Hi and welcome to my Blog, my name is Paul Riddle and I live in south Leicestershire, UK. Back in August 2008 my quest began to locate as many local Little Owl territories as possible. The driving force was a reported decline in the uk numbers so I thought I would do my bit and conduct a study in my area. After 5 years and countless hours out in the field I have detected over 200 different sites. With a thirst for a greater understanding of the owls a more comprehensive monitoring and nest box programme then commenced. This also now includes monitoring the local and very sparse population of Barn Owls, please pop back occasionally and catch up with the life and times of my owls and any other wildlife that I come across. I hope you enjoy your visit!!!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Bad News.....

Hi all, sorry for the lack of posts of late, the weather hasn't allowed me to get out to do any birding.

However, on a related note I had a phone call last week from my buddy Adey and with hindsight it was a call that I rather not have taken? Whilst on his way to work he got held up in a traffic jam, as he was inching his way through the congestion  he made a  sighting out of the corner of his eye (a private joke!). There laying on the roadside verge was a dead Barn Owl! I asked him to pull over and check it out and to see if it was a ringed bird, unfortunately he was already late for work and explained he didn't have time. To be fair I think the thought of parading up and down the grass verge to check out a corpse whilst in full view of the slow moving traffic was too much of an embarrassment for him?

Because this gruesome discovery was made on the most southern boundary of my monitoring area I felt compelled to investigate further. A few hours later I too was in the same congestion, but the slow moving traffic enabled me to locate the bird quite easily. I managed to park the car safely in a lay-by and then made my way back along the roadside to where the bird lay. As I was standing there taking a few photo's of the bird with my I-phone I got some very strange looks from the passers by. I picked up the bird to check to see if it had been ringed, it hadn't. I don't think it had been there too long as it appeared to quite fresh, obviously a result of being hit by a passing car/lorry. As I stood there arm outstretched with the bird dangling a passing driver open their window and shouted out "sicko" how very charming of them, well I suppose it must have looked quite strange!   

A sad sight for anyone's eyes.
Unknown to my Mrs the unfortunate Barn Owl is now wrapped in a plastic bag and nestling nicely on the bottom shelf of our freezer, goodness knows what she will say if its found? I hope to have the bird looked at by a local taxidermists that I know and maybe soon it will have pride of place in my office?

Whilst on this sad subject of dead Barn Owls, I had another message come through last week from my ringing buddy, Mike Townsend. He'd had information sent through to him of a "recovery" (details of a bird he'd previously rung). This was bad news too, a young owl that we rung at one of my breeding sites this year (near to the village of Gilmorton) had been found dead. It was found near the village of Ashley in the county of Northamptonshire, it had traveled 21 km due east. I don't have any further information at this time but I suspect it was another roadside collision with a car/lorry that resulted in its untimely end? 

This image below was taken at the time we rung the said owl along with it's three siblings back in June. I have no way of knowing which one of the four is the unfortunate one but I do hope the other three are still out there and fairing well.


The question I have now is why did the young Barn Owl travel so far from its natal site? Its not as if we don't have enough boxes up for them, or maybe we don't? Colin and I are on the case and as we speak more boxes are in production, they will soon be erected in strategic locations within my monitoring area, more about that soon........

Thanks for stopping by and hopefully the next post won't be too far away?

Thursday, 27 November 2014

2015 Owl Calendar

Hi all again,

Following the saddening news in my previous post I thought I'd have a post with a little less depression! It is that time of year again where I have selected some of my favorite owl images taken during 2014 and compiled them into a unique limited edition calendar for 2015, see review below. The premium 235g/m glossy paper stock is of excellent quality and certainly complements the images.

As in previous years the small profit that is made from the sale of each calendar will be circulated straight back into the owl box scheme where more timber, preserve, screws etc will be purchased with the long term aim of having 150 boxes up.   


So whether you are a purchaser from previous years (thank you!) or a first timer this year and you would like to buy a calendar whilst at the same time you'll be supporting the box scheme then please email me at the address below and I will get back to you asap.

