Saturday, October 17

Spike - the barn owl

On a recent visit to Thirsk Falconry Centre we had a rare treat. We had the opportunity to handle two birds that are resident in the UK but rarely seen at such close quarters.

The first was a male barn owl called Spike.
It's the second time that we have each handled a barn owl. The first time we were really surprised by how light they are. On that occasion the owl flew towards us and landed on our gloved hand. We felt no extra weight at all as it landed.
Spike is content, in the above photo, sitting on Martyn's hand. Looking at his claws you can appreciate that the gauntlet, which actually weighed more than Spike, was necessary.
Feathers almost cover Spikes beak.

The photo below is a female . She is a little larger and has darker markings.
I managed to get a few photos of Spike in flight.
Barn owls' legs are feathered which helps them to fly silently.

They keep their head remarkably still when flying.
Their silent flight and the fact that they scream rather than hoot once gave Martyn the fright of his life. We were staying in a remote house in France and Martyn had gone out to close the shutters on the windows.

It was silent when suddenly he heard a scream and looked up to see a white shape coming silently towards him out of the blackness.

It was only once he had fled indoors that rational thought kicked in and he realised what the ghostly form was.

Just to finish here is Spike sitting on my hand.
Isn't he gorgeous?



26 comments:

  1. They're such beautiful birds. I wouldn't like to feel those claws though.

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    1. You should have seen them on some of the bigger birds Jo. I also noticed that the handlers always wore sunglasses or goggles when handling the larger birds.

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  2. He is absolutely gorgeous. I'd love to see one.

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    1. The feathers on the back of the bird are like jewels, Jessica.

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  3. Spike is a real beauty and you made wonderful photos of him. You must have been glad to have this thick glove.

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    1. The glove was essential Janneke.

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  4. What a wonderful experience - both he and she are beautiful.

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  5. They are my favourite birds ... magical! I love that quality of stillness and silence which they have. How lucky you were to get the chance to get up close and personal with them.

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    1. It even more special When we had the chance to fly them, Jane. It was quite magical to have one fly towards you and land on your gloved hand. If you had your eyes closed you wouldn't have even known it was there.

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  6. Fascinating and beautiful creatures! Lovely photography as well.

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  7. Wonderful photos, Sue! I loved of Spike in flight.

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  8. Such beautiful, mystical, magical creatures! I would love to have an experience like this, lovely photographs too! Katie
    http://long-may-she-rain.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thank you, Katie I hope you have the same opportunity one day.

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  9. I remember once having to drive through the Herefordshire countryside in the dark, an occasion on which I saw two Barn Owls in the wild. It compensated to some extent for the negative vibes associated with dark country lanes!

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    1. That would have been a positive vibe for me, Mark

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  10. Oh yes, they are both gorgeous! They are light, it's astonishing! When you touch their heads the skull is tiny under all those feathers. I'm always amazed by how quiet they are too, it really is eerie! I can understand Martyn's fright! What a marvelous experience!xxx

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    1. It was, Di. Something that you are probably all too familiar with but I bet it's still very special to you.

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  11. amazing owl! Scary experience for Martyn! ;)

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    1. It was,Malar. He wouldn't go out in the dark alone after that. :-)

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  12. I have never seen the white owl before, interesting!

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    1. There is another white owl called a snowy owl, Endah. Nowadays this is a rare visitor to the UK and only in parts of Scotland.

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  13. Such glorious birds, wonderful to see them up close like that, I've only ever caught the silent glide-by, usually at dusk. Not enough light to appreciate how beautiful they really are.

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    1. The ones that we have seen in the wild have mainly been during the day, Janet

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