Saturday, 3 December 2011

Owls of Delight

The decision before me today, having been on my feet all morning was, sit at home and do Jack, which would probably have led to me sampling the bottle of Jack (Daniels) in the kitchen way too early in the day, or get on the patch. No contest. I still went on the patch though!

Marsh Lane fields were fairly Birdy, though nothing of any great consequence, I was hoping for scarce Passerines today given the ongoing mildness of the Winter, relatively speaking of course. (I still haven’t put the heating on at home, obviously we can no longer fill the car up, eat AND be warm, something had to go, mind you the natives are not restless yet so it must still be ok.) Perhaps the problem now is it is too warm and we need that cold snap to push the Winter goodies our way. Talking of which I noticed someone is laying a footpath down the hitherto overgrown and pretty impassable East side of the Dagnam Brook, it might be a nice little walk when it is finished but it will pass right by where the Snipe used to hang out in the last cold snap, so I guess that’s them finished.

Over the footbridge and on to the Pitch’n’Putt and down to the River Lea which was fairly Birdless in contrast. I thought, as is my wont, that I would check the ‘Little Owl Tree’, in fact I checked all the big Trees on the Hackney side of the Lea on the South side of the Golf Course for possible roosting Little Owls. I have done this every time I have walked this way for most of the year, since I heard that one had been seen down here, naturally I have never connected.

The ‘Little Owl Tree’ is in fact a half dead Black Poplar about 100m SSW of Tee 8 on the South side of the Lea, I call it that because Mike M told me he saw one sitting on the obvious curved thick branch on the right. I checked the Tree carefully noticing some obvious Woodpecker holes on a thick trunk on the right hand side that ends abruptly where the top has snapped off, I was just wondering whether a Little Owl could get into such a small hole, when I spied a larger, natural hole behind, above and to the left which appeared to be filled with a shape that strongly resembled a sleeping Little Owl. My scope soon proved that the sleeping Little Owl shape was in fact constructed of a sleeping Little Owl. Result! Now we know where it sleeps it should be a cinch whenever we want to see a Little Owl. How it has escaped detection for so long is a mystery, might it be connected with the presence of leaves? We will never know (until Spring).

I wanted to do the Waterworks but also wanted to do the marsh and thought I would have time to do both, which I didn't. A walk up the side of the Horse fields revealed a handful of Chaffinches, a few Mistle Thrushes and about 15 Linnets. Upon reaching the Coppermill stream by the Horshoe Thicket and the Marina I thought I heard a brief ‘pik’ of a Water Rail, I gave it a quick burst of the iphone and lo and behold one called back, though not from where I had heard it, it then proceeded to come out in the open, walk along the edge, swim across the Stream and interact with the original Bird I had heard. I was so gobsmacked to see one out in the open I didn’t think to take a picture until it was too late, nonetheless I will share the result. (If you squint you can see the buffy backside of the Bird walking away just to the right of the blue bottle)

The Horshoe Thicket was birdless but by now it was getting late, I hurried on back to the Horse fields, via the bomb crater field, which I had a quick walk around trying to spot a Stonechat or flush a Snipe (or better still Jack Snipe) but that particular cupboard was bare. At the Horse field a Little Owl was in the usual Tree. So two pairs on the patch perhaps, but they don’t give themselves up easily, unlike the Jack Daniels which is giving itself up very easily as I type.


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