The calendars are priced at £11.00 each plus £1.50 p&p to UK addresses.

Many thanks

p.riddle@fluid-solutions.co.uk

UPDATE - Calendars now sold out! 
Many thanks to all of you who purchased, you should have received it by now. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Bitter-Sweet.....

It was bit of a quiet weekend on the owling front, the mighty Leicester City FC were playing at home on Saturday afternoon, because I was being picked up by Daz at 1.0pm it only left a few spare hours in the morning. However, these few hours were efficiently utilized with the setting up of a few perches at a new Kingfisher site (No 3). This is the site where a landowner friend has them regularly visiting a pool and feeder stream that feeds their Mill. Whilst there I didn't actually see the Kingfishers but I did hear two different birds calling nearby. This location is absolutely perfect for Kingfishers and the layout lends itself perfect for photography, or at least it will once they accept and start using my perches, but more about this site at a later date.......

On Sunday morning I didn't go out owl watching, it was a miserable drizzly day and my head was pounding, the consequences of too much booze the night before, I'll never learn? So around midday a walk with the dog in the fresh air was decided upon to be the best tonic, not just to help clear my head but also to cheer up the dog!

We walked across the soggy fields not far from the village of Cosby, I'd purposely chose this walk as I wanted to check out one of my Barn Owl boxes that I erected in an old disused building. Over the last 3-4 years I have seen birds around this particular building on many occasions, they do use the box as it is full of regurgitated  pellets but they have never used it as a breeding site? 

I last visited the box to check for any breeding back in mid July, lots of pellets but no birds and definitely no signs of breeding. However, it now seems as though I may have last checked it out too early, as yesterday morning what greeted was a saddening sight. There on the floor of the building and directly below the nest box were two dead Barn Owls.   



I moved both of the carcasses outside for better inspection, neither bird was rung and neither showed any obvious signs of being predated. The primary feathers on the lower bird were not fully developed so I can only conclude that they were young birds that had either fledged the box too early or something sinister had happened to the parent owls and these youngsters had starved?

Whilst there I also found several very fresh pellets on the floor (jet black, heavy and damp) so even though these dead birds were in attendance other bird(s) are still frequenting the building, maybe the parents? So this discovery was a bitter sweet moment, sweet in the fact that another pair of Barn Owls have attempted to breed in the confines of my survey area but very bitter when young birds are discovered like this!

Hopefully my next post will be a little less morbid?

Back soon!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Productivity......

Hi all!!

It has been a very busy time since my last post, but not all with owl watching and photography, although I have squeezed a bit of that in too!

One of my land owner pals has a fantastic woodworking shop on his farm, and it is hardly used, well not until now that is! I approached him earlier in the year with the offer of making and erecting a few boxes for him (as he had requested some boxes) and in return was it possible to use his workshop? A deal was soon struck and Col and I made our first visit there one evening last week.

As can be seen from the image below the workshop is huge, however my 35mm lens just doesn't do the size of it justice. Working in there just couldn't be better, there is loads of room, its nice and warm, good lighting and plenty of working space, just perfect for a horrid winters night. 


Available to us are 4 different types of electric wood saw, they make stripping down the 8ft x 4ft sheets that we use a doddle, Col can be seen here in this next image doing some cutting to size.


We made two visits on consecutive evenings and before long the large timber sheets had been transformed into five brand new Barn Owl boxes, yours truly can be seen here taking a well earned rest with the boxes.


Once the boxes had been made the next two evenings were spent treating them with a quality wood preserve, I don't like this part of the task as it is boring and very tedious but it needs to be done! Six hours later the boxes had all had four coats and they were all ready for erecting.

Saturday morning we honored our part of the deal and the first box was erected on my farmer friends land. We selected a mature Oak Tree with a north facing aspect, it was just perfect but before being secured to the tree a large amount of Ivy needed removing, Col told me that was my job, as can be seen below!


