Tuesday, 18 April 2017

ODD's 'n' SODS

I've been focusing my local birding in two locations of late. A secret single track lane and the lanes, bridleways and fields around Castle Ashby.
The Lane has been very productive. So far two separate and new Little Owl sites both a pain in the backside in terms of the direction of light (always looking into the sun). One of them always announces its arrival courtesy of the chorus of Long Tailed Tits mobbing it. The second one only merges from its nest cavity if it hears the scratchy call of the Grey Partridges neither Owl so it seems is paired up, unless it's hiding of course. Also caught a brief glimpse of a Tawny Owl, going by the call a female.
 A pair of  Redkites and Buzzards are 'to be' photographed. As two species have really peaked my interest. The first really left me baffled as at first I could only hear it call very briefly before it fell silent. On my third visit I caught the mystery birds in flight as they called and both male and female perched in a very distant tree, hand held my scope and got everything just in focus when one disappeared into a tree cavity, prematurely cursing my luck as I thought the second bird had already vanished into the tree cavity, I located the male bird on a branch, really, really high up, only a pair of Mandarin ducks. Now an escapee shouldn't excite many seeming as they're probable escapee's. But a personal opinion, if it breeds in the wild it no longer counts as an escapee....if only it was that simple.
Second species is a really showy female Kestrel.

Simple technique of rolling up in the car in neutral, windows down, steering with knees and camera out the window (that's how you multi-tasking) . I normally get tons of 'similar images' and a chance to apply the handbrake, switch the engine off and get more 'similar' shots before she gets bored but instead of flying straight off she'll hover and hunt and perch up again on a different post, a seriously relaxed bird and probably easiest Kestrel I've photographed in ages, I can even get out the car to change my angle and the bird just sits there (the third image is an example of changing angle) sadly flight shots have come against non favourable skies like this bunch:

Castle Ashby is a vast system of fields but has a lot to offer. Best was a Peregrine chasing down a Rook!!! Brave Peregrine, I reckon a Rook would give a good account of itself, if the Peregrine hadn't been in full stoop. Grey skies and the odd shower meant no postable images. It was a close call for the Rook, despite wiffling like a Lapwing the Peregrine only foiled by a spinney the Rook just managed to fly into, so, so, so close.
I reckon the fields around Castle Ashby must have the highest density of Skylarks in the county, I'm going to do a proper count, one day.
On going flight shot project too
You can always tell an area is underwatched, the number of species I was able to walk up to and get closer than normal, a frame filling Chiffchaff
 Not quite frame fillers but still quite close was equally big numbers of Yellowhammers

Best was to come on Friday and Sunday. Found two Wheatears. Went back on Sunday morning more in hope, as I'd found the previous two late on Friday. At first I could only find the female.
It was with the help of the Skylarks defending their nesting sites that alerted me to more Wheatears scattered across the field. Eight in total (5 males and 3 females) so I parked up as they were busy feeding and flying towards me.
The first was late on Friday evening and light was fading and is the female
 The male on Sunday (again pooh light)


  1. It's good to see you back again, Doug, and with a super set of images! I suspect that, if you're only seeing single Little Owls at those two sites, it could be that they're males, and the females are already sitting on eggs.

    It looks as if you've found a great area to concentrate on.

    Best wishes - - - Richard

    1. The owl pictured I suspect hasn't got a mate as it returns to a very large tree cavity and you can see in from the road. The second owl, I hope it's got a mate. Fingers crossed

  2. Nice post Doug, cracking set of images too! I would go along with Richard, odds on the hen LO's are on eggs.....

    1. Cheers Paul, I hope the owl is sitting on eggs. The LO's are a bit thin on the ground in this particular area, so a breeding pair would be a bonus.