Tuesday, 31 July 2012

30th July - He Flits in Moth-Dreamed Elegance

Just as we settled after dinner the telephone rang, it was my daughter Katie and very excitedly she told me "it's here, it's flying around the field".  It took a few moments for me to register what she meant, but once I had understood I was off for the camera and binoculars, Helen grabbed a cardigan, and we were on our way.  I wanted to get there as soon as I could, but I was conscious of mad dashes in the past for birds, and the inevitable consequences, so as we approached the field at Plain Farm I was relieved to see the unmistakable shape in the far corner.

Katie was there wildly pointing it out to us, and we left the car and made our way to the edge of the field.  She first saw the bird about two months ago, and despite walking the area, and driving around early in the morning, and late in the evening we have not been able to catch up with it.  This evening though it was quite content to sit in the corner of the field, and allow us to watch it.

At last we had caught up with the Barn Owl.  The light was quite gloomy so I needed a very high ISO speed, which I knew would make the photos grainy.  The first attempts from the gate were not good so I walked down a bit, and managed some from a distance.  It seemed unconcerned by the traffic passing by, so I decided to get a little closer, I climbed the gate and moved a little way into the field.  It was perched on a fence that ran across the field, and was studying the long grass in front of it.

From the paleness and the lack of spots around the neck I would say this was a male bird, although I am not sure on the age.  I am sure they have nested here, but I think this looks a little too mature to be a juvenile, and is probably the adult male.  As I watched, it became very focused on a spot in front of it, moving it's head, it was then off, flew up and then twisted to lunge down, feet first into the grass.  It stayed hidden for a while, then flew up out of the grass trailing the legs.  At this stage I thought it had been successful with its hunt.  But on close inspection the claws were empty, but who knows it may have been eaten on the ground.  It then headed off across the rest of the field through a gap in the trees and out of sight.  The area behind the trees is full of barns, and this is probably where it likes to roost.

We have lived around here for nearly 20 years and driven by this spot on so many occasions, and never before seen a Barn Owl.  By the law of averages if they had been here then surely we would have seen them.  I have mentioned it before but I feel the way the farm is managed here it is a major contributor to the wildlife around this area.  It can't be a coincidence that we now have Hares and Barn Owls, two species that have struggled over the years because of loss of suitable habitat.  I am now very hopeful for the autumn passage, who knows what will turn up.

Again the end of the month turns up the goods, I thought July was going to be dire, but with the butterflies last week, and this owl, it has not failed to deliver.  I am now on 79 species of bird for the year, one off my target of 80 with five months to go.

An interesting point about the Barn Owl, when searching for a suitable title for this post I noticed that the majority of lyrics or poems about the Barn Owl depict it as an evil and ruthless killer, only very rarely can you find a line that actually celebrates the beauty of the this bird.  This must have something to do with it's ghostly appearance and the screeching call that can be heard at night.  We will be back here over the next few months, and I hope that I can get a few better pictures that allow me to celebrate the beauty of the Barn Owl

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