Hoots at moonset, grunts at sunrise

Nature notes by Jason Ball – 31 Jan 2010

Can you tell this is a Barn Owl?

Just before dawn I wrapped myself up and walked out into the cool, crisp light of a moonset (you know, like a sunset, but the moon). It was a full moon, and as it was setting, I thought I would try to take a photo of this extremely beautiful phenomenon, because I’ve never done that before! This is a daily occurrence, but how often do you go out and watch it? Today it was worth it, despite the freezing temperatures. With a full moon to the west and the emerging colours of sunrise on the eastern horizon, it was fantastic!

A male Tawny Owl was answering a female in the woods, and a Grey Partridge was calling just beyond. Like yesterday it was a well frosted landscape. As I clicked and fiddled with camera controls that I couldn’t see, my fingers gradually became too cold to feel the shutter button.

After putting my camera back in the house, I went out again put out some food out for the birds. I walked alongside Nut Wood and stopped alongside a reedbed, watching out for owls. Very soon I got a surprise, when I heard something grunt.

A startled badger was on the path in front of me, looking right at me. After a moment of uncertainty, it dared to come closer. The badger sniffed the air, presumably attracted by the fragrance of food. But the badger didn’t like the smell of me, I suppose, and made a rapid about-turn and scarpered away – only to bump into a feisty friend.

This other badger – presumably a sibling – hadn’t noticed me and it immediately started wrestling the first badger – adding to its sense of panic!

I walked back home and decided to set up a camera to film a Barn Owl who I have often noticed flying past the house, usually soon after 7am.

The Barn Owl is a crepuscular bird, haunting the edges of day and night. When we recently had snow laid on the ground for days on end, these owls were seen during the day. They had to search longer to find prey – if any – and were desperate enough to risk being out when diurnal birds attack them. That was a difficult time for many raptors, except the scavengers.

Success! As the owl flew by I could see that my camera was recording, and the owl was in shot. I went out to switch off the camera, but the Barn Owl was coming back my way, so I stood still and tried to photograph the bird again, but with a stronger zoom.

a Barn Owl flies past

Being only sunrise, the light levels were too low for the camera to autofocus. And with a 12x zoom, at this relatively close range, it was hard to pan fast enough for the Barn Owl, which was flying up and down the road. Ah, it was best to leave the bird to its business, and try again another time.

But what an excellent start to the day!

Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and a few more bird records from this morning.

31/01/10 Dunnock Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
07:45 SU358819.
31/01/10 Woodpigeon Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
07:45 SU358819.
31/01/10 Blackbird Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
07:45 m. SU358819.
31/01/10 Blue Tit Sheepdrove Organic Farm 2 J Ball
07:45 feeding. SU358819.
31/01/10 Chaffinch Sheepdrove Organic Farm 4 J Ball
07:45 2m+2f. Feeding. One of the males was mature, the other juvenile; harder to tell with the 2 females. SU358819.
31/01/10 Great Tit Sheepdrove Organic Farm 3 J Ball
07:45 on feeders. SU358819.
31/01/10 Great Spotted Woodpecker Sheepdrove Organic Farm 2 J Ball
07:45 m + unknown. 1 definite male at nut feeder. Another GS flew off but too fast to check gender. (Would 2 males tolerate a close presence at this time of year?). SU358819.
31/01/10 Rook Sheepdrove Organic Farm 70 J Ball
07:30 flying from north. SU359819.
31/01/10 Barn Owl Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
07:15 Perched on a post for a short while. Hunting in flight. Saw one unsuccessful dive. SU358819.
31/01/10 Great Spotted Woodpecker Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
06:45 m. drumming. SU359818.
31/01/10 Grey Partridge Sheepdrove Organic Farm 1 J Ball
06:40 m. calling. SU356817.
31/01/10 Tawny Owl Sheepdrove Organic Farm 2 J Ball
06:40 m+f. Both calling in the woods. SU356817.
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One Response to “Hoots at moonset, grunts at sunrise”

  1. AnneTanne Says:

    No, I can’t tell whether there is a barn owl or a flying saucer on that picture, but it surely breaths an incredibly beautiful atmosphere…

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