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1. I have a policy that I always reply to comments on my blog, even if it's just to say thank you.

2. Please don't submit comments that include your own web address. For obvious reasons, they will not be published.

3. I'm now on Twitter - @RichardPegler1

Saturday 24 November 2018

Do I or Don't I - - mid- November, 2018

The local Short-eared owl site seems to have attracted a number of photographers who's only interest is 'getting the shot', with no consideration for the welfare of the wildlife around them, and the comfort of other birdwatchers and photographers who want to observe the fabulous spectacle that the presence of these birds offers.

This has, inevitably, led to the suppression of news about these birds on the various major bird news sites and social media groups. I had, therefore, to think long and hard as to whether to do this blog post on the owls.

I came to the conclusion that my audience is small enough, and comprises mainly people that I know to be responsible birders/photographers, and that a blog post from me would make no difference to the situation. I will, however, not take my usual step of announcing this blog post on Twitter. I will also not be mentioning the location of these birds in this, and future, posts.

My blog is, primarily, my own personal diary, but one that I am happy to share with others. I am not about to let a few selfish people interfere with my own enjoyment of my love of wildlife.

What I will be doing, however, is complying with a request to report any persons acting irresponsibly to the main ornithological bodies pertaining to the area. I carry a camera!

OK - now to the owls

Saturday, 17th November

The light was not good and, although Short-eared Owls were seen, I only got just-usable shots of Barn Owl.

Barn Owl (Tyto Alba)
Sunday, 18th November

As I passed through the site, I noticed someone standing in a no-go area outside the hide (much to the annoyance of those in the hide, I was subsequently told). Fortunately someone in the hide got a better photo of the miscreant than I did from the path nearly 150 metres away.

The light was quite good at times, but when a Short-eared Owl settled on a post less than 50 metres from my position it was almost directly into the setting sun! With the naked eye, the owl appeared as a silhouette, and it was almost impossible to tell which way it was facing. Oh well - better luck next time!! I guess, with greater post-processing skills (or photography skills), I could have made a better job of this shot.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
The sun soon dipped down, but I did manage more shots of SEO. These might not be crisp detailed portrait shots, but I rather like the atmosphere they convey.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
When a Barn Owl eventually appeared it was over the other side of a field, where it stopped on a post for a while.

Barn Owl (Tyto Alba)
Other commitments, and the forecast of rain, kept me away from the owls for a couple of days, but I did make it down there on the Wednesday.

Wednesday, 21st November

I arrived on site and, a few minutes before 3 p.m., witnessed two owls having an altercation at the far side of the plantation. Sadly, they chose to do this in an area beset by wires.

Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus)
It was over half an hour before I started to get my next photographic opportunities. The light had faded and most people had given up. However, although these shots again lack crisp detail, I rather like the atmosphere created by the almost monochrome effect of shooting in low light and high ISO.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
That session ended at 15h36, and it was 15h49 before the next opportunity when two owls had another brief fracas at altitude, and then went their separate ways, but the light was awful.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
I stayed for a short while longer, with no sight of the owls, and believe I was the last, other than dog-walkers, to leave the site. No Barn Owl was seen on this occasion.

Due to weather conditions and other commitments, I've not managed a visit since Wednesday, but am hoping to visit again tomorrow (Sunday 25th).

I think my next post will have a different subject matter - it might even feature wildlife in my garden.

Thank you for dropping by.

Friday 16 November 2018

Cut Across Shorty - on 11th November to 16th November, 2018

Prompted by a report of Short-eared Owl at a site near my home on Saturday 10th November, I set off to Longmoor Lake, near Normanton Le Heath, after lunch on the Sunday.

Sunday, 11th November

The bird had been reported as seen on the east side of the lake, and I arrived to find one birder leaving, and another (a person known to me) waiting patiently by a gate. So far, there'd been no sign of Short-eared Owl (SEO) that day. 

Because my brain was telling me that 'east' was in a different direction to actuality, I exchanged phone numbers with the gentleman by the gate and went off to look in another area, which looked very promising - I was, in fact, to the north of the lake, as I discovered later when I took out my phone to check my location.

