Sunday, 21 April 2013

Mixed Fortunes with Owls at Lee Valley

Staying local this morning I hit the patch at 6.30. Starting at Cornmill Meadows Sedge Warblers were very vocal along the Old River Lea.
Reaching Wake Hide the mist started to roll in across the water. The muddy island was still visible and a quick scan located two Little Ringed Plovers. With one bird (presumably the female) tucked down in the mud, while the other nervously flew around the island. Frequently landing only to take to the air again soon after.
A Barn Owl slowly working it's way along the fence caught my eye. It flew into the mist and vanished briefly, before reappearing on the far side along Cornmill Stream. Always a fantastic sight. 

With the gates at Fisher's still locked I headed for the farm car park and decided to head off towards the farm in search of Little Owl.
Scanning the usual spots didn't produce any sightings of owl, but it did add three year ticks for the patch. When firstly two Linnets flew noisily overhead and landed close by, and secondly the distinctive sound of a Yellowhammer calling. a quick scan of the nearby trees and bushes and four birds are found. Skylarks are also added to the patch count.
Back at the car park, I head towards Fishers Green. Stopping briefly to bag a Whitethroat in the scrub area.
A quick scan of Seventy Acres Lake fails to find any Common Terns, meeting one of the volunteers yesterday he said they were holding back on putting the rafts out this year to try to help the terns compete with the Black-headed Gulls. Unfortunately it seems they didn't leave it late enough as all the raft spaces have Black-headed Gulls occupying them.
There is no sign of any of yesterday's Hobby being present either, but high up above the pylons on the other side of the lake are two Swifts for another year tick.

Taking the footpath down towards the sub station, the bushes are alive with Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Nightingales.
Reaching the bridge just past the sub station, Another Nightingale bursts into song. Spotting movement within the tree, gets me straight onto the Nightingale. It's in full song mode and gives cracking views.

Nightingale (B Anderson)
The return walk takes in the Weir at Holyfield lake. Only a Terrapin bathing in the sun below the weir is of any note here.
Another Nightingale is heard from within the scrub area, and then I catch sight of a bird flying across the top of the tree line. Getting the bins onto it just as it turns away and heads in the direction of the sub station. Panic now sets in, Was it Short or Long-eared Owl? With the bird heading away from me I only get a view of the body.  It's about now that I regretted leaving the camera in the car and taking the scope instead.

I ran back down the track towards the nearest clearing, but it had disappeared from view. An all too brief view but a thrilling one none the less. 

Having returned home, I went through the features that I did note on the bird.
Dark carpal patches, pale looking belly, light coloured primaries. The overall impression was of a pale looking bird. Most features seem to point towards Short-eared Owl. So unless someone proves me wrong it's going down as a Short-eared Owl.

This morning my intention was to try to add Little Owl to my year and patch lists. As it turned out it was the one owl that got away.

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