In for the kill

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It was a lovely day today, with a definite promise of spring. This morning the first hairy-footed flower bee of the year (A. plumipes to you; plumpie to me) was reported on the BWARS Facebook page, which had me rushing out to the garden in hope of finding my own; and though the muddy trench in which we live is currently producing no solitary bees (nor much that they could eat if they did emerge) I know that they’ll be here in a matter of weeks, and my spirits have lifted accordingly.

In Stratford at lunch time the river was busy with water fowl, and I had the chance to take some nice shots of a tufted duck, whose dark head feathers were showing a beautiful purple iridescence in the sunlight. I also had a less welcome encounter with a child whose parents apparently saw no reason to stop her running towards swans, screaming and poking at them with a stick; she and I had a brief and entirely one-sided conversation which left her looking as though no-one had ever spoken to her like that before – which they probably hadn’t. The parents either remained oblivious, or pretended to be.

Then I thought that I’d pop over to the owl field – because owls – and was happy to find on arrival that the usual photographic suspects were clicking away busily on both sides of the lane. Hillyblips was already there, but told me that we’d both apparently missed the best bit of the afternoon, when one of the short-ears had sat posing for portraits on a dry-stone wall at a nice distance, allowing the early birders to catch the award-winning shots.

By this time the light was turning murky, and the shorties were behaving in a way best described by the technical owling term buggering about: I think there were three hunting, but to be honest it was hard to tell, because they all kept randomly appearing and disappearing, and when they were visible seemed determined to keep their distance. Their apparent ability to vanish into thin air and then rematerialise on the other side of the lane led to a somewhat farcical performance in which a bunch of photographers scuttled up and down the road, lugging quantities of heavy gear, in constant frustrated pursuit of the uncatchable – if someone had filmed us and then speeded up the film it would probably have worked very well to the soundtrack of the music from The Benny Hill Show. In truth I think that there was a single owl in the south side field, which kept disappearing by going into some rough scrub and sitting in a bush, and two in the north field which spent most of their time either gone to ground or on the far side of the ridge – but it did feel as though they were playing a game with us today.

Nonetheless I did get a few photos that I like, and I’ve put a sequence here if you’d like to see it. I was tempted to use the fly-by stare shot for my blip today, but R really liked this one of the owl beginning its dive towards some unfortunate rodent, so I’ve gone with this instead. It looks better full-screen, if you have the time.