In Dusk We Trust - Some Owling in Co.Durham, North East England, Great Britain

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

No show Leo

Dusk check at site with 2 pair Leo - single bird out hunting 17:45.
This was sole contact, no further sign, no calls, no display....

Its a worry.

Mid February 2017 - local update.

Long-eared males singing & wing-clapping at a couple of sites
Leo surveys his territory at dusk

The 1st Tawnies may well be on eggs - none checked so far
Little Owls becoming more vocal & more showy especially on the recent warm sunny days.
Our wintering Shorties continue their crepuscular activity - having been seen day flying on less than half a dozen dates.

Sunday, I stood with Mr Heron at dusk after a full 13 mile day out - he clocked a Barnie almost over our heads, with Little Owls & a silhouetted Tawny all from the same vantage point.

If any local readers have any info / anecdotes they want to feed in for use on the blog then Email stevieevans1 AT

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Tawny Owl Deep Chamber Egg Theft

Heres an interesting one from Spring 2015

22 March 2015
Found a New Tawny Owl nest site, with a clutch in a chimney-like hollow Sycamore.

pic from second visit

The bird came off on the initial visit, but second visit she never moved. (pic above)
The chimney-like cavity was a good 10-12 foot deep, with the clutch only a few feet off the ground.
Id imagined the young would be well on before they manage to climb / flap their way out of this one.... (spoke too soon !)

29 March 2015
Second visit, the female sitting tight
Clutch pic from initial find visit.

3 April 2015
Third visit, - we were expecting young (cp other local nests) ,  Jack (nearly 10 y/old) was happy to go up, he wanted to see the bird sitting, but he called down that there was no bird & only 3 eggs & a hole ! - Three eggs & a hole we echoed - I couldn't wait to get up & see....
Jack shouted down "theres 3 eggs & a hole !"
An egg had indeed gone from the Tawny nest..... what a mystery...
We moved round to have a look at the base for the first time & saw the basal cavity for the first time... our cogs were starting to whirr...

The Evidence - Saw dust at the base of the cavity....

On closer inspection at ground level, it was clear the hole had been dug from underneath & the nest predated from below, with, presumably a Stoat (see him regularly close by) having come in the basal cavity & dug up through several inches of soft decayed timber to access the nest chamber.

The family pondering the mystery....

As we moved of we had a Consolation in the form of nice views of a Roe Deer (doe) while we talked through this unusual encounter.

Post Script - I meant to go back & try to fill it in with some rocks.... possibly a couple of years left in that stem....

Monday, 13 February 2017

Where sheep are sheep & men are....

Couple of hours at end of the day to check on some neglected Barnie roost sites on the Limestone.

Depending on aspect, Limestone nest sites can be unmistakable - years & years of splash stands like a white beacon, especially when under an overhang or otherwise sheltered from the elements.
Obvious white splash

Roost sites on the other hand can be much harder to locate - rock faces are littered with nooks & crannies - birds could be anywhere.........

NB: (A good tip when prospecting for any cavity dwelling owl (raptor or duck too) is to check for down feather caught in cobwebs.)

That was the case today, with only a few subtle clues on show.
A few small dots of splash didn't look like they were worth following up,
2 down feathers & tiny bit splash

but a check binoculars revealed 2 pale down feathers -  there you go.

Moving to the overgrown base of the slope, it took a while but I found a handful of large & quite recent BO pellets - almost there.
Barn Owl pellets - big & black

A scramble up through bramble & thorn got me 30' higher, where 1 very fresh pellet confirmed the roost as active.
looking down - NB telescope in top RHcorner.

From here, the otherwise hidden entrance to cavity held many more pellets & downy feathers.
roost cavity

Yes, a bit of a faff on, but far better than a stand & hope speculative visit as the light fades.

In fact id much rather do a bit detective work like this than hump a pair of ladders around checking nest boxes.

To end on a lighter note - I wasn't expecting to have this charge out at me :-
you know its a rough area when the sheep hide in caves !

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Long & Shortage....

I can remember thinking what a stinker winter 2015 / 2016 was (after very poor Leo nest season) - I considered that to be the worst Owl winter i'd known....

Winter 2016 / 2017 has been worse.... The Worst....

I have never had many concerns about our resident Long-eareds - they were nailed on, Lots of pairs always there, no problem, guaranteed year round...

Not the case now after a series of poor breeding cycles...

So much so this season that I havnt daylight searched any more than 6 locations, with no more than a max of 3 birds... & switched to searching for Jack Snipe as the Bigg Luggs were proving so hard to come by.
For Example, a traditional location where ive had regular double fig roosts, including 18 in a single tree was blank this winter....
Things are picking up & pairs are beginning to call & display - though its obvious some sites are sadly vacant - the populations is certainly at a 20 year low - but, hopefully not for long...

