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Dalby Forest to Scarborough

It’s a very cold Saturday morning and I’m having my first coffee of the day. I’m waiting for my birding partner Phil to make his way over from Ossett. We have been hearing of large numbers of birds in Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire, including yellowhammers, and Siskin.
I really like Dalby Forest and it is part of the National forests run by Forestry England and paid for by our ultra high taxation system. However when you arrive, having paid once you get to pay nine pounds all over again for the privilege of using what you own and have already paid for. These large forests are also a business, selling and franchising the sale of wood, not bad, three bites of the cherry, not to mention all the cafés and other sales.

It had been snowing for a couple of days in the North of England but all the roads were perfectly passable. Just through the automated money taking machine lovingly called cherry one, there is a car park called Haygate and a really nice view over the valley. Through a large gate is a beautiful walk that goes all the way back to cherry one. We could hear and eventually see Nuthatch and many other common woodland birds. I set up the camera but within minutes I was in a wave of the now ubiquitous dog screamers. One dog screamers dog must have been in Norway he was screaming so loudly at his well behaved dog that pretended to just ignore him.
This large flock was mainly Coal Tit with some other mixed tits and a pair of bramblings. We could hear Nuthatch and Goldcrest above our heads and eventually the Nuthatch came down from the trees and showed well. We never really got a good view of the Goldcrest even though we could hear it all the time.
One of the highlights for me was hearing a Marsh Tit and we could see it traveling from a distant snow covered tree to the rear of another tree near to our position. Eventually our patience paid off and it came withing filming distance, a real treat.
And upon leaving the forest we found to our utter devastation that the pay barrier was not working and so the barrier was up to allow the tax burdened public to leave.
And on to Scarborough…
We had seen reports of great Northern Diver in the marina so we thought we would try. We parked the car and looked over the railings down into the marina and there it was, we had actually parked next to the bird. There was a very nice photographer who had been there for a couple of hours who explained that it keeps coming and going taking the underwater route they normally take. I’m really sorry if you are that photographer as I did not get your name or your Instagram name, please contact me if you read this, you did say you would!
As we were all photographing and filming a small group of inconsequential, misguided, delinquent, ugly, stupid and otherwise brainless youths came into the area for fishermen and let of some fireworks then ran away across the road giggling, Oh how we all laughed, I was beside myself.
None of this bothered the now “two Great Northern Divers” though and we got really great views of the birds for a good hour or so.

In Search of Short Eared Owls

St Aidens is a RSPB and a mixed use nature reserve on a former open cast coal mine and slag heap in Allerton Bywater in Leeds West Yorkshire. It's not only a great place to relax but also a great place for wildlife of all kinds. The site usually has hundreds of people visiting at any one time and can be very busy.

This mixture of walkers, dog walkers, cyclists and even open water swimmers does not seem to impact on the wildlife too much.
I went with my long time birding mate and photographer Phil Smithson, we are both fairly local to the reserve. It was cold, very cold and threatening rain all the time we were there. It was also very dark for the time of day, and getting darker all the time. In fact, the film above doesn't really show how dark it was when the film was shot. This is a testimony to modern cameras, definitely not the skill of the film maker.

Owls draw a crowd, always have and always will, there were ten or so people waiting near us. Not that you could see them in the darkness, you could hear their teeth chattering in the in the still air. As we walked back towards the car park, more and more people were arriving all to see the birds. I think while you have that much interest and that many people they will be relatively safe from human disturbance.

The still images above were taken by @phil_smithson. Considering the very low light levels and despite ISO settings of 4-6000 I think these are incredible. All taken at 800mm. The birds were around 150 metres from where we were standing.

Ecology Report: Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus) in the United Kingdom
The Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus) is a captivating and enigmatic bird of prey that inhabits a variety of open habitats across the United Kingdom (UK). This report aims to provide an overview of the ecology of the Short-Eared Owl, emphasising its current status on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern.

Distribution and Habitat:
Short-Eared Owls have a widespread distribution in the UK, favouring open landscapes such as moorlands, heathlands, marshes, and coastal areas. They are particularly associated with rough grassland, where they hunt for small mammals like voles and mice. Breeding populations are found throughout the country, with significant concentrations in Scotland, Wales, and northern England.

Breeding Biology:
Short-Eared Owls typically breed on the ground, relying on tall vegetation or the shelter of rocks for nesting sites. Breeding season usually occurs from March to July, and the owls produce a clutch of eggs that hatch after a short incubation period. The survival of their young is closely linked to the availability of prey, particularly small mammals.

Conservation Status:
The conservation status of the Short-Eared Owl is of concern, leading to its inclusion on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern in the UK. The Red List categorises species based on their population trends and breeding success. The Short-Eared Owl faces multiple threats that contribute to its declining numbers, including habitat loss due to agriculture intensification, urbanisation, and climate change.

Threats to Short-Eared Owls:

  • Habitat Loss: Changes in land use and agricultural practices, including the conversion of natural habitats into farmland, have reduced the availability of suitable breeding and foraging areas.
  • Climate Change: Alterations in weather patterns and temperature can affect the distribution of prey species, potentially impacting the owls' ability to find food.
  • Human Disturbance: Increased human activities, such as recreational use of habitats, can disturb breeding birds and disrupt their nesting sites.

Conservation Efforts:
Several initiatives and conservation measures have been implemented to mitigate the decline of Short-Eared Owls in the UK. These include:
  • Habitat Protection: Efforts to designate and protect important habitats for Short-Eared Owls, including the creation of nature reserves and conservation areas.
  • Research and Monitoring: Ongoing research projects and monitoring programs help gather essential data on population trends, breeding success, and the impact of conservation interventions.
  • Public Awareness: Increasing public awareness about the importance of conserving the Short-Eared Owl and its habitat, involving local communities in conservation efforts.
The Short-Eared Owl, with its distinctive appearance and unique behaviour, is an integral part of the UK's biodiversity. However, its inclusion on the Red List highlights the urgent need for comprehensive conservation strategies to address the threats it faces. Through collaborative efforts involving government agencies, conservation organisations, and the public, there is hope for the recovery of the Short-Eared Owl population and the preservation of its vital role in the UK's ecosystems.

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