Continuing to concentrate on my doorstep
27/06/14I have continued to concentrate on what is right on my doorstep, and it has paid huge dividends with all of my recent photos taken without leaving home.
I have had the amazing experience of observing and photographing a family of stoats. Like most people a stoat is a mammal that is usually seen flying across the road on a country walk, but to my surprise two weeks ago, over a period of 24 hours, I saw up to 6 stoats together at three different sites while walking my dogs. I am not sure if they are the same family, but it may well be as the home range for an adult male stoat can be the equivalent area as 280 football pitches. The third siting was on the lane 10 yards outside my front gate, and Cherith and I along with the dog, stood and watched them running, somersaulting and playing for about 20 minutes. I had no option but to set up my hide close by, and then had several frustrating sessions for several hours observing and seeing either nothing, or a flash as they ran from one side of the road to the other. 10 days ago I had a couple of hours in my hide. I was going to leave at 5pm, and at the last minute decided to stay until 5.15. At 5.13 six heads appeared out of the undergrowth and there then followed one of the best wildlife watching experiences that I have had. They don't half move quickly and trying to capture sharp photos was a challenge, but am more than happy with the results, despite the harsh light.
The Little Owls continue to delight us and our friends. I am sure they watch and wait for me to put the mealworm out, as they are in so quickly. A friend came across from Northern Ireland a few days ago, as they do not have Little Owls. I set him up in the dining room looking out through the open patio doors behind camoflauge netting. I timed the situation and it took him exactly 2 minutes 15 seconds to see and photograph his first Little Owl. They have three juveniles that we know off and that are just starting to show, so am hoping for some photos of them as well.
The Barn Owls have also nested again this year and the box was recently officially checked and we have three chicks. It has been a great year with at least 32 successful Barn Owl nests on the Fylde Coast. As I put the dogs out last night I looked across to the barn where they are nesting and saw all three practising their flying lessons. I had not unfortunately managed a photo, until 2 days ago. Cherith walked out to the yard and came back to tell me she had seen one of the chicks, Sure enough one of them had settled down at 11am on the wood above the stable and just under the tin roof. I started by taking a photo at some distance, and then moved progressively closer until I was just a few yards away. I was then able to raise my tripod to its full extent, climb a step ladder and mount my camera before taking more photos. And meanwhile the Barn Owl chick continued to sleep. It stayed there for about 4 hours completely unaware of what was going on around it.
The same evening I was able to photograph the juvenile kestrels. In December I built a kestrel nesting box and mounted it on a tree just a few yards inside the gate. The kestrels have mated and raised a brood. I put my car and an attached trailer in the field and then mounted my tripod in the trailer, and with the help of an even bigger step ladder mounted the camera along with a flash gun and a Better Beamer on the tripod. As I knew the adult kestrels would not come in if they saw me at all, I retreated to the bedroom and through an open window observed what was happening and triggered my camera and flash gun with a wireless remote. Within a few minutes I saw the female kestrel arrive at the nest. I knew that we had at least two kestrel chicks, but Cherith thought she had seen three heads when she had been in the field. It was only when I took down my camera and was able to have a look that I discovered that the female had brought in a rather chewed up mouse or vole, and with the last photo of the session that we have three juveniles. I managed to get a very clear photo of all three sitting on the box / perch last night, but not yet processed. I am glad that I have taken these photos at this stage as last night I observed the juveniles popping on and off the nest box top and into the trees, so they will soon be on their way.
The incredible thing is that I can stand in the yard and in an imaginary circle with a 15 yard radius all three - Barn Owls, Little Owls and Kestrels have their nests. What is perhaps more incredible is that they have all nested there and bred despite intense building work going on. Three barns have been pulled down and a new one erected. A large concrete base has been pulled up and trailer loads of hard core have been moved. The nesting box which has been used in the past by the Barn Owls had to be removed when the barn was demolished in february, and the barn owls were already in the box. We put the box back as soon as the new barn was erected - and that is where they have nested and raised their three chicks.
Meanwhile a family of Great Spotted Woodpeckers with two juveniles are frequent visitors, as well as a Jay, a song thrush, two grey partridges, two Red-legged partridges, tree sparrows and all of the other garden birds.
I think I will continue to focus on my local patch; the only problem is knowing in which direction to point my camera