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Skomer Part 1 - The first voyage

A Manx Shearwater I have recently returned from my annual pilgrimage to the island of Skomer, having enjoyed a fabulous three days of birding along the Pembrokeshire coastline with my "Three Amigo" friends Paul and Nicola. We had been planning for the trip for ages. Leading up to our trip the days, hours and seconds seemed to pass ever so slowly. It's then just typical once you end up going on your trip it seems to be over way too quickly - time certainly flies when you are enjoying yourself and in good company. This year we had  arranged three boat trips through Pembrokeshire Boat Trips Day 1 - Seabird Spectacular Day 2 - Skomer Day 3 - Grassholm I have decided to write three blog posts documenting the trip and this is the first one to kick things off. The First Voyage. The weather forecast was looking rather dodgy for the weekend with high winds and rain predicted. Thankfully the dreaded North winds were not expected so there was a very good chance that most of the boat

An evening spent with a Little Owl

 

Little Owl (Athene noctua)

Yesterday evening myself and Paul Joy were invited by our friend Fletch Lewis to watch a pair of Little Owls he has been monitoring. I am not going to disclose the location to protect them but the birds have been found in a rural location in Gwent.

Fletch is a talented photographer and is one of those people who has the knack of finding wildlife in all kinds of places. He's also a gifted artist and runs his own Tattoo Bar. When I had the opportunity to visit the Little Owls with Paul, it was not something I was going to turn down.

The last time I saw a Little Owl was at a place in Abergavenny about four years ago and back then the pair I had found were frustratingly difficult to get close to.

My last picture of a Little Owl taken several years ago.

Little Owls are fantastic birds to watch. They are actually non-native to the United Kingdom and were introduced in the 19th century. Since then they have spread throughout various parts of the country. As their name aptly describes them they are small birds, about the size of a Blackbird but a lot rounder and plumper. They have large yellow eyes and white eyebrows making them look quite fierce and upset.

The eyes are fantastic

The Owls feed on a variety of prey including earth worms and insects. They tend to be found around agricultural areas with small woods next to farmland where there is plenty of food available to them.

Little Owls are not what you call common birds. There are about 5000 pairs in Britain but its reported that they have been on the decline for several decades and this may be due to increased use of pesticides.

The owl was looking for prey on the ground

Well yesterday we were treated to one of the pair really putting on quite a show at dusk just before it started to get dark. Initially it was calling from a tree where it decided to perch up and bask in the last of the days sun. It was almost like it was powering itself in readiness for nightfall.

Basking in the last of the days sun


The owl then plummeted to a fence post where it settled for a while like a small ball of feathers. After a bit of a preening session it dropped to the ground and started feeding on insects. I have one photograph where it's feeding on what looks like a green cricket or grasshopper.

Captured a cricket

As nightfall came the second owl appeared and chased the first owl around for a short time before they both flew off together.

I really enjoyed the show and must say its one of the best birds I have had the opportunity to photograph for a while. 

The best laugh I had all evening was watching through the side window of my pop up hide, Paul attempting to get comfortable in his own pop up hide.

 He tried nearly every kind of position imaginable to get comfortable. In an effort to get the optimum view whilst sat in it, he pulled every zip down, resulting in all the viewing ports opening and at one point, it almost collapsed leaving him sat there in the wide open.

Amazingly the owl decided to perch directly in front of him first. Perhaps it to was having a chuckle ;)

Big thanks to Fletch who was really kind to share his Owl find with me and Paul. An evening that will live long in our memories.

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You can watch a short video here -



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