A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Monday, 23 October 2017

MEGA!!!! Scops Owl in Ryhope, Durham!!

Scops Owl is a species I’ve always wanted to see in Britain, coming in at number 9 on my top ten most wanted species. Having always loved owls, this quirky, angry looking miniature bird of prey has always been a firm favourite of mine when visiting falconry exhibits, and the only birds I’ve seen in the wild are a pair that were flying around a park in northern Spain several years ago, in the pitch black and just managing to make them out through the inky darkness as they sat perched in the trees, “bong”ing away in that characteristic and bizarre manner.
Scops Owl - Ryhope, Durham
Scops Owl in Britain!
It’s been over ten years since the well-known Oxfordshire bird back in 2006 (bar a few records on the northern Scottish Isles and Scilly in between), therefore when the message popped up on my phone of a Scops Owl found in Ryhope near Durham I nearly did a double take, even more so when it transpired that this was actually the real deal and not another ‘car alarm’ false start as has been reported in the last few years.
Scops Owl in Durham!
Photos of the bird sat roosting soon began to flood social media as expected (all with ‘that leaf’ obscuring the top of its face!) and it became extremely hard to sit back and watch as scores and scores of birders connected.

Luckily the Scops stayed put and we eventually found ourselves making our way up north in order to try and see this remarkable little owl for ourselves - thankfully still in the same Elder bush it was first found in when we arrived and showing well for the small crowd of birders that had gathered round to admire it. Scops Owl in Britain – result and relief!
Scops Owl - Ryhope, Durham
Scops Owl - Ryhope, Durham
Scops Owl - Ryhope, Durham
Sat relatively out in the open half way up the bush we were treated to excellent scope views of what can most certainly be a difficult bird to see well – I definitely wasn’t expecting to connect with one on British soil any time soon that’s for sure, and especially not showing so well! 
Scops Owl - Ryhope, Durham
Phone-scoped shot of the Scops
A roosting Scops Owl during the day on mainland Britain is the best it’s going to get as far as this often cryptic and well-hidden species is concerned, and luckily this individual stayed around long enough for the majority of those who wanted to see it to connect. Luckily the Scops had chosen to roost in a tree that couldn’t be approached too closely, thankfully alleviating the risk of someone getting too close for comfort and flushing it.
Ryhope Village Dene - Durham
The Scops bush....
Ryhope Village Dene - Durham
....and its admirers
With no sign in recent weeks the question remains as to whether it finally has moved on to continue with its migration south to Africa for the winter, or if it is merely keeping a low profile out of sight in an as yet undiscovered roost - either way this was an absolutely top notch bird and one I’m extremely glad I got the privilege to see so well on mainland Britain. With 84 accepted records in Britain to date this is by no means a “mega mega” but it was still an absolutely superb bird that was most definitely worth travelling for and a bird on my personal wish list for Britain. 
Scops Owl - Ryhope, Durham
Scops Owl - Ryhope, Durham

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