Yet again, I must thank local naturalist Abbie Marland for this week’s wonderful photograph of a short eared owl.
This is a day-flying species of owl, usually seen hunting low over rough grassland.
I remember short eared owls being much less scarce in the 1960s and 1970s.
In fact, I have cared for one or two young ones, which were misguidedly “rescued” by members of the public who found them alone on the ground, not realising that short eared owls nest on the ground, and the youngsters were exactly where they were supposed to be.
Last year saw high populations of field voles, as they were protected from predation throughout winter by a widespread blanket of snow.
Beneath this blanket, the voles could still use their tunnels through the grass bowers, and a larger number than usual survived to breed in the spring.
Such good vole years always result in good breeding years for owls.
Therefore, UK breeding short eared owls had a very successful breeding season in 2011.
These owls and their offspring are now on their grassland wintering grounds, where they have been joined by migrant short ears from the north and northeast .
All are currently taking advantage of this year’s mild winter (so far), to feast on the abundant voles.
So, if you are a golfer or walker and spot a large pale owl hunting low over rough grasses in broad daylight, you can be sure that you have seen this fine fellow – the short eared owl.
More Country Corner in this week’s paper