Col came in at the eleventh hour and took all the glory by securing the box in place!


Just a mile or so down the road we erected a second box on a huge Ash Tree, again Col can be seen here (below) doing the "good bit" of securing the box, again!


Last year both these boxes had breeding Barn Owls within a mile, so hopefully the fledged young will still be around and find these two offerings very soon?

Last Sunday I re-visited my newly found Little Owl site No 250, previously I'd not managed any images of the resident birds, apart from the one that was taken at night with the aid of the Landrover headlights, it was a terrible image.

So on this visit I set about checking the small group of trees in the corner of the field, initially I wasn't looking for the birds but their nest hole. If the hole could be found then the birds are usually found too. This theory was put to practice as the hole that I suspected belonged to the owls did actually result in seeing the pair albeit after a lengthy wait. The hole was unusually quite high up in the tree, hence these next two images are heavy crops and the quality has diminished somewhat but always nice to see two owls cuddled together!



One of the owls flew from the relative security of the nest hole down to a lower limb to my left, it was an awkward angle for photography but I managed to grab a shot before it flew back up to its mate.


During the next few months Col and I will be burning the midnight oil when ever we can with the manufacture of more boxes, so watch this space to see how things develop.......

That's all for now folks.

Catch up soon........

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Soon to be gone.....

OK, since my conscious decision a few weeks ago where I decided to dedicate more time to the owls things have been pretty productive to be fair. I have managed to see and photograph Barn, Little, Tawny and Short Eared Owls, and unbelievably they were all new sites for me!

My latest trip out was back again to the new Barn Owl site, yes I suppose I have become a bit of an obsessive when it comes to this site but seeing anything else in the week is a none starter because of the limited day light hours. But at this site the birds don't appear from the nest tree until well after dark so it doesn't interfere with work. 

I was again in situ and parked up in the Landrover by 6pm, the first emerging occurred just before 7pm and that bird appears to be the oldest and bravest of this brood as it doesn't hang around waiting for me to photograph it, no soon after it has popped up its off practicing its flying along the hedgerow. It's two younger siblings gave me a right royal show though. They both appeared at the entrance a few seconds after big brother had flown off and they sat transfixed at the entrance watching him flying around. 


As can be seen in this next image the two remaining youngsters are pretty well developed now, although their respective plumage do look very different indeed. The right hand bird (and I suspect the elder of these two) has a much more "adult" looking facial disc and darker breast feathers.


It is also the one who spends most of its time nearer the entrance, I suspect it is some kind of pecking order as it will be first in line when one of the adults comes in with a vole. This does happen quite frequently but sadly I have not managed to capture an image of the exchange of a meal package as it happens all too quickly and with it being pitch dark there is not sufficient shutter speed.


The young Barn Owls are very inquisitive creatures, they are constantly checking out every tiny movement they observe or sound they hear by way or twisting and contorting their heads in the strangest of positions.


I suspect that due to how well these young owls are developing they will be dispersing their natal site any day now. They will be off to establish a territory of their own and hopefully they will stay local, hence why I keep visiting as it may be the last time I ever see them?

Thanks for stopping by, catch up again soon..........

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Peas in a pod.


I was up and out early this morning, accompanied by a banging hangover that was a result of the previous nights alcohol abuse. Needless to say I deserved to be feeling awful, one can't expect to down a dozen cans of beer without paying the consequences. I obviously didn't feel much like walking anywhere, in fact what I needed was some easy birding that could be done from the car, and I knew just the place!

After a steady drive I was soon at the new Barn Owl site that has featured in my recent posts. It was only just getting light and with the heavy fog that cloaked the area meant viewing wasn't too good. For the first time I saw three owls huddled together like peas in a pod at the nest entrance, the resultant image is definitely in the "record shot" category as it was taken with high ISO and has also been heavily cropped. 

