Sunday, 22 February 2009

The long and short of it...

Following on from yesterday's owl-chat, I decided to go down to Freeman's Pool late afternoon for a chance of bagging the short-eared. I arrived to find Guy turning up with exactly the same idea.
A spotted redshank was calling from behind us and soon appeared over the pools but continued on its way.
We checked the most likely area for the owl but after a while I decided I'd better set off (I had a chicken to put in the oven). As I cycled down the path from the Marsh Point end I flushed what I took to be a sparrowhawk. As soon as I stopped by the gate overlooking the pools Guy called to say he'd just spotted the SEO on the opposite side of the pools.
I could just see it sat on a fence post and decided the chicken could wait. Cycling back to the top for better views of the owl I once again flushed the 'sparrowhawk' - which now it quite clearly wasn't. It was another owl. This one was hunting from the edge of the wooded path and was dark brown with gingery patches on the forewing! Having got a few more glimpses of this bird I met back up with Guy and told him I thought there was a long-eared present too. Meanwhile the SEO was visible hunting in typical, leisurely, SEO fashion over the area of rough ground behind Keyline.
The 'LE' owl briefly showed again and returned to the edge of the heavily vegetated path where I could just about see it. Guy decided to go down and see if he could either get a look at it or flush it out so that I could get a look at it. He did both!
Clearly darker than the SE, this bird had a far more direct flight and would quickly returned to cover (once with a vole). It briefly landed on a post just once, with the back of its head toward me but ear tufts were clearly visible. Head on, in flight, I couldn't see pale irises at all. This surely was a long-eared.
Guy returned and having also noticed visible ear-tufts he too was quite sure of its identity.
This constitutes the first known (though long overdue) record of long-eared owl in the Aldcliffe area to my knowledge.
A familiar dog-walker soon appeared and a chat with him revealed that both birds have been around for at least a couple of weeks and they typically behave as they did this evening.

Highlights from the morning's walk included a green sandpiper at the Wildfowlers' Pools, a couple of thousand pinkfeet on the marsh and a little owl at Admiralty Wood.

If only the tawny had stayed at its roost I could have had a four-owl day on my local patch!

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