This article in the Guardian describes ‘a catastrophic fall in numbers’ of barn owls ‘after a series of cold and wet springs’. Most worryingly perhaps, this includes ‘a 280% increase in reports of dead birds in March at the start of the breeding season’. The article made me recognise the recent silence around my parents’ house where, over the past few years, it has been more common to hear the otherworldly screeches of barn owls.
It is difficult not to draw a link between human-created climate change and the wet conditions that have made it so hard for barn owls in the past couple of years:
Barn owls, which can be seen hunting in daylight, hunt in fairly long grass, which means that their feathers become waterlogged in heavy rain and they have difficulty drying off. Wet weather also had an adverse effect on the vole population, the barn owl’s main prey.
For me, however, this article also reminded me of a longer history of precarious life in the face of ecological challenges, of species both bouncing back and failing to bounce back from atypical weather conditions.
Creatures of all sorts are forever responding to such challenges. Technology has made us very adept at doing so. But it is not long since humans were also at the mercy of the elements. And it might not be long until we are once again.