Saturday, 10 January 2015

A Tale of Two Shorties

I had a few hours to spare on Thursday, it was a bright but windy day, so I took a visit to one of my regular owl haunts. 
This undisclosed location, in my opinion, is one of the most reliable spots in the North East for views of owls. You do of course have to know what your looking for and where, you could wander around aimlessly expecting to see one and not see a thing, then again  you could strike lucky.

From the moment I arrived, the locale was teeming with passerine activity; Blue Tits and Great Tits singing and flitting through the scrub and trees.
Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird foraged around the horse paddocks, always keeping their distance, whilst Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting hung around the pathways and small hedgerows.

Unfortunately the Little Owl pair eluded me yet again. That's the fourth time that's happened, perhaps I'm not looking hard enough. Though I have been informed by a fellow birder that at least one of them was spotted on New Years day at dusk. There's hope yet.......fifth time lucky? 
I continued on and walked towards the regular Asio owl roosts, due to time constraints I bypassed the regular Long Eared/ Asio Otus roosts as they take more to find in the dense hawthorn thicket.
Whilst walking past the plantations and hawthorn scrub, I watched a Jay foraging, always a treat.
I started walking across the fields, observing a covey of 16 Red Legged Partridges take off and land further across the field. I kept scanning fence posts and hedge lines as I marched on, I slowly approached a regular roost site and in the distance I could see a pale brown mass. 
Using my binoculars after a few slow steps forward I could confirm this was a large Pale Short Eared Owl/ Asio Flammeus on a very popular perch. This is a sizeable individual and the most notable feature are the stunning bright yellow eyes which seem to be constantly scanning you.
After another slow wander closer I noticed another darker shape, higher up and to the right of the first Shortie. I recognised this individual, its a much smaller and darker bird than the first owl, and I've seen it before on this site just a few weeks back. Both birds seemed rather comfortable in my company and even the presence of a cocky Stoat running about in the field below them, with its prey, didn't deter them from their roost.

As you can see on the above photo, the second shortie is clearly a lot darker and was a much more wary bird, never taking its bright yellow eyes off me and always keeping its small tufts erected.
The larger bird was much more relaxed, snoozing every now and again and looking around at the noisy blackbirds in the area, always keeping its tufts up just in case.
What a privilege it was to see two Short Eared Owls at roost.

Have you seen a Short Eared Owl in the North East?
If so, get in touch with The Northern Owl Project and I will log your sighting into the database. Email me directly at or inbox my facebook page.

The Northern Owl Project/ Nature North East