Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Barn Owl (Tyto alba).

This video was filmed in our garden in March 2006, when i finally added Barn Owl to the collection of common Owls that i had seen in the garden.I had heard the mechanical screeches late at night on a few occasions but had to wait till March to get my first sighting as one flew through the garden and out in to the surrounding fields, grabbing my binoculars i ran outside and watched as it flew across the fields hunting before it headed out of sight.It continued to fly through at the same time each afternoon completing laps of the fields before heading back up the valley towards Frieth.I then had a close encounter with what i presume to be the same bird, as i drove up the road towards Frieth a Barn Owl flew out from a hedgerow and continued flying in front of the car, it was so close to the windscreen i had to tap the brakes a number of times to avoid hitting it.We travelled up the road together before it peeled off in to a adjacent field and i can only imagine that it was hunting and was having trouble finding food in what was a poor vole year.It was a few days later when i waited patiently with my camcorder hoping that it might pass through on it's daily visit that i spotted it hunting through our orchard, i couldn't believe my luck when it flew towards me and perched on the fence in front of me.I stood as still as i could so not to scare it off and marvelled at what i was seeing, it glanced over at me and then continued searching for food, i know that there are Voles here as i have seen them on a number of occasions and the Owl obviously knew that too as it watched their tracks along the edge of the fence.After an unsuccessful hunt it took flight and disappeared over the fields back towards Frieth.

Although not rare the Barn Owl has become scarce and is on the Amber list which means it's a species of conservation concern.Over the last 50 years they have suffered large declines mainly due to degradation of prey-rich habitats through intense farming and a lack of suitable nesting sites.They favour open country with rough grassland especially farmland with barns, and coastal marshland.Mice, voles and shrews make up the majority of the Barn Owls diet but they will also take small birds and mammals.The Barn Owl prefers to lay it's eggs in barns, church towers, derelict buildings or holes in trees but makes no nest, with many derelict barns being converted in to living accommodation the need for Barn Owl nest boxes has become much needed to sustain the breeding population.The 4-7 eggs are laid at intervals to give the oldest chicks the maximum chance of survival during a food shortage, during a good breeding year when food is plentiful the parents have the capacity to rear the whole brood.If there is a bad food shortage it's not uncommon for the older chicks to eat the youngest and weakest chick in order to survive.

For more information on Barn Owls please visit the Barn Owl Trust website at http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/index.html

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