Thursday, 2 August 2012

1st August - A Carapaced Moon Predatory Silhouette: Another Victim...

The intention this evening was to go down to Plain Farm, and then walk anti-clockwise around the loop, timing the walk back down the lane to coincide with about 8.00 to 8.30, the time we had watched the Barn Owl on Monday.  That was the plan, but it didn't work out.  The evening wasn't as forecast, the cloud had come in and it was threatening to rain, as we arrived at the parking spot, it looked very dark.  As we got out of the car I noticed a white bird coming around the copse near the maize field, and immediately knew it was the owl.  It flew across the lane and into the field.  At first we thought it had gone into the trees, but then we saw it coming along the hedge, and it then began to fly around the field in hunting mode.  In the rush from the car to the field, and to get the first photos I didn't notice I had left the ISO at Monday evenings 6400 so unfortunately the first pictures were very grainy, but they show exactly what the owl was up to.

Suddenly it hovered, and then dropped into the grass, this allowed me to reset the the ISO to something a little more slower, and hopefully less grainy.  It stayed on the ground for a while, and then was off, flying past us and around the field again.  At times it came quite close, and we had superb views. 

I am now convinced this is a male, it is very light, and there are very few spots on the chest or around the head and neck.  After awhile it flew over to the corner, and perched on the fence rail.  It was always turning the head though, focusing the sound into the facial disc.  The it was off again, and this time gave a really close fly past.

I really like this picture as the slight blur on the wings shroud the head, emphasising the stillness and concentration as the owl looks and listens, it also shows the formidable talons!

I looked into the myths surrounding the Barn Owl, and why most of the literature depicts them as an evil bird. It would appear the owl had a sinister reputation probably because it was a bird of darkness, and darkness was always associated with death. The Barn Owl being white was probably even more sinister, projecting the image of a ghost as it flew around the buildings.   During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the poets Robert Blair and William Wordsworth used the Barn Owl as their favourite "bird of doom." During that same period many people believed that the screech or call of an Owl flying past the window of a sick person meant imminent death.  Up until the nineteenth century it was customary in England to nail a dead Barn Owl to the house door to ward off evil and strangely lightning

My post title comes from a poem written by Cynewulf who was an Anglo Saxon poet from the ninth century.  he apparently wrote religious poems.  I could not find the context of this line, but once again it depicts the ghostly appearance and its hunting stealth.

After another rest it was off again, flying with that ease and silence that you only see with a Barn Owl, it then put on a display of the hunting technique, twisting and turning the head to focus on the sounds in the grass while almost hovering.

After dropping to the grass again it came back up and lazily made its way to the corner of the field, but this time went over the hedge, and we watched it fly up the lane and out of sight.  We set off to see if we could find it, but there we were unable to relocate it.  It was still dark, and the bull in the field watched us from his position close to the tree.  He looked really threatening and imposing as he stood there along side the tree silhouetted against the sky.

As usual a couple of hares were by the hedge, and while we were watching the owl, the cries of young buzzards could be heard from the woods.  We decided not to pass the bull, and that we had just seen the highlight of the evening, and as there was work to do, we headed back to the car and home.  We are going to be a bit busy over the next few weeks!

1 comment:

  1. In a word...superb. What marvellous shots,such a joy. How times change from fear of the screech owl to wonder and admiration. Never less than thrilling to see one.


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