In Dusk We Trust - Some Owling in Co.Durham, North East England, Great Britain
Leucistic Little Owl image copyright Hilary Chambers, Durham.

Friday, 25 February 2011

In dusk we trust

I thought id this post a link to Paul 'Little Owl Radar'  Riddles blog :-
A Very nice surprise !

A superb encounter like this is why we trust in dusk, rather than dust to get our highs !


Little Owl - Big Tree

A few local pairs of Little Owls out in the sun yesterday
here a couple digi-binned shots of one pair-

One, presumably the female was sat tight in near a cavity at the top of the stem

& this one below, was a lot more active within the canopy - he wasnt too happy when a Magpie joined them

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Long-eared sets his stall out - keep your ears open.

Yesterday evening some display & vocalisitions from a couple of pairs of Leo.

After a short spell of territorial advertisement from the male,
Male Leo 'singing' , unusually it was the female who was first out.

She then called for 2-3 mins before flying to the thorns at the edge of the plantation. Female Long-eared Owl contact calling
She continued calling every 7 or 8seconds for a short while untill a gentle tapping came closer..
The tapping became louder as the male came over in his wing-clapping display flight, approx 5m overhead.
Male Long-eared Wing-Clapping
Long-eared Owls by Stevieevans

I watched him continue with exaggerated floating wing-beats, silhouetted against the light polloution to the east.
She continued called regularly for 15 mins while he was out of sight - he then returned, the muffled tapping of his wings clearly audible from some distance in the calm air.

I drew a blank at another site, the third i checked in passing on the way home - hearing both male & female, but seeing nothing.

A meagre offering from late this afternoon :-

I shall follow this up by posting some details of  the non-intrusive methods i have used in Co.Durham during the late winter / early spring period to locate Leo's over the past 2 decades. This systematic method has helped several owlers find Long-eareds on their own local patches- in some cases the species having been their "bogey bird" for decades.

(cant get 2 of those sound files to work..yet)


Recent series of wet nights resulting in a daylight hunting Barnie at home yestday.
A roadside Tawny just the wrong side of the Met Boro boundary as i drove along the Seaham/Ho'ton road @ 21:30 last night.

Friday, 18 February 2011

5 owls in 2 days - things are picking up.

A cold overcast day, after having been spoilt with yesterdays sun

A wander north round the edge of the City of Sunderland

I saw it first for a change - how folk get so close to these little b~~~~ers is a mystery to me.....
 Little Owl sheltering at the edge of a farmyard

Very fortunate to find this Long-eared sitting rather openly in a semi-mature Ash within a thorn copse

another site i dont get to very often, but hit on lucky

even though hes roosting within the open canopy of an Ash, theres allways twigs & branches in the way

Long-eared Owl pellets - easily identified, as they often seem to regurgitate pound coins ;-)
slightly weathered pellets - showing variability in sizes.

Headed back & got into place to see distant views of Barn Owl in the half light - day light hunting Barnies allways a scarce commodity round here for some strange reason.....

Thats all 5 seen over the last 2 days.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Favourite pair fine, but bit of a Backwoods Shocker later

A mild sunny day saw us walk 30 mins to school, thereafter it was off to check on one of my favoured Long-eared sites over the river near Durham City.
Id had a call to say "an owl" had been "found shot".

This site has recently changed ownership, but the neighbouring farmer put a word in for me ensuring access.
No sign of any dead owls, infact a relief to discover the resident pair relaxing in the warmth of what felt like a spring day - many species now singing including Skylarks, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch & several Willow Tit (a dozen pairs noted today).


The afternoon saw another discovery - this one slightly more sinister.... a real Backwoods Shocker.

Whats this household waste bin doing burried within this old pit heap....?

Whats these pipe entrances, with 'blocker rocks' leading from the bin.....

I could smell death all around, but couldnt resist lifting the lid........             empty......