Friday, 23 January 2015

Owl snippets

Highlights on This week:-
Located 2 trees a mile apart, both showing signs of occupancy by BO, which isn't currently a known territory.
LO bolting into Barnie box when Buzzard landed in the same tree.
Single afternoon visit in passing, saw LO SEO & LEO all viewed from public footpaths at Ye Olde Meadowlands of Raynton.
Opportunistic TO dining on Snipe- more on this when I can upload pics.
Bigg Luggs 'singing' at 2 sites this week.
Unusual find in open country was a regular TO hunting perch, half a dozen pellets under 1 tree, way to small to offer any scope for roosting.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Familiarity breeds...

Ive wandered around OFFH (on foot from home) on & off for a decade.
Winter is The Season here, we're Spoilt rotten. The Five, along with another 105 bird species by the end of January means there's always something to look for.
This year I thought I'd pay attention to some lesser known paths & see what surprises lay unfound.
Despite strong coverage, we still manage to turn up new pairs of Leos every couple of years, & keep an open mind as landscapes change & evolve.
However, a seemingly conspicuous & easily located bird like Little Owl.... well you'd presume they were all bagged & tagged by now...
Close to the very well known Bog, there are several Parts unknown & these have looked "super-owly" in passing.
 A recent recce found asio pellets along the fenceline & a single Bigg Luggs in Elderscrub close by.
The same visit produced a Woodcock feeding out in the open, which I managed to photograph. (link below).
This "finding" is what motivates me & I planned to come back over.
A week later & I was back in the same area, I had a Jack Snipe on the ground, but stepped back to enable a photo & put up another which i nearly trod on. Both vanished...
Surely a good omen, Woodcock last time, Jack Snipe this - I dreamed of a big Leo roost along the way...
The woods proved to be not so fruitful & I headed up a hedgerow. Approaching a fine Ash I looked up to be met with a very disgruntled Little Owl. His mate sat in a crack in the next tree along.
You could have blown me over, I've been past here with the family & never gave it a glance - what a surprise a new pair of Littles.
With 50 or more pairs in this 10km sq, I thought we'd found a good few, especially pleased with this being only about a mile or so from home.
I managed a digi-binned picture & its gone down well on Flickr with 9,000 views in a few days !"

So hopefully there'll be less familiarity & more owls in the coming year.

Friday, 9 January 2015

2015. All 5 NYD.

New Years morning, in position in good time. As the night began to slip away, a Hunting Barn Owl the very first bird I saw, the perfect start. Little Owls called sharply, with the top of a telegraph pole being a vantage point for one. To the SW, the sky was black & a short jog to the edge of the reserve was timed to perfection as the male Long-eared cruised into view, wing clapping as he approached his plantation.
"The 5" was certainly on the cards after a faultless start. However, no sooner had the Leo evaporated when the morning became darker as the sky first few spots of rain fell.
The East was brighter, this route taking me away from the Short-eareds... A Staked out Tawny in an ornamental Cypress was an easy addition - Owl number 4 seen well before 9AM.
The thought crossed my mind to double back for #5.... but these would wait.

In the end Short-eared was the final bird of the day - amazingly waiting a good ten mins after the light had gone before they set out to hunt.

A cracking day, 79 species & only the third time I've seen The 5 on a NYD.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

been a long time

Summer 2013 was pretty much a blank nesting season for Co.Durhams Long-eared's, so at the moment winter roosting birds are on the whole "bad to get".  That being said, i know of  two double figure roosts, one holding at least a dozen birds.
Heres one sitting nicely - taken at range with iPhone 4GS hand held to Nikon fieldscope x30 mag.

From New Year, it has been pleasing to note that our male Longs have commenced their display flights right on cue , with several local owlers connecting & yet another new pair found in suitable habitat.  (MH/DC/GS/SE et al )
Heres an iPhone snap shot of a male displaying overhead :-

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Longs at dusk

A couple of images of 2 Long-eareds shortly after emerging from roost at dusk. . Im reasonably happy with the first 2 pics - it was difficult enough to see the bird let alone catch it phone-scoping !

Cropped images taken from about 80metres away -iPhone 4GS hand held to 30x Nikon Fieldscope (85mm obj lens)

These 2 pics were taken on another visit, lighter & closer, but looking towards what bit light was remaining

At least 3 birds here, coming past hunting at close range. - although they seem equally happy to post hunt for spells. A Pair dueting tonight, before the male left to hunt.