Whilst many of this seasons’ fledglings will have long parted company with their parents and some, like kingfishers, will have been forcibly chased off by now, the chicks of many owl species will still be benefiting from their parents’ protection and teaching skills as they learn to fend and hunt for themselves.
As a result, summertime is as good as any to head off in search of owls. As well as the prospect of seeing the chicks learning their craft, the adults will be extremely busy making more hunting forays than usual to keep their brood fed – presenting plenty of opportunities to spot them.
The owl we’re all most familiar with, if only due to its ubiquitous “toowhit, twooo” call, is the tawny owl. These birds typically live up to the ‘night owl’ reputation and as a result are more likely to be heard than seen, but you may be lucky enough to spot one flying over mature gardens or even an urban park after dusk as long as there are plenty of mature trees around for roosting.
The owl that most people are likely to have seen, even if only fleetingly, is the beautiful barn. These are more a bird of dawn and dusk but can be seen hunting in daylight – especially when they have a large brood to feed or their prey is in short supply – requiring more time on the wing in search of sustenance. I have personally seen barn owls in daylight hours at Idle Valley Nature Reserve, quite close to the café – so do keep your eyes peeled next time you visit.
Another owl that regularly delights visitors at Idle Valley is the short-eared owl – though they are much more likely to be seen hunting over the grassland in winter than the height of summer.
If you plan on heading to a local woodland to enjoy the cool and shade on a hot summer’s day, take some time to look out for plants such as meadowsweet in damper areas or wild strawberry and chickweed – two plants increasingly popular with foragers.
In the picture
We’re delighted to announce that we plan to host our postponed lockdown inspired Post Card show during the summer school holidays so do keep an eye out for details on www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org. We’ve also taken delivery of our two ‘Story Benches’ as part of the Bassetlaw-wide trail taking place all summer – so do come and take a look. The benches are located close to the café and shop.
Images: Short-eared Owl © Mike Vickers; Tawny Owl © Margaret Holland; Meadowsweet © John Millner; Barn Owl © Margaret Holland