Thursday, February 07, 2008


What a rare treat I've had this morning.
So rare (for me anyway) the last time I saw one of these birds NOT near an Owl nestbox, just quartering, was in Scotland, over twenty years ago!
There are only about 4,000 pairs of breeding Barn Owls in the UK, and that figure is probably declining, although the BTO amongst others are doing a sterling job of putting up thousands of Barn Owl boxes to give these fantastic birds a helping hand.

The Barn Owl. Tyto alba. (From Tuto - Owl and Albus - White).
I took a walk at dawn this morning, along the river Thames, and happened across this beautiful ghostly apparition, quartering like a giant white moth in the gloom over the rough grass of a riverside meadow.

I must have watched it for about 30 minutes, on and off, but as the light was coming up, and it kept gettng a bit disturbed by the odd fluorescent-vested mountain biker hot-pedalling it down the towpath, it never got that close, and was often out of sight behind the hedgerows.

I think this Owl may well be here for the winter, just before I walked home, I saw it cross the river towards a boat house which may well be its roost?
Barn Owls are mainly nocturnal, using their assymetrically-placed ears to pinpoint their bank vole (often) prey as well as their eyes. In winter, however, when prey is scarce, you may well be able to see Barn Owls hunting during the day, and certainly at dawn and dusk.

Unfortunately, I am on nights for a week now (thats a 7 day week - not a 5 day easy peasy week like some!), so probably won't be able to return at dawn for 8 or 9 days.

I will return though, to see if this wonderful bird is still around, with a view to gettting better videos. I do apologise about the quality of the videos - VERY short in length (only about 4 seconds long each), taken handheld, with my stills camera set to video mode, at a distance of about 150 yards, in low light.
I will do better if I can though, next time.

NB. By the way, on my dawn walk up the Thames this morning (I started about 06:30am, so not that early), I also managed to see a Peregrine (flying along the river at height), two Red Kites and a Buzzard.
Not bad for the sump-hole that is Reading, eh?

NB. If all you can see is a blank (black) screen on the videos above, click on the play button (twice) anyway, and you should be able to view my two very short videos. These are also availabe on my youtube account I should point out. (Click on the My youtube channel on the links section of BG or use the larger "player" at the bottom of the home page of "Blue-Grey")

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