Saturday, 28 June 2014

Undisclosed Site

Given a tip-off by Nigel Kerwin, I headed off to an undisclosed location to try and find the Long-Eared Owls that live there. I brought my dad along for the ride, and we went along to the site. Along the way we got an outstanding views of a Roe Deer buck that stood beside the road looking right at us, giving us great views. Even when it moved off it did not run, but casually strolled away.
We the arrived on the site. I was unsure of which plantation the birds were actually in, there were two possibilities. I had always thought they were in the plantation closest to the road, but the more I thought about it the more I began to think that it might be in the other.
As soon as we arrived we could hear a peculiar call that sounded very much like a chick of some description but not a songbird. Nigel had informed me that the birds had chicks, so my dad and I were initially thinking that these must be owl chicks. The longer we waited we decided that it must be an owl chick, and that we should move to a different position where we would be able to see more of the plantation and maybe pick up the source of the noise.
As we headed on I was walking behind my dad, and spotted a large brown bird land in one of the trees. I alerted my dad and grabbed the bins for a look. Looking down it was clear to see that it was an owl, but not many features could be made out. Being in a Long-Eared Owl area it was certainly on of them. I tried to grab some shots but despite the light still being decent the camera could not handle it and I managed decent photos despite my best efforts.
After a bit the bird became restless and we were able to pick out more features, including an orange face, indicating that we had indeed found a LEO. This was immensely exciting as my previous sighting had been very brief of a flyby bird. This bird then decided to fly, I followed it and grabbed some shots but they are not very good, but do serve as record shots. 
-Long-Eared Owl
I hasten to add that it was nowhere near as dark as the photos make it seem. The owl did not seem to fly far, so we headed to a different angle where we would be able to see the side of the plantation where we thought it may have landed.
It did not take long to locate it here. It was perched on an open section of the tree, sat right out in the open giving great views and from here we could see all its features, so it looked great. It became more difficult as the local horses decided to come and inspect us, so we kept having to move to be able to see the Owl.
I managed a couple of shots here, but the light continued to be an issue,and my best effort was still incredibly blurry. However, it does show all the key features, and so I have included it here as proof of the species, and to add more to my record shots.
-Long-Eared Owl
Again though it decided to move off, flying quite close to us and headed over to the first plantation. All this time the juveniles had been calling but we had been unable locate them. After a little longer we decided to head off back, having had a really lovely evening.
We were walking by the first plantation, when we were joined by some more horses. My dad was distracted by these, and it was at this point that I spotted the Owl on top of a tree, staring right down at us. Our views so far had been distant to say the least, but this bird was very close, looking right down at us. Fortunately my dad was close enough to nudge to get his attention, but then I made the fatal mistake of trying to go for the camera, a habit I have tried to grow out of. In opening the carry-bag, the sound of Velcro, and the bird was off. I was very annoyed with myself for that happening, but I can still remember the bird looking down on me, and it is a picture that will stay with me for the rest of my life, no matter how brief the view.
And that was that. We headed back home as it was beginning to get much darker, without much event. We picked up good numbers of bats on the way back but besides that nothing really. An excellent evening to say the least. 
Species List:
Undisclosed Site: Long-Eared Owl, Meadow Pipit, Swift, Swallow, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail, Magpie, Herring Gull, Collard Dove, Dunnock, Starling, Roe Deer, Rabbit, Bat sp., Common Frog, Ghost Moth,  

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