Rural Reading: Family feeding time at Kennet MeadowsBy Adrian Lawson
August 31, 2012
There is a spot deep in the Kennet Meadows – away from any footpaths so relatively undisturbed – where a pair of little owls live.
I don’t go there all that often, especially now that cattle are in the fields. The cows and my dogs are not a good recipe for a relaxing walk.
The other day, though, something induced me to endure the constant pulling on the lead as the dogs tried to get to see the cows as they crowded around.
I made my way beyond them and once in the corner where the owls live let the dogs off the lead so I could settle down and watch.
It was early evening, at least an hour before sunset, and very quiet.
There was no sign of the owls or indeed any bird, apart from some distant wood pigeons and a few crows.
As if by magic a bird popped up on to a branch, I didn’t see it arrive, one minute it wasn’t there, then it was.
The unmistakable shape of a tiny owl, bobbing its head, peering intently into the surrounding fields, looking for something to eat.
I watched as it flew to another branch, to be immediately replaced by another, then another appeared.
Over the next hour, as the light faded, the family, including the two parents and at least three offspring, hunted among the hedgerows and the long grass.
Occasionally I could see in quite good light one of them with a beetle, which it devoured whilst holding on to it with a talon.
The young birds were not quite independent of the parents, so still spent more time following them hoping for something to eat, rather than hunting for themselves.
I didn’t actually see the parents pass any food over, but somehow they all seemed to get something to eat.
It was a very entertaining hour.
Once the wind dropped and the midges and mosquitoes emerged it became less amusing so I packed up and set off for home, pleased to know that the owls who have been living in this corner of the meadows for at least 20 years are doing so well.