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Friday, 24 August 2018

Another Five-Owl Day - It's Magic! - on Saturday 18th August, 2018

The annual International Birdfair, at Rutland Water, is a major event in the birdwatching calendar. In 2017 it attracted over 24,000 visitors over its three days in August (I don't have figures for this year yet), and there were more than 450 exhibitors! ~You can learn more about Birdfair here .

To cut to the chase, for the past few years, I've done a turn of duty on the stand of the Leicestershire and Rutland Ornithological Society (LROS) at Birdfair, and this is always a highlight of my year. My turn was the morning shift on Saturday 18th August, and this necessitated me setting the alarm for 05h00 so that I could be on my way to Rutland Water by 06h30.

To save time getting to Rutland Water, I bypassed parts of my usual owling route there. However, I did stop briefly near my Little Owl Site No.42, and was pleased to spot two juvenile LOs on fence posts 130 metres away.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juveniles) - my LO Site No.42
I arrived at Rutland Water in good time to beat the traffic and found Sue and Jim Graham (LROS stand organisers) already there and checking out the stand. It turned out that they'd passed me whilst I was at my No.42 and wondered what the car was doing there!

Birdfair was to its usual excellent standard - possibly better than ever. As always the LROS stand was opposite that of the British Dragonfly Society, and it was great to have a chat on their stand before and after my turn of duty. Being on the LROS stand is always a very enjoyable experience and gives the opportunity to to catch up with old friends and meet new and interesting people, whilst promoting LROS membership, and issuing Annual Reports to members (saving LROS fierce postage costs).

At the end of my duty, I went off to the 'Local Produce Marquee' to buy a couple of highly-recommended sausage rolls for my lunch. I sat and ate these in the company of a couple of friends before heading for the Egleton Visitor Centre in the hope of finding they still had a stock of Double Raspberry Magnums (or should that be 'Magna'?) to fortify me before taking a tour of the fair. They had, and one was eagerly consumed.

There was a time when I found I needed two full days at Birdfair, but these days, disciplining myself to only visiting stands which are relevant to my interests for the next 12 months (avoiding expensive 'optics' and exotic foreign destinations, for example),  I usually manage to do what I want to do in a half-day. 

I was away from Birdfair by 16h30, just managing to beat the close-of-day traffic jams, and headed back homeward on my usual owling route. I wasn't having any luck to start with, and had phoned Lindsay to say that I'd be home by about 18h30.

At my LO Site No.34, where I'd seen an adult and a juvenile LO two weeks earlier, I only found a Kestrel.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (male) - at my LO Site No.34
Following the catastrophic destruction of the nest tree at my Little Owl Site No.41 early in 2017, the last time I'd seen an owl here had been in June, 2017. I was, therefore, more than a little excited to spot a Little Owl fly up into the remains of the nest tree as I approached.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (adult) - my LO Site No.41
I drove up the road and parked my car in the field on the opposite side of the road to the tree, and found that I could just about detect, through the leaves, where the owl was sitting. There was no way I could get a clearer view without disturbing the owl, so I just sat there and waited, keeping watch through the open window on the far side of my car.

I was soon rewarded with even more excitement - a juvenile LO flew up from behind the hedge into the fallen remains of the old nest tree. It had me spotted instantly, and started  that delightful head-bobbing that juvenile LOs do when they're trying to puzzle out something that's new to them.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile) - my LO Site No.41
Most of the time, however, it was exploring its surroundings, occasionally coming back to see if I was still there.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (juvenile) - my LO Site No.41
Eventually it moved to the back of the remains to a position where I could still see it but photography was out of the question. I turned my attention to the adult that still, from time to time, poked its head out to look at me, and then started to get relaxed with the situation. 

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (adult) - my LO Site No.41
At about this time I phoned Lindsay to say I was going to be late home! The adult owl left its watch-station and flew to a position behind the hedge. It stayed out of sight for a while before flying back up. It seemed curious about my presence, but relaxed, and spent more time closer to me and out in the open.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (adult) - my LO Site No.41
It was during one of the times that the owl was out of sight that I turned to look behind me and noticed another adult Little Owl on the far side of the field. 

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (adult No.2) - my LO Site No.41
I wondered, briefly, if the first adult had done a crafty move, unseen by me, but then the original adult appeared in front of me - three Little Owls! The second adult barely twitched a muscle the whole time I stayed there, so I concentrated on what was in front of me.

The first adult was getting more and more relaxed, and even started preening in front of me. 

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (adult No.1) - my LO Site No.41
The light was fading fast, and so I set off home after a delightful hour or so at this site. 

For over a year I'd been living in a Little Owl wilderness and now, in the space of two weeks I'd had two five-owl days, seeing 8 owls over 4 different sites. It got me wondering what the influence was - and then I understood !! The answer? :- Double Raspberry Magnum!!!!!

On both occasions I'd enjoyed the delights of a Double Raspberry Magnum.  These are not only absolutely delicious, but obviously have seriously magical qualities.  There can be no other explanation!

For those not familiar with Magnum ice creams, I will explain. The Magnum ice cream is, essentially, a chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick. They come in several different guises (covered in nuts, mint ice cream, white chocolate, etc.). Occasionally, a 'limited edition' Magnum is produced, and I fear that the Double Raspberry is a new one of these. It's a raspberry ice cream, dipped in a chocolaty coating, then coated in a thick layer of tangy raspberry sauce, and then coated in milk chocolate.  I'm licking my lips as I write this!

