Thursday, 28 August 2014

HELP NEEDED WITH A LITTLE BROWN JOB

I had a day from hell yesterday, it was due and I was quite surprised it hadn't happen earlier. Oh yeah my trusted ol' bike got a puncture about 10 miles from home yesterday. So I had to walk and push my bike plus the 500mm lens a total of 12 miles (made a short detour). Boy was I pissed off I got about half way home (Cogenhoe Mill campsite) and decided to stop for a quick smoke, some liquid refreshment and sit on the small stone bridge, looking down on crystal clear water watching Perch and Tench lazily swimming up and down the river...easy life for some. I was contemplating wether to paddlock the bike to a lampost and jump on a bus and perhaps come back for the bike. There wasn't too much happening bird wise, a distant Chiff-Chaff and Buzzard was as exciting as it got birdwise.

I should've had my bike pump with me but hadn't put it back in my bag after teasing (blowing air)on one of my long suffering  greyhounds with it, greyhound's revenge!
When I noticed two little brown jobs in the bushes, it was a mammal and not a bird, but I wasn't sure if it was a Field Mouse or Wood Mouse at times in a certain pose it reminded me of a rat, but it was tiny.
 Only a slight difference in these two images



 In the image below shows why I was doubting it wasn't a rat despite it's tiny size, I really aren't certain, mammals aren't my forte.

 I got a nice surprise as I sat on the bridge when one of the two came towards me, looked at me then turned around and went back to eating the berries. It hopped off rather then scuttle and someone once told me if it hops it's a mouse if it scurries/scuttles it's a rat, not sure how scientific that is to be fair.

Any help much appreciated. Either way it was light relief watching it clinging onto the branches going from berry to berry, one false move and it was falling into the river below. Somewhat recharged I carried my long walk home...knowing today I need to get some new bike parts, the tyre has had it, with very little tread left on it.
A QUICK EDIT: THANKS TO TREVOR VIA TWITTER FOR THE ID HELP: WOOD MOUSE.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

IN AMONGST THE COWS....

Roughly three weeks ago my Sandmartins left the ex-quarry I had been visiting a lot of lately. I took advantage of them all perched up on the phone wires and counted them, 38 in total of mixed juvenile and adult birds, the next day they had gone, migrated.
It will not be long before the Swallows and Housemartins at one of "my" many Swallows sites will move off, in fact of the sites I visited yesterday in dubious light in my records they should be leaving any day now. Looking through the four years of records I have on this site shows the following dates and numbers of birds: 25th August 2010: circa 59, 28th August 2011 circa 45 birds, 23rd August 2012 circa 35 birds, 25th August 2013 circa 42 birds. So for birds =Swallows and circa well it is unless doing counting at the nest site near impossible to count every bird, what I do at this site is wait for them to perch up on a telegraph pole/wire and count them and then try and count every bird left flying, not easy. Last night I managed to count 49 birds on the wire a mixture of juvenile and adults and circa 10 feeding up/flying around. I reckon these will be gone after the weekend, though there are a few signs not all will go and one bird in particular worries me.
The biggest problem for me at this site are the rather curious but docile bull and cows which obviously help provide a lot of food for the swallows and has helped the swallows to have three broods and boosted numbers to when I first started watching the swallows here. But a pain in the backside when trying to photograph them as they dodge a heffer or two or when the cows like the sound of my camera and come and stand in front of me, ever tried mooving a cow...sorry.
SURE YOU CAN MAKE UP YOUR OWN CAPTION

 Now the below image is the bird causing me some concern. A slightly soft image not a favourite of mine, but posted to show my concern. It is very small and young (look at the gape) and not very fast nor agile. In fact so slow I could have easily caught it in my hand as it flew past, it is still very dependent on being fed by two adult birds often being passed food.
So could this be the latest date of departure I put in my record's. One other positive from this site is the number of Mistle Thrush, despite and eager Buzzard taking a fancy to them, there was a total of 23 birds (juvenile and adults) with what I know of 6 nest sites. I am partial to Mistle and Song Thrush so to see so many on the site was great but a pain as I can't get near them at the moment with the camera.....yet!
In fact talking to some of the local residents they are telling me of Housemartins still in the nest and of at least one swallow still having a brood on the nest.
HOUSE MARTIN

HOUSE MARTIN

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

AN URBAN LITTLE OWL!!!!

