Bird Watching (UK) - - Fieldcraft Night Birding -

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.

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