I could still smell something rotten close by,
i turned to see these 2 slung into the undergrowth....
Long dead Dog Fox & recently slaughtered Vixen

A pityful sight of the Vixen
Can only assume that someones gone to all this trouble digging in the pipes etc, to create a false earth /  use as a baiting pit - to set dogs onto the foxes....


Towards the end of the afternoon, a more positive encounter with a Short-eared Owl hunting & heading off north - the last 2 years have been abismal for shorties here - whereas 3 winters back we had in excess of 20 birds.
Todays is my first this winter - obviously a passage bird, along with Skylarks, Shoveller duck, Green Sand & Pied Wagtails that were also reported as moving through the area today -
Is Spring here.... ? not quite yet. 

The previous day i managed to find a new roost site
no telescope, so these pictures of 'twigs' were all i could manage with my iPhone hand held up to my binoculars ! ;-)

another location to keep track on - 9 out of 10 winter roosts sites in Co.Durham hold Long-eareds year round, so hopefully this will turn out to be an additional breeding location....

We are apparently set for a return to winter conditions, but only a couple of weeks now untill the month of March, when Long-eared territorial activity is a daily occurance.  

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Long-eared Owl roost - FEB_2011

images of 5 birds from a Co.Durham Long-eared Owl roost containing 8+ individuals
lowland site on private farmland.

( click to enlarge pics)

Bird 1





Bird 2


Bird 3

Bird 4

Bird 5



These images taken using a mobile phone, hand held through a telescope - with obvious limitations.

Hopefully they help illustrate how the birds can 'gradually appear' whilst the scanning observer changes viewpoint.

Luckily this location suffers no disturbance & therefore 4 of the birds are perched relatively openly, being observed relatively easily.

More often than not, starting by viewing the base of the roost trees can be a productive method to locate roosting otus.
Scoping, even from range, for tell tale signs of splash is a good system.
Working up the trunk, pellets may also be visible lodged in the branch network - as the season progresses, the branches imediately below the roosting bird can become very obviously white washed - this is often the best single indicator to aid locating obscured birds.

Why a species which relies on superb cryptic patterning to remain undetected, should leave such an obvious "calling card" beneath its daytime roost is a mystery......
perhaps those white marks help pinpint roosting branches when returning to the roost before first light ?

Countless hours of fieldwork in County Durham, primarily by a small but dedicated group of "owling specialists", has led to us confirming in excess of 100 breeding pairs of Long-eareds.

This week i obtained first account from a gamekeeper of a 'new' pair in a moorland edge location - there is certainly further scope to discover further breeding pairs..........

Friday, 4 February 2011

Who needs Fieldcraft when we can all be spoon-fed ?

A walk through open mixed farmland

Nothing too much out of the ordinary, a few bushes & old fence posts that have seen better days

But, this is a very likely looking hunting post.
Out of the prevailing breeze, on the sheltered side of a field boundary Holly tree - although at first glance, no clues on show....

Who's been here then..
Viewed from the other side, some limited "white gloss" splash confirms our suspicions & lets us know an owl or raptor has been perched here...

A closer inspection,
the splash on the grass becomes more apparent & reveals 2 pellets  (1 on ground, 1 in the gorse).
confirmation that a Long-eared Owl has been present.

In the evening, Long-eareds regularly hunt from perches like this - i should imagine theyd be glad of a bit shelter when the wind is as wild as it has been -

So we now know otus is present, but finding where its sitting during the day requires a great deal more time, care & commitment.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Tawny family last year

Having finally got the pole mounted box sorted out, ( see  )
i remembered a selection of images The Foto Ninja had supplied me with :-

Hopefully these Tawny Owls will leave the Kestrels in peace & allow them sole occupation of the pole box this year.

We have provided the Tawnies with their very own nest box -
whilst this fly's in the face at what is considered best practice for sites with Long-eareds ( ie dont encourage Tawny at Leo sites),
we hope this will help keep the TO's away from both the Kestrel & Barn Owl boxes