Sunday, 20 November 2011

Short Eared Owls - Bike Ride

With the light fading fast the mist was beginning to rise off the fields and the sun was going down fast. It was so calm and peaceful and the air had a magical fairytale feel about it. Sounds odd I know but that the only way I can describe it.

As I made my way around the fields quite a crowd was gathering in places as word was spreading. I had had a brilliant couple of hours loving every minute. I would conservatively estimate that I saw at least a dozen Owls maybe more?.
With one eye on the light it was time to pedal home. Managed to link up with the Brampton Valley Way cycle track which is one of my favourite places.

The Owls nest on the ground hidden among grass, heather or reeds. They are one of the few owls to make a nest. The female makes a scrape which she lines with whatever vegetation is available. One brood is usual, but when voles are plentiful may have two broods.
voles are this owls' most important prey, but other small mammals such as wood mouse and shrews may be taken. Birds, usually between the size of finches and thrushes particularly young ones, are also caught.

This year there is a really large influx of Sort Eared Owls and have spread further into the country rather than coastal areas. I understand that they have been really doing well in Scandanavia hence the large numbers. They really are a beautiful bird and bigger than I expected. In flight it is paler, more stocky and longer-winged than the long-eared owl, and the tail and wings are more boldly barred. Its body plumage is brown, spotted and streaked with yellow and white. It is pale beneath with a boldly streaked chest. There is a yellowish facial disc with bright yellow eyes set in black patches which makes it seem like a cross expression.

It was only a matter of minutes before my first sighting and it was amazing.Before long there was a pair together as if they were palying , and making quite a racket too! Brilliant to see them through the binoculars however trying to capture with my little digital camera was another matter...
My thanks go to Joe Tanner (Joe Tanner Photography) who very kindly gave me permission to use some of his lovely photos included here. More can be seen of Joe's work by following his flickr link

I did manage to capture this Short Eared Owl as it settled on a branch.

The weather was a little overcast to start with but as I arrived around 1 PM the sun was doing it's best to break through the cloud. Really are some superb views out that way and somewhere I tend to neglect a little bit. Spoke to a couple of birders who said that they had been watching 2 pairs of SEO's in one of the fields.
So made my way towards the farm and upset a couple of dogs who let me know they were not happy! Decided to leave the bike under a tree and have a wander under cover of the hedgerow.

I read on the Northants Birding site that An amazing 22 Short-eared Owls were counted at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on Friday.
This was too good an opportunity to miss despite suffering all week with a heavy cold.
Blueberry Farm is a cracking location for a variety of Owls as many fields are left untouched to attract Voles and other small mammals in an open setting.
I decided that the best way would be by mountain bike, which certainly tested my lung power after the cold. Slightly underestimated the actual 10 miles I clocked up.

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