Monday, 21 November 2011

Otmoor Short-eared Owls

Just a bijou blogette to keep things ticking over, what my old professor would call a "pot-boiler". L, our five year old son, who normally doesn't take much interest in birds and whom I've stopped dragging off on birding trips, had been saying for some time that he wanted to see some owls. Accordingly on Sunday afternoon I thought that I would take him down to Otmoor where there have been at least half a dozen short-eared owls of late. This is not normal for Otmoor and some of the more seasoned county birders have been telling me that it was just like the old times - no doubt the result of the explosion in vole numbers this year.

Anyway, when I got down to Otmoor I couldn't believe how many cars there were there and I had to be rather "creative" with my parking. The place was full of people watching the owls or coming to watch the starling roost. Our tactics were to stand by the pump station overlooking Greenaways where pretty soon we were watching a pair of distant owls who seemed to be doing a circuit over Greenaways and around to Ashgrave and the Closes. We watched for a while though once L had seen one he seemed to lose interest and started splashing around in the muddy puddles instead and after a while he started asking when we were going to go back home. There was one Cetti's warbler calling from deep within the hedge which was nice to hear again after the resident birds were completely wiped out by the two harsh winters that we've had. Fieldfares were "chakking" away everywhere and the starling roost was a few thousand birds but they didn't indulge in any great acrobatics.

As L and I walked back towards the car the two owls started hunting over the Car Park field and one perched on the top of a bush long enough for me to get the scope on it and for L to have a good look though he seemed more interested in taking photographs of the pretty red lights on the TV aerial on the hill behind us.

I made a compilation of the various dodgy bits of video that I took though the birds were distant and it was getting dark and put it to some inappropriately gloomy music - Beethoven's string quartet no. 14 in C# minor which has such a wonderfully melancholy first movement and which surprisingly L said he really liked. He did say that he'd like to come back to see the owls again so I feel that I can chalk the trip up as a success.

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