(Click the links below to hear the owl calls)
It’s owl watching time for me in Hoo Wood and on the marsh. The hooting, tooting and screeching is hard to ignore on dark, cold autumn evenings. In local wildlife terms, owls are at the top of the tree in my estimation: above herons and buzzards.
There are Tawny Owls, Barn Owls, Long Eared Owls, Short Eared Owls, and Little Owls living in the Wilden area. Whilst often heard, owls are not so easily seen. As silent flyers, they rarely rustle a leaf when landing on or taking-off from tree branches. One minute they are hooting from the tree on the left, and the next minute from a tree on the right. If you are observant, you might see the ghostly form of the owl as it flies from perch to perch.
Tawny Owls are the commonest and the most vocal species on either side of Wilden Lane; they are larger than Barn Owls. Their call is the ‘towit twoo’, the call that people often associate with owls. The ‘towit’ is the female call, and the ‘twoo’ is the male answering the female ‘towit’. Barn Owls are light-brown and buff in colour, with a white face and underside. The Tawny owls are a brown colour all over. Barn Owls make shrieking calls that can seem unearthly on a quiet dark night on the marsh. It is the Barn Owl, with its white face and underside, which can give the impression of a ghostly figure moving silently through the night sky. It is not difficult to see how ghost, ghoul and vampire fables end-up being associated with the woodland creatures of the night – particularly flying creatures.
It’s a pity that I don’t have suitable infra-red cameras to photograph owls at night. I’ll just have to be satisfied with watching them.