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Sun 14th March 2010

Posted on March 14, 2010 at 5:00 PM

birds : Today was a superbly sunny spring day on the island, and Abigail and I decided to head off to Lihou to search for the Snowy Owl. This was the bird that spent around 7 months there last year and had surprisingly just reappeared last week. Where it had been during the Autumn and Winter is anyone's guess, but I doubt very much that it had returned North. It was probably hanging around in some quiet area, perhaps the French coast.

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Abigail on the causeway to Lihou Island - the Fair Isle of Guernsey

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I have very rarely been to Lihou which is probably the best migrant trap on Guernsey, mainly because the causeway is covered most of the time, but we were lucky to have a 3 hour window late morning today. Arriving on the island, there were already a few birders looking at the owl which was perched on rocks above the seaweed just below the ruined priory, barely 100 yards from where I photographed it a year ago (see header pic). This time the light was awful - the bird itself was in shade but bright sunlight was glinting off the wet seaweed behind it, and there was also a little heat haze coming off the wet rocks as they dried in the sun. I found it impossible to focus properly and was only able to get average shots.

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Snowy Owl, Lihou

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Abigail and Snowy Owl (circled)

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Abigail was very pleased to see the bird, although she is clearly a tick-and-run merchant. I have not taken her birding a great deal - mainly for selfish reasons as I always prefer birding alone - but she is much more independent now and so I shall probably take her more often (and she already has Desert Wheatear, Franklin's Gull and Woodchat Shrike on her list whether she knows it or not).

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Abigail chuffed at ticking Snowy Owl despite her bird-scaring hat

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After seeing the owl, we had a wander round the island a bit and walking to the rocks at the highest point we found quite a few bones and the like, so I had a quick scrabble round for pellets. I didn't find any but I was well chuffed at finding this . . . .

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Snowy Owl feather

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Unless I have made some major error, this appears to be a Snowy Owl feather complete with a fine black chevron near the tip. It's not obvious on the photo but the basal third was a greyish colour and, apart from the ones at the tip, all the filaments were so fine and "feathered", which is I suppose an adaptation for flying quietly as well as for insulation.

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close-up of the feather

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So a most successful wee excursion but the wind is still in the North and there were zero migrants around apart from a few Meadow Pipits. Looking at the forecast though, I forecast the first Sand Martins on Wednesday.    

Categories: Other Rarities, 2010 Spring