Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Asio Otus, the Long Eared Ghost

Early this morning (30/12/2014) I took a trip to the site of a reported Long-Eared Owl ( Asio Otus) roost in County Durham. I was up at half five and still shattered from climbing the Cheviot yesterday (blog coming soon) but I was excited to check out this tip off so I made haste.
Once on site and after about ten minutes of walking about the locale I noticed a Long-Ear roosting in relatively open scrub, they're such beautiful birds and seeing a Long-Eared Owl during daylight is an uncommon sight, generally you really HAVE to search for them, especially at this time of year. Though there was apparently more Long-Ears and apparently Short-Ears in the vicinity this would turn out to be the only Owl I would see here.
I had a look around the site for any more birds roosting (Just incase) and then tried a local Little Owl haunt, though none were showing and if they were I couldn't see them.
The second site did contain Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Woodcock, Yellowhammer and flocks of very flighty Redwing.

Friday, 26 December 2014

...Twit Twheeeere??

 "And yesterday the bird of night did sit/ Even at noon-day upon the market-place/ Hooting and shrieking." - Shakespeare,  Julius Caesar (Act 1 Scene 3)

Last Monday night (22nd December 2014) I received a wee bit of information on the birding grapevine. I heard a Tawny Owl had been roosting in an urban area south of the Tyne and that it was literally yards away from the footpath, undeterred by pedestrians, cyclists, children, dogs and runners alike.

The following day I woke with a spring in my step, and after a half decent cup of mocha, headed south to my destination! My journey only lasted about half an hour but it felt a lot longer. I always get a sense of doubt when I go looking for an Owl, you never know if it will be there or not. The worst bit is that sometimes an Owl is their but you can't see it, a few tell tale signs can make the job a little easier however.

This time I spotted the Owl straight away, there it was! A Tawny Owl roosting on full public display about 15ft from the path...AMAZING!!!

I proceeded to take a few cheeky photographs, unfortunately the weather wasn't brilliant.........Infact it was terrible!! The rain just kept coming down, the camera kept steaming up and at one point I had to retreat to the car to let it dry enough to take half decent pictures.

It was a privilege to see a Tawny Owl at close quarters and I did manage to get a few photographs through the grim weather and poor lighting.

What an experience.
Remember to report your North East Owl sightings (Northumberland, County Durham, Tyne & Wear) to The North East Owl Project, either by sending a private message to the Nature North East Facebook page or e-mailing me directly at david.dinsley@live.co.uk.

Enjoy more pictures of the Tawny Owl below!
Thanks for reading. :)


Friday, 12 December 2014

The Northern Owl Project

Aims; To promote the population of native Owl species breeding in the North East of England, through surveying and Owl box installations.

As regular readers to this blog and people who know me personally will know, I have an affinity for Owls. I'm a wildlife enthusiast through and through but there's something so intriguing and enchanting about these large eyed, silent hunters. Unfortunately species such as the Barn Owl are in rapid decline, this is due to both natural and man made reasons, habitat loss and bad winters have reduced numbers significantly. Though 2014 numbers are better than the past few previous years.

My main target for this project is to build and install multiple boxes(Tawny, Barn and Little Owl ) and Baskets(Long Eared Owls) and place these throughout the region, in particular around my local area and patches. Due to Short Eared Owls nesting on the ground, creating a nesting area for these won't really be possible.
I have already constructed the first Tawny Owl box (Left) and the first Little Owl box (below).

I'm hoping to get in touch with land owners and schools, as well  as local ringers and try to work out a system where they can help with ringing if nest boxes become established and used for breeding.

YOU can get involved too!! This is where I need your help, if you have spotted any Owls across the North East (Northumberland, County Durham, Tyne & Wear) or know of any areas of breeding owls, just inbox the Nature North East Facebook page  and I can collate the data and create a map of the areas.
This way I can identify the whereabouts of species and see which are doing better then others, and pin point the locations that are lacking Owl activity........and from there, work out why?

Little Owl Box Creation

If you have an old Owl box you want to donate to the cause then feel free, I will be building all of the other boxes from scratch myself. If anybody does want to donate to the cost of materials then by all means do so. I can provide receipts to anyone who would like them.
If you can't afford to donate then by all means just sit back and watch the 'Northern Owl Project' unfold through my blog and Facebook page.

Nature North East

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Hide & Seek

Its been a few weeks since my last blog, it does however seem an appropriate time to return to action and blog yet again!
...So Friday 5th arrived and after only about 5 hours sleep I was up and ready to go because this morning I was after Owls! I had been told of a North East hot spot and after reports of decent numbers earlier in the week I thought I would give it a go.

**I will not be naming the site unfortunately, this is due to the actions of some photographers who have been flushing Owls purposely to take photographs and get 'The Shot'. This was done in a co-ordinated fashion and is plain wrong. Luckily a local birder caught them in the act.
My aim is to photograph wildlife in its habitat with as little disturbance as possible. If that means I don't get 'The Shot', then fair enough that's the chance you take.
Previously Owls have been disturbed to point of not coming back on this site which is a shame and with numbers building back up again, I don't want to be possibly responsible for history repeating. So I'll keep my silence **

So after what felt like a lifetime in the car I arrived, and just as I did so I heard the sound of rain on the windscreen! Nightmare! Owls DO NOT like rain, along with high winds its a weather condition they really can not tolerate. Luckily this was a very brief shower.

After walking about the site for a couple hours with no result besides a few flighty Fieldfare and Redwing, you've gotta love the winter Thrushes, I had seen nothing. I managed to catch up with a local birder and Twitter friend who was on site at the same time, and we set off looking together.

We found a few possible roost sites, all empty but clearly used recently due to droppings and pellets. We literally scoured every Hawthorn bush, hedge line, tree and bushy scrub as we went. Nothing......hmmm, I was nearly 3 hours into searching and still nothing but droppings to go off.

Long Eared Owl Pellet
Then as we scoured along near an old marsh, a Short Eared Owl burst up and out from some gorse scrub. Brilliant!! What a feeling. After hours of searching it's so rewarding to find the quarry you were hunting. 5 Minutes later another lifted and then a third individual just observed us from within the scrub. The Shortie with its big yellow eyes just scowled at us.

We moved on not wanting to stress the Owl out any further. We moved into a nearby plantation said to have good roosting numbers of Long Eared Owl, 6 to be precise. The number often changes though with Owls using a few nearby locales. Unfortunately nothing showed. On our way back a dog walker and his children flushed 2 of the Shorties, including the one which remained perched.
We later caught up with all 3 and had some more great views.

On the way back to the car we had a mooch around another Long Eared Owl roost site again and found only droppings and pellets. Its surprising how well Owls can fly through a dense patch of Hawthorn. The last port of call was a Little Owl hotspot, there is a regular couple of birds seen this area and today we managed to see one of the pair! I was loving this! Little Owl are my favourite birds, they're fantastically entertaining and although they're technically an invasive species brought over as a novelty in the 19th century and later released, they're fantastic!
With cracking views of 2 british owls(1 Little and 2 Short Eared) as well as Willow Tit, Kestrel, Redwing, Fieldfare and a female Sparrowhawk! Friday morning was very well spent!