For several years now I’ve been trying get a photograph of a Little Owl (Also Known As the Lilford Owl, after Lord Lilford who introduced them to The UK).
After 12 months of looking I finally managed to locate one not far from Whitby Abbey, Im told there had also been a pair a lot closer to The Abbey but they had all perished one year when they were trapped inside Crab Pots which were stored inside the barn they lived in.
The Owl I found lived in a Barn and was often seen by many passers by in their cars. I eventually found him late one winters afternoon, and thought I would simply pop back the next day in good light and snap him.
Days……., turned into weeks, turned into months, turned into years. Infact in almost 2 years I only saw that Owl a handful of times. He would often sit in the window of the barn he lived in and you could pass by in the car and he would be watching you. But the second you stopped the car he would go back inside and hide in the dark.
I was told that if you wait near by, he will come out and you will get a photograph, but this never materialised.
About a year later I got talking to a friend whose son keeps Falcons. He knew of the little owl and told me that his sons falcon had almost killed it a few years ago.
That explained why it was so skittish. The Owl was extremely shy, and no wonder . I would guess it has a severe case of PTSD, and flashbacks of a Seika Peregrine swooping in on it.
Eventually I gave up on this Owl. It just was never going to happen.
Fast forward to Spring of this year and a friend told me of an Owl in The North York Moors National Park which he was seeing most evenings on his drive home from work. I had a ride out there in the car numerous times but never managed to see the owl. I started to think that Little Owls were having a laugh at my expense.
One night whilst looking for the owl I noted a farmhouse near by, and wondered if it was on their land. I said to myself “I wish I knew who owned the farm, so I could ask if I could go look for the owl”.
Then the very next day the strangest thing happened. A lady got in touch with me to say she had hares on her land and was more than happy for me to visit if I wanted to photograph them.
I inquired where the farm was, and, well I was totally shocked when she said it was the exact farm where I thought the Owl might live.
I asked if she had Owls and she said she thought there was some in a tree not far from the house. I visited not long after, and was greeted with really sad news. That very morning she had found an Owl dead in one of the water butts.
She showed me the dead Owl and I confirmed it was indeed a little owl, and probably the same one my friend had been seeing every night.
She showed me where she thought it lived in a hole in a tree. I wondered at the time if it may have young. I felt quite sad that their may be young inside the tree but there would be very little we could do for them as the hole was soo tiny we wouldn’t be able to get in to get them out.
As I drove home that night I felt I was fated never to get a half decent image of a little owl. I also thought about the strange turn of events that lead me to the farm only to find the bird had died that very morning. Although I made light of it by telling myself the Owl had committed suicide because I was coming with the camera, I did intact feel very sad about its passing.
I wondered to myself if there may be another parent alive who could feed the babies, if infant there were any babies in the tree.
Several weeks passed, and then tonight I got a photo message from the lady on the farm. A picture of a little Owl and an invite back to see if it was hanging around.
When I got there, I instantly spotted one in a tree, it then flew onto a fence post near by where there was another 2. I presume there was 2 babies and one adult little owl as 2 were following the other one about and hissing loudly at it. I think this is a sign that they are fledglings and pestering the parent bird to be fed.
So, several years in the making. Not the best Little Owl Image in the world, but certainly one that has taken a very very long time to capture. As I always say, Mother Nature doesn’t let you in for long, but when she does it really is a very special moment indeed.