Sunday, 18 December 2011

Winter Thrushes and Short Eared Owl

Watching a patch isn't only about the birds!

18th Dec. Not having spent much time birding during December, and no real time at all on patch, I shook off the lethargy to spend a couple of hours along the wagon-ways this afternoon. The iced pathways came as a bit of a shock to the system, as did the cold air, but it was a fine day to be out. In places the broken ice lay like bits of a jigsaw puzzle and showed just how thick the ice had become last night. Flocks of Wood Pigeon and Magpies seemed to be everywhere.

It wasn’t long before I began to find small flocks of Redwing in the hedge ways near to the wagon-way. Three or four flocks, no larger than perhaps fifteen birds to a flock I reckon. Single birds flew along by the wagon-way. This is the largest number of Redwing by far that I have seen on patch so far this winter. One of the flocks also included a small number of Fieldfare. All of these birds were quite active. Searching for food no doubt, as I didn’t see many berries left on trees. Further along the wagon-ways towards Holystone I found a further small flock of Fieldfare. Nothing like the numbers I had found in the fields in the latter part of November.

I had hoped to find Short Eared Owls and I wasn’t to be disappointed. On this occasion only one bird, but it showed really well as it hunted the longer grass area which looks to me to be a likely roosting area. I watched it for some time and it appeared not to be phased at all by the dog walker who passed quite closely with two large dogs. Both dogs well controlled. I noticed the guy got straight onto his mobile when he spotted the Short Eared Owl, so perhaps he was informing someone of its presence. I informed a mate too and found he was watching a Short Eared Owl not that far away! A Kestrel also hunted in the area. I eventually moved off, but kept looking back as the owl continued to hunt. I thought I might find other Short Eared Owls in another area but I was to see only this one bird. Maybe its companions have dispersed to a wider area now.

I heard a Pheasant calling at some point, but there were few other birds about apart from tits, Blackbirds, Wren and Starlings. I did also find a male Bullfinch.

The sky at this time of year can be wonderful and this afternoon was no exception. The patch being on high ground gives a very good vantage point for watching the sky. I heard Mistle Thrushes in one of their favoured areas of the village as I made my return home to thaw out. The Short Eared Owls have been a special highlight of my patch birding this year. Not sure if I’ll get back out before Christmas, hopefully I will, but in any event I’m looking forward to planned trip out between Christmas and New Year.

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