Although I have been out plenty since my last post there really hasn't been much to report, things are all still very quiet on the owling front. This lull in activity is to be expected though as the hens birds continue to incubate eggs or brood youngsters whilst the male owl keeps a very low profile while keeping a watchful eye. So rather than do several posts with just a snippet of info I have waited until I'd got enough and uploaded them all as a weekly update.
In the middle of the week I re-visited my site No 205 not far from the village of Gilmorton. My last visit here was a couple of months ago when I think I'd eventually located the nest hole? The trouble was it was in a horse paddock and the only entrance to the paddock meant going through a gateway that was a few inches deep in mud! The Landrover would have got through easily but obviously it would have made a right old mess so I agreed with the landowner to re-visit when the conditions had improved.
I arrived on site around 6pm and it wasn't until I was there that I remembered that this was an "early morning" site, what I mean by that is the nest entrance is east facing and the best light conditions for photography are as the sun is rising, dooough! Never the less I had made the effort visit (over a gallon of fuel in the landie!) so I wasn't turning back now.
I parked up parallel to the nest tree around 40 feet away the waiting game then commenced. I'd been waiting around half an hour when I heard an owl call from behind me, I wasn't able to see it because of the blackout screen up at the window. Seconds later I turned around and there at the entrance hole sat a Little Owl! I couldn't be sure if it was the calling owl that had flown in or was it already in the nest and it had come to the entrance in response to the other owl calling?
Seconds later all was revealed as the supposedly "calling owl" flew in and landed on a over hanging branch not 10 feet from me. That was all I needed to see, a pair in residence and I'd also confirmed their nest location.
All this activity occurred in a matter of seconds as both owls quickly disappeared into the nest hole. I am very confident that they are a breeding pair and their chicks should be showing in the next few weeks.
So that now brings me to the weekend, I know it was going to be tough seeing some owls but not this tough. In total I visited 26 different sites and birds were only seen at 4!
My first sighting was at my site No 79, I checked out my nest box here only last week and the hen owl was sitting tight on 4 eggs. I was hoping that the eggs may have hatched by now and if I was lucky maybe see a feeding visit or two by the parents. I been parked up for a while and all was very quiet, my conclusion at the time was the hen must still be in the box and sitting tight.
Then the alarm call of a Blackbird assisted with the locating of the male owl, he was keeping a watchful eye on me from a nearby tree. Then as I watch him I became aware that he wasn't alone, I could see the hen owl too.
Normally Little Owls will just sit and watch from distance or fly away but these owls were doing neither? They seemed agitated, one of the owls then dropped down onto the nearby hedgerow for a closer look, I then realised the eggs must have hatched and they were waiting to get back to them, with this I departed immediately and left them to it.
I then visited more sites and no owls were seen until this owl was located sitting up high at my site No 87. I don't think he took kindly to me parking between him and the nest tree as he soon came down for a closer look.
He got with 6 feet and gave me a very scary stare, if looks could kill!
I quickly moved on to some other sites and no more Little Owls were located, but I did happen to have an encounter with some Tawny Owls. I stopped off at the site where I've had some great views recently and initially nothing was seen or heard. Normally I stay in the Landrover here but as nothing was showing I decided to take a walk into the woods. Camera in hand I'd only just stepped under the leafy canopy when all hell broke loose! Owls were calling from all over the place, I couldn't see them as it was too dense but from the location of the calls I could make out at least five different individuals. My assumption was they were the two adults I'd previously seen and three youngsters.
I made my way through to a clearing in the wood and sat down with my back to a tree, this tactic paid off as a couple of sightings were then made. I suspect it was the adult owls that had come down from high up in the canopy to have a look at what I was up to. This first image will perhaps give a feeling for how dense the environment was?
My luck was then in as one of the owls came and landed very close to where I was sat. They really weren't happy I was there so I made a hasty retreat back out of the woods.
The last owl I saw during the weekend was at my site No 19, upon approaching the site I noticed that the farmer had assembled a hugh pile of rubble next to the nest tree. I really couldn't believe my luck as sat there sheltering out of the wind and in full sun was a Little Owl! I grabbed this record shot from distance as I was convinced that as soon I moved any nearer it would be off!
I slowly drove around to the other side of the rubble as the light direction for photography was much better from that side, remarkably he remained in the same place and posed nicely for me.
I then really pushed my luck and drove right alongside him, he still didn't move!
So all in all it was a bit of a struggle seeing owls during the last few days, but I am not concerned in the slightest as they will all but much easier to see very soon. I am predicting my first "out of the nest" juvenile sightings/images will be in two weeks time...............can't wait!