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Scops Owl in Co.Durham

28 Sep

27/9/17 A text message at 0830 informed me of a Scops Owl at Ryhope in Co.Durham. This was followed closely by the siren MegaAlert of the RBA pager. This has quickly lost it’s novelty and made a note to change to a less disturbing alert before too long. Need this one having not been able to twitch the Cornish bird and not going for the Oxfordshire bird early enough. Also failed to connect with one in southern Europe. None of my usual “team’ needed Scops so I started by texting JH and putting a message on twitter asking for a lift. I haven’t done any twitching on my own outside of Yorkshire, except for the odd excursion into Lincolnshire, for over fifteen years, largely due to RSI in my hands that started not long after I brought my current bike. I also suffer from a mental fear of motorways. However on checking the Apple “Maps’ found Ryhope only just over 100 miles away and just off the A19. Having attended Teesside Polytechnic in the 80’s most of the route was familiar. I still had a feelings of miss belief about the Owl but further updates, plus a photo on twitter, dispelled them. With no offers of lifts it’s seemed time to give it a try on my own. Three route were offered by “Maps”, the quickest but longest by M62/A1/A19 wasn’t a option so it was via York bypass or the cross country route via Malton. Like most people I find the York bypass complicated and often very slow [pre-bypass I always found the inner ring road very easy] but the other route had the problem of possible wrong turns and having to stop to check the map. I choice the York route and for once it was problem free. I did have some problem with my hands initially due to regular braking and clutch use but once on the A19 dual carriageway things good easier. I did get some legs pain but late enough not to worry about. Traffic was light and the wind was light so didn’t get the motorway “panics’ due to going fast in congested traffic or the wind blast when passing HGV’s. Therefore reached the turn off for Sunderland feeling sanguine. The turning for Ryhope followed and was expecting to have to stop for directions but reached Albion Pub before I did. One issue with twitching by bike is you can’t check the pager and can ride for hours after the bird was messaged to have gone. A quick look though confirmed it was still present recently. It was just a quick walk through a railway underpass and almost immediately saw a quite small crowd looking in a fairly close bush. Grabbed a quick look in a scope then set up myself. Initially found it difficult to find for myself as being deep in the bush it was obscured from some angles but eventually got an good position where I managed a few record shots then watched it for about an hour, occasionally waking to preen.

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Scops Owl-Ryhope, Co.Durham

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Viewing the Scops Owl at Ryhope Village Dene.

Not usually one to tick and run but as it wasn’t doing much and the only other attraction were a few Yellow-browed Warblers I decided to leave early afternoon. Partially this was a fear that the feeling of euphoria would go making the trip back a drag but also I wanted to get round York before the rush hour. The trip back down the A19 wasn’t as easy as coming as the traffic was much heavier and the wind had increased so I was glad to get back on ordinary roads at Thirsk. The York bypass again caused no horrors, the early return paying off. The only fear was noticing how low my petrol was, due to high speed riding, but fortunately cleared the bypass before needing to go on reserve.

The addition of Scops Owl means I have now seen all the European Owls.

Post Script

This was written and posted in the early hours of Thursday morning well before any news had got out. Last report of the Scops Owl was flying off, presumably to hunt at dusk. Not seen in it’s bush early morning but re-found mid morning.

No sign on Friday but seen again on Saturday. Again after going missing for two days it has been located again early Tuesday morning. Obviously it’s varying it’s roost site and it’s a lottery whether it’s found each day. No sign on Wednesday, although windy so could just been hunkered down, but no news so far on Thursday.

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