Yesterdays "general" weather forecast was for another scorcher of a day, but here in Leicestershire it was dull, overcast and breezy and the promised sun didn't materialise until late evening. Consequently most of the day was spent sat in front of the telly watching the cricket and the golf, oh I was nursing a hangover too! But once the golf had come to a conclusion I dragged myself out for a couple of hours. As it was late, and I wasn't really full of enthusiasm I decided just to visit a nearby Little Owl site in the village of Willoughby Warterleys. It was less of an effort to get near to the owls at this site (no gates to open) and I didn't have a lot of fuel in the Landrover anyway.
I visit this site on a regular basis and the adult owls and juveniles have been showing well, but not tonight? No problems with the juveniles, all three of them showed on and off, the hen owl was also doing more feeding of the youngsters than normal too, mmmmm strange? But there was no sign of the male owl, and that was very unusual. This particular bird is just over 3 years old, I know this because he was rung in at a monitored nest site 2 miles away in the summer of 2010. He was relocated during the spring of 2011 at his new site and with his new partner. This is his third year of breeding and so far he has go on to father 10 youngsters. He is a very confiding owl and I believe it is because he is so tolerant of my presence that his partner and juveniles accept me so well. As you may have gathered I have a lot of affection for this owl, (yeah stupid I know) he and the male Barn Owl at my "nest cam" site
are were my two favourite birds. As you are aware the male Barn Owl disappeared a few weeks ago in suspicious circumstances, it really would be a major blow if this owl was to go missing too.
Whilst at the site I tried to make the most of the late sun and grabbed some images of the rest of the family. The three juveniles were predictably on their usual perch waiting to be fed.
The hen owl was working her socks off trying to forefill the demands of the chicks.
The hen owl used several different perches that offered good vantage points where she could scan the ground for a passing beetle or tit bit.
One of the juveniles then left the rest of the family, it was fascinating to watch it as it moved along the hedgerow in search of some food for itself. Whilst it did this it offered me a couple of photo opportunities where it was "back lit" by the sun. Not the easiest of circumstances to quickly get the exposure correct but I gave it a go as I liked the backgrounds..
I had a few more seconds to get my settings "better" in this next image. A bit of flash fill lifted the heavy shadows from the bird.
The juvenile I was following went too deep into the hedgerow and I couldn't see where it was going so I headed back to where the other two youngsters were perched up. I positioned the Landrover a safe distance away and waited for mum to return with some food. It was then I noticed that they were both begging whilst looking to my right, had the male owl returned?
I glanced over and there no more than only a few feet away was the hen owl, blimey I'd never been so close to her before. I had to lean out of the window a bit to get the right angle for a photo but it didn't seem to bother her. The light was good and the background was just perfect.
She then shuffled around and looked straight at me, it was a magical moment as I could see the setting sun reflected in her eyes.
I stayed at the site until well past 10pm, as I departed the juveniles were still very active and begging loudly for food, the male owl still hadn't shown...............???