Saturday, 5 March 2011

Barn Owl News!!!

spot_the_owl, originally uploaded by Christopher Mills.
I had all but given hope it would happen - but this evening I decided to stop off at the farm on the way home for a quick check. I looked around the field, saw nothing and thought I might as well leave. But something told me to hang on... And a few minutes later I thought I could see a white shape moving near the box, which was obscured by a large branch. Having been fooled by a collared dove at Woods Mill, I figured this was probably the same - or one of the many discarded plastic bags those wonderful, considerate dog walkers leave everywhere. I had the D90 with me and a 150mm Macro lens, so I pointed it at the box and fired off a few shots. It was barely distinguishable, but zooming in convinced me it was worthy of closer inspection, so I walked around to the river path. As I pulled myself up the incline and peered through the branches, I saw what I'd desperately been hoping it would be - A Barn Owl!

It took flight, and disappeared over the hedge. I couldn't be sure but my initial impression was that it was a new bird - not the regular male. I headed over to the one field that presently has enough tussocky grass to support any number of voles, and sure enough there it was. Unsurprisingly, a dog walker soon moved it on and it came closer to my position - not close enough for a definite ID... but in my opinion a 75% chance it is a young female from the pronounced wing and nape markings, and a lack of imperfections to her flight feathers. She post hunted for a few minutes, then dashed and whirled over the grass. It was quite an unusual sight; not the graceful hovering I've observed before with other Barn Owls, but a crazed swooping and acrobatic display. She may have yet to perfect the art of vole catching, but she has chosen her territory wisely - there's no shortage of prey here.

And just maybe our wily ol' male is lurking nearby. I certainly hope so, It wouldn't be the same without him. In any case, I quickly left her to go about her business in the fading light. I will pop back in the next few days in the hope of confirming whether my observations are accurate, and hopefully spotting him. If we do have a new girl, I certainly do not want to disturb her as she settles in, so I'll be treading carefully...


  1. Well spotted Chris. I have been over the farm regular basis for the last month and hadn't seen a thing.

  2. I saw the owl about 1725 this evening. Much too dark for photo's. It came out of the box and after about 10 minutes went back in only to come out again a few minutes later. Could not make out its sex or age. Definately roosting there. Things look good.