Several other people turned up to try and find the SEO but favoured the place by the gate. A couple that had already given up and were heading out, stopped to chat with me and suddenly I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was the typical curved drop to the ground that an owl makes. Within a few moments the owl was spotted - we had our SEO!

I phoned the person by the gate, and then put out a message on the Leicestershire and Rutland Ornithological Society (LROS) WhatsApp group. Soon I was joined by others, including my old pal Rhys who had been elsewhere on site. The bird stayed distant, quartering the field that we were standing at the edge of.  Occasionally, it flew over the hedge, and then came back again. However, on one occasion, what we originally thought was the same bird came down the far side of hedgeline. It was then that Rhys spotted that there was another SEO back in the original field - we had two SEOs in view!

The bird that had flown down the hedgeline had continued over to the east side of the lake. The original bird quartered the field for a while more, then crossed over the track in front of us, briefly stopped in a distant tree, and then joined the other bird on the east side of the lake.

I didn't get any particularly pleasing images from that session, but here are a few for the record:-

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - by Longmoor Lake
I also took a few distant shots of a very busy Stonechat. Here's one:-

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (female) - by Longmoor Lake
Monday, 12th November

I returned to have another attempt at getting photos of the Short-eared Owls. To my delight, however, the first owl to appear was a Barn Owl.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - by Longmoor Lake
When the SEOs did arrive, they made their way to the east side of the lake fairly quickly. I decided to head over and join the people there, but this turned out (for me) to be a wrong decision. The owls kept relatively low and a lot of intervening shrubs made photography quite difficult. As the light faded, one of the owls flew past to my original position and spent a little while there - I should have stayed put! This very poor shot was the best I came up up with of a SEO that day.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - by Longmoor Lake
Tuesday, 13th November

I stuck to my resolve to hold my original position on the north side of the lake this day, and had no regrets that I did so.

As on the previous day, the Barn Owl was first to put in an appearance, and it was an absolute delight to watch it hunting.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - by Longmoor Lake
Soon, the first SEO appeared, and it became apparent that SEO and Barn Owl were heading towards each other. I'm kicking myself for missing the talon to talon moment when they met, but only managed a 'record shot' with both birds in the frame - possibly never to be repeated for me.

Barn Owl and Short-eared Owl - by Longmoor Lake
I did fall short of getting satisfying SEO images, but managed a few that didn't go straight into the bin - I'm not too disappointed with the last one of the trio.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - by Longmoor Lake
Wednesday, 14th November

I was back again, and very firmly resolved to stay at the north end of the lake. The Barn Owl was already out when I arrived just after 15h00.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - by Longmoor Lake
The SEOs appeared just a short while later. I witnessed  several interactions between Barn Owl and SEO and a couple of interactions between SEOs, all at a distance, and didn't manage to capture any images. However, from where the action took place, I was definitely in the right place. The penultimate image, although of poorer quality, is there as it shows the owl with prey.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - by Longmoor Lake
There were at least two SEOs present that evening, but I suspect that there may have been more. My companion commented with words to the effect that life doesn't get much better than this, and I had to agree. Watching owls hunting is the most fabulous experience!

I did not feel able to return on the Thursday evening as I was giving a talk on owls that night and wanted to conserve my energies.

Friday, 16th November

I had a call from friend, Doc Martin, to ask if I was going to Longmoor Lake, and as I was, in spite of the very dull weather with a chance of rain that was forecast, he kindly offered to give me a lift. 

On arrival  on site, I was very disappointed to see that some irresponsible persons had decided that it was acceptable to stand outside in front of the hide, especially when there are signs to state that this is a 'no access' area.

Martin and I headed for my usual position beyond the other end of the lake. At least two Short-eared Owls were present and we witnessed several altercations between pairs of owls. However, photography was nearly impossible, and this 'record shot' is the best I could manage. The Barn Owl didn't show while we were there.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - by Longmoor Lake
Better weather is forecast for the weekend and, all things being equal, I shall be back again, so it might well be owls again in my next blog post - especially if I am able to get better images than I have so far.

