Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
A. flammeus is a scarce winter visitor and passage migrant to my home county of Sussex. Wintering birds are found mainly on the coastal plain, especially around Chichester and Pagham Harbours, on the Pevensey Levels and at Rye Harbour. They also occur in smaller numbers on the Downs and in the river valleys of the Adur, Arun and Ouse. Autumn migrants are generally first seen in Sussex in late August or early September where they typically continue their journeys south to more southerly wintering grounds. If weather conditions are favourable and prey numbers are high, birds arriving from late September onwards are likely to remain in Sussex for an extended period and may settle down and winter in suitable areas.
An estimate of the Scottish population suggested 780 to 2,700 breeding pairs (1,000 - 3,500 pairs for the UK) in the late 90’s; although this is thought to be one the most unreliable estimates for any raptor or owl species. A more recent estimate (2013) for Britain is 610 to 2,140 pairs. Some experts consider the lower end of these ranges to be the more likely and are concerned that the species may have shown marked declines during the past two decades.
The above images from North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.
Green, D. (2014). Short-eared Owl. The Birds of Sussex. Thetford: British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Books on behalf of the Sussex Ornithological Society, pp. 369-370.
Patton, S.J. (1996). Short-eared Owl. Birds of Sussex. Sussex Ornithological Society, pp. 366-367.