Short-eared owls return to West Canvey Marsh for second year

Echo: In flight: the short-eared owl In flight: the short-eared owl

BIRD lovers are in for a hoot-iful sight as a “wonderful” owl has made Canvey its home for the winter.

Short-eared owls have been spotted at the RSPB West Canvey Marsh for the second year in a row and it looks like they are set to stay for the winter months.

Unlike some owls, the feathered friends, who are extremely distinctive with their buff-brown plumage and bold piercing eyes, are happy to hunt during the day so visitors will be able watch them in flight while they search for prey in the long grass.

Marc Outten, site manager, said an area of land at the marsh was purposefully left long again this year so there are small mammals available for the owls to hunt.

He said: “Some of our management has encouraged them to the site, so when you see them using it as you intended it’s great.

“It’s fairly scarce to get good views of them, but people can get really quite close to them here, they’re quite obliging and will sit on posts while they hunt - they’re a wonderful owl.

“It is a draw to the marshes as it’s only the second year we have had them, it’s an unusual sight for the south Essex countryside.”

Short-eared owls generally breed in areas of Scotland, northern England and Scandinavia, where their success depends on the availability of voles, and where the male bird will attempt to woo the female with his spectacular “wing-clapping” display.

However, unless you’re lucky enough to live near one of their breeding grounds, the best chance of catching up with this species is in winter when they move to areas of grassland and low-lying coastal marsh, such as Canvey.

Head to the Redhill and Pantile areas of the marsh where you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of these owls.

So far three have been spotted along with a common favourites, barn owls.

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