It's been yet another busy weekend with no time for any birding. I had intended amongst other things to conduct the RSPB Big Garden Watch this morning, but that went by the wayside as I stared out of the windows onto birdless gardens for 15 minutes and lost interest. No idea what was going on - it just seemed unnaturally quiet this morning with very few garden birds seen all day. Even the feeders were largely ignored. However I did notice during the day a couple of Blackbirds, a Robin and the regular Song Thrush rooted to songposts, a House Sparrow disappear into a ridge tile crack and two Starlings prospecting under eaves - maybe they've all sensed an early breeding opportunity coming up?
Anyway, after more weekend working today I eventually decided to head down the lane later this afternoon. I had two simple objectives - a bit of fresh air and to pick up an overdue 2011 OFFH Little Owl. Almost as soon as I was on the lane, a large mixed flock of Redwings and Fieldfare headed out of the fields and gathered at the top of a big Ash Tree - certainly more of both species around here this year than usual. Whilst watching these, a completely unexpected Green Woodpecker yaffled it's way onto the list - nice.
I carried on down to the regular Little Owl tree. I say regular - seems that every time I drive past (including twice this year already) they are sat out in full view but when I walk down they are nowhere to be seen. This is regardless of how stealthy or careful I am, and of course I know where they are but they can't anticipate me turning up all the time. It's uncanny. Of course today they were - absent.
Whilst pondering how long to wait, given that it was another 40 minutes or so before it would be too dark to use bins and it was cold, I heard a familiar nasally call from further down the hedgerow. Surely not. I carefully walked down, getting closer to the calls before three brown blobs darted out and moved further down. I got the bins onto one of them quickly enough to make sure that the visual image matched the one I had based on the calls - and it did. Tree Sparrow - superb! It's getting on for 12 years since I last saw Tree Sparrow down the lane. No idea where they have suddenly popped up from and I have no expectations that they'll hang around but I'll have another look later in the week.
No idea how the Leicestershire Owl-man manages to pick up so many Little Owls all over the place - even when you know they are there it is not a given that they'll show. I loitered around until it was pretty dusky and eventualy patience paid off when one briefly popped out, had a stretch and a preen and fecked off across the field. No calling, no partner and no hanging about but on the list all the same.
I'm driving up to Carlisle in the morning for a couple of days on business - highly unlikely that I'll get any chance to see anything other than a factory, hotel room, bar and restaurant .....