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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

A Five Little Owl Day - Saturday 4th August, 2018

Those of you who have been visiting my blog for a number of years will probably remember that it largely featured owls until around a couple of years ago. Partly through lack of investment in time to search out new sites, somewhat influenced by a decline in my stamina, but mainly due to a loss of owl sites due to destruction or predation, my sightings of owls dropped dramatically.

One of my main 'owling routes' was that from my home to Rutland Water which, as a volunteer on the Rutland Osprey Project, I used to take regularly. On a good day I could reckon on seeing between five and ten Little Owls, and only seeing two or three was considered a bad day. Last year it got to the point where I considered myself lucky if I saw one!  It will probably sound daft, but I found myself getting increasingly despondent about the situation and avoiding disappointment by staying away.

Just lately, however, I decided to put a toe in the water and see what was happening at some of my old sites. My first two outings drew a complete blank. However, I felt a visit to Rutland Water was in order to check out the dragonfly situation (I've done little in the way of Osprey duties this year), and resolved to take the old 'owling route' rather than the quickest route.

On my way, finding an owl on the barn at my Little Owl Site No.23 nearly brought tears to my eyes .


Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.23
I had no further sightings before arriving at the Egleton Visitor Centre at Rutland Water. Here I bought myself a Double-Raspberry Magnum (for my overseas readers, that's a rather exotic ice-cream) in celebration, before setting off to seek dragons. I'd only just stepped outside the door when I heard a voice say 'hello Richard' and turned to see a face that I did not at first recognise behind a new beard - it was my old pal, Andy - the 'Hooded Birder'. We chatted, and he updated me on some of the owls he'd been seeing, as part of my 'owling route' is on a daily commute for him. This gave me the resolve to stay late at Rutland Water and time my arrival at potential owl sites as dusk approached.

I didn't fare particularly well at Rutland Water, my first hour being spent trying to photograph Southern Hawker dragonflies in flight. The effort wasn't helped by the location being in shade and the water surface being 'muddled' with complex reflections from the surrounding trees . 

I totally failed with with the hawkers in that area, but did get some shots of a Ruddy Darter dragonfly and a Comma butterfly.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Heading further on the southward side of the Visitor Centre didn't reveal anything of interest, so I set back and then took the trail to the north of the Visitor Centre, dipping into some of the hides as I progressed, but without any decent sightings of anything. It was a bit breezy and the first damselflies I saw on this side of the Centre were by the hedge alongside the eastern edge of Sharples Meadow.


Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (immature female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I ventured as far as Buzzard Hide, near where I saw this Small Tortoiseshell, before turning back towards the Visitor Centre.


Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Beside Sharples Meadow again,  I noticed a Brown Hawker dive into the hedge, closely followed by another. I managed to find one of them, but not the other. 


Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Further along, I stopped to photograph a female Ruddy Darter.




Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
At around 19h30 I set off homeward via my owling route, stopping for half my picnic evening meal at my Little Owl Site No.42. Here I spotted a juvenile LO on the door of the barn. Wandering along the grass verge of the busy road, I took a few photos of this bird. 





Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile) - my Site No.42
I got back to my car to find a second bird had appeared on a fence post behind the barn. This was 130 metres away (measured on Google Earth), and I only had my butterfly binoculars with me so couldn't make out whether this was a juvenile or adult.


2nd Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.42
I had the second part of my picnic at my Little Owl Site No.34. Here I found an adult LO.


Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.34
I then noticed another LO in the next tree down, and took a 'record' shot, before going down the road to try and get a shot from a better location. This is the 'record shot' of what I subsequently found to be a juvenile.


Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile) - my Site No.34
Having gone down the road, I couldn't relocate the second bird. Meanwhile the adult owl was being quite active, but now at a greater distance.



Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.34
Eventually I did manage to find the second bird, and determine that it was a juvenile, but didn't succeed in getting a shot that was significantly better!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile) - my Site No.34
My last Little Owl sighting of the day was back at my LO Site No.23, where the owl was now out on the apex of the roof, and it was getting rather dark by then.


Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.23
Thus ended a truly heart-warming day - my first 5-owl day since April 2017 - although the photo opportunities hadn't been that great. My thanks to Andy for the tip-off information - I hope to see you at Birdfair at the weekend.

I think I'll probably be back to dragons for my next post.

Thank you for dropping by.

20 comments:

  1. A photo of a Brown Hawker. Probably the hardest species to approach when perched I think. A lovely selection of photos Richard.

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    1. Thank you, Marc. I find the biggest problem with Brown Hawkers is finding one perched in an accessible position in the first place. Usually they range far and wide, and disappear into the distance or over the hedge before settling. Once I've found one settled, a very stealthy direct approach usually works. Best wishes - - - Richard

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  2. Wow that close-up off the Ruddy Darter is amazing. I am though so happy to see you back with ‘your’ owls, and especially some juveniles, so it means they are certainly around. Now you have found some more maybe they will stay around for a bit and let you take more photos. Loved this post.
    Enjoy the rest of the week, cheers Diane

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, Diane. I don't think I'll ever get back to the intensive owling days I used to have, but I hope to keep up an active interest..

      Enjoy your weekend. My very best wishes - - - Richard

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  3. A two magnum outing. A satisfactory trip.

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    1. I knew I'd missed something - it was a second Magnum! However, the Visitor Centre (my source) was long-closed by the time I got back there, so I'd have been unlucky anyway. Best wishes - - - Richard

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  4. Beautiful images Richard. The butterflies and dragonflies, but, I love the Little Owl, perfection.

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    1. Thank you, Bob - I don't think there's much that gives me greater pleasure than the sighting of a Little Owl. My best wishes - - - Richard

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  5. There is a very loud round of applause, Richard, audible even in Canada for your renewed efforts with the Little Owls. I suspect that at least in part their population is cyclical and perhaps they are now on the rebound. We can only hope so.

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    1. Thank you, David - I'll be keeping my fingers crossed! My love to you and Miriam - - - Richard

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  6. Hello Richard
    here in Germany, there are double raspberry magnums ;-) and it tastes very good, just as good are your pictures, I find the owl very beautiful, an experience ..
    Greetings Frank

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    Replies
    1. Hi Frank. I've now discovered that double rasperry magnums are a good luck charm. I found and enjoyed one yesterday - and had another 5-owl day! Thank you for your visit and your kind words. Best wishes - - - Richard

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  7. Extraordinario reportaje, me han gustado mucho todas las fotos en especial las del mochuelo sobre la puerta de madera. Enhorabuena Richard, un abrazo desde España.

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    1. Gracias, Germán. Fue un día maravilloso para mí, ver a los búhos. Esa puerta de madera es un lugar favorito para que se sienten cuando hace buen tiempo. Los mejores deseos de una Inglaterra aburrida y ventosa, ¡y ha dejado de llover ahora! - - Richard

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  8. I, for one, am ecstatic that you took a detour! Seeing your Little Owls is like looking through an old family album!
    As a bonus, you casually display perfectly exposed and framed photographs of butterflies, damsels and dragons. Show-off!
    Just to tease us all even further, you wantonly consume more than your fair share of double magnum, which, although I've never even heard of it, once you described it as ice cream and raspberries - well, I may have to run to the grocery immediately.

    Richard, thank you so much for another inspiring post!

    Gini and I are running about trying to locate early migrating warblers and having some success. We both hope you and Lindsay are well and are about to have a splendid New Week!

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    1. Thank you so much for those much-appreciated kind words, Wally.

      Those Magnums are not over-exotic, but just an ice-cream on a stick. However, this particular Magnum is, I think, a special edition - raspberry ice cream, surrounded by raspberry sorbet, and coated in milk chocolate - mmmmm, delicious - and I've now discovered that they have magical properties which I will probably disclose in the blog post after my next one (post, not Magnum!).

      I wish you and Gini all the best with those migrating warblers - have a wonderful week - - - Richard

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  9. Hi Richard,
    as you know, I love owls. In the Netherlands, too, the clay stalks are decreasing in number, but the colt owls are increasing again. I greatly appreciate your pictures of this cute little owl.
    The photos of the dragonflies are fantastic! Beautiful footwork.
    Groejtes, Helma

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