Three young Barn Owls from the second brood.
Whilst at the site, Craig (the guy who informed of these owls) came driving along and parked up behind me. As we watched the owls he told me that he had managed (and showed me) an image with five Barn Owls together taken at this location, but that was back in July/August?  This could only mean that the young birds we were viewing were from the second brood this year, so as it turns out this has been a pretty productive site with at least 8 fledged birds to add to the ever expanding local population, I guess that means I'd better get making and erecting some more boxes asap!

Catch up soon.........

Friday, 7 November 2014

Sorted at last.....

Last night I had another lengthy session at the new Barn Owl site, there were high winds and driving rain showers which consequently resulted in the birds showing a lot later than on previous visits. The photo opportunities were limited, but I am pretty pleased with this image, below and the new header, above especially now I have managed to disable Bloggers auto photo enhancer, yippee!!


This second image is exactly the same as the one above?? The only difference (and a big one at that) is it has been "auto enhanced" by blogger, this results in it being too bright and over saturated. I know they do it with the best of intentions but it is NOT how I intended my image(s) to look. I want them to represent what I am seeing out there in real life, and at 7.00pm in bitch darkness it doesn't look like this below!!


All my uploaded images of late have been through the dreaded auto enhancer and to be fair the majority weren't really effected, however there were a few that were woeful! So now that I have upgraded (I was loathed to initially) my images will be published as I intend for them to be seen, I hope you agree that the first of the above images is the better one, or am I missing something?

Catch up again soon.......

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

More owls

Although it is very tempting to keep returning to my new Kingfisher project, I knew that I needed to get my priorities right so for now they have been put on the back burner and a concerted effort has been employed with the owls. So during the last few weeks where my enthusiasm for the owls has been re-kindled some-what I have now managed to see and photograph four different owl species. In recent posts I have recently featured my new Little and Tawny Owl sites, in this post new Short Eared and Barn Owl sites.

It is that time of year where the SEO's (Short Eared Owls) start to re-locate to their wintering quarters, I've put in many hours checking out likely looking sites and have now seen birds at two different locations, the more recent sighting was made just up the road from where I live. I was in the village of Leire, Leicestershire and this sighting/encounter was by complete accident, right place at the right time. I was visiting some local landowners to discuss with them the Kingfishers they have visiting a pool in their back garden!!  As we stood over looking the pool a "flappy" bird was noticed flying overhead, the binoculars were soon on it, a SEO!! It then started to spiral down to a "scrubby" area that was in the adjacent field. It flew quite close by but before it could land it was mobbed by a group of corvids that appeared from nowhere, this unwanted attention obviously gave it second thoughts as it then started to climb back up into the sky. It was at this stage that a second SEO was spotted up a little higher than the first bird. The pair of them continued to fly in a southerly direction, because of the topography of where we stood they were soon out of our line of sight and it was all over too quickly but brilliant to witness nevertheless. 

SEO a brief fly past.
Late on Monday evening I had a mystery E-mail from an unknown individual about Barn Owls that had been seen in a tree within my surveyed area. At the time I was in a slumber and not far off going to bed, however this information certainly woke me up! It was 10.15pm and there was no time like the present to go and investigate. This particular sighting was of interest to me because I have erected 3 boxes very close by to the tree in question and they have all been visited by Barn Owls (pellets in the box) but none of them had been used as a breeding site. By 10.45pm I was parked up adjacent to the tree and although I couldn't see any owls I could hear them! The distinctive "hissing" of recently fledged owls told me that this was obviously the breeding site, and a late one at that! I sat there in the car listening and after a while my eyes became accustomed to the dark and in the cloudless sky the nearly full moon gave just enough light so I could make out five different birds in the tree. 

Fortunately I know the landowner so a plan was hatched for me to return the next evening after work and park my Landrover in the field. At 5.30pm the next evening I was as planned parked up near the tree, it had 3 or 4 likely holes that the birds could emerge from? I selected the largest and most likely hole as  the best candidate and manually focused the camera onto this area. At 6.05pm the first Barn Owl showed at the hole entrance, after a bit of hissing and head wobbling it scrambled from the hole and onto the lower branches. As you would expect by this time it was pitch black so in order to gain any images using the flash on my camera was the only method of capturing an image.


