Missing Little Owls
It’s been a rollercoaster month at ProHides. There was a surge of activity from the Little Owls (and photographers) and the emergence of their fluffy chicks. Then, for some reason, our Little Owl family have gone AWOL. Sunday 2nd July was the last time the chicks were seen by anybody.
Obviously, I am extremely concerned for their welfare and have cancelled and refunded more than week of bookings while I assess the situation. I want the owls to have space. Besides, I will never knowingly put clients in a hide when I know there is little-to-zero chance of photographing anything.
The Little Owls had at least three chicks in the Farmhouse and were photographed by several clients before their disappearance. I have now installed a night-vision camera at the farmhouse window to monitor nocturnal activity. Hopefully, the family are still there and safe, but just keeping a low profile. Potential reasons for this abrupt change in behaviour are:
- Most likely… We have had an invasion of crows and rooks (hundreds even thousands!). Groups of which have repeatedly attacked the adults whilst on the perches. The owls may have switched to nocturnal habits, which they are known to do and did so last summer. There has also been a great-potted woodpecker at the feeders and these birds do not exactly get along. The food is going, so the owls are still feeding there.
- Less likely… The chicks have been predated by buzzards, sparrow hawks, or fox. I say less likely, as these raptors would not fly into the house and the chicks are too small to venture out. Also, all the internal doors were secure upon inspection on Monday. It’s very unlikely a fox would have been able to reach them. There was a barn owl roosting nearby, but again, they may take nestlings, but I think these chicks were too well-developed.
Beautiful Barn Owls
Potentially very good news! Over the past few months, I have been monitoring the resident barn owls and have begun making moves to open a new Barn Owl Hide. I am being extremely cautious about this! I first started monitoring the barn owls back in 2013, but was immediately put off when I found two individual photographers at the site, trespassing. It left a very bitter taste.
Going forward, if I have not met you already, potential barn owl clients could face possible ‘vetting’ via referral, or I might insist you use another hide first, so I can gauge experience and suitability for using the barn owl hide. I know it may sound extreme, but I am very protective over these owls. Nothing is set in stone, but I am mulling over various options. Feedback on this is welcomed! Whichever way it goes, I am adamant that the hide will be closed during nesting season. The site is constantly monitored with night-vision trail cameras, so I can continuously assess the situation. Note: Schedule 1 licenses only apply to the individual license holder/location and cannot be used to cover other visitors to the site.
The Barn Owl Hide will be open for dusk-to-dawn sessions, 7-days a week for £TBC fee. Enter late afternoon, stay the night, collection in the morning. There will be no ‘evening only’ or ‘morning only’ sessions.
The hedgerow badgers have finally settled down and are now showing consistently well before sunset. Sometimes, they are incredibly early (like 6:45pm early!) and other times they emerge later at around 8:30pm. Either way, the open location of the site means you do have a very good chance of photographing them in daylight.
There seems to be one individual that is quite easily spooked, but the rest of the clan are very relaxed with the camera shutter. In fact, when I was last there with a client, we had to recreate a scene from STOMP! – tapping on the metal ark walls in a fruitless effort to get their attention and raise their heads. Looks like I probably over-achieved when designing a hide based on the noisy metal pig arks! It didn’t work, so please don’t bother trying. Just let nature take its course and eventually they raise their heads to have a sniff.
You can now photograph badgers at ground-level in natural surroundings. Meeting time is strictly 5:30pm. Open every day until mid-to-late August (until the sun starts setting earlier than 8:30pm). Evening sessions are £100. Overnight stay is recommended but optional