Young Long Eared Owl (c. Aidan G Kelly)

This is the high season for observing Long eared Owls. One of the highlights of mid summer (and there are many), is the dusk calls of young Long Eared Owls.  The call is very distinctive once noticed, and could even keep you awake at night.. Its a loud, high pitched, plaintive “eeeee”,  like the sound of a squeaky gate being opened slowly. the sound travels for up to one kilometer and is in fact a begging plea by the young owls to be fed.  It can be heard pre-dusk and quite often an adult will be in the vicinity, as the owls are initially quite dependent on food brought by the adults.  Once the young move around and out of the nest (known as ‘branching out’),  you are likely to hear their pleas and get a chance to see them sitting around.  At this time they start to test their wings and as they gain confidence, move around within a group of trees

Mum keeps an eye (and an ear) out for the youngster. (c. Aidan G. Kelly)

The young are an incredibly attractive ball of fluffy feathers, with those penetrating forward facing pair of dark eyes.  Although they are widely distributed in Ireland, they are not often observed, due to their mainly nocturnal behaviour, and fondness for dense wooded areas.  There choice of nest site is typically to borrow an old crows nest in which 5 to 7 eggs are laid that take 25 days to incubate.  This is a prime time to observe and listen for Long eared Owls, the weather is perfect, but insect repellent might be essential.

Adults are well concealed against the bark of this pine tree (c. Aidan G. Kelly)