With Monday 21st December being the winter solstice and the shortest day, my thoughts have turned to our nocturnal wildlife and in particular our beautiful UK Owls.   Tawny Owl: Richard Brooks (rspb-images.com)

The UK’s top 3 species in terms of numbers are the Tawny Owl estimated at 50,000 breeding pairs, the Little Owl: 5-6,000 pairs and the Barn Owl: approximately 4,000 pairs.

Interestingly, the colour of an owl’s eyes can be an indication of what time of day it likes to hunt. Owls with dark eyes such as the Tawney and barn owl tend to hunt at night, although barn owls can often be spotted in “half-light” at dusk and dawn. The orange eyed long eared owl, is also crepuscular; meaning active at dusk and dawn and the yellow eyed Little Owl and Short Eared Owls are diurnal meaning active during daylight hours.

The concave disc on the owls face channels soundwaves into the ears which are hidden under feathers on each side of the face. The ear openings are at very slightly different heights enabling the owl to tell with greater sensitivity which direction the sound is coming from. Owl flight is also almost silent enabling it to swoop down undetected by its prey.

Owl’s not only defecate after digestion but they also bring up pellets; these are the regurgitated undigestible parts of its prey such as bones and fur. They are usually brought up six to eight hours after it has eaten and the owl cannot eat again until the pellet has been expressed. Suffolk owl Sanctuary has some information on dissecting and identifying owl pellets. It’s not just owls that produce pellets, many of the UK’s carnivorous birds such as crows, rooks, herons and gulls also produce them as well as most of our other birds of prey.

If you hear what you think might be an owl, there are some good audio examples from the Woodland Trust and from the RSPB on the individual Owl pages.

So what can we do to help our local owls? Well if you fancy a woodwork project, you could try making your own Tawny Owl box or Barn Owl box or they can be purchased online

Avoid using pesticides and poisons around your garden, especially rat poison. I f you find an injured or unwell bird, contact your local vet or sanctuary like the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary for advice.

Adopting an Owl can be an unusual gift and great way to learn more about them as well as fundraising for their conservation… or find out more by getting close-up with an owl experience.

If you’re keen to find out more about these magical and fascinating birds, there are a great selection of books online. The solstice is the perfect time to get to know more about owls.

The Flatford Wildlife Garden is now closed for the rest of the winter season 2020 /2021. Details of re-opening in 2021 will be posted on this blog and the Flatford Wildlife Garden We­­­bsite.