The chances of getting any good owls views on Saturday were slim to say the least, I was up nice and early (and hangover free), OK that was in my favour, the sun occasionally popped it's head out from behind the clouds, yep that was good too, we are in the middle of the owls breeding season which is by far the best time of the year to see them, so what was the concern? Wind that’s what, a constant south westerly of around 15mph with frequent gusts of up to 38pmh is really bad news and from my experience Little Owls just hate it! A gentle breeze is OK, they live with that and just go about their normal routine (of just doing nothing) but at least they are out!
So fellers, pretty much like real life really? Whilst we go about doing all the dutiful husband/fatherly chores and keeping the kids happy the other half just sits around giving orders and watching!!
So I knew it was going to be a challenging morning, firstly could any owls be located and then could I get near? My frequently visited of late "star site" was going to be my banker, not just because the owls have got very use to me and the Landrover but because of the topography, there are loads of fence posts (which owls love) that are down below the hedge line and ot of the wind, it really lends itself as a good sheltered location where an owl can spend the day, or so I thought!
I'd been sitting and waiting for 90 minutes and nothing! I could hear and occasionally see the juveniles at the nest entrance, they were constantly begging for food but it was obviously falling on deaf ears as no feeding sorties by the parents were made! I finally came to the conclusion it was time to cut my losses and go, then I spotted one of the adults, the hen bird. She was "holed up" (sorry a terrible pun!) and sheltering in the tree dead opposite me. Although the tree was about 25 yards away it was in full view since my arrival, I'm sure I'd have seen her fly up to it whilst waiting, had she been there all the time?
After reviwing the image below (which has been heavily cropped) it's not surprising I didn't see her, what brilliant camouflage.
Now I absolutely adore watching Little Owls, mostly they do nothing but perch and preen for ages and ages then out of the blue there can be and explosive five minutes of activity, that is worth waiting for but this was getting ridiculous even I was getting bored! Not wanting to waste anymore time I departed.
The next two hours were spent visiting other nearby owl sites where I knew breeding had taken place as they were my best bet for any activity.........and there was none! Yes I did see a couple of birds but like the owl at the first site they were sheltered up out of the wind and doing nothing!
Reluctantly I was resigned to re-visit the first site, sometimes it is better the devil you know. I'd prepared myself to sit it out and wait, surely something will happen sooner or later? Upon my re-arrival would you believe it the hen owl was still in the same tree! Assuming she hadn't moved whilst I was away then that was at least three and a half hours she'd been sitting there, if not longer? Another hour passed, she remained put (4hrs 30 mins) what a lazy cow! The juveniles were still begging only with more urgency now, two of them were out of the nest and were striving to get to a higher branch, the male owl was there! He'd been elusive all morning and this was my first sighting of him, I realised then why the juveniles were so excited, he had a massive earthworm in his beak.
Then it happened, the hen owl made a move!!! She must have been shamed by the visit of the male and got off her backside and flew to a nearby post. I re-positioned myself as things were starting to look up; was a feeding frenzy was on the cards.........no it wasn't! For the next 15 minutes she just sat and preened and occasionally excelled herself with a stretch of the wings, below.
Although out of sight I could tell from the begging calls that the juveniles were being fed by the male, good man he was doing his duty unlike the hen owl who sat and watched! Then she upped and flew back to the tree whence she came from, she was taking the p*ss!
As all the action was taking place near to the nest tree I re-positioned myself there, I did manage one decent image of the male owl as he had a brief rest bite in-between feeding the excited juveniles, below.
Oh I might get into trouble with that one?????