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Owls about that then

An Article by Mike Stentiford, MBE


Owls, don't you just love em?




They’re a species bubble-wrapped in mystery, legend, intrigue, folklore and heart-thumping passion, in other words, a species with an undeniable ability to captivate all those lucky enough to make their acquaintance.

Unlike the UK, where some half-dozen species of owl retain official residency, here in Jersey the sole king of the roost is the barn owl.

These splendid birds nevertheless don’t always have the island to themselves as one or two pairs of long-eared owls occasionally fly in to set up a temporary breeding territory.

Our fascination with the avian night-shift, of course, is by no means a modern day occurrence as owls, the great, the small and the saucer-eyed, have been feared and revered since time immemorial.

Such was the significant deathly prediction of a barn owl perching on the roof of his palatial homestead that even Julius Caesar was alleged to have speedily thrown a couple of togas into his weekend bag before heading off to the nearby hills in a state of imperial panic!

Be that as it may, life for a pair of modern-day barn owls is never easy.

As night hunters, the birds depend on the weather being comparatively still and dry with all kinds of problems arising when persistent heavy rain restricts the birds hunting abilities.

This is especially crucial when youngsters need to be fed.

With a measure of good fortune, Britain’s barn owls, the really fit and healthy ones, have somehow managed to pull through the bitterly cold winter of early 2011.

Should they have done so, then the expectations of young barn owls patrolling the field margins at dusk over the green and pleasant countryside should be a spectacle to relish, for those lucky enough to see them that is.

With breeding usually taking place in early May, the month of July seems a likely time to witness such a fabulous sight.

Should you be able to accomplish such a mission, then do please regard yourself as extremely fortunate as the barn owl, or any other owl in fact, is really something special.

One final word.  The Channel Islands, sadly, are not blessed with the tawny owl.

Being a bit of a stay-at-home, any courageous exploration deep down this south is a non-event I’m afraid.

It’s a pity as old ‘towny owl’ would be sure of a warm Jersey welcome, even on a short visit.

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