Saturday, June 10, 2017

Barn owls

It used to be the case that you could go for years in my part of Durham without seeing nesting barn owls. This week I've had the pleasure of watching two pairs.

The first was a bird hunting over open rough grassland, with scattered hawthorns, beside an old railway line that is now a public bridleway.

Barn owls almost seem to float across the ground, then suddenly perform a wing-over and stoop on their prey. This one struck three times before it rose with something small and furry in its talons, flew high over the trees and headed towards some old farm buildings where it must be nesting.

The sighting of the second pair was very close to home, nesting in a hollow ash tree on a farm belonging to a friend. She has farmed there for over forty years but this was the first barn owl that had ever graced them with a nest, so she was absolutely delighted. 

I spent yesterday evening watching a parent bird flying to and from the nest, hunting over the pastures amongst the cattle at sunset. Sometimes it flew right through the orchard where I was standing, no more than twenty metres away.

A magical evening, watching a truly stunning bird.


  1. Hi Phil, glad to see someone else is posting images of Barn Owls, they are such a delight to watch. I will be out with the camera within the hour watching a site. Thanks for the images, all the best John

    1. Probably my favourite birds to watch, John. all the best,Phil

  2. A timeless experience. Good to know there's still an increase in new territories - it seemed to be peaking in VC66 in 2006 (when several wide spread landowners ( DhamCity, SthTyneside & Teesdale) were reporting breeding birds for first time in 40-50 years. That's a fine Ash by the looks of it too.

    1. It really is a magical experience, watching them hunt in the twilight. Since I wrote this the bird has been hunting more frequently, so the owlets must be growing fast.
      Durham put up three owl boxes on its land in the city about 7-8 years ago and I think at least one of them has been used