A local site has had several short eared owls since August 2011. It is quite a public site so I resisted trying to catch any of the owls. However last week when I was on the site, I bumped into a local birder who informed me that one of the owls was ringed. Given that the BTO have only 138 recoveries/controls of short eared owls I thought I should make the effort in finding the landowner and try and catch the ringed bird. I gained permission and set off on Saturday lunchtime to set nets up. Nets were located where we knew the owls roosted and another net along a hedge where the birds regularly hunted. At half light one owl flew into the net and then swiftly back out again. I was GUTTED!! We stayed till well after dark but with little luck so headed home.
The next day Jason and I returned to the site. I placed the nets in the same place as yesterday however I put the larger mesh net where the bird had flown in yesterday. We had a bird bounce out of the net beside the hedgerow which then sat a nearby fencepost looking rather confused about what had just happened. Unfortunately I think it was this bird that was ringed. I then went to check the other line of nets and noticed the large mesh net was taught. Thinking it was probably only a blackbird I wondered over and noticed a cream coloured wing rise. At that point I ran over and extracted a stonking short eared owl. It made for a new species for Jason who was as equally over the moon as I was. It was aged as an adult and was most likely a male based on weight. The bird only weighed 305grms which may be due to the cold snap that week but it felt small.
Below is a picture of the ringed bird in the hand and a bird in flight, both taken by Paul McMullen and reproduced with his permission.