The above image is another victim of Bloggers auto-enhance process, sorry!

Juvenile Barn Owls, emerging from their nest entrance.
During the next 30 minutes at least three juvenile owls emerged from the hole, but actually there could have been four or even five as it was difficult to see through my scrim into the pitch black. 

Absolutely fabulous to witness even if it was only partial and silhouettes in the darkness. 

Thanks for taking the time to stop by, catch up again soon.........

Friday, 31 October 2014

Owl Update

Recently I had a dig in the ribs that subtlety reminded me that I'd not being doing a lot with my owls of late, too occupied with the Kingfishers I suppose. So to make amends I have unbelievably put a little more effort in and the rewards were there to be had.

Initially it was off to check a few sites for SEO's (Short Eared Owls), after numerous visits to several "known" sites I managed my first siting of the winter. It was a distant bird in pretty awful light conditions but nevertheless good to see and a record shot of shorts was obtained, below.

Short Eared Owl
Now that I have finally located this SEO wintering site I will no doubt be investing some more time there to see if I can improve on this first image.

Recently I have also managed two new Little Owl sites, the first one is not too far from my first Kingfisher  site. I was pretty sure that during my marathon waiting about for the Kingfisher to show I'd heard Little Owls calling from a distant corner of the opposing field. So one evening when I was taking Patch (my dog) out for his evening run I went into this corner of the field and whilst passing a couple of very owly looking Ash Trees I heard an owl call. There was absolutely no mistaking the alarm call, the culprits identity being Little Owl. The trouble was it was pitch black and there was no way I could see anything. The area consisted of the two trees, a boarding hedgerow and in between was a small field gate. I called Patch in to the Landrover and then positioned it facing the gate, I had a plan but a very far fetched one at that!  The engine was turned off but I left all the lights on, the full beam and spots lit up the gate and lower limbs of the tree lovely. I dare not stay like that for too long for fear of draining the battery down, but I needn't have worried as within a few minutes there was a pair of birds perched on the gate!

I sat and watched them with a smug grin on my face, always good when a plan comes to fruition. They didn't seem to be put off by the glaring headlights at all, if anything they seemed to drop down onto the grass to feed more where the light shone than in the darkened areas. I attempted to capture an image but they were all blurred apart from this single image below. I know it is not of the highest quality but when you consider it was 6.45pm and even with the headlights on I could still only muster a shutter speed of 1/6th of a second at ISO 2000.  In addition to this the lens was rested precariously on top of the steering wheel and the image captured through the windscreen!

First record shot of  an owl from site No 250
Needless to say I shall be keeping a close eye on this site and hopefully some much improved images to follow?

My second new site was encountered last weekend when I went to check out one of my as yet unoccupied Barn Owl boxes. As I approached the old building that houses the box a movement caught my eye on the internal brick wall, Little Owl! The engine of the Landrover was killed instantly, I'd never seen an owl of any species here before so it was quite a plesent surprise. The scrim was erected up at the window and the camera positioned on the beanbag. Luckily the owl remained in the same location as when I first spotted it and a few record shots were captured. Attempting to get the correction exposure was very problematic in itself what with the very dark interior of the barn and the bright sunlight that was streaming through the gap above the wall. I sat and watch the owl in question do nothing for ages but then things got more interesting when a second bird appeared, below.


I invested a few hours at this site and eventually managed some "better" images when the birds came a little closer. Again getting the exposure right was a real problem and the resultant images tend to have a "flat" feel about them. Nevertheless this collection is a good start for my first encounter at new site No 251 and I will be returning when the light is more in my favour.



Whilst there I witnessed the pair of owls mating, see below. Yes I know it is very late in the year, or incredibly early if you look at it another way but this very mild autumn we are having can do strange things to nature?


