I had hoped that one of the highlights of the spring and early summer would be following a nesting pair of Long-eared Owls but that was not to be the case.
The birds had chosen to nest in an old crows nest in a spruce tree that they had also used in 2014 although in 2015 the nest partially fell down and although birds were roosting in the same tree in early April they chose somewhere else to nest. Crows have built a new nest since then though and the owls took over this in 2017.
On 27 March one adult was sitting tight and the other adult was sitting low in bushes nearby. On 30 March in rain one adult was sitting tight and there were two white furry shapes in the nest. I considered that they could have been young but that would have meant egg laying in mid Feb which is exceptionally early. Additionally, I had checked the area for Long-eared Owls on 3 March and had walked under the nesting tree without finding any droppings/pellets or disturbing any owl. I visited again on 4 April and the adult (female according to literature) was sitting very visibly on the nest. I saw the white fur again and concluded it was sheeps wool which presumably the crows had used to line their nest.
A visit on 16 April revealed that the nest was empty although both birds were roosting nearby. This strongly suggested that breeding, or hopefully just the first attempt, had failed. Some of the sheeps wool that had been lining the old crows nest was hanging in the tree suggesting something dramatic had happened in the nest. On 18 April I found no birds at all around the nest thereby confirming a failed breeding attempt. If they try to breed again I reckon it will be in another tree which I have yet to find although an evening trip in June should reveal the calls of begging young.
|the fluff which fooled me is visible here|