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It’s tough be­ing an owl, as wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher Rus­sell Sa­vory has dis­cov­ered

Barn owl Miss­ing Claw is pin­ing for his long-term love, Stripetail, and his cries ring out through the night as he calls for her.

For four years run­ning, the pair have re­u­nited to mate, but it’s spring again and Stripetail is late. It seems she may not have sur­vived the win­ter or has found a younger part­ner.

For Miss­ing Claw, this is another chal­lenge he must face, but luck­ily he’s a fighter.

‘There’s a rea­son he’s sur­vived five years and it’s be­cause he’s a good hunter,’ says wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher

Rus­sell Sa­vory in a two-part doc­u­men­tary about owls in ru­ral Es­sex.

In fact, it was through hunt­ing that Miss­ing Claw gained his name.

In­jury

‘He went in for a vole and when he came out he limped. Then the claw dropped out.’

For 15 years, Rus­sell has stud­ied owls at an aban­doned air­field that is home to Bri­tain’s five na­tive species. In the doc­u­men­tary, hid­den cam­eras track the birds through win­ter, spring and

sum­mer.

The pro­gramme also fo­cuses on sweet­hearts Geron­imo and Flo, two lit­tle owls who lay their eggs in a nest­ing box, which a squir­rel is de­ter­mined to take over. If it suc­ceeds, the pair’s off­spring will die…

De­spite all the ups and downs, Rus­sell’s de­voted to owl-watch­ing. ‘They walk very much like some­one in a top hat and tails and have a fa­cial ex­pres­sion that changes,’ he says.

‘For com­edy, you can’t beat a lit­tle owl!’

5Select is on Free­view chan­nel 54, Sky 175

and Vir­gin 152

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