"Barn Owls and boxes"

05th May 2010
During the months of Jan, Feb and early March are the best times to photograph Barn Owls in Norfolk. They usually hunt during dusk, through the night and into dawn but are seen hunting in the daylight at this time of year flying silently over long grass and set aside fields.
Bank voles are their main food supply, so with the young, whether it's two or eight hungry mouths they have to feed and themselves, then it is very hard work for the adult birds.
A beautiful Barn Owl, sitting hunting on a farmers gate early morning.......

The job is made even harder for them with the amount of Kestrels around waitng for a Barn Owl to catch a vole. They have become a right 'pain in the arse' for the poor Owls and sit waiting high up on telegraph poles or wires watching. As soon as a Barn Owl has caught one the Kestrel will fly down and land on the owl and take its prey. I have seen this happen in one particular area so many times in a day.
A Barn Owl mantling its prey, trying to cover it from predators like Buzzards and Kestrels.....

A Kestrel waiting for a Barn Owl to do the hard work in catching the prey.....

I made several journeys up to the Barn Owl spot over the good period of activity, weather permitting, getting up early to arrive there for first light.
A Barn Owl in flight.......

And another flying towards my parked car with my camera lens poking out of the window waiting for it to come close enough........

My photography companion Tony was also waiting parked up trying to get some flight shots when I noticed by his car was a Short Eared Owl (or SEO for short) Flying right towards him but he hadn't noticed and was looking towards me. The SEO flew up and over Tony's car and came inbetween us two in my direction. It was quite funny, as I could see Tony had just seen it and was trying to spin his big 600mm lens around in his car to try and get some shots..........

At the same time as the SEO had arrived I was also watching three Barn Owls flying down the bank coming our way. I had never in my life seen anything like this and that was when the SEO had turned up. I didn't know where to point my camera, so as the SEO was still near Tony I had a go at the three Barnys but I only managed to get two of them together as one had now split off........

and the Short Eared Owl......

As the SEO was near Tony's car, he was looking an laughing at me as there was a Barn Owl sitting on a post right next to my car that I hadn't seen and I was looking at him laughing as he hadn't seen the SEO right next to his car!!!
I realy enjoyed my time with the Barn Owls and will have to wait until the end of May, into June to have a go at the pair that live in the park opposite my house.
My wife Colette and I are expecting our first baby as I sit here and write this news story as its now the 5th of May. The due date was on the 22nd of April so we are anxious to find out wether we have a little girl or boy.
When we found out Colette was pregnant we had a midwife come out to see us at our house. Her name was Jo and seemed very nice and as we talked about the coming pregnancy and general chat, Jo noticed our bird table with a few of the local birds feeding on it. Jo said she lived on a farm and loved birds and wildlife and that there was a Barn Owl roosting in one of the barns. I asked if they had bred there but she said no they hadn't only that they had been seen roosting, so I asked if her and her husband would like a nest box put up in one or two of the barns to encourage them to nest and have young.
I did not see Jo for a while and when she came around again to see Colette's progress she asked if it was ok if I could make her a nest box. I decided to go along and have a look first to see if it needed one or if there was already sufficent nesting areas and to meet Jo's husband Russel. But there was not, although it did look good for a box in one barn on a beam in the grain store and one attached to a wall in the hay barn.

Tony came along to asist with the photography.....

Me fixing one to a beam in the grain store......


and one to the wall in the hay barn.....


Hopefully they will be used, maybe not this year but if not next. Its nice to know that you have helped an animal that needs help with nesting locations as most of the barns around Bedfordshire have been either flattened and replaced with new metal buildings on farms, or have been made into barn conversions.
Lets hope the population of Barn Owls does recover and if you know of any farmland that could do with some boxes please contact me and I will be more than happy to give you some advice.
Thanks for having the time to have a read. Phil.....