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Monday 23 December 2013

Owling Incidentals & Christmas Wishes - late 2013

Whilst probably around 80-90% of my birdwatching time is spent purely focused on owls, there are, of course, times when I feel inspired to take photos of other birds or even non-avian subjects. Sometimes this happens when I'm specifically owling!

One of the sites that occasionally turns up interest is my Little Owl Site No.21. Since I've been monitoring this site, I've had a few good sightings here, including Red Kite, and recently a Great Grey Shrike which I saw at relatively close quarters, but failed to get my camera on before it departed - something that will haunt me for ages to come! Worryingly, the Little Owls haven't been seen for a few months now, although they bred this year.

Sunset Sky - from my LO Site No.41
Common Buzzard - at my LO Site No.21
This last image from No.21 was taken on a wet and windy December afternoon and yes, I did see Little Owls that afternoon, but not here!

Common Kestrel (female) - in the nest tree at my LO Site No.21
Sometimes, when out owling with my pal Titus, we pop over to Rutland Water. On one mid-November day nothing astounding turned up, but we were seeing lots of Redwing and Fieldfare. It's a long while since I got a decent image of either of these - and this isn't one of them!

Redwing - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
The Cormorant Tree - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
The Moon - from Rutland Lyndon Reserve
My first attempts at that last shot were pretty hopeless, but I got much better ones about ten minutes later when I'd walked a bit closer! A pity that the gull couldn't have obliged by getting in the same focal plane!

My local patch has turned up some good sightings in the past, including Redstart, but usually in the summer. Not wanting to ignore the local patch in this post, the best I have to offer (other than owls, of course) is this Kestrel.

Common Kestrel (male) - by my LO Site No.02
I know that Squirrels are not popular with many birders, but I have no real objection to them. On one farm I visit from time to time where, until recently, there were breeding Barn Owls, there is a tree where I'm told Little Owls used to nest. During a visit at the end of November a squirrel was seen on the edge of this old nest hole. As I approached it dropped into the hole, but then soon poked its head up to see if I was still around.

Squirrel - undisclosed site
Another of my Little Owl sites (No.18) also yields interesting sightings from time to time. I've photographed Mandarin, Tree Pipit, and Wheatear here in the past. On a dull and windy day I got my first ever image of a Sparrowhawk in flight. The image is rubbish, but it's a milestone for me, and I will publish it here to prompt me to try to do better!

Sparrowhawk - at my LO Site No.18
On a finer day here, I found a Little Egret in a tree in an adjacent field. Whilst I was looking around for the owls (they've not been seen for a few months) the egret decided to fly past me, calling loudly as it did so. I swear that, in the last image, it turned to look at me.

Little Egret - at my LO Site No.18
It's also been several months since I've seen an owl at my LO Site No.03. The nest tree, which is shown in the next image (taken on the same day as the egret images, above), has deteriorated somewhat this year, and I suspect that they've moved on. I shall be trying to track them down.

Sunset - at my LO Site No.03
It just remains for me to wish my friends and followers out there a Very Happy Christmas, and a Healthy and Prosperous New Year. Thank you for your much-appreciated support and encouragement! - Richard

Sunday 15 December 2013

Calke Park - on 1st December, 2013

I've just realised that it's a week and a half since my last post on this blog, and I've virtually neglected my blog friends and their posts too. I blame it on the Christmas rush, and barely being near my computer. Today I shall try and put it right!

It had been some time since I'd been to Calke because the area that I usually visit had been off limits due to major works to create a huge permanent car park. These were, thankfully, all but finished at the end of November, and it was possible to visit again.

I arrived to find the park's land manager just leaving the hide. He'd spent an hour in the hide hoping to see the two Brambling that someone had reported seeing the previous day (this was news to me!), but had had no luck. He also told me that the two Little Owl sites that I'd been monitoring since the back end of 2012 had now been abandoned, although he'd heard a Little Owl for the first time in a few months, just a few days previously.

Having scanned around for a Little Owl, unsurprisingly with no luck, I went into the hide. There was only one other person in there. He'd been there for an hour, but could only report seeing a woodpecker three times.

Most of the usual suspects were around, but nothing too exciting in the way of birds. This used to be a good place for Marsh Tits, but I understand that they've not been seen for quite a long time.

First to be photographed was a Jackdaw.

Jackdaw - Calke Park
Before I knew what, a Brambling had arrived! I tried to point it out to  the other guy who was keen to get a shot of it, but I don't think he even managed to find it!

Brambling (female) - Calke Park
The bird didn't stay long, so I settled down to try and get some images, mainly concentrating (with not too much success!) on the remarkably large numbers of Greenfinch here. Most of my Greenfinch images to date seem to have been of brightly coloured males, so I was trying to focus on the females on this occasion. I failed again!

Greenfinch (male) - Calke Park
Greenfinch (juvenile female?) - Calke Park
The woodpeckers had obviously already had plenty to eat and didn't return in the hour that I was there. The Nuthatches were, unusually, very thin on the ground, and I managed very few usable shots.

Nuthatch - Calke Park
The Goldfinches were also there in profusion, and I was pleased to be able to get images under varying light conditions. It's good to see the iridescent red on the head in bright sunshine, but I rather like the effect of the subdued lighting in the third image.

Goldfinch - Calke Park
The three common tit species were also there. I didn't bother with them much and didn't even try for a Great Tit image, but I did take a couple of shots of Coal Tit and Blue Tit.

Coal Tit - Calke Park
Blue Tit - Calke Park
Once in a while it's great to go to a place like this, even if there aren't any rarities around. With so many birds to go at, it provides a great way to brush up on one's photographic techniques.

I was there again five days later, but it was a rather dull day, weatherwise, and so my efforts were less successful, although I did manage a reasonable female Greenfinch!

Wednesday 4 December 2013

barn owl (no, not Barn Owl!) - on 30th November, 2013

Sorry, couldn't resist that one! My Little Owl Site No.02 continues to give delight. This day it was one of those rare occasions when an owl was visible inside the barn when I walked past. It's only happened twice before in the past four years, and last time it really was a Barn Owl!

This time I managed a half-decent shot, but had great difficulty in seeing the owl in my viewfinder as the contrast in light between inside and out was so great. This one taken at 1/100 sec., ISO 1,000.

Little Owl - my Site No.02
Owling and posts are probably going to be a little thin this month as I've got a lot of commitments before Christmas. I do, however, have a post 'stacked up', featuring a visit to Calke Park.