Blacktoft Sands – 10 Apr 2016

169 – Long Eared Owl

It was Blacktoft Sands today – my 20th visit there. It was a lovely day when Helen and I arrived; the sun was shining and it was around 13°c. Lots of birds were chirping in the car-park trees.

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You have to screw-up your eyes a bit, and use your imagination, but there really is a Long Eared Owl behind all that vegetation! Not one of my best bird pics!

We decided to head-up to Ousefleet Hide first. There have been a number of good wader sightings up there of late, and we wanted to try to see the much-reported Long Eared Owl at roost near there.

We had no difficulty finding the spot as there were a number of other people there too, all trying to glimpse the magical bird behind a veritable thicket of trees branches – you’d almost think the bird wanted privacy whilst it roosted! Helen and I jostled with the others, (politely of course!) and took loads of shots of the area of the trees where we were reliably informed the bird was located.

It was extremely difficult, to say the least; because of the amount and density of the obscuring vegetation, it was necessary to use manual-focussing on our cameras. Auto-focussing was hopeless with all the branches etc in the way of the bird. Now, trying to hand-hold a very heavy camera/long lens combination with one hand whilst simultaneously trying to manually-focus on a bird you can’t really see properly with the other, is quite a challenge! As you can see from the image above, I wasn’t very succesful!

Ah well, wild bird photography wouldn’t be much fun if it wasn’t hard sometimes – or perhaps that should be most of the time?

Up at the hide we saw lots of Avocet and a few Eurasian Teals; I routinely scan all Teals now in the hope of spotting a rare, Green Winged one. There had been one reported at Blacktoft a few days earlier, and you never know!

Next we visited Marshlands Hide, followed by Xerox Hide, First Hide and finally Townend Hide. (By this time the weather had altered significantly and we were begin to get quite cold, so we decided not to visit the final hide – Singleton – on this occasion.)

At each hide we visited today we had sightings of Marsh Harriers – for which Blacktoft is renowned. It’s always great to watch these majestic raptors as they patrol the reedbeds looking for their next prey-victims, or display-flying with their mates in the air above. Watching their regular food-handovers is always quite exciting.

There were a number of warblers audible in the reeds today, and most notably, Helen and I heard a Bittern booming on no fewer than three separate occasions. Still no Bittern sightings, alas, but I’m a bit more convinced now that they are real after all!

About Alan Gordon

I am a retired teacher and former RAF Musician. I live near Sheffield and enjoy taking photographs of wild birds throughout the UK.
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