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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

After The Storm - on Friday 24th February, 2017

Pal John and I didn't have our usual Thursday afternoon out on 23rd February as Storm Doris held this area in its grip throughout that day with rain, and winds up to 100 km/h, and the recommendation was to avoid all unnecessary travel. 

By the Friday morning, things were looking completely different weather-wise and, with some trepidation, I set off for John's place at around 10h45. I'd left a little earlier than usual as I wanted to check out my Little Owl Site No.02. My concern was that there is so much of the roof missing that a strong gust of wind would lift the rest of the roof off, like a kite.

I arrived at No.02 to find things looking remarkably unchanged. At first I did not notice the bird which was tucked into the edge of the end wall with just its head visible from my position. I took a few photos from the roadside, and had a chat with a gentleman who was valiantly picking up litter from the adjacent gateway.


Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male) - my Site No.02
The owl was still there when I decided to make a closer inspection of the building. As part of this process, I halved the distance between me and the owl. This resultant shot is for Noushka and Doug - it's a foot thing! I'm pleased to say the owl was still sitting there when I departed in my car.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male) - my Site No.02
Feeling a little more confident, I continued to John's place, encountering only minor debris on the road. It was John's turn to drive and we set off on our usual owling route so that we could check on the situation. We did see the occasional blown-down tree, and quite a few broken tree limbs. 

On arrival at my LO Site No.41 we had a major disappointment.  When John and I first became aware of this site, it was because the farmer was bemoaning the loss of a major limb of the tree that his owls resided in. The owls were, fortunately, unaffected by this. However, just three months later, we arrived on site to find that a huge part of the tree had split off, totally destroying the nest cavity. John and I quickly erected a nest box, but this was never used. The owls spent all winter over on the far side of the field, returning to the original tree in the spring of 2014 where they found another nest hole and raised young that year.

Now we arrived to find that the rest of the tree was down, leaving just the stump of the trunk, although our nest box was still in place as you can see on the right of the remains in the next image. 

my Little Owl Site No.41 - remains of nest tree
I spotted an owl fly up from the debris on the left and land in a nearby hawthorn bush, then John spotted a second one sitting on those remains.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
It was good to see that the birds were still around and had survived the experience. We are keeping our fingers crossed that they find another home nearby, if not in the owl box. We shall be keeping an eye on things, but being careful not to disturb them at all.

As we approached a corner on a country lane I spotted a pair of Stonechat. The female kept her distance, but the male was less concerned by the car.



Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) (male)
We've only ever seen a solitary owl at my Site No.37, but this seems to be an extremely hardy bird, and out in the most unexpected weathers. When we first stopped, with the usual tree on John's side, John couldn't see the bird as it was so well hidden. In the end, I managed to point it out to him, and then went to try and get a better viewpoint.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.37
We stopped for our picnic lunch by my Site No.34. All seemed fine here, with both birds visible in the nest opening. 

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.34
We saw no further owls that afternoon, and set off to Eyebrook Reservoir in the hope of seeing and photographing Kingfisher. This was not to be, but a gentleman on the bridge pointed out a distant Great Egret. At first, it was only showing by the top of its head becoming visible from time to time. Then it moved into a more prominent position. Google Earth tells me that it was 220 metres away at this point. Although this has become a relatively common bird at Rutland Water in the past 12 months, it was a noteworthy sighting for Eyebrook.

Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) - Eyebrook Reservoir
I changed my position and waited, and eventually it fully appeared, although further away by now.

Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) - Eyebrook Reservoir
A Little Egret was somewhat closer, landing at one point on the perch often used by the Kingfishers.


Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Eyebrook Reservoir
John had a call from home to say that one of his dogs was poorly, so he needed to pick up some medication from the vet's on the way home. The Kingfisher had still not shown when we set off homeward, stopping briefly at the second stockade on the west side of Eyebrook Reservoir. Here I attempted some distant shots of Pintail and Snipe.

Pintail (Anas acuta) - Eyebrook Reservoir
Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Eyebrook Reservoir
There were no further sightings of note and, having picked up the medication at the vet's, we arrived at John's home at 17h00. As Lindsay wasn't expecting me home until sometime between 18h30 and 19h00, I decided to pay another visit to my LO Site No.02. Both owls soon appeared and, although there was no hanky-panky, there was plenty of calling and they did sit together for a while. Unfortunately, at this site, evening shots will always be directly into the low evening light.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) (male on left) - my Site No.02
I watched for a while and eventually they departed so I set off homeward. Five minutes later I found myself looking at a Barn Owl. What a wonderful end to the day!

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - near Ashby de la Zouch
If it hadn't been for the upset at Little Owl Site No.41 it would have been a most satisfying day, with 7 Little Owls and one Barn Owl seen. 

Please can I leave you with a request. The raptors in UK (and in many other parts of the world) are suffering terribly at the hands of mankind - either through persecution or from environmental destruction. If you only do one thing this week please make it something, no matter how small, to further the cause of these wonderful creatures. Better still - make it a weekly target!

Thank you for dropping by. 

28 comments:

  1. Lovely post Richard. You do manage some lovely close shots of some of these Little Owls. A lovely study.

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    1. Thank you, Marc. Most of my 'close ups' are taken from the comfort of my car!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  2. I hope the two owls who have lost their tree settle somewhere soon, hopefully in your nest box.

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    1. Thanks, Finn, I hope so too. I'll be checking up and hope to have positive news in the not-too-distant future. It would be great if they setttled in time for the breeding season.

