Monday, 19 July 2010

Unforgettable experience with a family of Long-eared Owls

It was Thursday (15th) night and I had just finished my tea and started to fill out my part time job application form to go and work for Tesco. I decided I fancied a bit of Owling tonight and wondered if my friend who I usually go Owling with was up for it as well, so I text my friend (David Kay) and he gave me a ring to say he was up for it so we made our way down to the site to look for our local Long-eared Owls.

We parked at out usual site and we made out way down to the site through the now Amazon jungle of a path! We checked to see if there was any sing of the other pair where they nested last year but we didn’t see any adult birds or hear any of the young calling. This is a bit disappointing but perhaps they will return next year, what I can’t understand is that they where displaying from here and showing well a few weeks ago and no sing at all now. We have so much to learn from birds in my opinion.

We decided we would walk up top onto the old disused railway track and we heard out first LEO chick calling almost immediately. He stopped calling and we retreated so that we didn’t cause any distress if we had already by just being there. We where entertained for a bit by sitting and chatting about Davy’s new video camera, we then decided we would go back and try and see the young bird that had now started to call again. It must have been a hungry little thing because it started calling a good 30 mins – 1 hour before the others even made a squeak. As we headed back a very cute baby hedgehog kept us entertained as it rolled up into a little ball to avoid us. We rolled it over gently and could see a little nose peeping out breathing steadily. The Long-eared chick was still calling and we left the hedgehog in piece and went in search of the now regularly calling chick. We approached quietly and without making to much noise so that we didn’t scare or startle the birds, we descended down a small man made grassy track and stopped to scan the trees from where the bird was calling from and there it was! A lovely quite well advanced Long-eared Owl chick was sitting looking at us, after grabbing some video and a few pictures we left the chick in piece to get on with its “feeeeeed” calls. When we got back onto the public footpath we realised we must have just walked past another 2 young birds as we heard at least 3 birds, however Davy informed me there was defiantly 4 birds present.

We decided we would go back onto the railway track and try to get on top of the birds so we could look down onto them. When on top of the railway track we walked along to where we thought we would be able to see the birds. The birds went quiet and then out of no where a very loud begging “feeed” call came from the bushes we had just walked past. So very cautiously and carefully we walked back in total silence and when we got to where the sound was coming from I saw something take off. I thought that was it we had spooked it away when Davy pointed carefully to a fence post about 25ft away with a young very cute Long-eared Owl chick sitting on it. If moved back a little bit and sat out in the open on a hawthorn tree and began its begging call clearly not distressed. We watched it for a short while and in flew another owl! I thought it was another chick until it turned and looked at us, it was either mummy or daddy tending to the chick. It looked at us with its ears held flat against its head and then turned away from us to tend to the chick and then a few seconds later flew off to hunt. Knowing the adults had now seen us we did the right thing and left incase we started to cause any disturbance.

Considering I was only about 20-25ft away from a Long-eared Owl adult and chick it was a truly unforgettable experience. The sort of thing that sticks with you forever.

These pictures are taken by my friend David Kay, they are NOT my pictures they are his. Please do not take these photos of this blog. The photos show one of the adult as well as one of the 4 chicks belonging to this pair and were taken a week or so before my experience:

(Young Long-eared Owl)
(Long-eared Owl adult on post)


  1. Nice descriptive piece Foghorn.

    These, with their 4 well advanced young & another pair with a single youngster, are the only ones to have bred from the 12 local pairs ive checked.

    Similar in Derwentside area, where we have (so far . . .) only 2 pair with young from @ 15 known territories.

    Youve been lucky to be able to watch a family this season - certainly The worst breeding season ive experienced over the last 2 decades.

    Catch you later.

  2. Magic images,fantastic see.
    A big well done.

  3. Hi Andrew, what a magical experience that must have been! I'm going to be down in the North Yorkshire area in early August and would possibly be willing to meet you on the way back up to Aberdeen and go in search of the Long-eared Owls, as we mentioned a long way back. Is it possible I can tell you more on MSN?



  4. Joseph: Yes of course Joseph. I will take you to see the owls. It would be better to talk about it on MSN due to it being sensetive information.

    JRandSue: Thanks! :)

    Stevie: It's a shame it has been the worst year for 2 decades! Lets hope for a fantastic year next year.

  5. Great stuff Andrew.
    How can anyone not be fascinated by birds when there are experiences like you describe to be had? Brian.