June the first, a long awaited calendar date. The start of the new 30 days wild challenge. I couldn’t have felt less inclined to do anything ‘wild’ or ‘outdoorsy’ if I had tried. My head was reeling, buzzing with the electrical aftermath of one of my weird seizures. Any grandiose plans I had for that day had flown straight out of the window, and I resigned myself to a day of indoor R&R. With the mini farmers off visiting family, I did the only thing that helps following a seizure. Turn off all electronics apart from classic fm and reached for my pencils. A sudden light bulb moment- combine my ‘random act of wildness’ for the day with some art therapy. Pencils, paper and some inspiration gathered, I started to draw. I had an idea that perhaps, if days become too much and this is what I need to do to relax and recover, maybe I could work through sketching native British wildlife. First up, owls.
There are five species of owls found in the Uk – Barn owl, Tawny, Little owl, Long and Short eared.
Barn owls (Tyto alba) are predominantly farmland birds.With their ghostly pale heart shaped faces and blood curdling call, it is easy to see how they earned their place in myth and folklore. They don’t hoot, rather hiss and screech, giving rise to their colloquial name of ‘Screech owl’. Small rodents form the bulk of their prey, with field voles being a favourite snack. It is easy to see how they became a ‘farmers friend’, helping to keep rodent numbers at bay.
Tawny owls (Strix aluco) are shy nocturnal birds. Their grey- buff- dappled plumage acts as perfect camouflage, blending seamlessly with tree bark. During the summer months we frequently hear them call here on the farm; a single ‘kerwick’ acts as a contact call, followed by a ‘whooo- whoo’ if the bird is a male.
Last up for day 1- Long eared owl (Asio otus). Despite their name, these owls don’t actually have long ears. The tufts on top of their heads are merely decorative plumage, their ears being located on the side of their heads. Like all owls, one ear is placed slightly higher than the other. Combined with their round, flat faces this helps them to accurately locate prey by sound alone.