So not too bad a return for my latest owl excursions, ironically I never did get around to checking if the Barn Owl box has been occupied, I'll have to check that out next time.

Thanks for stopping by and catch up soon..........


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

An owl for a change......

I have been very neglectful lately with my owls, I have put some effort in to finding some but to be quite honest it is all too easy to give up and get drawn back to the Kingfishers, ooooo I love em!! Anyway, my good friend and fellow owling buddy Richard Pegler has been dropping a few subtle hints in the comments he leaves on my blog asking when will I be getting back to my owls?

So just for you Richard this post features an owl!! 

Earlier today I was in-between customer visits in the south of the county, I was travelling through a semi-wooded area along a country lane when a Tawny Owl flew across in front of the car. It was nice to see but I wasn't really that bothered about pursuing its whereabouts. I then had a flash back to Richards recent comments so I pulled up as soon as it was safe and reversed up into a nearby gateway. The binoculars and camera were soon out of the boot and it wasn't long before I was onto the owl. 

The bird was around 20 yards away and partially hidden by undergrowth and over hanging branches. However, I did managed a few record shots out of the car window of this new Tawny Owl site. 


I tried to "squeak" the owl out into the open for a chance of a better image but it was having none of it and stayed put. After 20 minutes I gave up waiting and continued on with my journey. 

Later after work I made a detour on my way home and re-visited the same location again, the light wasn't very good as it was getting late, but I'd got nothing to lose and surely it was worth a try? (a bit more effort on my behalf Richard ;-) !!). I parked up in the same gateway and "squeaked" again. This time I had a bit more success when the owl showed again, it started to call which confirmed to me it was a male bird. Remarkably it only took a few minutes before the owl flew closer and landed in a tree right next to the car. 



The photographic conditions were dire, 6:02pm and almost dark meant I had to adjust the settings to ISO 2000, F2.8 and only then I was able to achieve a miserly 1/20 of a second shutter speed. I only managed a handful of images before the bird was spooked by the noise of the camera shutter but at least I'd bagged a couple of usable images from this new site.

Yes it was good to get back in the company of an owl again, very refreshing in fact! So thanks must go to Richard for reminding me that putting in a little effort does sometimes reap the rewards.

Catch up soon, thanks for stopping by.........

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

What the camera saw.......

Since the finding of my second Kingfisher site just down the road from where I live my first site has almost been ignored. It wasn't a difficult decision really when you compare the amount of time invested (sitting waiting in the Landie) verses the rewards (Kingfisher sightings). In addition to the more frequent sightings the fact that the light direction at the second site is far more favorable for photography and also the distance involved in driving is half a mile compared to five miles, yes a major consideration when the Landie only does 12 miles to the gallon!

At my second site I was around 90% sure that I was seeing two different Kingfishers, both juvenile hen birds? After reviewing loads of images I noticed that one bird had a very pale lower breast feathers, a smaller orange patch on the lower mandible and slightly different light blue markings on its back. There was obviously always an element of doubt in my mind but these thoughts were finally confirmed when this next sequence of images were obtained. 

I was busily taking images of a Kingfisher on a nearby perch, as I was watching it through the camera viewfinder it started acting very strange indeed. It crouched low on the branch, opened its wings and beak and gestured aggressively up stream whilst calling. 



Needless to say I hadn't witnessed this kind of behavior before so I just kept rattling off the images. Within fractions of a second the Kingfisher disappeared out of my view finer and off down the river. It was this lapse in the action that gave me an opportunity to review the images I'd just captured. What greeted me in one single frame was a total shock........two birds!! 

Sadly I wasn't prepared for this incredibly fast piece of action and my camera settings at the time were not able to freeze the action without the motion blur and nor was I able to have them both properly in focus, dooough!! 

But I do think the image is just about usable so I thought I'd share.......


However, what it has done for me is to be able to confirm 100% that indeed there are two birds present along this stretch of the river and yes they are both hen birds. It has also enabled me to achieve another one of my goals of an image of two birds together and in flight, well sort of?

