Saturday, 7 March 2015

Once ..Twice ..Three Times A Shortie!!

Friday afternoon found me once again westward bound, an early afternoon finish at work provided a chance for me to head to a local Short-Eared Owl stonghold. It was a gamble, the wind was blowing a gale and it seemed all birds had gone to ground upon arrival.
A medium sized conifer had a Kestrel taking cover and all local song birds seemed to lurk within any available scrub or bushy area, only seeming to come out once the savage wind had dyed down, if only for a moment or two.

A Robin lurked in scrub to my right and at times was down to a couple feet in proximity, whether in the bush or on what looked like its favoured stone on the ground. I presume it favoured said stone due to the excessive droppings and its habit of hopping over to it and perching on it.

A handful of other common songbirds would take advantage of these pauses in the wind, species such as Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Blackbird, Wren and Reed Bunting.
A male Stonechat was briefly visible in a northern field but soon disappeared across the expansive grassland and a stunning Willow Tit would show its face every now and again.

Whilst I waited for a glimpse of a Shortie another birder arrived, on the hunt for the same target. Sam and myself waited for any possible signs, discussing birding and the like, as well as observing 6 Golden Plover flying overhead in two congregations of three. First of the year! Nice!
Suddenly Sam spotted something and we were in business, despite the windy weather a Shortie was up, active and quartering.
My assumption is that the wind had dropped enough to coax it out to hunt, great for us but frustrating for the owl as it seemed multiple attempts at hunting failed.
A second bird appeared and began hunting the fields for a Voley supper, neither birds seemed to interact with each other. They both kept themselves to themselves and hunted as the curtain of darkness rolled in, often perching on fence posts that provided cover from the wind and almost us, as they tended to favour posts in the very distance. Even the binoculars struggled to provide a decent view at times.

We watched the pair hunting and silently flying over the rough grassland as the sunlight dwindled, Sam left but I hung around a few moments longer.
You can read Sams blog here;

I moved my position slightly further east along the track and after a couple of minutes my patience was rewarded. Upon looking up from my camera, a third Shortie had appeared out from within the plantation and landed on a post about thirty feet away, phenomenal! 
Unfortunately with it being dark my camera struggled to grab a decent shot despite the proximity and the shot below is the best I could muster. It hung around for six minutes or so and flew off on the hunt.

Watching Short-Eared Owls actively hunting during the daylight is a birding highlight for me, it never gets boring and is always exhilarating to watch. What an absolute pleasure!

David
Nature North East / The Northern Owl Project