Friday, 29 March 2013

GREAT WHITE EGRET AND LITTLE OWL

Well what can I say about Summer Leys Nature Reserve, one moment it has me singing it's praises the next I'm wondering where all the birds have gone and cursing it. Looking back through images I've had from the reserve or the neighbouring gravel pits (Earls Barton GP) I've had some great encounters of the birding kind here.
Today was one of them days I was almost on my hands and knees kissing the asphalt "pope-style" as I left. In my end of the year review I was quite chuffed to have logged all three Egret species in the county (Cattle,Little and Great White Egret) in 2012, well today I went a wee (my American readers wee=little) step further and finally not only got some half decent images of a Great White Egret but managed to add all three Egret species to one nature reserve..brilliant, I suddenly realised that in regards to Summerleys I'm actually quite luckily to have this reserve on my doorstep and to stop being a whingeing git.
GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS), SHOULD REALLY PLUMMET FROM SKY RATHER THEN A GRACEFUL LANDING

GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS), DESPITE IT'S SIZE THIS BIRD HAD A GREAT WAY OF SNEAKING UP ALMOST UNNOTICED.
With three of the large beasties being reported up on the reserve I knew/hoped I would be able to delete the record images on my website, but as always with birds it's not a dead cert'. The weather man promised sun early and indeed it was bright and sunny, warm too, well compared to the last few days anyway. So after checking the scrape (water level high so not much early passage wader action) I walked around to the screen hide, there some distance away on Eddie's Island was one of the Great White Egrets being harassed by a Black Headed Gull...CHOMP every time the screaming gull came near it's big bill, I could see a dead gull I thought, sadly Eddies is to far away for anything but a record shot and I didn't want a record image. The Egret got annoyed by the gull and flushed away to the railway line...bugger might as well be in another county now I thought, then the second Egret came off Hawthorn Island and joined the first Egret, there was the usual dog walkers and joggers up and down the railway line and having tried approaching a Great White Egret with some rather impressive fieldcraft at Naesby resevoir a couple years back (my first encounter with the species) with Bob Bullock, both of us on our bellies, Bob doing a fine job at being a commando, me a rather pathetic looking stranded Walrus impression and I snapped a twig and without even looking around the bird took off and ended up at Pitsford I could sense Bob's disappointment and I felt rather inept. So knew despite the birds size they weren't very tolerant of humans as their cousins the Little Egret, with some Teal and Great Crested Grebe action in front of me I got distracted and the next time I looked over they were gone....NOOOOO! How did such a big bird just disappear!? A much repeated theme for the day. because despite their size in flight they were very quite and subtle in their approach.
One of the birds (the two images above) used the reed bed in front of the hide for cover and suddenly popped up over the top of the reed bed before dropping into one of the pools of water finally after a two hours of waiting the bird was in close. It looked around got fidgety so I risked it and held off from photographing it, giving it a few minutes to get cosy and it started to fish...exactly like a Little Egret wiggling it's feet under the water etc
GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS), GREAT CATCH SIR!!

GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS), FISH GULPED IN ONE SWALLOW
It was fishing very successfully, despatching three catches very quickly, occasionally running around chasing fish under the surface, a sight in itself, but I think this relatively new species has I think found a species of fish it isn't used to...the Perch, the Perch has a spiny fins on it's back and it caught a very fine specimen but as it went to swallow it, the bird dropped it "in shock" and looked at it, tried re-catching it and dropped it again it tried once more before finally giving up and moving onto another species, not before staring bemused at the fish and the fish living for another day, well I think it did I didn't see it on the surface and the Egret carried on catching smaller fish. Compare the top image of the two to the one below for the difference in the size of the fish, I might be wrong but I think the smaller fish is still a perch though.
GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS) WITH THE PERCH THAT GOT AWAY

GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS), PLENTY OF TIME SPENT IN VARIABLE LIGHT BUT A GREAT MORNING SPENT WITH THIS GREAT BIRD
I had other plans for the afternoon and was finding it hard to drag myself away from Summer Leys, but my non-birding friend who loves swallows and who let me photograph Swallows in his paddocks had sent me an email "got a nice surprise for you" was the general content of the email, but it was in my opinion far to early, I did see one solitary Sandmartin fly through the reserve so just maybe. I arrived and walked around to the stable blocks, a few new outbuildings, some artificial swallow nests installed but this wasn't the new surprise, "See the Tawny sat by the old horse shelter" now where I put my hide last year, excited I glanced over and saw an instantly recognisable small round blob...Little Owl, I wasn't disappointed, told him it was a Little Owl, I was very happy because all last summer I kept thinking to myself that this site should have a Little Owl, a few old oak trees and a lot of mature ash trees all with holes, plenty of fence posts etc. We were busy watching it from VERY far away dropping down and collecting worms. as we did he told me the Little Owl had suddenly turned up a few months back, so it wasn't around last year and is a new site for me, my first new site for nearly a year now, I kept thinking how close I was to Leicestershire and was wondering if it was one of Pauls that had moved south (is 12 miles to far Paul?)  and cursing I couldn't get a 4x4 into the paddocks "NO WAY" was the firm response, can't blame him, he has over 15 horses on site etc. He pointed out the tree it was using but the owl (as you can see from the record shot below) kept looking into an old horse shelter, now I was conflicted do I give up my Swallow hide and get a Little Owl box up? Or leave it until the Autumn. We watched for the rest of the day and there was definitely only one and it really did like the old oak tree, so for now the owl box will have to wait. I wanted a half decent record shot and knew the two of us weren't going to get close, but using a horse for cover we worked ourselves close enough, I realised why they say don't walk behind a horse, not because they kick, but because when they "fart" it stinks REALLY bad and made me feel sick. Luckily I didn't end in up on Tesco's shelves! We didn't get that close so apologise for the record image, I'm looking forward to seeing how the owl interacts with the swallows when they return so with hide in place hopefully I'll get some good images from here. One thing that amused me was when the horse we used for cover went up to the Little Owl perched on the fence, blew through it's nose at it and the Little Owl gave a call and the horse just walked off. The summer looks promising.....if it gets started
LITTLE OWL (ATHENE NOCTUA), HOPEFULLY BETTER TO COME



10 comments:

  1. I almost missed this post. I'm glad I didn't. Two wonderful birds. You had a good day.

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  2. Thanks Adrian, it was a great day even the weather couldn't spoil

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  3. Doug, 12 miles dispersal for a Little Owl is easily possible, not normal though! The two recoveries I have had so far were 2 & 3 miles respectively. However, the furthest know ring recovery was back in 1927 of a Little Owl that was rung in Swanage and then 2 years later it was shot dead in Hereford! It had dispersed 182km.
    Nice post mate with some stunning images........again!

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    1. Wow 113 miles is impressive, I'm reckoning this LO may have come from were a small copse was and no longer is, I hope it finds a mate. Thanks

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  4. Great to see this Little Owl Doug, but those Egret images are absolutely the bees knees. Stunning!

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    1. Cheers Richard,when these GWT's first turned up in Northants nearly 3 winters back I've been chomping at the bit trying, I hope they linger as I have work Saturday, BTCC Sunday (Kent) and a day of Monday booked:)

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  5. I really like these egret pictures. They have a Great white Egret on Frodsham Marsh, but I haven't seen it yet. From Findlay

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    1. Thanks Findlay, I hope you get to see it on Frodsham Marsh they really are impressive and very good at fishing I saw this bird attempt 6 catches, catching five and only letting one big one go, that was an impressive success rate. Though you will laugh at watch them land they look...well clumsy:)

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  6. Great images (as ever)- the top two of the Great White Egret landing are just superb! Almost comical! Keep 'em coming!

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    1. Thanks Ben, well done on your recent POTW too.

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