Little Owls aren’t rare in our parishes, but they do go quietly unnoticed much of the time.
But they are, if you know where to find them, the easiest of our owls to get a good look at. And there’s a particularly good spot along Firle Bostal, where on a sunny day you’ll be unlucky to miss one.
Follow the road up from Firle School as if you’re going to the Beacon car park, until you get to the intersection with Chalky Road – just after the strip of trees on the left-hand side, before you start ascending the hill.
On the right-hand side, set back from the road, is a barn (‘New Elms’) and a cattle shed.
If you scan the buildings with a pair of binoculars, you’ll often find a solitary owl perched on one of the roofs, on a nearby fencepost or on a ledge along the outer flint wall of the barn. Occasionally there are two.
This side of the barn faces east, and Little Owls love to sit in the sun, so mornings are best. If one isn’t immediately obvious, try checking the scrub just to the south, the nearby telegraph wires, or (for real glamour) the manure heap on the other side of the hedge, just north of the barn.
Over to Birds Britannica for a great account of why a Little Owl’s worth seeking out:
[The Little Owl] has a pair of white ‘eyebrows’ that meet in a knot on the forehead and impart an expression either of total surprise or intense irritation. The bird will often bob its head vigorously but without losing eye contact, an action that rather suggests a person adjusting the angle of their vision over a pair of bifocals.
More on Little Owls over at the RSPB website.
(Thanks to Andrew Barr for reminding of the the name of New Elms Barn)