Lynn Loader’s ‘British Owls’ account
British Owls talk, 23rd September 2014
This evening’s presentation on ‘British owls’ by Peter Smith was billed as a visual treat, and it certainly did not disappoint! He gave us a close-up look at these iconic birds, beginning with the tawny owl, showing us a selection of beautiful slides illustrating both his own incredible observational and photographic skills and the broad range of habitats that these birds occupy. He commented that whatever the textbooks may say, it is what the patient field naturalist actually observes first-hand that counts. He even had a photograph of a tawny owl nesting on the ground, something that the literature barely mentions. His delight in these creatures was very infectious. The barn owl was next, and we enjoyed hearing about the careful field work that had to be interrupted when the birds actually nested INSIDE his hide. He then turned his focus on the little owl, perhaps everyone’s secret favourite, with its permanently cross and combative expression. The shot of one solemnly running along raised gales of laughter. After the interval, it was the turn of the long-eared and short-eared owls and the enigmatic eagle owl. Again, Peter’s slides were world class in scientific terms and at the same time things of immense artistry and beauty. The sequence showing an encounter between a fierce stoat and an owl was brilliant. Peter briefly explored the debate about the provenance of the Bowland eagle owls, a very vexed question, before turning his attention to the beautiful snowy owl. The ungainly fluffy baby was certainly among the sweetest creatures we had seen. What made this presentation stand out was that as well as the owls, Peter’s slides also catalogued for us all the many and varied creatures that he has observed them hunting and eating. Small fish and bats were some of the more surprising menu items. Peter’s winning blend of anecdote, passion, field craft and inspired photographic creativity made for a spellbinding evening, and the rafters rang from the tumultuous applause. The next meeting will be on 14 October, when Steve Peel from Natural England will talk about farming and nature and outline how taxpayers’ money is spent.
Photo by By Edd deane from Swaffham, England (Barn owl) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons