Time to catch up on some recent forays into the British Countryside to engage with charismatic Birds of Prey, in this case the large and thrillingly dramatic Ospreys - and the small but charming Little Owls, so full of character.
Little Owls are such charismatic little characters and a day with a family of two adults and three Owlets was as a famous comedian might say ... 'such fun!"
The destination for this day out with wildlife, was 'The Brine Pits', a newly retitled site near Droitwich in Worcestershire, now managed directly by the farming landowners and benefiting from an investment of time effort and some capex!
Its great to have my most local wildlife hide destination back on form. The owners efforts have been rewarded with the wildlife responding with successful breeding in response to the supplementary feeding and some respectful wildlife sensitive human behaviour coming together beautifully.
It was one of those days when everything worked.
The Owls had originally fledged 4 Owlets, with 3 surviving the local predators for our visit. They nested in a large Oak tree hole and paid constant visits to the various perches nearby to feed on juicy mealworms and the odd mouse, under our watchful gaze in the exceptionally comfortable and clean new hide.
The adults were keeping a careful watch on their offspring - fixing us with a 'Paddington hard stare' in case we were in any doubt as to their expectation of our good behaviour!
The recently fledged Owlets were still calling to their parents to be fed, albeit they were already perfectly capable of helping themselves to a meal. The adults were up and down between tree and perch post with mealworms until the youngsters decided they might want to lend a hand.
Some landing and balance beam acrobatics, added to the entertainment throughout the day.
All in all a truly great day - Brine Pits Hides now a great place to visit again and looking forward to future visits as they reconnect with the other wildlife that visits their farm.
So cheerio from my Little Owl friends for now ...
where to next ...... ?
How about a couple of trips over to Rutland and the great set up at Horn Mill Trout Farm?
A tough pandemic 2020 saw the hide closed for the whole season.
Great news then that restrictions relaxed in time to allow my 2020 booking roll over into 2021. In fact, I eventually visited the hide for both an evening AND a dawn session, albeit it a few weeks apart.
Ospreys are a visiting migratory species and numbers in the UK are recovering well. Long established breeding pair success in the Scottish Highlands has been joined by more recent successes in England & Wales.
The Rutland Water Osprey project is well established, with individual birds making the arduous journey back from West Africa each spring, to find a partner and add yet more young to their gene pool.
Horn Mill is a short flight (for an Osprey) from Rutland Water. Lawrence and Jamie run a successful Trout Farm and realised a while ago that a useful income stream was to be had by allowing the 'local' Ospreys to take some Trout for breakfast and Supper, whilst charging enthusiastic wildlife photographers (like me), to pay to take some photos of the close up and personal action.
As I'm sure I have said in previous blogs, its worth the (modest) money just to sit and watch as these incredible birds plummet into a steep dive, talons forward at the last second before impact with Trout and water in an explosion of spray, scales, feathers and fish.
Catching the action in a photograph takes some practice !
As with all wildlife photography, it also takes some patience to get the rare opportunity to practice! You then have to hope that the light is ok, the wind is in the right direction, the Osprey gets spotted before the dive and you have the right settings on your camera to cope with all those variables.
Not every dive is successful ... (even in a well stocked Trout Farm), but I think the 'miss' action shots are often as good if not better than the classic 'talons out dive' or 'fish in grasp' classic shots to which we all aspire (see above!).
Here's few to illustrate the point ....
So there we are .... 3 happy days with the camera, with the Little and Large(ish) of UK Birds of Prey as the stars of the show.
Next Blog is (probably) likely to report on my long running project to capture the Foxes that visit Harris Acres, with some amazing experiences to share and the occasional surprise guest star too!
Here's to a great end to an unusual Summer.
Take care everyone.