Rory champion photography

EXPLORING WILDLIFE, LANDSCAPES AND NATURAL HISTORY THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY

The silent assassin

Watching a barn owl hunt is quite a sight. The unmistakable flash of white across a meadow as it performs its daily rounds looking, in fact listening, for voles, mice and shrews makes them fairly easy to spot and watch their behaviour although it's often a race against time to get decent shots of barn owls before either the sun goes down and it becomes too dark or, if out in the morning, it gets too late and they postpone hunting operations until dusk comes round again.

Barn owls consume 3-4 prey items per night, or double that amount if they have young to feed.

Where marshland and meadow is kept unchanged, barn owls will thrive, however in recent times they've faced additional threats.

Barn owl hunting at dusk

Barn owl hunting at dusk

Flooding across large expanses of farmland, particularly in the south of England, has decimated the landscape as far as the barn owls are concerned, wiping out large areas of productive hunting grounds. Unfortunately it seems annual flooding is here to stay, so ornithologists and wildlife enthusiasts will look on with concern to see what long-term affect this will have on barn owl numbers.

In addition to this, other winged species such as buzzards have moved in and, whilst they do not necessarily compete for the same food sources (buzzards favour slightly larger prey), I've seen first hand a buzzard attacking a young barn owl in an attempt to make the owl give up its kill.

Barn owl sitting on post

Barn owl sitting on post

Barn owl conservation focuses around protecting the habitats they thrive in, in particular educating and working with those who manage large areas of rural land such as farmers and landowners. More information about barn owl conservation can be found on the Barn Owl Trust website.

Silhouette of barn owl in flight

Silhouette of barn owl in flight

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