My American friend who visited recently would have quite liked to have been shown a little owl, and I would have quite liked to have shown him one, but they are dropping out of my life.
And if you can’t see a little owl in Northamptonshire then where can you see them, I ask? The reason I say that is, of course (?), that little owls were introduced into the UK in the 19th century by the fourth Baron Lilford who was a ‘top birder’ in these parts of east Northants at that time. And that’s why the little owl is the logo of the Northants Bird Club.
But I realised that it seemed to me that I haven’t seen a little owl for a while, and on checking my records on Birdtrack I am slightly surprised to find that I didn’t see a little owl in either 2011 or 2010 so it really is some time ago. So the next question has to be – is it just me?
The State of the UK’s Birds for 2011 shows that little owls have decined in numbers by 40% in the last 40 years, with most of that decline since 1990. So it’s probably not just me.
Given that little owls are farmland species that depend on invertebrates such as large insects and earthworms it may not be surprising that they are declining but I expect someone will blame their decline on the badger if we wait long enough!
I’m glad to see that a student called Emily Joachim has been studying little owls and so maybe she will have discovered the reasons for the decline – or at least be in a better position to guess than I am.
Because they are an introduced species little owls are not classified on the green, amber and red lists but they would be amber-listed and heading for red if they were a native species. I miss them locally to me and find myself keeping a keen eye open for them these days at dusk. Would you miss them if they went?