Admittedly my photo isn't very good, but it represents about what it looked like to the naked eye as I approached on foot. I could tell from the shape and small size that it wasn't the usual wood pigeon or crow, and looking through my binoculars I could clearly see that unmistakeable, cross-looking face. I watched for several minutes as it raised one foot and closed its eyes as though in sleep; as I moved closer it took off, provoking a series of alarm calls from startled songbirds on the other side of the tree.
Earlier on my walk I'd come across this pellet on a farm gate, but I think it's from a tawny owl or a buzzard rather than a little owl, going by the size. I plan to dissect it this week:
When I got back to my accommodation I recorded my little owl sighting here. Numbers are falling, with the UK population standing at about 5,700 pairs, and this study aims to try and discover more about where they are in order to conserve them.
It's only the second little owl I've ever seen. The first, somewhat surprisingly, was right in the heart of London, in Hyde Park. They were first recorded in the capital in 1758, but as this was before they were even introduced to the UK, in the late Victorian period, it's thought to have been a vagrant. By 1907 they were breeding in the London area; in 1923 one was seen in Battersea Park. By 2007 they were breeding in Regent's Park, the first breeding record in inner London.
|Photo from littleowlproject.uk|