Tuesday, February 21, 2006


A cracking photo by Garth Peacock of a Short Eared Owl quartering the fen at Wicken. I don't like owls, much, I admit. I've had to fly them in falconry demonstrations, and they're no good at at all. They'll sit there, and you wave a large hunk of yummy meat right in front of their eyes and whistle and call and call and they ignore you for minutes at a time. And then—as if they've suddenly woken up—they'll fly to you and eat it. But there's no knowing when, and there's no wherefore. They're hard to train, because unlike hawks, they seem to have no crops; the food goes straight to their tummies. Thus, even one small reward of food means they're no longer hungry and they'll just sit there and inwardly digest. And I know that this is because they're perfectly evolved to hunt small mammals, by sound, in the dark, not fly to a motionless glove for a scrap of beef. Despite knowing this, I must still say that owls do give the impression—a strong impression—of being the stupidest animals alive.

But wild owls are different. You can watch barn owls and short eared owls hunting in evening sunlight at Wicken, and they are absolutely magnificent hunters. I pity the questing voles.

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