Sussex Awash with Owls!

Author Mike Russell

short-eared owl / Rick Leche

Well short-eared owls actually! There has been an ‘invasion’ this autumn with many birds being seen across the county, and what a wonderful sight it is too! A good thing about short-eared owls is that they fly in daylight, particularly from mid-afternoon onwards and the likelihood is that they could stay much of the winter, providing we don’t get a long cold spell where the ground is frozen for a significant period.

We do get visited by short-eared owls most winters but numbers varies considerably, sometimes they are very scarce. They breed in the northern uplands of Britain and tend to move south after breeding where it is easier to find their main food – voles. How many we get depends on how successful their breeding season has been and how much food is available. This year has been a bumper year for voles so their predators such as short-eared owl, barn owl and kestrel have all done well. Birds from the continent also cross the channel to take advantage of the plentiful food source.

Good places to see them at the moment are Rodmell on the Lewes Brooks, Beeding Brooks near Steyning and Sussex Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve at Waltham Brooks. At all these sites you can view the owls from public footpaths. Other places they have been reported from recently include Thorney Island, Barnham, Burpham, Weir Wood Reservoir and the Downs above Steyning.

short-eared owl / Christopher Mills www.chrismillsphoto.com

You can go on the Sussex Ornithological Society website and click on recent sightings to find out where they are being seen or contact Jess Price, our WildCall Officer on 01273 494777 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am – 1.00pm) for further information.

Give yourself a treat while the weather is still being kind to us. It really is a great thrill to see these majestic birds slowly quartering over the ground in search of a good meal.

Click here to view a video of short-eared owls at Waltham Brooks by Mick Jenner

short-eared owl in Sussex / Christopher Mills www.chrismillsphoto.com

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Comments

Sussex Awash with Owls! — 11 Comments

  1. Hi. I went to Beeding Brooks today and loved seeing the owls hunting. I saw 2 short-eared owls and a barn owl. I’d never seen them before in the wild so it was a really Monday afternoon/evening treat. Chris McAlees

      • Hi! I am loving the owls. In trying to reseach *what* I’d been hearing every evening in East Sussex (woods near Battle) for the past several weeks, I found this site.
        Yesterday (04/11/2013) I *saw* two of them :-) around 4 in the afternoon, on a track.. obviously picking up a morsel or two..
        I have been recording them (because I am so rocknroll), & the most distinctive sounds are “Whoo hoo-hoo-hoooooo, whoo hoo-hoo-hoo hooooo”; and “ooohwhit whoooo” (I cannot believe I am spelling out bird sounds!!).
        They are amazing – *who* am I hearing??

        • Hi Sindy, they sound like tawny owls. The call you describe is actually two owls, the female makes ‘too-wit’ the male makes ‘too-woo’. Late autumn is the best time to hear them. We think owls are pretty rock n’ roll too : )

  2. We went to rodmells on saturday afternoon and saw three short eared owls hunting, fantasic! And so unusual to decide to go and try to see a specific bird and see it within five minutes of walking down the track, usually we aren’t that lucky

  3. I saw a Short eared Owl last week just off Sevenoaks Road, Eastbourne, it was hunting across the marshland. I have seen one at the same place a few years ago.

  4. Pingback: Birding spots BrightonEastbourne? - Wild About Britain

  5. On Sunday 11th March I watched 2 of these beautiful creatures hunting in the afternoon sunshine. One landed a few feet above me in a tree above where I stood quietly watching and stared me out when she spotted me! First sighting for me, though usually see barn owls here later in the year…

  6. We’ve had one at the foot of the downs since Feb. Ours was still here in June but we’ve been told they should have all left the country by now? Can anyone confirm what the pattern is at this time of year?

    • Some short-eared owls did hang about quite a bit later this year, perhaps kept here by the still abundant food supply and they were being regularly recorded in a couple of places through May and have just looked through SOS sightings and the last report they had was 3rd June at Pevensey Levels. Also sometimes short-eared owls can be confused with barn owls.

      It’s not beyond question that short-eared owls might stay through to the summer but there are few records of them having done so in Sussex. Also some might go back up to northern Britain rather than all leave the country.

      It’s very unusual for them to remain into June and it would be interesting to know if you are still seeing the bird now? It would also be useful to know where you saw them. We won’t publish that information on the site, but it would be great if you could email us here for attention of Mike Russell.

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