Last week we saw an adult Long-eared owl around the garden. It was around 11pm – and nearly dark. This morning when my husband was opening the blinds in the kids bedroom, he spotted an owl on a fence post near the polytunnel.
Of course we all gathered around and it was wonderful for the kids to see the owl though it was far off. This time it was obviously a young bird. Nearly the size of an adult but all feathers – like a puffy ball!! With binoculars we could see it amazing orange eyes.
While we were delighted to see the owl, the garden birds were not. It was being dive-bombed by swallows. Blackbirds, thrushes and other small birds were all alarm calling all around it. I wondered that it was happy to sit out in the open as it was!
When it was time for the kids to leave for school I knew it would probably take flight. So I took the opportunity to try and get some photos. This was as close as I got! (oh for a telephoto zoom lens. If you click on photo you will get a bigger view)
Long-eared owls are native to Ireland and are quite widespread throughout the country. It has two distinctive ear tuffs (they were only just visible on this young bird, but very obvious on the adult seen last week). The young have a a high-pitched squeak reminiscent of a rusty gate opening and we have been hearing this on and off late at night (about midnight) for the last few days. The adults can give a low hooting display (which we haven’t heard). They hunt small mammals, frogs and small birds (hence the fuss happening with the garden birds this morning). They like nesting in conifers and while many of the conifers around us have been felled a small patch remain, so they may have nested there.
More information and a for a better photo take a look at the BirdWatch Ireland website.