November 2nd   Leave a comment

There has been some late season migration going on at the end of this week. This morning I put up two woodcock at Kilminning and then a long-eared owl. It was roosting in a dense sycamore by the top entrance and I only found it because I was following a flock of long-tailed tits deeper into cover. The owl flew to the edge of the road and perched, glaring at me. I could appreciate its distinctive orange eyes and even its “ears” – you hardly ever get to see them, but this bird had stuck up its feather tufts on either side of its head in annoyance at me disturbing it. I should think it came in last night after crossing the North Sea from Scandinavia and had pitched down into the first trees it found to escape the heavy rain. Long-eared owls are strictly nocturnal. You only ever see them in daylight if you find them roosting or flush them, or catch one out still crossing the sea. The long-eared owl this morning took off again after about half a minute of regarding me through the trees. It flew off to roost in the corner of the walled garden at Balcomie until disturbed again and it headed off towards Fife Ness. Later in the morning I saw a short-eared owl coming in off the sea at Fife Ness. Another Scandinavian migrant, but one much happier with flying in daylight. It’s nice to see the pair of them so close together (it’s been 6 years since I have seen a long-eared owl in Crail – 166 for the year list as well) to appreciate their differences. Long-eared owls are much more orangey brown in colour, rather than yellowy brown (and they have bright orange eyes rather than bright yellow eyes), and are much less stripey than short-eared owls. They look more camouflaged – like a woodcock – whereas short-eared owls have more distinct black barring and black wing tips. But its all pretty subtle. Luckily, long-eared owls tend roost in dense trees and fly straight back to cover when flushed, and short-eared owls tend to roost on the ground, in long grass, and go for long, high and airey flights when flushed.

Long-eared owl (JA)
Short-eared owl (JA)

Posted November 2, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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