Little by name and by nature
WORKING for The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside I learn something new every day.
For instance, I was at a reserve with my camera the other day and I was told: “There are some little owls sitting in a bush outside.”
Naturally I thought: “How lovely, some little barn owls or baby tawny owls. Fluffy little things. Lovely!”
On arrival at the spot I realised that this was neither of those species.
They were, in fact, little owls. I have never told my colleagues this story, it would be too embarrassing. This goes back to the people who name wildlife – common blue butterfly, little ringed plover and common frog – come on guys and gals, let’s make them a little bit more interesting.
For instance, smoky blue butterfly or dinky ringed plover would appeal to a wider audience. And what about the green, spotted, croaky, hoppity frog?
Little owls were introduced into the south and east of England in the late 1800s and did pretty well, moving into Lancashire in 1917.
They had completely colonised the county by the late 50s.
The Lancashire Bird Atlas points out a decline this century by nearly 20 per cent, which is similar to the rest of the country.
Generally this is down to lack of habitat.
The little owl is a small, brown bird with a short tail and yellow eyes. It is a strikingly beautiful bird.
It is often seen perched on branches or old telegraph poles.
You can expect to see it in hedgerows or in parks, on old trees. It nests in hollow trees.
Once paired up, a couple will stick together, so it’s not uncommon to see them out courting, sitting together on a branch. If you spend a little time you might be lucky enough to see a little owl hunting. It will sit on its perch scanning the surrounding floor. Once it spots its prey, the little owl will swoop down catching the mouse or other victim in its claws or beak.
It is a lovely thing when a new species comes on to your radar and learning about a single species at a time is a good way to get to know your local wildlife.
It’s a great DIY education method for any kind of wildlife – mammals, birds, bees and butterflies.
If you can’t get out to nature reserves on a regular basis, just sit in your garden and see how many different kinds of bees you can identify.
You might be lucky and find an amazing number. There are 25 different types of bumblebee in the UK.
And if you can think of any better names for the wildlife around you, send me a message by mail, or on Facebook and Twitter on @lancswildlife.
I will mention the best ones in future columns.
To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, text WILD09 with the amount you want to donate to 70070.
●● A little owl photographed by Darin Smith