HOW TO FIND A OWL
Owls are the ultimate night-time birds, right? Well, sort of. Out of the UK’S five species, only two are really nocturnal. Short-eared Owls, which in summer will be hunting over their moorland breeding grounds, are crepuscular, being most active at dawn and dusk, and the same is true of the Little Owl, introduced from the continent in the 19th Century. This petite predator is often seen perched on fence-posts in the half-light, waiting to snaffle unsuspecting beetles, and also perches out in the open in full daylight. Barn Owls, too, hunt in daylight and twilight, especially when they have a brood to feed during the short nights of summer, or when bad weather the previous night has curtailed their foraging. That just leaves Long-eared Owls, thinly scattered across the UK, breeding in forest (often conifers) close to open country, and the Tawny Owl, which despite being Britain’s commonest owl, is far more often heard than seen. So, how do you find a Tawny, other than getting lucky and glimpsing one in your headlights, or spotting one hunched and almost hidden high in a tree during the day? Well, it’s all down to the sound they make. The famous ‘twit-tuwoo’ is, some insist, a combination of the ‘ke-wick ’ contact call, and a male’s answering song ‘hoo-hooooou’, although others counter-claim that the males often make both sounds, themselves. Whatever’s the case, summer can be a good time to listen and look for Tawny Owls. Until around the end of July, the adults will be caring for their voracious young, so have to hunt throughout the hours of darkness, while from August through to November, juveniles disperse in search of their own territories. As they do so, adults can often call and sing almost incessantly, warding off intruders into their territories.