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28 May 2012

The late, late show

While some Long-eared Owl nests are already full of young and very loud chicks, until they reach that stage, Long-eared Owl nests are one of the hardest to detect. This one in Duhallow, near Rathmore, was watched as dusk fell on Saturday evening last. Even though the nest was known to be there from the earlier playback survey (see post HERE), nothing was apparently happening as darkness approached and the nest seemed silent and empty. However, well after sunset, with the local Blackbirds calling in alarm, a male Long-eared Owl arrived and flew to the nest, prompting the female (who must have been on the nest all along) to start a quiet call to urge the male to get her some food. She kept this calling up for about seven minutes before the nest fell silent once again. It seems she is most likely still on eggs, as no sounds from chicks were heard.

The male arrives at the nest, and the female starts to gently call (M.O'Clery).

In the video, watch for the male arriving from the top right. The local Blackbird's alarm calls are prominent throughout, but listen then for the female's soft calls – a little like the call of a Collared Dove. The call of the males hoot early in spring, and the persistent call of the young  can carry for half a kilometre or more, but this quiet begging call from the female could only be heard for 50 metres or so. If we hadn't already known the nest was there, this might well have gone unnoticed.