02 April 2015

B is for...

... British BARN OWLS

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I have always loved owls. No idea why, and my daughter, Kathy has inherited the same intrigue for them.

Kathy's Wooden Owl
Back in Walthamstow, North East London where we used to live three years ago, we very occasionally heard an owl – usually they were ones that had overflown from Epping Forest and roosted temporarily in the park. I didn’t hear many actually in the Forest because I rarely spent the night hours there.

Here in Devon owls abound. Tawny Owls: We have several in and around the orchard and front garden, and they make quite a racket!

Two weeks after we had moved in, to our delight we saw a Barn Owl skim across the orchard – this was January at about 10a.m on a somewhat dull morning.
Sadly we haven’t seen him or her since, although Kathy has seen a pair further up the lane.

The Dairy has had barn owls nesting in the eaves, no tenants since we moved in unfortunately, so it seems that the Windfall Farm Owls have not managed to survive. There are several at the far end of the village - a couple of miles away - and since these beautiful creatures hunt over quite a distance we are hopeful that a young pair might venture this far to settle. Barn owls are also non-territorial with adults living in overlapping spaces, each hunting territory covering up to about  12,500 acres ....or more than 7,000 football pitches!

that's the old entrance to a nest box
up on the end gable of the roof
We have erected a new box up in the stable yard, The opening faces east – ideal apparently – and out over rough grassland abundant with potential food.

The new nest box from inside the stable
Hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll get a new family moving in one day.

The barn owl is a ghostly bird as it glides, often low, on silent wings – is it any wonder it has always been believed that it is a spiritual bird, carrying the souls of the dead? Even at up to three metres overhead (that's 9-10 feet) the barn owl’s heart-shaped face collects sound so with the silent flight the bird can hear the minutest sound made by small rodents  (voles, mice etc) hidden in thick grass and vegetation along the edges of fields (and sadly, roads, which is where many owls die). 
(Photo Kevin Keatley - Barn Owl Trust)
Contrary to belief the barn owl does NOT hoot – that’s the Tawny Owl. A barn owl has a drawn-out screech - almost a scream, and believe me at night it is a very eerie sound! Courting males give a shrill twitter, and both old and young birds can also hiss like a snake if alarmed or threatened.

Hear a barn owl click here (will redirect you to a different site)

I’ll let you know if we ever get tenants in the Barn Owl Box.

Find out more on the Barn Owl Trust  Website
Barn Owl Trust on Twitter  @BarnOwlTrust
Barn Owl Trust on Facebook

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Website: www.helenhollick.net

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  1. Anonymous6:19 am

    They're beautiful animals, though I almost never see them in the wild, only in bird sanctuaries.

    Out of Print, Fiction authors and their shorts

    1. It's such a shame that they are dying out :-(

  2. I love owls, I see them quite a lot when I'm driving at night.

    1. Drive safe...remember this: never drive faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!

  3. Hi Helen, I love Barn Owls too, they are so beautiful. Readers I recommend enjoying Helen's books, great swash buckling pirates to be found.

  4. How I love these birds! Unfortunately I haven't seen any here in Cambodia.

    1. Unfortunately I haven't seen many here in Devon either *laugh* !

  5. Please entertain a stupid question. I'm American, and we don't speak English! When I say "dairy" I am referring to a place that raises milking cows and/or sells milk and cheese. When you say "dairy" are you referring to a building designed to house cows?

    1. Not a stupid question at all! Yes A Dairy is where cows are raised or milk products are sold. Our Dairy could also be called a Cow Byre or shed - but it was the building where the cows were housed and milked, so dairy is also right.... and Windfall Farm was until around the 1970's a Dairy Farm (i.e. they kept cows for milking.)

  6. Found a link to you on Rosie Amber's blog. This post was fantastic - we have lots of owls around us, and I'm sure some are barn owls - they glide like ghosts in front of our car lights sometimes. We also have some who drive us crazy at night with their hooting.

    1. Thanks Noelle. If they look very pale (like a ghost) then they possibly are barn owls. The ones making a lot of noise are more than likely Tawny Owls.

  7. Such a cool bird. So different from other types of owls. :)

    1. I so agree! Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog - do call by again!

  8. All owls are beautiful birds. So glad you've provided a new location for your owls to nest.

    I'm taking part in the A to Z Challenge, too. You can follow my posts at Celtic Connexions http://www.melanierobertson-king.com/wp02/

    I'll continue to check in here and see what you've got on for each day.

    1. Thanks Melanie... popping across to say hello on your blog right now!

  9. I grew up on a dairy farm, so am loving your posts here. I don't remember having very many owls around, but find these ones quite fascinating.

    1. apologies for the delay in getting back to you Marcy - I'm catching up on comments!


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