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5 May 2012

Where are the Long-eared Owls?

An empty forest?

Not quite.

Upon first glance, this patch of conifer plantation looked like a dead-zone for birds and animals. Uniformly aged trees, about 25 years old, high canopy, dark, little undergrowth, a few ash trees struggling to reach the light in the dark columns of tree trunks. During the Long-eared Owl tape survey in March and April, two female Long-eareds had been heard calling from this area (near Newmarket), so while setting about forensically examining the forest floor for signs of Long-eared Owls last Wednesday, we found the following in just approximately 70m by 60m of forest floor: an old Badger Sett; a fresh Badger 'latrine' area; several fox droppings; including one by the remains of a dead Wood Pigeon; many Wood Pigeon feathers and droppings, including some from regular roost sites; the remains of a dead Woodcock; a pellet, possibly from a Sparrowhawk containing the bones of a thrush; a badgers skull; two large, white, goose eggshells (presumably a fox had carried them from a nearby farm); a single eggshell of a Wood Pigeon, and YES!… two pellets of Long-eared Owls. A quick examination showed them to contain the skull of a Bank Vole, though they were carefully bagged and will be examined in more detail later. The Long-eared Owls are there. We just have to find the nest now. Not such an empty forest after all when you know what signs to look for. More later…