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Purple on the rocks

  I have the real pleasure of writing my first blog post of 2022 about a trip to Battery Point, Portishead, Bristol to photograph Purple Sandpipers (Calidris Maritima). As many of my readers will know I love waders probably above all bird species and so when I had the opportunity to get some pictures with my good friend Paul Joy of this rare, specially protected and very confiding wader species that winters in the UK coastland I was really excited. Up until this point I had never seen a Purple Sandpiper. They are small waders, bigger than a Dunlin but slightly smaller and less robust than a Turnstone.  They migrate to the UK in the winter from as far away places as Canada, Greenland, Svalbard, Fennoscandia and Russia. They then spend their time along the coasts roosting and feeding on various rocky outcrops. They have a preference for rocks covered with seaweeds where they forage for insects, molluscs and crustaceans. They get their names because of a Purple sheen that can be seen in t

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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