope they have a rewarding 2014.

  2. Be still my heart! The last two shots are so adorable. What a perfect little hollow in that tree for him to be. Wonderful shots!

    1. Thank you, Gail. I was lucky to get some decent light for those last two - there's only a narrow window of time when the nest hole isn't in shadow.

  3. HI Well if i saw 1 I would be pleased. Your photgraphs are lovely. These Owls are so cute.

    1. I'm sorry that, to the best of my knowledge, you don't get Little Owl in NI, Margaret. We'd not have them here if someone hadn't introduced them in the 19th century! They do provide me with a lot of pleasure, and a fair bit of exercise! Within two hours of publishing this post I'd had an hour and a half walk and seen Little Owl at three different sites, so the next post won't be too long in coming!

  4. Richard: You are to be absolutely commended for putting the welfare of the owls above your desire for a good picture. You did well anyway.

    1. Thank you, David. My target, and greatest pleasure, is always for the owl to still be there when I've photographed it and left the scene. I always try, but it doesn't always work! For example, today I've seen three owls at three different sites. I didn't get closer than a hundred metres from one before it disappeared back into the nest hole. The other two didn't move, although they kept a close eye on me!

  5. Great shots as ever Richard and it would be churlish of me to pick a favourite, but I do like the two from site 34 with the owl in the cavity of the branch.

    1. Thank you, Doug. Those ones from Site No.34 are my favourites too.


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