Wild goose chase and an owl prowl

by on Nov.16, 2009, under Uncategorized

Spray from the overnight rain kicks up as I drive along the dark coast road. It’s early, but I’m on a mission to be at my intended destination before the first rays of daylight illuminate the seaward edge of the dunes. Then, glowing in the beam from the car’s headlights, perched at the top of a bare hawthorn, a Little Owl. After the obligatory head-bobbing inspection of this unexpected annoyance, it flies away across the fields. Unsurprisingly I relocate it just a minute or two later, close by the tree where they bred this year. Leaving it in peace I continue my journey and I’m soon out of the car and walking quietly towards the edge of the pool where the geese roost. I wrote about visiting coastal pools at dusk, in our most recent newsletter, but first thing in the morning can be very good as well. It’s worryingly quiet. The harsh barking of two Short-eared Owls, disturbed by my arrival, cuts through the still air but the expected yapping of Pink-footed Geese is absent. In the half-light I can see the ethereal mist hanging just above the water, and my fears are confirmed…the geese aren’t there. It’s happened in previous winters; a regular roosting site suddenly deserted and the birds dispersed throughout southeast Northumberland, making accurate survey work a near impossibility. As I mull over the potential of other roosting locations I get the feeling that I’m being watched. I am – just a few metres away a Long-eared Owl is perched on a fence post. Man and bird observe each other and then the silent assassin is off, and I get to watch as it hunts along the fence line of a nearby sheep field. A Barn Owl glides past, silent and ghostly and then the Shorties reappear. Silent and still, they don’t perceive me as a threat and they pass close by before perching on adjacent fence posts. As I lean on a wooden gate and take in the the wonder of our countryside at first light I notice two shapes at the far corner of the field. Silhouetted against the steel grey sky, the two Roe Deer watch me for a few seconds and then bound across the field, white rumps flashing like beacons in the gloom.

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