The sad thing is that, if this is a limited edition, I'm probably going to have to go out and buy another freezer so I can stock up on them. Five-owl days don't come easily these days!


All the above was written in the evening of Wednesday, 22nd August. Yesterday (Thursday, 23rd), Lindsay and I met up for lunch with my brother and his wife. On our way home we stopped so that I could introduce Lindsay to the delights of a Double Raspberry Magnum (needless to say, I had one myself also!). Guess what - 5 Little Owls on the way home!!!!! Surely this cannot just be coincidence, especially when there have been non-productive, non-Magnum, days between these occasions.

Thank you for dropping by. I'm not sure what the subject of my next post will be, but it will possibly be a short one with a sting in the tail!


  1. An amazing series of pictures, Richard, and an ebullient narrative. Now as for these Double Raspberry Magnums I think you will need to walk to Rutland and back to burn off all those calories, and go to the doctor for a serious check on your blood sugar levels! And who knows, perhaps by walking, even on a non Magnum day, you will score six Little Owls? Be sure to take your tent for the overnight stays along the route. I hear that canned sardines are a recommended high energy food for this kind of jaunt, hardly as tasty as raspberry, chocolate dipped decadence but it will have to do. Ever your devoted consultant, David

    1. If the blood sugar situation gets too serious, David, I'll be requesting a residential cure, close to my consultant so I can be sure of the best attention and highest chances of recovery.

      Your patient pal, Richard

  2. Excellenty documented Richard. Nice to see a good number of Owls being seen. Lovely photos too.

    1. Thank you, Marc. Sadly, I've got a lot on my plate at the moment, and am not able to go out as much as I would like - otherwise I'd be chasing owls and dragons! Best wishes - - - - Richard

  3. These are wonderful little birds. I really will have to investigate this owling business.
    I'm not a Magnum fan but can tolerate a Cornetto. Perhaps in the interest of science and statistics you could try a Cornetto prior to your next trip.

    1. Up in your neck of the woods, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a Little Owl, Adrian. I believe that they have only recently started to reach as far north as the soutyh of Scotland. Other owls, such a Short-eared and Long-eared should be easier for you to find that it is for me to find them.

      Sorry, but I have to continue to thoroughly test the Magnum Theory. '♫ Just One Cornetto ♫' would probably stretch my scientific principles a step too far - even if you did '♫ Give It To Me ♫'.

  4. Replies
    1. They certainly are, Anne! Little Owls are, without a shadow of doubt, my favourite birds.

  5. Hi Richard
    Lovely sight of the Little Owl, and the Kestrel sitting in a tree. Fabulous photos.

    1. Hello, Bob. Thank you for your visit and those kind words, which are much appreciated. I hope you are having a great weekend. Best wishes - - - Richard

  6. I am so delighted for you, and for myself to see these photos that you have shared. I would be so excited if I had been with you. As for the Double Raspberry Magnum, I have never heard of them, but they do sound good.
    As for David's comment on sardines - we have been told not to eat sardines or mackerel, they are full of plastic! If you want to eat fish eat the ones that live deep and not on the surface. We love fish, but we are learning to be a bit picky where they come from!

    Enjoy your weekend, Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane - I expect that I too would have been excited if you had been with me ;-} - I'd have probably had to have another Double Raspberry Magnum !!!

      On a more serious note, Lindsay and I have found that we're cooking less and less meat dishes and moving towards fish and vegetarian. Now you've thrown a spanner in the works with your statement about plastics and fish. Lindsay and I are both doing as much as we can to not use single-use plastics, but I don't think either of us had thought about the danger of ingesting plastics through the consumption of fish. Not sure that the deep-sea fish will be less dangerous - huge amounts of plastic have been found even in the deepest parts of the oceans.

      With my very best wishes - - - Richard

  7. Hello Richard,
    I can not think of words of praise any more, fabulous would be what I would write, and that's what I mean .. I always walk here with me in Germany with the view into the trees and shrubs but here is nothing with owls ....
    really great pictures
    Greetings Frank

    1. Hi Frank. Thank you for those very kind words. I'm sorry that you do not find owls during your walks. Have a great week - - - Richard

  8. Hi Richard,
    I am really completely green when I see so many pictures of this little owl.
    what a beautiful series and I can imagine that you have greatly enjoyed seeing and making this cute little owl :-)

    Greetings, Helma

    1. Hi Helma. It was a most joyful experience and a real privilege. Best wishes - - - Richard

  9. Es curioso que por mi área de observación de aves el Athene noctua está en regresión y en los últimos años la población de esta especie había descendido a un estado muy preocupante. Pero este año han regresado parejas a nidos que llevaban años sin ocupar, de hecho ha sido muy productivo con muchos pollos que han salido adelante.
    Me ha encantado este reportaje y por cierto el Magnum es mi helado favorito, jejeje. Enhorabuena Richard, un fuerte abrazo desde España.

    1. Hola, Germán. Me parece bastante notable que tu experiencia con Athene noctua sea paralela a la mía, pero alentando que tú también hayas notado que parecen haber regresado. ¡También estoy muy contento de no estar solo en mi amor por los helados Magnum!

      Mis mejores deseos desde Inglaterra, donde hace frío, y pronto lloverá - - - Richard


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