"Operation noctua (twooo)" might have started on January 1st this year, but I've not reported on the activities of our local little owls (or many other local birds) for some time now - so thought I'd give a brief update.
The pair are still around - not so much on their "winter shed" (of last winter) but already on their "breeding shed" (of last season).
Very often I've been up in their neck of the woods and I've seen at least one adult in the box entrance, perched as lookout on the nearby shed roof or on a nearby fence post.
Twice I've been up to "owl-ville" and had the pleasure of lovely views of these wee birds, fly right over the car or perch right next to the car as I've been on the lookout for their larger, more impressive barn owl cousins.
I'll certainly not give weekly "Operation noctua (twooo)" updates as I did with "Operation noctua" last year for a number of reasons.
1 - A new son takes quite a lot of my attention and efforts at present.
2 - Barn owls have made their presence very apparent in "owl-ville" and I'm hoping they'll breed this year on site too.
3 - I really want to concentrate on my favourite bird of all again this year, swifts. I'm really hoping that with the swift box and attractor call CD, I can get these superb birds breeding at our house again this year.
That all said, I will endeavour to give regular(ish) reports on the local little owls in "Operation noctua (twooo)".
At least THREE individual barn owls have "appeared" in "owl-ville" this winter - and I've located three separate trees in which they roost during the day.
If, on my dawn or dusk runs or drives I don't see at least TWO separate barn owls these days, I feel somewhat disappointed - I'm almost tripping over them at present.
Barn owls suffer at least as much as other birds in cold winter weather, if not a whole lot more so - and they've had it pretty rough this winter with rain, wind and snow.
I'm keeping my eyes on them (from a distance) and absolutely delighted to say that they (all) seem to be doing well at present.
Goldfinches have rediscovered the sunflower heart feeder that I've moved in the garden recently and I'm glad to say that we were visited by a wren again at the weekend - the first wren I've seen in the garden for months.
The male blackcap that bossed the bird feeders during the snowy, colder weather seems to have gawn orf.
The local starlings, house sparrows, woodpigeons and feral doves are omnipresent - as are blue tits, coal tits, dunnocks, great tits and blackbirds.
Our goldcrests are less frequent visitors as are the long tailed tits - but the jackdaws and jays (two jays for the first time since moving in) are daily visitors.
I hear waxwings may be on the move again - a small population has re-appeared a couple of miles away at a new housing estate, but I've not seen any fieldfares in the garden (or redwing) since the last fieldfare was nabbed by our regular female hawk. I do hear redwings pass over each night again though and there are fieldfares tchacking to each other in the large ash tree in next door's garden relatively regularly.
I'm not out in the garden much at present - primarily because its a boggy mess and always seems to be raining now (apart from today -when it snowed), but I have been keeping one eye on other local bird life.
My wife, son and I went for a walk 'round a local lake this weekend and it was nice to see my favourite duck of all (or drake I suppose), the male goldeneye escorting his harem of chocolate-dipped hens around the sleety grey lake.
The goldeneye drake was the sole reason why I bought my little inflatable boat a couple of years ago, (I had in mind a few photos), and even though I named it "Mandarin" as that was the first bird that I saw in the boat on her maiden voyage on a local backwater, I do look forward to the day that my son and I can paddle out on a lake and marvel at the spectacular ducks. Several years before that happens I expect...
A lake-side little egret provided the only other splodge of brightness on yet another gun metal miserable day.
I've also been fortunate enough to locate a roost of goldfinch in a tall, thick laurel hedge near my Reading office on the Thames. When the weather was really cold, this hedge contained about 60 birds - but today we were down to maybe half that number.
I always pay them a visit before settling down to paperwork just after dawn and if I'm lucky (like I was today), I'll get to see them all leave en masse together - chirruping their mediterranean joy into another sleety sky.
"Be it dry or be it wet, the weather will always pay its debt" is a mantra that I think rings true a lot of the time (if only by the law of averages), so I'm fully expecting a bone dry March (like last year) or April (like the few years before), so I can finally start some work in the garden and get that pond dug in - which has been upturned like a gurt big plastic monolith on the sodden ground for months now.
Roll on spring....