On Saturday I went past the barn with the Little Owl, however the farmer was busy harvesting so opted not to pay it a closer visit, the farmer whilst transferring from one field to the next had flatten the grass area were I hide so most of my cover has temporarily gone, it is only flattened so should pop up with a bit of sun. I could see the pair of them so all was ok. One other negative I noted was on Sunday, more people were walking their dogs past as a result of the field just being stubble rather then crops I made a note to myslef to give the barn a wide berth in terms of photography for a while until things get a bit more quite as the local farmer was saying to me "they do it every year, go mental walking their dogs for a week or so then they vanish" it made me chuckle. He knows about the Little Owls and was saying he often sees a Barn Owl but only when the winter weather gets bad he pointed where he normally sees a Barn Owl whilst working the land, I thanked him and we talked some more before I left....I like chatting to farmers.
However my big surprise came on the Saturday bike ride home after work, I needed some shopping so went into a local branch of a particular supermarket (no adverts or plugging here) at the Weston Favell Centre. I rode back via the back of my old school called Weston Favell Upper (think it's called Secondary now) and was passing an area we called the "horse shoe" a big grass embankment the shape of....a horse shoe, clever we were as kids lol. There is a busy dual carriageway to one side, houses on the left, more houses (Charnwood Avenue) to the right with some lovely tall pine tree's in every garden not much but a nice cycle path when I heard a bird call that made me slam my brakes on I did have a lot of shopping and cycling uphill....sure it was a Little Owl, it was I saw Jay fly from some bushes and located were the Jay was I could see a small round blob, a Little Owl. No camera on me so Sunday as I went into work I took it with me, but on the cycle into and back from work nothing, perhaps it was a juvenile dispersed and lost I thought, it's hardly an ideal area for a Little Owl, sure I have found two separate breeding Sparrowhawks nearby and we used to have a Tawny Owl for about eight years, sadly no more. But a Little Owl? I have seen some images from London of Little Owls but the parks are massive.
Well on Monday I took the plunge and went looking for it, not expecting much to be fair thinking it had gone. I checked every tree, bush had a talk with an old boy who reckon he had seen a baby "tawny" and went to look in the area he pointed too.
Voila!
Trying to hide from me, it looked nervous and I got three frames, this one, one exactly the same (huh) and one of the tail as it flew off, very nervous but it has to be said very healthy looking, is it a juvenile? I'm sure either Richard or Paul will let me know. I watched as it went "woodpecker" style along the fences of the houses and into the school area were obviously I can't get close to it and watched after about ten minutes I watched it hunting earthworms....maybe a good area for it.
Quite frankly I couldn't believe what I had found I was beginning to get all sorts of thoughts in my head, where did it disperse from, have there always been a Little Owl in the area that I have overlooked, will it be ok and how many others have seen it or like me had heard it?
I have been on a little (sic) roll with these of late but this one brought the biggest smile, though I have to say I wasn't happy with this birds pose it looked scared, it was. It has made me feel awkward about posting the image.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

YET ANOTHER NEW LITTLE OWL AND ODDS AND SODS

Just before I went to bed last night I heard the tragic news about Robin Williams and it hit home pretty hard. As I had suffered PTSD and the later depression which I still battle with to this day it seemed such a tragic end to a true talent. Robin was a bit of a favourite of mine, from Mork and Mindy to his stand up career and seriously underrated films like 1 hour photo  and The Fisher King revealed a talent that sadly the Hollywood system didn't really tap into porpely in my opinion. RIP ROBIN WILLIAMS.
I have a feeling the images today really suffered from a mixture of wind, occasional cloud and just my general mood, still being out and about (9.5 miles walked and 18 miles cycled) and surrounded by nature with some good close quarter views lifted my spirits. If only the NHS could bottle up nature there would be an almost instant cure for depression.....better then the generic anti-depressants.
So a lot of these images are at best today record images.
First up was some ducks that baffled me
 I reckon they're being fed up ready for a spot of wildfowling there was loads of them.
It was great to see them on the water making a "raft" the sound they were making when feeding off the surface was like it was raining, so much so I had to check the sky to make sure it wasn't.
A Canada Goose
 A Common Tern that didn't like this dragonfly/darter not surprised as it was an empty husk
 A Common Whitethroat with a meal.

