Today we had a village get-together as part of the Big Lunch; and a very nice lunch it was too. The food was excellent and the company even better. We sampled the cider we made in the village last year (see Cider and Autumn Strolls) and it ranged from feisty but almost drinkable (the scrumpy) to quite horrible (the perry). Still, it’s given the cider collective some ideas for this year’s brew.
I was talking to a neighbour and the conversation turned to owls. He gave me a tip that there are barn owls living in a specific location on the other side of the village. Now, I’ve not seen a barn owl here in Bedfordshire yet. We have a lot of tawny owls (difficult to see but easy to hear as they call at night) and the occasional little owls (tend to sit on fence posts during the day) but I haven’t seen a barn owl. This is a shame, as they’re spectacular birds, and they tend to come out in the evening while it’s still light.
I didn’t have time for a proper badger-watching session this evening, but it was clear and warm and I felt I could spend an hour or two looking for barn owls. The location is near a small lake, actually a dammed stream – the last remnant of parkland from a long-vanished country house. It’s a great spot for wildlife, particularly birds of different types, and one that I haven’t given the attention it deserves.
I arrived at about 9.00pm and – to my delight – there was the barn owl, quartering over the fields. I followed it from one field to another as it patrolled, occasionally swooping down to get a closer look at something. I sat down at the edge of the field and ten minutes later it flew low overhead, big but perfectly silent. It was a sight worth the walk – as I said, a spectacular bird.
I took a couple of pictures. I confess that these are probably the worst pictures of barn owls ever taken – blurred, out of focus and badly composed – but they’re the first I’ve ever taken of a barn owl so I’m sticking one up here. If you stand some distance away and squint at it, with the eye of faith you can just about believe that it’s an owl.
I know, it’s embarrassing. Now I know where to go, I’ll be back to try again soon. And Simon, if you’re reading, thanks for the tip. It’s rare for me to go out in search of a particular species and actually find it, so this was a good evening for me.