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!