Too bloody buoyant. You wouldn’t have thought that this would be a problem for a bird in flight, but I could almost hear the barn owl cursing as the wind gusted again and caught her, so that she was shoved six feet higher than she wanted to be.
Owls are much lighter than you’d expect. I’ve held one on my fist on a falconry day: they seem half the weight of a hawk the same size. That’s because so much of an owl’s bulk is feathers, many of them there as silencers. The vole can’t hear the approach of the owl: but more importantly, the owl’s sharp hearing isn’t compromised by the sound of her own wings.
A barn owl specialises in low level flight and tight control; see my blog of a few days back if you like https://simonbarnesauthor.co.uk/the-barn-owl-with-silver-blades/. But the weather yesterday was giving her a hard time. Recent heavy rains had stopped her hunting at her preferred times of dawn and dusk, so she was forced to try her luck in the middle of the day.
But there was a busy wind with unpredictable gusts, and when they came they gave her wings more lift than she needed or wanted: and that bounced her upwards, away from the voles. I watched as she worked: too buoyant heading into the wind, too fast when she turned and went the other day. But very hungry.
She dropped from a sudden wind-blown bounce to her preferred hunting height of six foot, and just as I was thinking it was all pretty hopeless she was down. Vanished. Out of sight among the reeds and the grasses of the marsh before me. She stayed down for a good two minutes: either she was kicking the ground with frustration – or she had got lucky. Lucky? Perhaps she’d prefer me to think of it as a manoeuvre of consummate skill.