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Monday 31 October 2016

Making The Most Of It - on 28th October, 2016

John had been unable to make our usual Thursday afternoon out as one of his dogs was poorly (now OK, I'm delighted to say), so we switched to the Friday.

The day started very dull and damp but, fortunately, things had dried out by the afternoon. It remained very dull and grey for the rest of the day, but it was quite warm for the time of year and it wasn't windy - although it did get a bit breezy later on.

I set off for John's place, stopping at my Little Owl Site No.02 en-route. An owl was out on the remains of the roof, so I took a shot from inside the car. I'm concerned that the building is now decaying very rapidly, with around 50% of the roof disappearing this year.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.02
Having transferred to John's car, we set off towards Rutland Water, making a brief diversion to check on one of our owl sites. One was spotted sitting in the nest opening. The leaves are just starting to turn , and I wouldn't be surprised to find the leaves all gone by the time of our next visit.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.34
There were no further sightings of owls as we continued to Rutland Water. We arrived at the Egleton Reserve side and, as a couple of Peregrine had been seen earlier on Lagoon 4, we made our way there. 

We'd not gone far along the path when I called for John to stop. There was a Wood Mouse on the path in front of us. It seemed to take absolutely no notice of our presence. At one point it ran into the grass beside the path, but it didn't take long to come back. It was finding something to eat, but I was unable to see what, although I believe it was a seed of some sort. I suspect that, at one point, we were photographing it at a distance of around one metre - maybe closer!! Here are a few images.

Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Whilst John went to see if he could see the Peregrines from Sandpiper Hide, I went to scour a hedgerow for dragonflies, as we'd already seen a few Hawkers (Migrant, and probable very late Southern). I didn't have any luck, although a Peregrine flew over heading towards John. However, John didn't see it as he was scanning elsewhere through his binoculars.

We continued to Shoveler Hide, where the area near the hide was virtually totally dry. There were a few birds, including Redshank and Curlew, visible at around 30 metres, but the light was awful. John pointed out the Great White Egret in the middle of a group of Cormorants  on an island too far away for sensible photography. Our luck changed when the GWE took to the air and flew towards us, landing only about 50 metres away. I'm relatively pleased with the images I got, considering the light conditions - more by luck than judgement as I wasn't set up for flight shots.

Great White Egret (Egretta alba) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
The GWE waded south round a headland, heading towards Buzzard Hide, so we headed off there. At Buzzard Hide, I opened a window and put up a couple of Cormorants that, unbeknown to me, were just below the window. This, in turn, put up some ducks that were further away, and these put up the GWE which flew back northwards again!

We spent more time looking around, but it was getting extremely dull now, and although I took many more photos, they've virtually all been consigned to the recycle bin. If I tell you that this (taken when we returned to Shoveler Hide) is possibly the best of the others, you'll see my point!

Curlew (Numenius arquata) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Shortly after arriving at Rutland Water, we'd seen an RAF Chinook helicopter fly over,  in an unusual colour scheme. On the way back to the car this same helicopter flew over again, and I managed some slightly better photos that enabled me to identify it. The aircraft is Chinook HC.4 ZA712/W of 18(B) Squadron, based at RAF Odiham (Hampshire), uniquely decorated to celebrate 100 years (1915-2015) of that squadron. I understand that it is shortly to be returned to 'standard RAF colours'.

RAF Chinook ZA712, over Rutland Water Nature Reserve
The journey home didn't yield any excitement but, in spite of the lousy photographic conditions, we'd had a pretty good time, with both of us considering the Wood Mouse to be a charming highlight.

I have no idea, at this stage what the subject of my next post might be.

Thank you for dropping by.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Glossy Ibis - on 13th October, 2016

Thursday was scheduled to be my regular afternoon out with pal, John. I was driving, so it was my turn to choose the venue! I'd already agreed with John that we'd go somewhere neither of us had been to before, which was Brandon Marsh. 

The weather on Thursday morning was dire, with rain for most of the morning, and not much better forecast for the rest of the day. Although it looked reasonable when I picked John up at 12h45, I'd still not got much confidence for a photographic visit where we would be out in the open most of the time. John agreed (perhaps a little reluctantly?) that we'd return to Cossington Meadows, where we'd dipped on the Glossy Ibis on the Monday, and then continue to Brandon Marsh if the weather looked like holding.

Contrary to earlier reports that the bird was on the Swan Meadow area of Cossington Meadows, it seems that someone had confused the designation of the location, and that the bird was being seen on Rectory Marsh. This is where we headed for.

We entered the Rectory Marsh area via the gate at the south-east corner, and immediately spotted the ibis half way along the far side of the lake, at a distance of about 120 metres (measured on Google Earth). The 'safety shot' from the gate was pretty useless, and we headed slowly along the footpath towards the gate at the north-east corner. This shot was taken about 45 metres along the path, with the bird at around 90 metres.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) - Cossington Meadows
We stopped again after another  40 metres or so, with the bird at around 80 metres.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) - Cossington Meadows
We then continued for another 30 metres, stopping around 35 metres from the gate, with the bird still at around 80 metres. We could see the bird more clearly from here, but the light was now rather difficult as we were shooting against almost white water.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) - Cossington Meadows
I think that we would have moved back in the direction we had come from in order to get better light, but the bird suddenly flew. John reckoned that it looked as if it was set to pass straight over our heads, but it suddenly turned, and landed on the water's edge, just around 25 metres directly in front of us! We still had the problem with the adverse light, but it was not quite so difficult at the closer range. The other problem was the vegetation that was now between us and the bird for much of the time. Also, we dare not move for fear of frightening the bird off.

Here's a few from immediately after it landed. You can see that it was quite relaxed. You can also see that it's in winter plumage.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) - Cossington Meadows
After a while, it started to move around, foraging for food, but never going far from our position. Here's a few more shots - well a lot more actually, as I'm not likely to get another chance like this!

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) - Cossington Meadows
That last image is there because it shows a hint of the glossy green and purple that would have shown better if the sun was on the bird.

For some time we'd seen a couple approaching from the north-west corner of Rectory Marsh. They were carrying a 'scope and headed along the north bank of the water. Several times they checked out the ibis with the 'scope and then moved nearer. Eventually they got within about 15 metres of the bird and - guess what! - they flushed it! Why on earth would you feel the need to do this when you've been looking at it through a 'scope??!! - -and they say that photographers act irresponsibly!

I got some (poor) shots as it flew, and landed on the far side of the water. The second image is there because I'd never before noticed a bird raise its coverts as it landed, rather like an aircraft. Coincidentally, I also saw a heron do this later in the day.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) - Cossington Meadows
After landing, the bird disappeared into the vegetation and we headed back to the car,  calling a few choice words, as we departed, to the couple who'd flushed the bird.

From here we headed to Brandon Marsh, and had a very enjoyable 'rest of afternoon'.

Thank you for dropping by. I haven't any idea as to what my next post will feature!

Monday 10 October 2016

Catching Up With The Little Owls - 22nd Sep. to 9th Oct., 2016

This year has not been the happiest of years for me, as far as the observation of  Little Owls is concerned. The year started off well enough, but then, in March, the observation rate plummeted to levels way below previous years. After three months of this, I lost heart, and found that I was putting very little effort into owl watching, primarily just recording the birds on the route that pal John and I regularly take between home and Rutland Water.

In mid- September, we noted a small upturn in the number of birds we were seeing, and I found that I was starting to take heart. I've now started actively going out owling again, and already I'm feeling more positive about matters.

Thursday, 22nd September

My two previous posts have covered other aspects of this day, but I've saved the Little Owls until now. This was a Thursday on which John was unable to accompany me to Rutland Water, so I was left to my own devices.

My first Little Owl sighting was at my Site No.23. This is, I believe, not a nesting site, but an irregular roosting site. Only once have I seen two owls here. The place they favour most is an RSJ roof support. If disturbed, they just disappear up the web of the joist behind the cladding.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.23
Further on, at my Site No.42, I found another LO. The owls share their time between a building that is used as a store room and a nest hole in a nearby tree. There was breeding here this year, although only one juvenile was seen. The owls here are the most nervous I  have come across. Often they will disappear the moment John or I get out of the car in our parking spot, 120 metres away on the other side of the road and behind a hedge! On this occasion, I was a little more lucky, and managed to get a shot from the roadside, standing behind a hedge and tree only 65 metres away.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.42
It had been well over a year (possibly two years?) since I'd tried a closer approach to an owl at this site, so I decided that a walk along the footpath that crosses the field was in order. I did my usual trick of not looking at the owl until I gauged that I'd reached the position that I wanted to take my shot from. I then turned with the camera in front of my face - and it was still there!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.42
I'd got to a point 45 metres from the owl (measured on Google Earth). However, as soon as it saw that I'd seen it, it was off.

