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Saturday, 3 December 2016

November Little Owls - 2016

Some of my readers may recall that, in some of my previous posts this year, I've expressed concern at the plight of the Little Owls that I monitor. The year started well enough, and in February I had 27 sightings over 8 different sites. In March the number of sightings dropped to 17, over a slightly improved 9 different sites. Things continued to go downhill until the middle of the year, and I got more than a little despondent about the situation.

As autumn approached, there were signs that things were picking up, as were my spirits. I'm delighted to say that November has turned out to to be my best month so far in 2016. I've managed 32 sightings over 9 different sites.

This improvement is partly due to my renewed enthusiasm, and partly due to the leaves being off the trees! I'm sure the birds must have been there all the time - I saw virtually no evidence of breeding this year, so I'm unlikely to be seeing many 'new' birds. However, it's not all encouraging just yet. In recent months I'm only aware of pairs of birds at two of my sites.

Here's an update on November's Little Owls

LO Site No.02

The building that is the 'nest site' continues to decay at an alarming rate and I suspect that it is only a matter of time before it is vacated. Indeed, it may have already happened as, unusually, I've not seen an owl here for the last six visits (I pass by regularly). The last sighting was on 19th November.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 10th November, 2016
Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 16th November, 2016
Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 19th November, 2016

LO Site No.03

This site was believed to be abandoned after April, 2015, but was then found to be re-occupied during a chance visit on 30th September this year. Since then, I've visited a few times, and found it occupied on each occasion.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 6th November, 2016
How long this tenancy will last is anybody's guess as there is precious little of the Horse Chestnut tree left!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 19th November, 2016
My most recent visit, on 26th November, found an owl sitting out on a projection. Having taken some photos, I wandered down the road to see if I could find a second owl - I didn't, but when I got back the owl had moved and relocated into a nearby tree a little further from the road.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 26th November, 2016
LO Site No.12

This was a site on my 'local patch' but no Little Owl had been seen since February, 2013. I was, therefore, surprised to see one there on 15th November as darkness was falling. I suspect, however, that this was a bird that had wandered from Site No.02.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 15th November, 2016
LO Site No.17

This site is another one that is relatively remote from anywhere I usually visit, although it is not far from my Site No.03.

Sightings became very sparse after Jackdaws took over the building in which the owls nest. However, the owls (or, at least one owl) seem to have taken possession again.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 6th November, 2016
The building in which the owls live is divided by a netting partition. Sometimes, when the owls aren't visible around the building, I can just peek in through a broken window at the opposite end of the building and spot an owl there. It's a terrible photo, not helped by the chequer pattern made by the netting, but here's one of an owl at home on 26th November. The white haze on the right is caused by the window frame and the fact that I could only partially poke my camera through the hole in the window!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 26th November, 2016
LO Site No.23

This site is one where I can go for long periods without seeing an owl and then it's seen with considerable regularity. I've only seen a pair here once. John and I are currently going through a period of regular sightings here.

A previous post features an image here from 13th November. Here's one from 24th November.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 24th November, 2016
LO Site No.34

This site is up and down like a yo-yo, being frequently invaded by Jackdaws and Stock Doves. After a period of absence, I'm delighted to report that a pair are now in residence again, and can usually be seen occupying the opening to the nest cavity - although one usually has to look very carefully to spot the second bird lurking behind the first!

Here's one with the pair both being relatively visible.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 29th November, 2016
LO Site No.37

This site is a strange one. It seems to be only occupied in the winter, although it could be that the foliage is so dense in the summer that we never see a bird here - a comment that you might understand from the following images! For winter quarters, this site seems excessively exposed. The tree has the appearance of being pollarded, with the trunk being completely hollow, and open at the top. Furthermore, the 'cylinder' that is the trunk is completely open on one side - i.e. possibly 100° of the 360° circumference is missing. Having not seen a bird here since January, I'm now seeing one every time I pass!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 17th November, 2016

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 24th November, 2016
Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 27th November, 2016
LO Site No.41

I'd last seen an owl at this site, in its decaying nest tree, on 19th August. As reported in a previous post, I was, therefore, delighted to find a single owl there, in a Hawthorn near the nest tree, on 13th November. I've since had two more sightings - both in the same Hawthorn. Here's an image from 27th November.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 27th November, 2016
Two days later, I was passing that way again and, at first look, missed seeing a bird here. Then I spotted one and took my car onto the field to photograph it - although it was still not in the best of positions, being partly in shade and partly in bright sunlight.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 29th November, 2016
I was just about to depart as I did not want to unduly disturb the bird, when I caught a glimpse of something a couple of metres away, well-disguised by branches and berries. It was another owl! This, for me, was probably the highlight of the month as, up until that point in time, I was only aware of a pair of Little Owls at one other site (No.34).

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 29th November, 2016
LO Site No.43

This has always been a 'mystery site'. It is close to two other sites (34 & 36), but John and I have never been sure if the birds we were seeing here were vagrants from one of the other two sites, with 36 being the most probable. Sadly, Site No.36 was destroyed by the farmer in the summer this year, and the owls from here were never found again. However, on 10th November, as it was getting dark, an owl was seen at No.43 once more.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 10th November, 2016
Again, as it was getting dark on 17th November, an owl was seen sitting in a different hole in the same tree.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - 17th November, 2016
So that was the month of November - one that has raised my spirits and enthusiasm somewhat.

I have absolutely no idea what or when my next post will be. However, I shall try and make sure I have something to post before Christmas. Some images of a different owl species would be nice - if the opportunity arises. The only 'other owl' I saw in November was a Barn Owl after dark. In spite of returning a few times, I've not found it again.

Thank you for dropping by.