Sunday, 13 January 2013

Death of voles

Having not seen many owls around recently, I have had a bumper weekend. First on Friday afternoon I spotted a barn owl hunting in the field opposite our house -  a common sight a couple of years ago but rare of late.

And then yesterday we went down to the Yare to see what was out on the marshes and immediately saw a short-eared owl being mobbed by some rooks. After hunting for a bit it went to ground and then seemed to appear a few hundred yards away - clearly there were in fact two of them! They continued to course across the open marsh only a couple of meters above the ground, periodically diving and settling, presumably catching voles and other small mammals. A couple of times they seemed to come too close to each other and had a minor squabble (unless this was some sort of bonding behaviour?) before continuing their hunt. Having never seen one before I was struck by how much longer in the wings it was than the barn owl, and lacking that familiar bullet-shaped head. But still a really beautiful bird.

As it was getting towards dusk and very cold, we were about to leave them when we saw a paler, more familiar shape of a barn owl silently gliding from the woods by Rockland Broad -  also soon joined by another. With two barn owls and two short-eared owls both hunting over the same open marshland of dykes and reeds, and a kestrel hovering by the river edge, the local vole population must have been distinctly worried!

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