The past couple of nights have seen a bit of very successful lamping, both inland and on the coast. On Friday Jacques and I headed up to the Ceri Ridgeway to try and ring a few more Golden Plover. Halfway across the first field I spot a double eye-shine in the beam (this is unusual as with waders you almost always get just one). Initially I thought it might have been a polecat but as I got closer I could make out the unmistakable shape of a Short-eared Owl. Now walking a bit more carefully, I edged forward until I was close enough to drop the net on it. Only then could I see that, even whilst under the net, it was still holding on tightly to a decapitated Fieldfare it had partially plucked and eaten. Jacques seemed pretty pleased and got to ring his 101 species as a trainee, which isn't bad going in just over 7 months!!. The rest of the fields yielded 5 Woodcock, 7 Golden Plover, 2 Fieldfares (with heads) and a Snipe. We also watched the same or another Shorty in hot pursuit of a Golden Plover that had just flushed in the beam!
This bird was aged as a first-year female based on tail pattern and the
buff background colour and barring on the outer secondaries.
The following evening Jane joined us and we headed down to Ynyslas to see what waders we could catch on the high tide. There were a good number of Redshank present and we quickly caught 23 (and could have easily caught another 10) before realising that I only had 22 'D2' rings on me! Was a bit traumatised to have to release one without a ring!
Having run out of rings for Redshank we decide to have a quick walk around the fields for Woodcock, Snipe and Jack Snipe. Halfway around the usual beat, having failed to get anywhere near any of the 20+ Snipe flushed, I get a double eyeshine in the beam again. As I get closer I can see it is another Short-eared Owl! Only one problem, there's a great big pool of water between me and it. Go round or keep it in the beam and go straight across? I opt for the latter and walk as quietly as I can through the middle of the pool. Thankfully, the owl sits tight and is soon under the net and I can then see why it was reluctant to fly off - it was sitting on the half-eaten remains of a freshly killed Lapwing!
This bird was also aged and sexed as a first-year female although on seeing these photos I'm beginning to doubt the sexing of the first bird? It could just be the different lighting but it appears to be much paler than this one. Advise from anyone with more experience of the species is very welcome!
PS Since this post went live some concern has been expressed to BTO by another ringer that these owls may have been near starvation and that is why they were reluctant to fly off! By way of reassurance I can confirm that both these owls were perfectly fit and healthy and weighed 309g and 335g respectively - well within normal limits. TC.