This lit­tle owl was a big treat

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - HERALD & POST -

ONE of the most heart-warm­ing wildlife mo­ments comes when­ever you bump into an owl.

It doesn’t hap­pen ev­ery day, but then you al­ways have a chance of spot­ting owls which oc­ca­sion­ally fly in day-time such as short-eared, barn and lit­tle owls.

I came across this hand­some lit­tle owl perched high up on a cliff face in a dis­used County Durham quarry and he was happy to pose for a photo.

Lit­tle owls are not na­tive to Bri­tain, but were in­tro­duced in the 19th Cen­tury. They grad­u­ally spread through­out Eng­land and Wales and have re­cently colonised south­ern Scot­land.

Lit­tle owls nor­mally hunt at dawn or dusk, like the other owls which you may spot in day­light, and will eat any­thing from in­sects to small ro­dents and from small birds to frogs.

They do have a very un­usual method of catch­ing their meals. Most of their hunt­ing is done on foot and they will run after their prey to catch it.

They can also be quite de­cep­tive when they have their backs to you be­cause the feath­ered pat­tern on the back of their heads re­sem­bles a face.

So from a dis­tance you might not know whether you are look­ing at the front or the back of the lit­tle owl.

Last year I was strolling around Noster­field Quarry near Bedale when I chanced upon a lit­tle owl sit­ting on a tree stump. It had its back to me and ini­tially was quite con­fus­ing.

Then I re­alised that the lit­tle owl was look­ing after an owlet in a nearby tree so it was two for the price of one.

If you’ve got ea­gle eyes there’s al­ways a chance that you will spot a lit­tle owl on a coun­try walk, usu­ally do­ing a bit of sun­bathing in a tree and star­ing down at you.

I usu­ally see sev­eral a year, though I still re­mem­ber my very first one many years ago when I was trav­el­ling down the A19 to a Boro away match.

Road­works meant that the traf­fic was mov­ing at a trickle. I was a front seat pas­sen­ger and was amazed to see a lit­tle owl stand­ing inches away from the car wheels as we passed.

It had its eyes open which sug­gested that maybe it had just been winded by a pass­ing ve­hi­cle. Hope­fully it was able to fly away even­tu­ally.

I saw a few barn owls last year but not so many this year. I’ve been on sev­eral long car jour­neys lately and scoured the fields early and late in the day with­out fully con­cen­trat­ing on the road, but the barn owls are avoid­ing me.

Eric would like to hear from read­ers about what they have seen. Email him at eric.pay­lor@gmail.com

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