25 February 2019

As I took my customary quick glance out the window at the top of the stairs on my way down to breakfast, a ghostly figure flapped into view. Unmistakable: a barn owl! It flew across Ruth’s garden, up towards the apex of her bungalow roof, then banked suddenly to the left on wide, rounded wings. What a thrill!

I jammed my head into the deep, narrow window alcove to follow the owl as long as I could. But the owl didn’t disappear across the field as I expected. It suddenly flipped over and dived headlong into the long grass a couple of metres into the field behind our hawthorns.

I legged it downstairs and into the kitchen, where Jen was putting the kettle on. ‘BARN OWL. FIELD. NOW!’ I blurted, and legged it back upstairs. Jen joined me a couple of seconds later. We hurried through into the barn section of the house to look through the larger, round pitching-eye window.

Seconds later, the owl rose from the field and flapped off to the right with some sort of rodent in its beak. It landed on a fence post, presenting us with a magnificent profile view as it began to swallow the rodent whole. The rodent looked far too big to swallow, but the owl repeatedly threw its head forward, straightening its gullet, and the rodent slowly disappeared.

There was a sudden, distant screaming sound… The kettle had begun to whistle. I ran back downstairs to take it off the hob, then back upstairs into the study to get my binoculars. I returned to Jen’s side at the round window just in time to see the barn owl leap from the fence post and flap off low across Russell’s field in the general direction of the farm.

The highlight of my week, and it was only 06:55 on as Monday morning!

Richard Carter

Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. He is currently working on a book about looking at the world through Darwin’s eyes.Website · Newsletter · Mastodon · Facebook

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