January 17th   Leave a comment

The short-eared owl at Kingsbarns golf course – taken yesterday

I finally caught up with the short-eared owl at Kingsbarns. My mistake has been to look in the stubble fields when it has been hunting almost entirely over the golf course. Kingsbarns Golf Course is quite well screened and you have to walk right into the middle by the club house to get a good view over it. Once I did that today I saw the owl within a couple of minutes. I haven’t had a good view of a short-eared owl for a while. We get one or two a year in Crail – sometimes even flying over Crail and I have it on my garden list – usually just after coming in from the North Sea in September or October, but they don’t usually stay around. This bird has unusually been at Kingsbarns since October and as I have written, it has proved a bit elusive for me.

But today it all worked out perfectly. Bright late afternoon sunshine, crisply clear and no wind. I sat down in the middle of the course on a hummock and watched it for 40 minutes, sometimes very close but mostly quartering the rough grass on the other side of the course, occasionally dropping down after a vole. I could appreciate every detail. The general rule is that if it is an owl out in the open during daylight it is almost always a short-eared owl, but long-eared owls can do the same so it is always worth double checking. The trick is to see a clearly defined streaked breast separated from an unstreaked belly, or see the clearly defined black wing tips, that make it a short-eared owl. If you have a really close flyby – and I did as I walked out through the stubble fields (followed by the owl of course now I had already seen it on the golf course…) – then you can check whether it has yellow (short-eared) or orange (long-eared) eyes. All owls are beautiful because of their incredibly light flight. They barely have to flap to stay in the air with their long wings and bodies that are mostly feathers. But most of the time you just see them glancing through a headlight beam or as a shape in the gloaming. Not today though. For what it’s worth considering my track record with this owl – try late afternoon from the top of one of the hummocks about 100 meters into the golf course, south of the entrance just above the beach car park. It will make your day when you see the owl.

Another photo of the short-eared owl at Kingsbarns taken yesterday

Posted January 17, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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