By way of a grande finale for the year, on New Years Eve we went to Dungeness to see a Long Eared Owl that had taken up a winter roost at the RSPB reserve in a willow tree behind the dipping pond near the visitor centre and had been there without fail every day for nearly a month.
What a very wild and windy day it was but the owl was there, sitting quietly and resolutely in the bare tree, with a large array of humans with long camera lenses spread out at its feet. Well, we were the other side of the dipping pond but those of us with the right quality of equipment would have been getting wonderful photos of it. Sadly, we were not one of those people.
It was a magnificent bird and one which neither of us had seen before. For me, an obsession was born. My thoughts turned to whether we could have a Long Eared Owl roost somewhere amongst the thick tangle of thicket at the far boundary of the second meadow (we don’t know who owns this land but it appears to have been completely untouched during the entire year of our involvement with the meadows).
The RSPB website says there are 1,800 to 6,000 pairs of long eared owls in the UK, not many in Wales and the West Country and the ones in Scotland move south to southern England in the winter as well as us receiving some autumn immigrants from Scandinavia. During the winter, they roost, sometimes communally, in thick scrub with access to rough grassland over which they hunt at night – well, that sounds just like what we are providing for them. In summer they tend to be in thick coniferous woodland during the day so we would not be expecting to see them then but now, in the depths of winter, we are in with a chance.
Now that I am alert to the possibility of having long eared owls in our shrubbery, it it difficult to stop looking. I checked out data from Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory which is not far from us. They had seen a Long Eared Owl in December, so they are about and it is a chance.
I will keep looking…….