Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Little Owl's cover blown

There were not very many winter birds on the farm this year. We have fared very well for fieldfares and the lawns and hedges have been dripping with blackbirds, but that's been about it. We have been particularly thin on the ground on the raptor front. Our first winter here saw regular hen harrier sightings, two even taking up temporary residence in the field next door. Yet last year I saw just one, and all too briefly. Then last year was the year of the Short-eared Owls. This year, none. No merlin this year either, and even Peregrines have been hard to find.

I say that not very many winter birds were on the farm this year. I use the word were as I am now looking forward to Spring. And is if to confirm this, I heard this morning the first singing skylark of the year.

Late winter is the time of year when some of our native birds begin their breeding. They've toughed out a whole winter and their reward is to be back on their territories way ahead of the more migratory species.
One family known for breeding early in the year are the owls. Indeed, Barn Owls have been very noticeable of late. Sue and I had a fantastic sighting of one perched in the roadside hedge just the other day and its not at all unusual for one to float along the dykes, stalling every now and then to check out something below in the long grass.

But it's been the Little Owl which I have taken great delight in seeing this last couple of days. Probably because our particular Little Owls hardly ever show themselves during the day.
This is unfortunate, as in the world of owls, Little Owls are known as the species perhaps most likely to be active during the day, or at the very least long enough before the sun goes down that the human eye can still watch them.
But not ours. Oh no! Our Little Owls, for I think we have a pair, are virtually never seen. Though at this time of year a stroll outside when the stars are above will often be accompanied by their soft calls.

But yesterday, for just the second time in the last year, I saw one of them. And I have the Blue Tits and Great Tits to thank for that. For they were making a right kerfuffle in the Ash trees, buzzing and chiding. And the reason for all this commotion. Yes. There was one of the Little Owls sat bolt upright on a branch. It didn't stay for long though, clearly not enjoying having its cover blown.
Then this afternoon the Little Owl was back in the same Ash tree. This is the old one with the hollow stump. I have had high hopes of it being used by owls, either Little or Barn, in the past. And today this owl was clearly calling to another which replied from the other side of the garden.
Maybe one day there'll be a whole family sat along a branch. I live in hope.

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