Hunting owls and nightjars

This Wednesday, I met an old friend of mine in Varces, south of Grenoble. We went in the plain called “Plaine de Reymure” to check a few nesting boxes aimed at Little owls (Athene noctua). This species, partly diurnal, nests in holes in rocks, trees or buildings, but these have become rare, hence the need for nesting boxes. The monitoring program for this species in Isère has shown great results, with 28 nesting boxes occupied this year.

"Plaine de Reymure", with the "Chartreuse" mountain range in the background
“Plaine de Reymure”, with the “Chartreuse” mountain range in the background

The first box was set on a walnut tree. Nothing moved when we arrived, but we noticed a fence stake covered in droppings, indicating a perch favored by the bird. Soon, an adult landed on the fence, waited for a few minutes and then dropped to the field, catching a prey, probably an insect. It then flew to the tree, when we spotted a yougling, and then a second one. Later, the adult caught another prey and went to the box, so we supposed that some owlets (that’s the name of a baby owl, although it can also refer to some species of owls) had not left the nest yet.

Can you spot the owl and the owlet on the following picture ?


You see them ?

Now you do!

The second nesting box was situated right outside a small concrete cabin, under the eaves. It was initially situated inside the cabin for ten years, but was never occupied. Once outside, an owl arrived two months later. There, we had to wait for the farmor to finish the harvest of his field, but then we spotted two adults. They were not very active, which led us to think that the previous nights of hunting were quite successful. Indeed, when one night is rainy, one can later see the owls active early in the evening or late in the morning. If the night was good, they aren’t so much in a hurry.

Can you spot the owl there ?
Can you spot the owl there ?

We tried an approach to take pictures, but they flew away too quickly.

At 9 pm, we moved to the nature reserve of “Isles du Drac” (Drac being the river flowing nearby; it reaches the river Isère in Grenoble). It’s a dry, almost mediterranean area, and a renowned spot for the European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus). It was dark, so no picture for you, but the show of this kind of big swallow, whose flight is really slow, so slow you wonder how it manages not to fall, was truly amazing. Perched on a tree, the male we saw delivered its distinctive trill, and then performed its in-flight wing-clapping to mark its territory.

In the distance, Common nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) and Scops owl (Otus scops) were singing.

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