Just a quick post

Catch up again soon..........

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Kingfishers on the doorstep.....

Yes yes I know, the Kingfishers are getting a bit repetitive now and this blog is suppose to be mainly about owls, but currently I can't find any? At the moment here in Leicestershire we are experiencing a very wet and windy period, all I can say is the owls don't like it and have gone to ground! Therefore, rather than pursue a species (owls) that don't want to be seen at the moment I thought I'd go and watch one that does......the Kingfishers.

In my previous post I introduce you to my new and second Kingfisher site, it was accidentally found when I had a wander down to the local river in my Landrover. I have now made my second visit and it was with a bit of purpose. After making the tiresome 2 minute drive I set about rummaging through the undergrowth looking for some suitable branches to erect as hunting perches for the Kingfishers. The branches I sought needed to be, A) long enough to hang out over the water, B) not too heavy otherwise securing them to the bank is a problem and, C) they had to look nice! 

I went about my task and after half an hour I'd scavenged a couple of branches that fitted the bill. Now all I had to do was decide where to erect them? This stretch of the river where I can access it in my Landrover is around 500 yards, but only on one bank. Initially there is a confluence of the main river and a small brook, after they merge they meander through a small copse and then off along the side of a crop field. There are five overgrown Willow Trees that offer good cover and natural hunting locations for the Kingfishers but for photographic reasons they are far too snaggy. In between two of the Willows is a straight section of around fifty yards, it was between these two trees that I selected. My reasoning was that the birds would have plenty of time to see my branches hanging out over the water no matter which direction they were flying. The o in and the major influencing factor was the light levels were pretty good here too. 




I am not going to apologies for posting yet more Kingfisher images, I am having a whale of a time (if sometimes frustrating) with this very challenging species.

A very short post as my time is better employed camped out on the riverbank waiting for the Kingfishers to put in an appearance, catch up with ya all later! 

Monday, 13 October 2014

More Kingfishers......

Hi all,

Sadly nothing to report on the local owling front, I've visited some local sites where breeding took place in the spring that held Tawnies, Barnies and Little Owls but no sightings have been made at all?

So rather than spend time seeing nothing I was drawn back to my Kingfisher site at South Wigston. Four separate three hour sessions resulted in plenty of fly by birds but hardly a stop off where I'd parked up. The only time I had any quality views was when one of the males obliged and used my perch as a fishing post. It initially landed and spent the next few minutes preening itself, then without notice it dived into the water below and returned back to the same perch with its catch, a small Stickleback.

Kingfisher (male) with Stickleback.
Watching it use my perch was very rewarding in itself, and I was well chuffed with the Stickleback capture and image, but then things improved somewhat, it dived again into the river only this time it emerged with a different fish species altogether, a Bullhead I think?



Although I didn't realise at the time the Kingfisher had actually speared the Bullhead with its mandible, the lower in the fish's side and the upper right between the eyes, ouch!!

As you can probably make out from the last image above it was raining at the time which meant lower light and slower shutter speeds. A real shame as I'd captured loads of images of the Kingfisher slapping the fish against the perch (to kill it before being consumed) but at only 1/500 of a second it wasn't enough to freeze the action and consequently they were at different levels of being blurred, examples below.......




It was inevitable that the "action" wasn't going to last for long and as anticipated the Kingfisher soon departed. The next few hours were spent again watching a lifeless river......

On my way back home I took a quick detour down a track that leads to the local river, just to have a look really. Whilst down there I had a flash of blue whiz past the Landrover, I couldn't believe it there were Kingfishers here on my doorstep!! The bird in question landed in a riverside Willow Tree, I watch it through my binoculars as it dived into the water on a couple of occasions coming up with a catch both times, could it be a favoured fishing perch? I waited until it flew off and then positioned the Landrover parallel to the river and adjacent to the Willow Tree. I didn't have to wait long either before the bird returned, this time it landed on a small branch on the other side of the river, here it held a very erect posture, maybe it was checking me out? 

