Saturday, 10 December 2011

Barn Owl in the barn at last!

I've always had the odd peak in the large asbestos barn near Reads Rest Cottages since I heard from the local residents that Barn Owls used to be regular in there up until about five years ago.  These peaks have turned into almost daily checks since Ian and I saw two emerge from this barn in April. The best these checks have produced so far have been the odd Little Owl and plenty of feral Rock Doves. Today I looked in and saw a white bird in the far apex, I expected it to just be the usual white feral Rock Dove that has been teasing me for weeks now but it was a Barn Owl!!! I couldn't believe it. I never really thought that I actually would see a Barn Owl in there. I looked at it a couple more times and yes it was true - beautiful!!! I let locals know and it was quite a popular bird throughout the day with at least fifteen birders coming to admire it through the barn door.

Roy, CFBW #2 lister, came a bit later in the day and was very pleased to finally catch up with this tricky species. He has tried hard several evenings this year in the hope of seeing one but was never successful. We returned to stake out Harrier Field as darkness grew and, just as we were giving up, it appeared and showed well as it hunted over the field and perched at a hole in the wall of another barn, creating a charismatic silhouette. It flew again and I started making kissing noises to tempt it towards us, it turned as soon as it heard me and fluttered feet over our heads for a few seconds before realising it had been foxed. What an amazing experience!

Barn Owl is a tricky species at Canons Farm. There's only been two or three sightings this year prior to today, but Geoff Barter's discovery of a pellet (recently confirmed as having been coughed up by a Barn Owl) in the late summer/early autumn indicates that our failed efforts to find them throughout the year did not mean that they weren't around.