Dawn Marsh Harrier

Dawn Marsh Harrier

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Short Drive-Short Speed walk-Short of Breath-Bam!!!-Short Eared Owls.

I hadn't visited the fields below Bayhurst Wood for approaching 20 years. This was back when I had a dog as an excuse to roam the countryside without feeling like I looked suspicious. I've since discovered that binoculars do the trick as well. They're not as good company but you don't have to feed them. Anyway, when I was last there with my old buddy Loftus, the nearest thing to wildlife was sheep. Lots of sheep, and tightly grazed grass. This is why I was struggling to work out where these SEOs were that were being reported. So I got away from work a bit prompt on the Friday before last, (POETS Day after all) and went to check it out. I parked at the car park for Bayhurst Wood and followed the path downhill to the bottom. As soon as I got a view of the fields through the trees, I could see that they had been transformed. Rough tussocky grassland with rushes and sedge and large clumps of native plants in winter die back. A Shorty Shangri-La no less. I'd set out with more hope than expectation but suddenly expectation was taking over.

As I entered the fields I spotted a small passerine hop up on top of a teasel. It was a stonechat. I'd never seen a stonechat in Harefield in the 27 years I've lived here. Siskins were having a pre-roost gathering on the edge of the wood. I haven't seen many siskins in Harefield either. I soon realised that there was a decent expanse of unmanaged, ungrazed land around me, so I started heading for a high point to scan from. But before I got there I was distracted by an aerial commotion.  Corvids were noisily haranguing something. Not just something. A Short Eared Owl. Carrion Crows and Jackdaws were joining forces to relentlessly mob the owl and seemed to be intent on driving it high above the treeline as if to stop it hunting. A second owl flew over me from behind and was treated to more of the same.

So the cranky crows restricted me to distant views in fading light but the joy of seeing the owls outweighed the frustration. So much so that I returned at dawn the next morning and met up with Sharpy, hoping for better views. No corvid capers this time but a bit of mist rapidly became fog and visibility was lousy. A brief and foggy view of one Shorty in flight was the best we managed. Again there were siskins and a decent number of Reed Buntings enjoying the the winter seed heads but the owls weren't tempted by such rubbish hunting conditions.

Yesterday I took an early morning trip to Fishers green with Sharpy and Ephraim on a quest to see Bittern. In the wind and showers, a year tick Water Rail was the highlight so I returned home to do my Big Garden Birdwatch. It was a bit slow in the naff weather but the female of my regular pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers graced the peanut feeder for a while. 14 species in total. As the afternoon wore on the sun started trying to break through. The wind was still gusting but the temptation to nip down the road in search of Short Eared Owls got the better of me. Within 5 minutes of arriving in the fields I was on a Shorty. Thankfully unhassled by crows it was quartering a field near the woods. As I edged a bit closer I inadvertently put up the second owl as it was roosting on the ground in front of me.  I was treated to a breathtaking display as they demonstrated their rodent ravaging skills for over an hour.

Again a Stonechat put in an appearance as did Red Kite, Buzzard and Kestrel.

And the Owls just kept performing.

I don't very often go birding round Harefield even though I live there. It is semi-rural but it's intensively farmed and so quite naturally sterile. Isn't it amazing what happens when you just leave a bit of land alone. 'Natural' habitat takes over and 'nature' comes. Even Short Eared Owls. You've always got these cretinous oafs blathering on about how the countryside has to be "managed" or the Earth will spin off it's axis or something. Sadly us Townies are too ignorant to understand apparently. Well I'll tell you what. Insert your countryside management in your most shady of orifices. I'd rather have nature than your greed driven biodiversity disasters.

Anyway, enough of that ranting. Short Eared Owls near Home. Brilliant!!!

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