So this image below is my very first of a Kingfisher from my No 2 site, it's quite a heavy crop but what can be clearly seen is the orange the the lower mandible meaning it to be a female bird. It also has quite "dirty brown" feet rather than bright pink which suggests it is a juvenile. 

Female - Kingfisher site No 2
For the next hour I was captivated watching this young bird as it flitted around in front of me, occasionally it would stop for a few seconds to fish.  It came quite close to me at times and with the much improved light a few more images were captured.



To say I am over the moon that I have discovered this Kingfisher territory so local to home is a gross understatement!! It only takes me 2 minutes to drive there rather than the 15 minutes to my initial No 1 Kingfisher site and the bird here seems to tolerate the close presence of the Landrover. 

Obviously I am now going to dedicate some time to this "on my doorstep" new site, I think that the overall layout of the river and the lower height of the banks lends itself better for maybe attaining a decent flight shot and two birds together than my No 1 site does, time will tell?

Thanks for stopping off

Catch up soon...........

Thursday, 2 October 2014

My Blue Phase....

I am addicted, just like the time when I was out watching and taking photo's of my first Little Owls, I am referring to my latest mini project with the Kingfishers. Spending time down by the river watching these engaging creatures has captivated me in a way I never thought possible. 

Its a very tough task though, sometimes I can lie in wait for as long as five hours without even a sighting, but on other times they show within minutes of arriving. Either way when you get a one settle on a nearby perch and start fishing is great reward in itself.  However, to get one come so close and in good light too was just brilliant, all the time waiting is soon forgotten. 


I have selected this one image (above) from dozens I have so far captured, it was one of those times when everything was perfect. The light was brilliant, the defused background with subtle autumnal shades being very complementary and the bird held the perfect pose on a natural perch only a few meters away. 

Still haven't managed a flight shot yet (well not one I am happy with) and I have seen two birds together on several different occasions now so that image may not be too far away either?

Just a quick post, catch up again soon........

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Gotcha!!

It has taken what seems to have been hundreds of hours down at the riverside, but eventually I have succeeded in achieving my second objective, an image of the Kingfisher with its catch! I was onsite again at first light on Saturday morning, I set up at my "new location" on the bend but after two hours it was a fruitless exercise with only one fly past. 

I reluctantly decided to re-locate back to the original area where I'd had some relative success. After my re-position the bird showed after a wait of 1 minute and sixteen seconds, I know the exact time because "saddo" here set his stopwatch to see how long the wait would be? What made matters even more rewarding was it landed on one of the perches that I'd erected during an earlier visit. 

Initially the Kingfisher just sat there on my perch watching the world go by, but then it was flushed as a Sparrowhawk sped by in pursuit of one of the Green Sandpipers (there's three of them here now). The Sandpiper displayed far too much agility as it evaded the pursuing Sparrowhawk with ease.



I took the opportunity when the Sparrowhawk flew through to move the Landrover slightly, I wanted to get into a position where I was looking along the Kingfisher perch rather than across it. It wasn't long before the Kingfisher was spotted again just down the river, it was perched up on a bank side bush and from here it made a successful dive into the water and emerged with a catch. Then rather than fly back to bush where it had come from it opted to land on my perch, yeeeessssss!!!

Needless to say my camera went into overdrive as I rattled off a sequence of  40 images whilst the Kingfisher bashed the poor little fish (a Minnow I think?) against the branch. But because of the low light my shutter speeds of 1/400th were too low to capture the action shots. Sadly the majority of these images had too much motion blur and are not usable, example below.


However, I'd thankfully got my exposure levels just about when the bird remained still and a few images turned out to be OK, thank goodness!





Only two more objectives to go before this "mini project" will come to a conclusion, a flight shot and a pair of Kingfishers together, mmmmm there could still be a long while to go?

Thanks for stopping by,

catch up soon.........