I have had a life-long interest in owls, inspired by watching barn owls in Norfolk when I was a child. Imagine my delight when I read that Mike Russell, formerly of Sussex Wildlife Trust, was to share his expertise and experience of owls at a talk at Arundel Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust on 16th January.
The Lecture Theatre was packed as Mike took us through the different species of owls that could be found in Sussex, including barn owl, tawny, short-eared, little owl and long-eared owl. I have been lucky enough to see four out of five of these species, but they have usually been fleeting glimpses. I have never had the fortune to see the magnificent long-eared owl and was delighted to learn that they can be seen at Dungeness at this time of the year. A trip is definitely in order.
Mike also took us through the physiology of the owl, exploring the reasons behind their ‘supersonic’ sight and hearing. Amongst other things, we learnt that the tufts that you see on the heads of a long eared owls are not ear openings at all but display feathers. The asymmetrically set ear openings (i.e. one ear higher than the other) – can be found tucked beneath the feathers on the side of the head.
The retina of an owl’s eye has a wealth of light-sensitive rod cells, which is why owls can see much better than humans at night. Adaptations in the owl skeletal system also means that they can turn their head through almost 270 degrees left or right, which more than makes up for their forward facing or binocular vision.
I left with a determination to seek out the beautiful owls of Sussex, starting with a visit to a newly discovered Little Owl spot on my local patch.
A great website for those interested in ‘all things owl’, can be found at here: