Owl behaviour and Goshawk colouration

Afternoon everyone; hope you're all doing well. Things have cooled down a great deal over here in Switzerland and we're enjoying the last few days of Black Kites in residence before they all head off for balmier climes. I'd like to pick your brains on two points: owl flight behaviour and Goshawk colouration. A few weeks back we were down in Tuscany and spent several evenings sitting out on a rooftop terrace (which, from dawn until dusk, is a **spectacular** place from which to observe the upto 2,000 swifts that colonise the hilltop village in summer). The old fort above the town is floodlit, and on two nights we watched what we assumed to be an owl of some kind hunting in and out of the lights. Colour is problematic as the floodlighting appears, itself, to be yellow. Size is problematic, since although we were quite used to seeing - for example - jackdaws there during the day, we're pretty sure that our perceptions of size differ at night. But it did look... well... owly. Our 'owl' would come into the floodlights and pass out of the light very much like a large, golden-coloured shooting star. What puzzled me the most was seeing it hunt *up*, vertically above the lights and at some speed. We heard little owls not far away each evening; no tawnies, but the terrain is not so bad. And one person we contacted re the swifs mentioned seeing a Barn Owl. Any idea which owls hunt (perhaps bats?) vertically upward? My next question is about Goshawk colouration. Back in February, sitting in the garden one Sunday afternoon, I got somewhat obsessed by a blob in the forest some way behind the house. Perhaps it was the ruckus among the crows that attracted my attention. Over time, and with the changing light, the blob became a very obvious perched second calendar year Goshawk: stance while perched, behaviour, location, markings. Even better when he (or she) broke cover at the end of the afternoon and gave us a beautiful view in flight, including underwing markings as the bird angled back into the canopy. Lovely. Here (at last) comes my question: this last Sunday, I was again out in the garden and during an odd spell (the weather was changing and a storm coming in) saw a number of birds... Grey Heron at a great altitude, Red Kite (resident), etc. Then anther bird appears, Sparrowhawk-like, but too strong in flight; wings 'wrong'; it gains height quickly and there's a tail spread and I count the clear bars on the tail; and it tilts and I see that (for me) indicative two-tone effect (checkered/bared) under the wings; don't see the head or body clearly (or don't concentrate on them). But as the bird makes for the forest in pretty poor, stormy light, the body starts to look ocher/pink. If it was the same 2nd CY bird I saw in February, I would - based on Dick Forsman's books - expect the moult to be well underway by now. Was this my February bird? Any thoughts are very welcome. Best regards - Dave
  • Sorry about the single block of text. Formatting issues, I guess...

  • In reply to Dave - CH:

    I cant comment on the owl pal, but I like the story.

  • In reply to Graham c:

    @Dave when you said " you heard little owls nearby" what noise did they make.Barn owls do not hoot


    I found this article that could be of interest.


  • In reply to SunnyKate2:

    Thank you Graham c. It was a very special experience (and the food and wine were good too). @SunnyKate2, it was Little Owls we heard, calling from a sloping area of open ground a good few hundred meters from the castle. We're fairly familiar with their calls from where we usually stay, further south; there we get Little Owls, Tawny Owls, the odd Barn Owl and - on occasion - rarer visitors (still to be confirmed by BirdLife Italy's Rarities Committee). On one of our last evenings in Tuscany we had a Little Owl hunting almost beside us at dusk as we ordered dinner out in the sticks. The bird hunting over the castle made no discernable sound. I mentioned the Barn Owl only because a young lady who is organizing a Swift study group told me that she had seen one, and I was wondering whether it could be our 'shooting star' hunter. Thanks for the links. Re the raptor hunting text, we were fortunate enough - a few years back - to be able to stroll 20 minutes down the road through the vineyards to watch Peregrines hunting. Nice cliff-top perch with vineyards sloping down to the lake. Lots of prey, it seemed, as they were often successful. We've been concentrating a bit on raptors and owls the last few years; it has been an interesting experience and we now know a bit more (meaning almost next-to-next to nothing...) We will be down in the south of Spain later in the year and that will be a big challenge I imagine: a number of birds we're really not familiar with. Dave
  • In reply to Dave - CH:

    So pleased you can enjoy so many different birds,in their natural habitats, they all have wonderful and interesting behaviours.

    The Peregrine is one of the fastest when diving for its prey travelling at almost 200 mph( I am an oldie so use mph CHOL:):)

    I  enjoy being blessed with being able to watch many birds via the prolific abundance of web cams.

    Keep enjoying and reporting, and hope someone may reply with some answers for you.


    forgot to say wonder if little owl was catching moths on the wing.


  • In reply to SunnyKate2:

    We're very lucky SunnyKate2. I, too, find Peregrines very exciting birds. We had a young bird in the neighbourhood a few years back and he/she did a nice showy flight out of the lake and back... I genuinely (and my eyes were better back then) couldn't quite keep him/her in focus in my bins. Very fast indeed.

  • I can't work out how to start a new post so have had to jump on this one.

    This morning whilst walking in the fields an owl silently flew past. It was an amazing sight, I think it was a barn owl and it is the second time I have seen it; the first time it was further away and was fascinating to watch flying low over the ground and looked like it was on a set path.
    This morning it was on a different route so perhaps not the same owl.

    Do owls take the same route home in the morning? Do they go home at the same time?

    This is the first time I have seen owls flying in the fields. We have some on the green next to us and can hear them hooting about 0300 but I have never seen them.
  • Hi Pirate
    We had Barn Owls on my patch last year and they would come out in the evening roughly at the same time and from the same direction and go back the same way to roost in the morning.
    I'm on my phone at the minute but if anyone doesn't tell you how to start your own thread tonight I will help you tomorrow.

    My Flickr photos

  • In reply to The Pirate:

    The Pirate said:
    I can't work out how to start a new post so have had to jump on this one.

     Hi Pirate,   the easiest way to start a new post is ………...

    1)   Click on the Wildlife (blue) tab where it will list latest posts

    2)   On the right hand side you will see "All forums in Wildlife"  ;    for a general post on birds/wildlife   select first title "All Creatures ….. "   which will open up a page with latest posts for All Creatures

    3)   On the blue bar at the top you will see  in white   +New         Click +New and you will be able to create your new post typing your main title in the subject box and then start your thread in the main box underneath where you can add your photos.  

    ***.  (for ID help you will see "Ask an Expert" under same right hand column as All Creatures... )   and the process is the same as above by clicking the   +New box  to start your question/post

    If you get stuck with anything else or posting pics/video clips, just ask and someone will be along to help.    


    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • On my limited experience, an owl will not necessarily hunt in the same part of its territory at the same time of day, so it will not necessarily always fly the same way to and from the roost. Weather, amongst other things, will also influence when an owl leaves its roost to start hunting and it will return when it has finished, which may be related to success rather than time of day. That's not to say you can't vastly increase your chances of sightings by getting to know a particular birds habits.


    Nige   Flickr