On the way back from Rutland Water, I found a LO at my Site No.34. This site is one of constant ups and downs, with the birds getting evicted from their nest tree by Jackdaws and/or Rooks most years. This year was no exception, although we found that they'd had a successful breeding (again, only one juvenile observed), by using a hole in a nearby tree. After this, all the birds, except the juvenile seemed to disappear. Recently we found an adult bird had returned to the original nest tree. Here's an image taken this day.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.34
The last owl sighting this day was back at my Site No. 23, where the owl had moved from the RSJ down onto the drainpipe below it - possibly just the fourth time I've seen it there. It is very rarely, however, that the owls are seen here anywhere else but on one of those two perches!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.23
Thursday, 29th September

This was an afternoon out with John, for another visit to Rutland Water.

I found a LO at my Site No.02, on the way to pick up John. This site is now giving considerable cause for concern as the roof is in an advanced state of collapse. Sightings here are currently somewhat sporadic.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.02
We had another sighting at my Site No.34, but the owl was on a distant fence post in poor light and I didn't attempt any photos.

Friday, 30th September

My wife, Lindsay, and I went out to a café for lunch at a place that was opposite my LO Site No.03. The old Horse Chestnut tree that was the nest site has rapidly been decaying and by spring last year only had one branch left on it! My last sighting of an owl here was on 30th April last year. 

This year I was disappointed to see that all that was left of the nest tree was the lower half of the trunk. As my wife and I approached the café, I gazed wistfully at the nest tree and the nearby favoured roosting trees.

We had a most enjoyable lunch, and in the course of a conversation with the proprietor, I mentioned the long-departed owls that were once over the road.

My wife and I left, and as we pulled away, there was a Little Owl on the old nest tree!!!! I didn't have a camera with me - not even my phone!

That evening, I had a disturbing thought - last time I chatted with the land-owner where the nest tree was, he was saying that they were considering remodelling their garden but hadn't made their minds up about what they would do with it. The weekend was coming, and what if they decided that it was time to take down the remains of the tree!!

Saturday, 1st October

Armed with a note to inform the landowners of my discovery the previous day, I returned to Site No.03. I pulled up on the road at a spot where I had a fair view of the tree and sat with my window open. No owl was in sight but, a couple of minutes after my arrival, a familiar shape flew from below my horizon to a tree which was the owls' favourite daytime roost. I went to check it out but, sadly, it had stopped in a position where only a record shot could be obtained. I headed back towards the car to pick up the note to put into the letter box, intending to then sit it out in the hope the owl would return. 

On my way back, I bumped into the couple who own the land, who were both armed with strimmers and about to have a clearing session in the garden. They seemed genuinely excited to know that they had owls in the garden again, and assured me that the remains of the tree would not be disturbed. Happy in this knowledge, and seeing little point in hanging around if there was going to be a protracted period of disturbance, I set off to investigate a location where I'd seen a Little Owl the previous November. Unfortunately, it started raining just before I got there, and when I was ten minutes from my car, so I headed back across the fields, getting a mild soaking for my trouble!

Sunday, 2nd October

I was back to my LO Site No.03 and the owls was there once more. This time I got a shot.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.03
I didn't hang around here, as I wanted to check another site, where I last saw an owl in July, but had found the nest building (an old army mess hut) had been taken over by Jackdaws.

I arrived to find an owl sitting out on a distant post and with difficult lighting conditions for photography.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.17
I then went to investigate round the nest site buildings, first checking a building that I've only twice seen an owl in. There was no owl there but, as I turned round, this sight greeted me - only about 7 metres away in the nest hut!

'The Self-Framing Owl'   -   Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.17
I was more than a little surprised by this sight, and even more surprised that all the images were in focus in spite of being taken through dirty glass. Here's a tighter crop from another frame.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.17
I'm relatively certain that this is a different owl to the first one seen.

Thursday, 6th October

On my way to John's for our regular afternoon out, I called at my LO Site No.02. Here a LO saw me before I saw it as it flew - which is unfortunate, because it had been sitting in a place where I'd never seen one sitting before.

A Little Owl was seen at Site No.23, but it was on the usual RSJ so I won't bother you with another photo.

A LO was also seen at Site No.34, and I did take some photos, the first of which were badly over-exposed. However, if I hadn't taken the over-exposed ones I might not have noticed the second owl sitting in the shadows behind the first. You can just detect it in this next image.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.34
Sunday, 9th October

Owling sessions don't always yield results, and visiting two sites (not visited for a few months) drew a blank, and an attempt to visit a third site was thwarted by a boisterous herd of young cattle. I ended up photographing Marsh Tits in Calke Park!

I'm feeling quite fired-up about owling again. Long may it last!!

I'm not sure what the subject of my next post will be.

Thank you for dropping by