Wildlife Column: Sighting of barn owls in gardens!

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I received quite a postbag in response to earlier articles about the recovery of barn owls, and this included some remarkable photographs. One particular story was very exciting and this came in from Michael Banks who lives in North Derbyshire.

I will keep the exact location vague for the sake of the birds involved. Michael wrote, ‘I enjoyed your recent article in the Sheffield Telegraph about barn owls. In 2017 we have had a breeding pair here in and they produced two fledglings. The youngsters amused us no end when learning to fly and hunt.

We are left with one adult now, although we are not sure if the mate is still here because their home is so well protected.’ Michael also sent in photographs of the barn owls in the back garden – and this must count as a great addition to anybody’s garden bird list!

It is absolutely wonderful to even see a bird such as a barn owl from your own garden, but to have them breeding and raising their young is a real treat and indeed, a privilege.

Interestingly too, I think I have seen his birds when I have been driving back at night from the nearby Peak District!

In the local woods my tawny owls are getting noisier so I guess they are busy defending their patch. They should soon be egg-laying and then we’ll have young in the nest in early spring.

If you do have tawnies on your patch then they demand ‘respect’ around their nest-site as they can be highly territorial. Pioneering wildlife photographer, Eric Hosking’s career-changing incident came through an accident which happened on 12 th May 1937, when he was stuck in the face by a tawny owl defending its nest.

His 1970 autobiography ‘An Eye for a Bird’ paid homage to the loss of sight in one eye as a consequence of the attack.

Do let me know your stories and share your pictures too. Does anyone else have garden sightings such as barn owls or do you have tawnies nesting nearby perhaps.

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues.