After seeing reports of owl sightings in the countryside beyond a nearby village, we headed out there late on Sunday afternoon to see if we could locate any. The frost of earlier was still clinging on in shady areas where the winter sun was unable to reach but where the ground had thawed, the footpath we walked along became increasingly muddy. As the sun started to dip, a mist started to rise up from the cold wet ground, shrouding some of the fields.
The low rolling countryside in the Brampton Valley, with large arable fields and low hedges, has quite a few areas set aside for wildlife, with margins left uncultivated and areas sewn for winter bird food. We scanned a few of these areas with our binoculars in hope of seeing the owls but even with their longer grass, perfect for small mammals, we didn’t see anything on the outward leg of our walk. We did see, however, a good number of lapwing in some of the open fields, a bird we haven’t seen much of in the valley before.
On the homeward leg, we had almost given up hope of seeing any owls but as we neared the end we caught sight of another nocturnal animal instead. In the growing gloom of dusk, a fox wandered across an open field and into a small copse. We then noticed at the far side of the same field, a muntjac feeding in the field margin. Just as we turned to walk the last few hundred metres, a white bird appeared in the distance and looped around another small copse, disappearing at one end and reappearing at the other. The barn owl did one more loop of the copse and then flew off into the field behind, not to be seen again.
January has been a good month for owls. At the Nene Washes we saw both short-eared and long-eared owls, while at the same location, as well as Welney and now closer to home, we’ve had good views of barn owl. Having said that, the tawny owls at have been very quiet in the trees surrounding our house over recent weeks but as winter comes to an end, hopefully we will start to here them again as well the little owls we often hear in the spring.