Some more detail on a young Barn Owl exploring his surroundings in the Sunderland hinterlands at dusk.
Fully alert to this bewildering new world, constantly altering his profile & aiming his facial disc at every new noise.
His face is a concave series of feathers which forms a circular paraboloid that collects sound waves and directs them towards the owl's ears - a parabolic reflector which picks up the slightest sound, allowing him to hunt with pin point accuracy even in the pitch black of a winter night.
This was one of three I watched this evening, the youngsters instinctively staying close to shelter / cover & perch hunting until the light melted away & they began to hunt quartering grassland & making off down field headlands.
Of those which fledge in the UK, 70% of young Barn Owls will die in their first year....and a typical adult will live for only 4 years.
Thankfully we have several local landowners & farmers who are only too happy to accommodate Barnies & we give them a helping hand with nesting boxes to compliment natural nest sites.
I like to think I know a thing or two about Durhams Owls, Long-eareds, Shorties, Tawnies & Littles, we know them inside out, but when it comes to Barn Owls - instantly recognisable, yet so enigmatic & mysterious - You just get your eye in & then they're up & off, perhaps not being visible for weeks...... I'm not afraid to admit, they just run rings round me at times !!
This one seemed perplexed at one point, bobbing & rolling his head at a large pale Moth as it fluttered round his face.
I don't think an owl can go cross-eyed but this one must have come close !