Essex Field Club on Facebook

Video about the Club Essex Field Club video

Phania funesta
find out more... Phania funesta Copyright: Rosemary Stephens

Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
registered charity
no 1113963
HLF Logo A-Z Page Index

Visit Our CentreEFC Centre at Wat Tyler Country ParkWe are open today

In response to the coronavirus problem and the Government's recommendations, the EFC Green Centre public activities will be closed until further notice.

Your Forum

This forum has now been more or less replaced by the Club's Facebook page at
Essex Field Club on Facebook

The weblog below is for naturalists to use to report interesting sightings, ask questions, report on field meetings and generally post pictures and any information or questions generally relevant in some way to the wildlife and geology of Essex. You will need to register and be logged-on to post to the forum, and you need to upload pictures first, for use in posts. Find out more

Wed 2nd July 2014 14:54 by Graham Smith
The Class of 2014
Blue House Farm EWT Reserve, North Fambridge: Barn Owl 2 Copyright: Graham Smith Barn Owl - John Lilley

Barn Owls galore! The past two summers have been bad news for Barn Owls. Contrary to popular belief they rely on hearing more than sight when hunting. For that reason they find it difficult to find prey during periods of heavy rain or strong winds. Remember the summer of 2012? Did it ever stop raining between April and June? And the late winter last year. Three months of constant north-easterly gales from February to April. Many Barn Owls starved to death and those that survived were often in no condition to breed. To add to their woes the population of Field Voles – the mainstay of their diet – had sunk to a four year low in their cycle of abundance. The Barn Owl Trust reckoned that the number of owls declined between 25% and – in a few places – almost 100% in the areas from which they receive reports and that nest-box occupancy was down 71%. At Blue House the experienced pair in the box in the farmyard managed to survive those wretched winds and eventually reared three owlets but the other two pairs on the farm did not even attempt to nest.

What a difference a year makes! The vole population is on the rise once more and last week a check of the boxes revealed five chicks in both those on the grazing marsh and six in the box in the barn. This is one of the former, a young female (note the black spots on the underside) almost ready to fledge, a few wisps of fluff on the crown being the only giveaway.

Barn Owl Copyright: Graham Smith

Dr Simon Cox, who ringed the owlets, reckons that 4-5 is the norm in boxes he has checked in north and east Essex this spring so, after two grim years, nature has addressed the balance back in the owls favour. Certainly, the one pictured here caught a vole within a few minutes of starting to hunt, even though it was the middle of the day. Daylight hunting can sometimes be a sign that food is scarce but in this instance there are probably not enough hours in the night to meet the demanding gapes of five hungry youngsters.

Barn Owl 3 Copyright: Graham Smith Barn Owl with vole - John Lilley

A desire to be first in the queue probably led to the undoing of one youngster in the box on the fleet, as it was found dead on the ground below. If they can find a perch nearby they will continue to be fed but once on the ground they tend to be ignored and, if not predated, eventually starve to death. Nick, the warden, has had to rescue such wayward owlets in the barn before now.



May 2020
Aug 2019
Jan 2019
Sep 2018
Jul 2016
Oct 2015
Jul 2015
May 2015
Apr 2015
Mar 2015
Feb 2015
Jan 2015
Dec 2014
Oct 2014
Sep 2014
Aug 2014
Jul 2014
May 2014
Apr 2014
Mar 2014
Feb 2014
Jan 2014
Dec 2013
Nov 2013
Sep 2013
Aug 2013
Jul 2013
Jun 2013
May 2013
Apr 2013
Mar 2013
Feb 2013
Jan 2013
Dec 2012
Nov 2012
Oct 2012
Sep 2012
Aug 2012
Jul 2012
Jun 2012
May 2012
Apr 2012
Mar 2012
Feb 2012
Jan 2012
Dec 2011
Nov 2011
Oct 2011
Sep 2011
Aug 2011
Jul 2011
Jun 2011
May 2011
Apr 2011
Mar 2011
Feb 2011
Jan 2011
Dec 2010
Nov 2010
Oct 2010
Sep 2010
Aug 2010
Jul 2010
Jun 2010
May 2010
Apr 2010
Mar 2010
Feb 2010
Nov 2009
Oct 2009
Aug 2009
Jul 2009
Jun 2009
May 2009
Apr 2009
Mar 2009
Feb 2009
Jan 2009
Nov 2008
Oct 2008
Sep 2008
Aug 2008
Jul 2008
Jun 2008
May 2008
Apr 2008
Mar 2008
Feb 2008
Jan 2008
Dec 2007
Nov 2007

current posts