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Sunday, 5 February 2017

Beardies & Short- ears at Oulton Marshes

I decided to look at Fisher Row, Oulton Marshes today, just after 10am I was walking down the entrance hill, a Jackdaw perched in a tree. walking around to the viewing platform, I counted 209 Wigeon and around 12 Teal seen, plus 5 distant Snipe. Dog walkers and a young family hanging around didn't bode well for the Beards but after half an hour I located them at the usual place just past the platform on the left and incredibly there were around 12 Bearded Tits on the ground running around like mice feeding on presumably fallen reedmace. Sadly they were always obscured by tufts of grass and I didn't want to get too close for fear of flushing them. Occasionally, they flew up into reeds and a bird straddling two reeds showed particularly well as did an adult male feeding near the top of a stem, another photographer approached from the other side and I indicated the birds were there and he carefully stalked them. All was going really well until the inevitable happened and a dog walker with a dog of the lead flushed all the birds and they flew across the path or way down the dyke and south and were not seen again, unsurprisingly. Finally a female Stonechat seen by the dyke on the east side of the path. I moved onto the field where the SEO's were seen I walked half way north down the path to the pump house and was rewarded with one Short- eared flying along the dyke by the railway lined over the field itself. I was later joined by Rob H and we saw up to 2 Short- eared Owls plus another seen at the same time, a third Short- eared Owl in the distance flying over the reeds south of the footpath being watched by the Owl paparazzi. Out hearts were in our mouths once when it flew low over the railway line and a train rushed through fortunately no collision. One Short- eared owl would suddenly fly over to our field and on 3 occasions when they dropped to the ground they had what appeared to be field voles, one clearly seen in the beak of the bird and then carried off it flew a short way north and dropped down into reeds to further gorge on its prey. Another time when it caught prey a Kestrel harried it. walking back, one of the photographers pointed out a fine Kingfisher perched on a reed by the side of a dyke nearby giving good scope views.

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