Wednesday, November 11, 2015


David Inshaw - Silbury Hill on a Starry Night

Yesterday evening we went for a talk on barn owls at our neighbouring village of Marton  at the little village hall.  It was well attended, and the man who gave it interesting and completely obsessed by his subject.  But there again where would we be if people did not devote their lives to saving small things.

Facts I learnt;  from a high of 14,000 pairs in 1932, we are now down to 9.000 pairs.  They prefer field voles to eat, but these little creatures crash in numbers every 3 to 4 years. The owl man, called Robin, did not like the estate agents Strutt & Parker, for their ability to urge farmers to sell, sell old barns for conversion, neither did he like 'The Yorkshire Post' though I can't remember for what reason.  Did you know that if you interfered with an owl nest, you could be liable to prosecution, £5000, or 6 months in jail.

But there again you can put up barn boxes either within the barn or outside.  One farmer, and Robin likes farmers, had turned his barns into an upmarket set of holiday homes, and built a nest box attached to the wall, he had also attached a cam recording of the activities of the owls to each of the holiday homes to keep his guests amused.

I can remember watching a television programme of barn owls, quartering the meres of the Somerset Levels, soft slow flight, there is no noise from their wings, they are the most beautiful of birds in flight, and I have seen them on several occasions round Avebury, when  we have come back from an evening meal, so that is why you see David Inshaw's 'Silbury hill with Owl' at the top.

And another illustrator that comes to mind is Robin Tanner who lived in Wiltshire and has a very particular style, must get his 'Woodland Plants' book

And just as a note we should welcome back the activities of Abigail the hurricane, who apparently is recharging her energies to once more sweep across this part of England and Scotland, but it was a beautiful mild day yesterday.


  1. We seem to be quite well endowed with barnowls round here Thelma as the farmer, and our neighbouring farmer (who has an owl box in his barn) see them often at dusk and early in the morning. This year the barn box pair raised two chicks andwhen they were almost ready to leave the nest our neighbour found one of the babies in the lane looking quite distressed. He picked it up and returned it to the nest, but a few days later he found it dead in almost the same place. It seems that the parent does often feed the stronger one at the expense of the other.
    Re your comment on the difference between rooks and crows: there is a saying 'if you see more than two crows together they're rooks!' - the meaning being that crows are quite solitary birds and nest in one isolated nest high in a tree whereas rooks are communal birds and nest in rookeries so that they can chat together at dusk and dawn!

    1. Thank you for the information on the difference between rooks and crows, so our small noisy gathering will probably be rooks. The barn owl is actually a south lover, their feathers are not waterproof, and so in Yorkshire we are almost at the end of their range. 290 pairs in East York I think.
      As for your tale of one being left to starve, I suppose it could be due to lack of food, Robin gave an interesting view of the cycle of predation and life and death. Whereas the barn owl usually only has one brood, the blackbird can have 5 broods in the year, but because there is a lot of early bird death, and predation they do not build up large swarms of blackbirds, though of course they are a fairly common sight in gardens.