I’m told there hasn’t been a short-eared owl seen in this part of Surrey for the last 30 years. I can’t be sure that this is true, but the presence of 3, 4 or possibly 5 individuals on the local water meadows this winter is highly unusual and they’ve become local celebrities. The human observers frequently outnumber the owls several-fold.
It’s been a bumper year for voles in the UK, and also lemmings in Scandinavia where our crop of over-wintering short-eared owls originate. Consequently the owl population seems to have exploded and many of them have flocked to these shores to escape the icy conditions back home.
Papercourt Meadows where the owls perform each afternoon is a gloriously serene stretch of the River Wey near Ripley.
Surrey Wildlife Trust graze one of the plots for conservation and the owls appear to like what they find in the grasses.
With any luck the shorties will be resident with us for the remainder of the winter.