Sunday 31 January 2016

Asio flammeus - Ljubljansko barje

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus by Mitja Denac (from here).

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus is an amazing bird. Although a regular migrant through Slovenia and north-east Italy, seeing one on migration is a matter of pure luck. Much easier is to see one in winter, when small numbers decide to spend the cold season here in Slovenia. Overwintering birds have become increasingly regular in the last years and can be observed hunting in the evenings above their favoured grassland areas. The last time I saw Short-eared Owls in winter was in February 2013 when a group of 6 wintered at the Medvedce reservoir (NE Slovenia). Last Friday (29th Jan) I was in Ljubljana, so I couldn't skip a visit to Ljubljansko barje, where up to 5 birds were observed recently. In the late afternoon, Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus (+10) started to descend to their roost. Shortly after the last harrier had dropped into the tall vegetation (just after sunset), two unmistakable silhouettes appeared some 30 metres away from me - Short-eared Owls! They hunted for a while, low above the grass, giving excellent views and even landing on the ground for some seconds, before finally disappearing when the light was fading.
The next day, 5 Short-eared Owls were observed nearby - see this blog (thanks to Mitja Denac for the above pics). One or two overwintering SEOs were also reported by other friends in the Grado-Marano lagoon in north-east Italy. Looks like a good winter to catch up with this beautiful owl!