So it was off to the Little Owl barn with my hide. Here I made a school boy error as I approached the site I didn't have my camera ready/set up and missed what would turn out to be my best chance of the Little Owl sitting out in the open...idiot. I set up the hide and sat waiting, I could see one of the owls (there is definately two in there) sat up in the back of the barn in the shadows and it could see me too. This was the best I got
 As I sat in the hide twiddling my thumbs loads of common birds were coming down the hedgerow, a lot of House Sparrow's, Linnet, Yellowhammers and a constant stream of mostly Housemartins and the odd Swallow heading south-west, heading out of the country.
I did get this juvenile Long Tailed Tit.
But the best but sadly against a horrible sky was this close encounter with a Common Buzzard, bit gutted about the sky but was pleased a)the hide was working b)getting a close encounter, I was hoping it would land, it didn't.


 With the skies getting darker and rain on it's way plus the sound of a fox hunting bugle getting closer I opted to pack up early rather then reveal to some hunters a prime bird location. I hanged around but not near the barn until the fox hunt trotted past, just to make sure no dogs went into the barn luckily the hunt didn't come close though armed with my own shooter (500mm lens) I did get some suspicious looks from the "men in red" I wasn't in the mood and was just waiting for one of them to make some smart Alec quip "bunny hugger" or similar and I would be off like a pit bull but all I got was a nod and "afternoon" and a chuckle from the women folk not sure what was funny...I was in a bad mood, fair enough I guess.
One positive was yet another Little Owl found on the way home, this was circa 12 miles from my current Little Owl barn so it is a different bird. I just happen to glance up as I cycled past I did a quick u-turn and tried to get a shot of a rather sleepy owl between the branches, it wasn't going to give me a good view so left it in peace and made a mental note to cycle past on another day.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A NEW LITTLE OWL SITE

To find a new Little Owl site doesn't happen to often for me so it is always a pleasant surprise when I find a new site.
You may remember a post a while back when I was contemplating whether to walk down a certain overgrown footpath but opted to not bother, I didn't fancy getting stung to be fair. I vowed to return once some of the vegetation had died down a little as there had been a promising looking barn...
Well on the way back from work on Saturday I decided to do a bit of a diversion and have a look at the path and see if the vegetation had died down it was only a mile or two out of my way.
THE ORIGINAL FOOTPATH I HAD VOWED TO RETURN TO ONE DAY
 Well it looked passable to so decided after checking my OS map decided to go and check the barn out, it was according to the map on a public footpath so went for it.
Having seen the barn on my last visit I'll be honest I was hoping for a Barn Owl. It looked quite a good spot for one.
In the image below I opted to sit in the long grass/set aside on the right hand side of the frame.
THE BARN WHICH WAS TEMPTING ME BACK
 Now from the image below you can see how big the footpath was, crops right up to it's border, now I could start to bleat on about "not much set aside" etc. But look at the hedgerow plus on the other side of the hedge was another field a meadow also some of the other fields did have set asides. So who cares if the footpath is slim and small....less people and only delusional types like me will venture down it. More importantly there was a great big set aside that led like a corridor right up to the barn.
" WOT NO SET ASIDE"
 I did have to cross a ditch via a footbridge, a bridge that I have named the "BRIDGE OF DEATH" due to the Hawthorn and the bleedin' amount of times I got pricked or scratched or snagged my shirt on another thorn, it's only a work shirt after all.....nice birds in the hedgerow though but I didn't have long and the clouds were getting darker.
PLENTY OF PRICKS
I didn't get a chance to look in or around the barn for any activity of Barn Owls. As I laid my bike down in the grass and got my camera out of it's bag I saw a shadow in the corner of my eye.
I saw a small blob, a Little Owl, peering at me from a hole in the roof of the barn.
 I sat down and watched, it would peer up at the sky and kept looking to the area in the left of the frame. I watched it fly in and out of the barn, out via this hole in the roof and back in from the other side of the barn (look in the barn image and the left hand side of the frame) from where I was sat because the side of the barn facing me was missing most of it's side/frontage I could just make out the shadow of it returning though could not make out if it had prey.
I didn't try for flight shots as it left the barn as the shutter speed was at a low 1/340th so every time it left the barn (five times in the two hours I stayed) I moved myself more central to the opening but not closer.
I got myself a few frames and as the clouds got darker watched the owl fly out and off again and got up and left. I was happy with what I got for today, flight shots were out of the question and I didn't want to overstay my welcome and I rather had a hide with me. I find with Little Owls a slowly,slowly bit at a time approach works better for me and flight shots and definately a hide would be better, that got dusted down when I got home.
The below image is my favourite shot.