Wednesday 16 November 2011

Short-eared Owls of Sheppey

Shellness, Sheppey - 0800hrs - cool, misty start, brighter by late morning, E1 - Ventured off the Marsh today with CP (plus Barney) to recce for magazine articles, and what a classic winters day birding it turned out to be. Sheppey, of course, is well known for having a large concentration of wintering raptors and we duly mopped up with the highlights being Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls.
A scan from Muswell Manor Farm produced stunning views of 2 ringtails close overhead, along with half a dozen Marsh Harriers, 5 Kestrels, plus singles of Common Buzzard and Merlin. A flock of 200 Brents,  were over by the coast road and loads of Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Starlings swirled overhead. A decent return of Skylarks and a scattering of Mipits, Reed Buntings, Linnets and Goldfinches.
We walked along the seawall to the Swale reserve hide, from where we had cracking views of at least 5 Short-eared Owls, 2 of which sat in a field staring at as with those piercing lemon eyes. Further ringtails, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and a Peregrine also noted. Bumped into the reserve warden who updated us on the latest sightings (thanks Derek) and matters concerning the Islands wildlife and how the shortage of rain has effected the marshes.
Harty Marshes 1200hrs - Drove the road to the Raptor Viewpoint where highlights included 8 White-fronts on Capel Fleet amongst masses of Lapwings, Goldies, Wigeon, Teal and Greylags, 50 odd Corn Buntings, Greenfinches, Mipits, Reed Buntings, plus more ringtail and Short-eared Owl sightings, Sparrowhawk, Merlin and Kestrels.
Oare Marshes - 1400hrs - With the high tide approaching the east flood was full of waders with up to 500 roosting Blackwits, 200 Dunlins, 100 Redshanks, plus an assortment of Ruffs, Ringed Plovers, Snipe, Avocets, Curlews, Turnstone, Golden Plover and a Little Stint. Also, 7 Little Egrets, 10 Pintails, 6 Shelducks and hundreds of Shovelers, Teal and Wigeon.
We ended the day in style with yet another Short-eared Owl quartering the flood.
It doest matter how long you`ve been birding, Seo`s are a bit like Bitterns in the sense that you just can not ignore them, and today was one of the best we could remember for top views of this gorgeous diurnal owl.

                                           Brents and Short-eared Owl, Shellness, Sheppey

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