Friday, 20 January 2012

Look Nick: an owl

Just before New Year I was contacted by Doncaster birder Nick Whitehouse who had seen my pictures of the Great Grey Owl and wanted to know how easy it would be to see it if he came over for a weekend with some mates. We kept in contact although no definite plans were made until I posted my pictures from Wednesday which prompted an email asking if I would be around today and could I pick him up from Rygge airport and take him to the bird. Well of course Nick and after all I’ve seen it three times out of three which makes it a definite, doesn’t it?
0945 I picked Nick up and on the hour long drive to Barm, Vesterøy we noted two drive-by Great Grey Shrikes. Arriving at Barm we were very alert but failed to see the bird as we drove the length of the small valley. Parking the car we saw another birder who had been present since dawn without luck. A bad omen perhaps.
The temperature was around -5C with clear blue skies and hardly a sniff of wind – surely ideal conditions for a hungry owl. Well we walked up and down that road countless times and the conditions looked more ideal (to us) for every kilometre we put under our belts but the bird didn’t seem to share our point of view. We did see a pair of Black Woodpeckers calling and checking out nesting sites, Waxwings and Crested Tits so we were kept entertained.
We then spotted the other birder off the path with his camera pointed up a tree. Could this be it?? We cautiously edged closer and then I saw the bird: an owl, Nick an owl! It wasn’t quite as photogenic as the owl on Wednesday but I still managed a reasonable picture:

Well I guess you can’t have luck with you all the time although it was still a good bird and a bird that has never been seen in the UK (unless they suppressed one at Spurn).
We kept going for another 2 and half hours until dusk turned into night but with no sign of the Pygmy Owl’s considerably larger cousin. This was a day when effort was definitely not rewarded: 6 hours solidly in the field deserved more especially for Nick who had got up at 2am to catch the Ryan Air flight from Manchester. The flight home isn’t until Sunday so Nick will probably make his way to the site by train and bus tomorrow to have another shot: good luck Nick!
View of the Great Grey Owl's favourite hunting area

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