Thursday, 18 February 2016

Twitchable Short-Eared Owls

Hello all!
As you might have guessed from the title, this week I went to see Short-Eared Owls. At Uphill, near Weston-Super-Mare, there has been a trio of these elegant and beautiful birds showing really well.
 This first photo to the left shows one of the Shorties hunting just metres away from houses! This may be, in fact, a very lucky person's garden; it would most certainly have been an interesting Big Garden Birdwatch record!
There was certainly a level of "twitch interest" as it were, with some fellow birdwatcher coming up to me and asking if I'd had any luck, as if I were fishing. But indeed I had had luck, as  it were.  For I had seen a pair on the golf course, and  one in the field, and the following day, one more from said field. The large photo below is from day one, where the two Short Eared Owls are together, almost duelling. Then, just as I was leaving on the first day, as we drove past the field, I saw the magnificent bird flying again, almost ghostly, with the sun shining right through it. Then, it landed on a post, and a photo is shown below.

 On the second day, I only caught a glimpse of them on the Golf Course, and they were flushed as a drive was smacked towards them! Then, though, I had fantastic views of one owl hunting. Sadly, I didn't get many great photos, but certainly a few nice record shots.

So what is this fantastic owl? Short Eared Owls are birds of scrub, and also coastal marshes and coasts.  Sadly, they're  on the Amber list, and are of conservation concern. They are in Britain all year round, but more common in Winter, with numbers bolstered by continental birds. There are 620-2,180 breeding pairs in the UK, but 5000-50000 individuals in winter. It is clear, however, these numbers aren't accurate-with a leeway of 45,000! They are hard birds to record, partly due to remote locations and partly owing to not wishing to disturb them.  Also, they are only found all year round in the North of England, as a rule of thumb. Their diet consists of small mammals, especially voles, but will take a bird from time to time. Their eyes are captivating portals into their lives, and their ears aren't actually ears-just tufts of feather!
  With their glaring eyes, beautiful face, long, delicate wings, this bird will soon be one of your top ten birds.            
Then, to finish off the day, a Grey Heron made a nice flypast!        
All in all, good birding!

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