Saturday, 7 January 2012

Owl Spotting at Marton Mere, Lancashire

Sarah and I visited Marton Mere (not to be confused with Martin Mere) in Lancashire today for an event entitled 'Owl Spotting' which was organised by the RSPB and the Ranger Service there. Marton Mere can be accessed in a number of ways, one of which is by entering the local caravan site which borders the Mere and parking at the Ranger's Office there. This is the way we chose, but after waiting for some time for the Ranger to turn up, we wondered if we were in the right place.

Fortunately another birder turned up (Safraz) who was equally concerned about the lack of activity, and so we set off for one of the hides where we could ask for information. Here we learned that the RSPB flag was flying on the far side of the Mere and that scopes had been set up to view the Owls.  So we set off walking round the Mere on our own in search of the flag.

When we arrived a large group of people (from Preston RSPB it turns out) had already gathered and they were looking through scopes and binoculars into the trees. Sarah and I couldn't see anything at all with our naked eyes, but we were soon encouraged to look through a scope which had been carefully trained on it's target.

Unfortunately this is a picture from the Marton Mere Website

It took a few moments to see what was there, even when it was viewed with the scope - it was an amazing Long-eared Owl, so brilliantly camouflaged amongst the branches that even the experts were having difficulty seeing it.  Apparently these are over-wintering Scandinavian birds and this place has become a regular haunt for them each year.

After staring down the scope as if you were looking at one of those crazy hidden pictures, you could eventually make out it's 'ear' tufts after a while and then trace these down to a face.  Every now and then an eye or it's beak would become visible through the branches - wonderful. However, it was so well-hidden that most people wouldn't know it was there and wouldn't be able to find it even with a scope.  Pictures were impossible because I couldn't focus on the bird without using the scope.

After a chat with the two people from the RSPB, Sarah and I moved on to complete a full walk around the Mere. The other birds we saw today included:

  • A leucistic blackbird amongst other blackbirds
  • Magpie
  • Mute Swan
  • Pochard
  • Wigeon
  • Teal
  • Greylag Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Coot
  • Moorhen
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Cormorant
  • Blue Tit
  • Great Tit
  • Chaffinch
  • Dunnock
  • Robin
A really good morning out and a great place to which we'll definitely return.

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