Short Eared Owls

08th January 2012
Each year in the Autumn, we have an influx of avian wildlife to the UK. As our summer breeding birds fly south to escape the cold, species from the continent flock to our shores to avoid the inhospitable winters in their homelands. This includes one of our rarer breeding species, the Short Eared Owl (Asio flammeus). During this time, the number of owls in the UK may reach 50,000. This year, the numbers have been considerably higher than recent years, following a population explosion of their vole prey in their continental breeding grounds.

Short Eared Owls are one of the easiest species to see, as they have a largely diurnal lifestyle, and are often seen hunting over coastal marshes and rough ground on winter afternoons.

In the North West of England, where I am based, a famous wintering population can often be seen along the Dee Estuary near the RSPB site at Burton. This is where all of the photographs in this blog posts were taken.

Short Eared Owls are ground nesting birds, and often spend time perched on the ground.

I was able to observe two individuals hunting over the same patch of Burton Marsh. Although not as territorial as some bird of prey species, these two birds did occasionally fight (presumably to protect their access to prey).

Photographing Short Eared Owls has been a frustrating process. Although they are bold birds, flying close to the footpath which is in almost constant use, they are hard to approach closely. I often waited in one place watching them fly over the marsh further up the track. When I changed positions so did they!

You should be able to see Short Eared Owls in the habitats described above for the next couple of months before they return to the upland areas of Great Britain, or their home countries to breed.


Photo comment By mark: Fantastic images, thank you for posting them. I watched two hunt yesterday afternoon for an hour at Burton - stunning birds.

Leave a comment

Your Name
Your Email
Your Comment
No info required here, please press the button below.