      Best wishes to you all - - - Richard

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  3. Hi Richard,and what a visit out we had, thank goodness we missed Thursday. As Findlay says lets hope after all this time the birds decide to use the box we put up and raise another clutch. Mind we had some fun putting the box up. You managed a better image than me at your Site 37, I got more tree than bird. You were so lucky to see the Barn Owl, all I manage at the moment is to hear them very late at night. See you tomorrow, have you printed the Osprey Handbook for the meeting? All the best John

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    1. Hi John. We'll keep our eyes open and fingers crossed for the pair at 41.

      See you in a couple of hours!

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  4. Hi Richard:I am wondering whether Little Owls in general are prone to using nest boxes. Here Eastern Screech Owls readily take to using them (at least one of our boxes at SpruceHaven is now occupied) but other species are far more reluctant to use them. I remember well the nest box you show above and it seems to be ideal. Given the additional damage to the tree and the inevitable collapse of the derelict building it would be ideal if the owls could be coaxed into taking advantage of the free housing you provide.

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    1. Hi David. That box is of a proven design, but maybe not of the best colour. Dark khaki is a better colour, but I'm not about to repaint it anytime soon!

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  5. Great series of shots - shame about the nest tree - but at least it was not cut down. In a few weeks I will finally be posting a few owl shots of my own - about time I think!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Stewart. I'll be looking forward to your forthcoming owl images.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  6. Really cool watching! I hope that the storm did not do bad damage! I just flew four whooper swan over our house! Greetings

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    1. Thank you for your visit, Anne. It was a bad storm but we only had minor damage.

      Best wishes - - Richard

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  7. Hi Richard, fantastic images that you had, especially the Barn Owl, I love it.

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    1. Thank you, Bob. That Barn Owl was a real pleasure to see.

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  8. Certainly was gusty around here, I always laugh at the advice 'non essential journeys' and wish it was implicable to us HGV drivers, I think I had 3 heart attacks and 2 stroke lol.
    I love the Stonechat images.
    But of course two certain LO images grab my eyes :-) their feet truly are out of proportion to their stature I think

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    1. Hi Doug. I can see you phoning into work and saying "it's a bit windy, boss - I think I'll stay at home" ;-}

      The Stonechats were in the same area last Thursday, but not so photographable. They're always a delight to see.

      I agree about the LO's feet, but they look quite sinister and dangerous. For out of proportion feet, I think that Moorhen takes the biscuit - and they just look comical!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  9. Hello Richard,
    Great sightings and good to see the birds are remain on the sites.
    Let's hope they can nest successfully this season!
    Very lively photos of the Stonechat, they are always on the move!
    Take care and enjoy your WE :)

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    1. Hi Noushka! Thank you for dropping by, and your kind comments. Sadly, I've not yet mastered the art of capturing movement in my images - unless I'm very lucky!

      Have a great week. With my very best wishes - - - Richard

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  10. Sad about site 41 but I hope they will soon find somewhere to settle. We went to the raptor centre in Pietermaritzburg centre in RSA, all birds that had been brought in with a problem. Amazing that some of them have been paired and are actually breeding and hopefully the young will return to the wild. Wonderful day out. Have many, many photos of South Africa and Botswana, but it is going to take ages to get through them all, as always too many taken over nearly five weeks!!! Hope that all is well Diane

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    1. Hi, Diane. Sadly there was no sign of the birds at No.41 when John and I passed by on Thursday. We'll not give up on them, though.

      Looking forward to reading of your African adventures.

      All is well here, thank you.

      With my best wishes - - Richard

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  11. Hello stranger!!! Bummer about the site. I think I'd flip but such things happen. Very cool of you guys to put up an owl box. It has gotten so crazy here with birders visiting from out of town. It's nice to meet people but I never get a chance to sit down and read! So if you ever make it over to Tucson, let me know. Thank you as always for keeping an eye on your owls and caring about their well-being. I do it over here as well. Our owls have babies and I monitor those nests worse than the parents do:) Have a great weekend!

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    1. Hi Chris. Long time no see! Sadly, it's the nature of the beast - Little Owls tend to favour nesting in decaying trees of crumbling buildings in these parts, so their homes tend to be in danger of collapsing round them. It's great to know that you also are an owl champion.

      Thank you also for your kind invitation to contact you if I'm out your way. However, I suspect that President Fart, and your gun laws which don't look set to improve anytime soon, will keep me away - which is a great pity, as otherwise USA has so much to offer.

      Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

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  12. Great to see that the owl is left after the violent storm. The tree is in two but the hive you indeed still cling to the stem. I'm happy for the whole stone owls. The pictures of the stonechat is quite nice and sharp. Wonderful to see. I also see the big and the little egret.
    What a surprise to see the barn owl and also to photograph yet. Congratulations. Really great!

    Warm regards, Helma

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Helma. My best wishes - - - Richard

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  13. A great post and enthralling read buddy, nice images too!!

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    1. Thank you, Paul. Your kind words are much appreciated.

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  14. Hello Richard, some great sitings of the LO. To bad one of the trees did not survive the storm. Ik hope as well that they will find a new place. Love the captures of the stonechat. Nice you also saw a barnowl. All in all a great blog again.
    Regards,
    Roos

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    1. Hi Roos. Great to hear from you, and thank you for your kind words. I spoke with the farmer yesterday, and he told me that he was still hearing the owls around the farm buildings, although he had not seen them since the tree came down.

      I hope that all is OK with you. My best wishes - - - Richard

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