We took a walk (as promised) on top of the Berks/Oxon Ridgeway today - a long escarpment that borders these two counties, just south of Harwell and Didcot.
Its becoming quite a famed wintering ground for Short-Eared Owls, and we were incredibly lucky today to see a DOZEN of these beautiful birds, both perched in the bare thorn bushes adjacent to the Newbury Racehorse Gallops, and flying around us.
I'll post one of the photographs I took of this magnificent bird in the post above, to enable any readers of BG to enlarge it by clicking on the image.
Short-Eared Owls are probably the most likely Owl one can see during the day.
They fly like Harriers, "quartering" relatively low over the ground, searching for voles, as their diet consists of these rodents in the main. SEO's populations fluctuate in accordance with vole population - massively so. In a good vole year, there'll be many Owlets fledge, when the vole population crashes, there'll be a corresponding crash in the SEO population.
I'll tell you the answer at the foot of this post, but have a stab in the dark at this question (without looking at the answer first)!
How many voles per day, can a Short-Eared Owl eat, if vole populations are such that the Owl can hunt, find and eat its fill? Have a guess. Answer, like I said, at the foot of this post.
Along with the dozen Short-Eared Owls,we managed to see lovely views of Stonechats (photo above), Buzzards (the "Telegraph Pole Eagle"), Kestrels, Grey Partridge (a covey of about 8), Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting and Fallow Deer in the distance (photo above).
We also had a VERY close encounter with a huge Hare. Typically, this Hare crouched in its scrape in tussocky grass, until Anna had literally stepped a foot from its ears - then suddenly it EXPLODED out of its hiding-place, and pegged it across the meadow. Thats the closest we've been to a wild Hare!
Unfortunately we didn't see where it hid again, so couldn't sneak up on it, and take a photo - you'll have to take our word for it (and look at the photo of its original hidey-hole above).
Anyway - a wonderful day, in beautiful winter sunshine, looking down from the top of the world with the beautiful Short-Eared Owls....
By the way....
16 (SIXTEEN ) voles a day.