I’d been asked to check out a chance sighting by a tourist, so by late evening I was at a forestry plantation watching and listening for any activity.
It wasn’t a promising evening, with heavy rain clouds, cold wind and snow on the hills, but when I arrived just before 9pm robin and chaffinch were still singing. As the light faded, so did the bird song, only to be replaced by wilder, more atmospheric sounds. Snipe called and started their wonderful drumming display, a strange squeaking call betrayed a roding woodcock, red grouse cackled loudly from the surrounding moorland, the bubbling and hissing of lekking black grouse drifted on the wind, and a roe deer barked its disapproval of my presence. Then, finally, the call I had been waiting for, the gentle hoo-hoo-hoo of a long eared owl on territory.
The tourist had stayed at the same spot in a camper van the week before, and had watched the male owl displaying. In June we hope to hear the calls of owlets begging for food, confirming a successful breeding attempt.