- and the title of this blog post - it seems that, whenever I'm watching a distant Short-eared Owl, I'm silently humming to myself Eddie Cochran's 'Cut Across Shorty'!

Thank you for your visit.

Wednesday 7 November 2018

A Visit To Rutland Water - on 10th October, 2018

It had been more than two months since my previous visit to Rutland Water, so a return was long overdue, and this seemed to be the day for it!

It was a sunny, but breezy, day with temperatures forecast to be around the 20°C mark. I took my usual owling route but only saw an owl, on its usual roost, at my Little Owl site No.23. It was looking rather tired.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my LO Site No.23
Once at Rutland Water, having partaken of a Double Raspberry Magnum, I set off northwards on the path to the hides on lagoons 2, 3, and 4. 

I stopped by a gate that is favoured by Common Darter, but none were there. However, something made me take a closer look at a 'blob' half-way down the gate  - it turned out to be a well-camouflaged Grey Shoulder-knot moth.

Grey Shoulder-knot (Lithophane ornitopus) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
At Sharples Meadow, I took the hedgeside path past the seat in the corner, as this hedge can also be good for dragonflies. At the corner, I found myself being worryingly harassed by a Hornet. Having batted it away, a little further on, another had a go at me. Mentioning this later, in one of the hides, I was told that Hornets emit a pheromone when agitated, and that other Hornets pick up on this and are also drawn in to the 'attack'. 

I did find a few Common Darters along the hedgerow, after I'd got away from the Hornets.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I did see a Migrant Hawker dragonfly on my way to Crake Hide, and spent a while trying to photograph it, but to no avail.

On arrival a Crake Hide, I was somewhat surprised to find 14 Little Egrets and 5 Great Egrets in view. Unfortunately, the Great Egrets were rather distant, but here's a shot of some of the Little Egrets which, I hope, will help to convey something of the scene.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Photographing what are essentially white birds can be quite challenging, but I found the light on the water to be rather pleasing at times, and well worth the effort.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
A Grey Heron provided some photo opportunities.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
The Great Egrets stayed distant, and the only photos I took were of a bird that flew in to join them.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I've always considered egrets to be some of the more elegant of birds, although I did take some shots a couple of years ago of a preening Great Egret that had ruffled feathers and a few kinks in its neck. However I'd never really taken note of the head-on appearance of a Little Egret. I took a few shots of this and I really do find them to be more than a little comical. What do you think?

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
At one point I took a break from Crake Hide, to have another attempt at the Migrant Hawker, but again I failed. I did, however, pop into Shoveler Hide, and took a few shots, between the reeds, of a Snipe.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Returning to Crake Hide, I took a few more shots of the Little Egrets and, rather than leave you with the shots of them looking ridiculous, I'll show them in their normal majesty.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
It was getting near time to go home and, on leaving Crake Hide, I had another attempt at the Migrant Hawker, which eventually disappeared. However, I found another by Shoveler Hide which looked as if it wanted to settle. The first couple of times it tried settling it was in impossible places for photography, but then it settled on a gate which, at least,  I could get at, even if it resulted in a less than pleasing shot.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Fortunately it took off and flew around for a while, settling here and there, and eventually landed in a place that was still a bit high up, but photographable from a distance.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Arriving at Sharples Meadow, a Comma Butterfly, in remarkably good condition, was on the blackberries.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Further on I found another Migrant Hawker.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
- but I was interrupted by Hornets, again. The pheromones must have still been active!

Hornet (Vespa crabro) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
The Visitor Centre was still open when I got there, so I popped in to inform them of the potential Hornet danger, and then set off homeward.

An owl was out again at my Site No.23, looking a little more awake this time, but no other owls were seen on the way home. 

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my LO Site No.23
Overall, it had been a most enjoyable day, with the only real disappointment being the realisation that the 5-owl spell of the Double Raspberry Magnum had been broken.

Thank you for dropping by. I'm not sure what my next blog post will feature.