Watching Owls is very weather dependant, so I studied the weather forecast carefully to check that the rain wasn’t due to reach our area. I also had to check the wind speed carefully, as the birds sometimes won’t fly if the wind is too strong. When it is very windy the owls can’t differentiated the rustle of a vole from the rustle of the grass due to the gale force winds!
A group of 12 very eclectic people aged between 7 & 70, and some coming from as far as Leeds shared cars to yesterday’s planned location. As we neared the venue I spotted a harrier species, but it was soon lost to view behind some conifers. We had only just left the cars and were scanning an area from a bridge when one participant spotted a “bird of prey”. Immediately we saw a very dark brown bird with a white rump – a ringtail Hen Harrier – either a female or immature bird.
We watched her for several minutes, and then turned our attention to the opposite side of the road. Immediately an owl was seen flying low over the vegetation near the railway line. Then another was seen under a heavily wooded area. We continued to scan the area during the remainder of our visit, and saw at least 4 birds in the air at the same time, and almost certainly as many as 6 in total – possibly several more. At times a couple of birds flew very close to us, and the observers gasped with admiration of their flying skills and their beautiful markings. Other raptors included a few Kestrels, a Marsh Harrier and a distant Buzzard. During the 2 hours we also heard or saw: a charm of Goldfinches, an exaltation of Skylarks, a single Meadow Pipit, plus flocks of Fieldfare & Lapwings passing over.