10th Feb. Having almost frozen by the lake yesterday evening, as the light faded and no Smew appeared on the small lake, although a Smew on the larger lake came within a few feet, enticed along with the Mute Swans and Goldeneye as the lady fed seed, I decided that I ought to venture out to the east of the patch today. The sunshine and light were such that it would have been wrong to stay indoors. It was a winter’s day to enjoy.
This walk, I admit somewhat neglected by me recently, has in recent years provided some very good sightings including pairs of Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Common Buzzards, Red Kite, fly over Marsh Harrier, Merlin, nesting Sparrowhawk, fly past Pink-footed Geese, Tundra Bean Geese, Grey Partridge, flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover, Tree Sparrows, a few species of migrant bird and of course several Short-eared Owls. A slight diversion from this circular walk of I guess about three miles, provided a sighting of Firecrest a few years ago. Larger mammals have included Roe Deer, Fox and Brown Hare. On some occasions sightings can be sparse, and yes, today was such a day, although even with so few sightings (I don’t think I have spent a quieter day in the area in that sense), the walk in the open farmland is always a rewarding one.
I was just pondering over how little bird life was about today and the fact that this area will eventually disappear under brick, concrete and tarmac if council plans go ahead, and also checking out the now apparently drained flash which once held the likes of waterfowl, Grey Heron and the occasional Common Snipe, when I looked towards the small area still holding water, maybe eighty to a hundred metres away. A bird rose from the ground near the shallow water and immediately its flight was unmistakable. It was a Short-eared Owl and I had chosen my direction of walk well.
Short-eared Owl. Distant and heavily cropped.
As I continued my walk the owl flew off to hunt in the opposite direction, the direction from which I had approached, I continued to watch the owl as it occasionally dropped to the ground for short periods. With no Short-eared Owls having been seen by me on patch last winter, I had thought we were to be unlucky again this winter, but happily I have been proved wrong. I eventually lost sight of the owl, but as I began on the return walk I kept watch. I was just beginning to think I was to have no more sightings today when the owl flew over the hedge and across my path, just a few yards in front of me. It was flying with the bright sun behind it, so was pretty soon seen in silhouette only. It did cross back into the fields to the right of me and I again watch it at length. The only photo opportunities were distant ones once I gotten into a decent position in the hedge, but the pleasure of watching the bird was no less for that.
As far as I’m concerned the unexpected sightings are generally the best ones and this was definitely the case today. It is such findings that make the efforts of patch birding so worthwhile. I guess some of the local dog walkers may have been enjoying sightings of this bird for sometime.