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  • Writer's pictureAlistair

Hoots and Screeches ...


Barn owl, rudely disturbed by yours truly

When I first visited Cefn Garthenor, while I was on the hunt for a great location for this project, we saw a bird box on a beautiful old oak just down the bridleway from the house. I asked what it was trying to attract, and the farmer’s son said he’d never noticed it before. They’d owned the land for eleven years. Later Rob Parry, our ecologist from INCC, told me it was a tawny owl box. I was very excited, until I discovered it had become a wood pigeon’s nesting box! Some things just aren’t meant to be.


However, there have always been signs of owls (pellets and droppings, plus feathers) in the barns around the yard, and I often see a barn owl, usually flying out of the door as I walk by, presumably having rudely disturbed the poor thing. I thought it would be easy to get footage on a camera trap strategically placed in a barn, but my efforts have totally failed to date. I caught footage of a tawny owl on a trap out on the land, but in the end resorted to walking into one of the barns with my phone video running to capture a barn own. I finally got some, admittedly not great, footage, so here it is.



The amount of prey for those owls should have increased massively over the last year. Without sheep constantly cutting back the grass, and only a low density of cattle, who never take the grass as low anyway, much has grown and fallen over. This provides great habitat for voles, mice and shrews. As you walk around you see evidence of them all, with holes, pathways and latrines. And in the sky above, more in the way of red kites and buzzards. This area is, of course, red kite central, as Cors Caron, just four miles up the road in Tregaron, had some of that last breeding pairs left when the population almost disappeared before their feeding program started in the 1980’s and lead to a spectacular resurgence in our skies.


But for me, the sight of a white barn owl flying low over the tussocky fields at dusk is the best. Rob and Vaughn from INCC put a nesting box up in the old sheep shed to hopefully encourage a pair to nest. Unlike the tawny owls, barn owls prefer a good view across open land rather than a more wooded spot. Fingers crossed, with more prey, I’ll be seeing more of them at Cefn Garthenor.


Back to the blog title, the barn owls are the screechers, the original wailing banshee of folk law, whereas the tawny owls are more the hooters we like to mimic with twit twoo (or possibly more accurately ke-wick hoo-hoo-oooo).


Tawny owl on the wooded fringes of a field at Cefn Garthenor

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