New Year’s Day 2016! Another bygone year to tuck away in memory and a new one to start. I got up and went straight to my blog to check the traffic. I did the various other sites and was pleased to know I had sold another book during the night in the UK or Ireland. Probably Ireland because it was a historical story set there.
It was a nice winter morning and I suggested to Carole that we might go to the bird hides at Manea. As it is New Year’s Day, it might be very quiet. Well… It’s always quite, but more so than usual because it is a festive day.
We loaded up the car and off we set for the 10-minute drive across the farm fields towards Manea. Along the way, we saw lots of kestrels and a common buzzard. Upon reaching the hides, we were surprised to see a larger than the usual number of cars parked on there. More people than Carole and I obviously had the same idea.
The Fen before the long dyke with scattered bird hides was flooded, as is usual in the winter. In the distance was Ely Cathedral. In summer the fen is full of grazing cattle, but this time of year, the River Delph’s banks burst and overspill across the Fen creating a wonderful lake.
For once, the Marsh Harrier’s did not appear while we were in the hides, though one did fly directly over our car when going home.
The kestrels were out in force and there were loads of Reed Warblers and waterfowl out upon the vast flooded fen. We had our coffee and biscuits while searching the lake for various birds. Carole is much more knowledgeable about the birds then I am. She knows most of the breeds, especially those that dart about upon the reeds. I’m more interested in the more vicious birds – birds of prey. For me, they have an awesome beauty.
I got a few shots of Willow Tits and, what we presumed were Sedge Warblers. I’m sure we also got a Grey Wagtail too. My attention was caught by a Kestrel that was hovering between our hide and the next along. Something upon the dyke’s scarp had caught its attention and it kept coming back to the same spot.
The best part of the few hours visit came on the way home. We were just driving out of the car park along the river when we saw an owl land on a post. This was on the other side of the dyke opposite the flooded fen. I stopped the car and got my camera out. I began snapping away just as the crows homed in. They get very agitated over any bird of prey. I’ve seen them gang up on Marsh Harriers and now they were after the owl.
I was certain it was no Barn Owl because I had got a look at the face. I thought perhaps a Tawny Owl but the crows spooked the bird of prey and moments later it took to the air as two carrion started to harass the bird in flight. It twisted and turned as the crows swooped and squawked.
I knew I had some decent shots but it all happened so fast that I was unsure what type of owl it was. Owls are nocturnal, but Short Eared Owls hunt in daylight and like low flat marshlands. Bingo!
We looked at the photos on the computer and then put them in the grouping in our UK birds’ manual and found the short-eared owl matched this photo in every way. Face, feather patterns and white underbelly, plus location and time of day.
Carole and I were so pleased. It was the first time I had seen a short-eared owl in the wild.