Barn Owl. Brian Rafferty
Well we've seen Barn Owls on Birds2blog before and BR has photographed them many times before too, but perhaps not in such superb evening light as he did this bird recently and you can never tire of seeing excellent photographs of the Barn Owl can you, in any case there's good reason to want to highlight a picture of one this time and I think it is interesting to write up a few facts about this stunning bird.
It's difficult to image - and indeed believe - that in 1932 a survey of the Barn Owl (BO) was carried out resulting in the truly remarkable record of a population of 12,000 pairs in England and Wales alone....I'll just repeat that figure....12,000 pairs. Historically the most common 'owl' in Britain and more remarkable is the fact that even this figure in 1932 was regarded as a decline over the hundred years since the middle of the 19th century.
Only a few years on from this 1932 record, Oakes reported the BO in the Fylde as 'nesting at every farmstead' - even today the Fylde could be regarded as retaining a healthy population of BO's, in the main with thanks to a dedicate few along with co-operation of farmers - but a long term decline began and was attributed to the use of pesticides and changes in agricultural practices that reduced the number of rodent populations. Today in almost all areas the general 'tidying up' of the countryside including the removal of old barns has seen the BO slowly disappearing from the very same areas where there once was the abundance of the species in the survey of 1932, it is also worth a note that the volume of road traffic has steadily increased over the years resulting in higher figures in road casualties as a contribution to the decline.
Barn Owl. Brian Rafferty
In the past couple of days the 'ice age' has returned and the number of reports of BO's being found dead - with the weather being the factor as the cause - stands at in excess of 30 birds unable to hunt and find any small mammals due to snow cover and the freezing conditions. Today - as a single example - the temperature hasn't climbed above freezing during daylight hours, and tonight it will plummet to well below freezing and the birds will once again be suffering at the hands of nature and the weather it throws up at times like this. Sad to end on a note of gloom but these conditions are making life hard for wildlife and lots of bird species are facing starvation unless this weather relents....and quickly.