Long-eared owls

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 owl

Long-eared owl

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.

Spot the owl!

Spot the owl! Click on photo to get larger view

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18 thoughts on “Long-eared owls

    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      I know – according to what I read this morning they are one of the hardest owls to see as usually only about a night – so feel very privileged:)

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  1. heretherebespiders

    Oh what a beauty! I think that is what I heard last year, the young screechy-gate sound. We’re not far from the old railway line and as you know it is overgrown, so lots of wildlife there. I’m so happy for you that you had this experience!

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      We haven’t seen them around since ten years ago so it is real treat. My husband went on short walk last night and spotted two young ones in the wood below us – all very exciting. I just hope they stick around.

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  2. Free Ranging

    Funny you should mention the noise of the other birds. One evening last week i went down the field to investigate what was upsetting the blackbirds. A funny screeching joined the cacophony -not quite Jay or grey squirrel. It was a young tawny owl. They seem to have an amazing range of calls.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      I have seen barn owls in the wild before -close up (when living in the UK) – but they will fly in daylight too. While these long-eared owls prefer the dark!

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      It was special Eliza. We keep checking the post each morning but it hasn’t returned, though we did hear them a couple of nights ago again.

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  3. aj vosse

    Lucky you! Let’s hope the owl makes your place the centre of it’s home range…
    PS – I love your garden… one day when I have one it must also be so naturally diversified! 😉

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Thank you for your kind comment. Since posting my husband has seen two young owls together – so that makes 2 young one and an adult. So they must have nested nearby. I know young will disperse but hope adults will remain.

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  4. Jane

    How exciting is that – interesting that the young ones came out into plain view during daylight hours. I occasionally hear what I think is Barn Owls at night and one has roosted at the base of our chimney on the roof – owl pellets and defecations on the ground below – but that’s about it.

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