This is quite a photograph for me, not my best by any means but, apart from my Kingfisher photos, one of the most exciting. The time I spent with this bird was truly one of those "remember for the rest of my life" moments.
I have been aware that a barn, near to my home, has been used by Barn Owls, off and on, for several years (to my knowledge). I checked last year and found evidence that owls had used it as a roost, the floor was at the time, littered with pellets, but no owls in residence. The pellets appeared to be old, but very numerous. I had been meaning to check again this year and on the spur of the moment yesterday, I went to have a look. I asked the owners of the barn, which adjoins their house, if they knew that their barn was an attractive building for owls. They were surprised but assured me that, "no they hadn't seen any signs of Barn Owls nor, to their knowledge were there any in residence this year". Never the less, I asked him if I could have a look and we went quietly, and very carefully in to the barn, a building with milking stalls and then a further, more derelict area behind. As we crept in to the more derelict area.......... wow, there was a Barn Owl staring back at me from the beams at the far end and it was quickly joined by another which flew from above our heads. We immediately got out, as quick and quietly as we could. Wow again, what a great surprise. When we were clear of the building I carried on whispering, can't think why, my heart was racing and as usual when I am exited and thrilled with something I was even almost tearful. I cant help this physical reaction which affects me when I see or hear something which moves me, I well up! Not a particularly manly thing so I quickly explained to my new friend that I was a beer drinking man and not a raving poof! He seemed to understand, and my reaction made the point to him that this was an extremely exciting (and lucky) find. We came to an agreement that I could return to watch (from a distance of course), whenever I wanted. I suspected that they were breeding and as a schedule 1 bird it would be against the law to disturb them in any way.
I returned at 8 o'clock, sat myself 50 meters away up the side of the hedge line with a great view of what I suspected to be the entrance and exit they would use. I was dressed in my full camo stuff leaving nothing to chance, including full Gillie suit and cam netting etc. It was still bright and I waited patiently and waited paitiently and then even more patiently. Time went on and on, and on some more. My stomach was turning with excitement as I imagined where one would suddenly appear. It was almost dark at 9.25 when there it was! It had come through an exit somewhere else, so I had only half got it right. I took many photos, most were awful in the almost darkness which was rapidly darkening. Then, the other bird flew out to join the first, there was some interaction between them and the first seemed to be begging for food, was this an adult and fully fledged baby? I love these pics, they really show what it was like as I peered through the darkness to try and get something to post for you. It gives a real flavour of the occasion.
When I had been there in daylight I imagined an owl on this beam which was left over from another part of the collapsed barn and I knew that it was a great place for a bird to perch before it went off to hunt, and that's exactly what happened. I make no apology for not lightening the picture artificially because this is the way it was, and the way I was seeing it.Finally, thank you all for your birthday wishes..... very kind of you.