October sees the last of our summer migrants departing and is also the peak month for winter visitors arriving from their northerly breeding grounds. With this comes the exciting possibility of finding a Short-eared Owl hunting for small mammals on your local patch.
Around 1,400 pairs breed in Britain, mainly in the Pennines and the Scottish uplands and islands. Ringing studies show that at least part of this population occasionally moves as far south as the Mediterranean basin and even north Africa. The population that winters in Britain and Ireland is augmented by birds that bred in Scandinavia and Siberia. The BirdTrack reporting rate shows a clear peak in mid October, perhaps as a result of arriving and departing birds being found in well-watched coastal areas. The precise movements of the individual breeding populations are not fully understood, but sightings reported to BirdTrack and collaborative efforts like EuroBirdPortal are important in helping to reveal the movements of birds such as Short-eared Owls.