Country diary: from over my shoulder, a barn owl in broad daylight

Country diary: from over my shoulder, a barn owl in broad daylight

Sandy, Bedfordshire: The brightness of day illuminates the darkness in barn owls, most of all those deep, sun-averse eyes

By no stretch of the imagination could the boundary between the potato and barley fields be called a hedge. The blackthorn thicket that might once have been maintained to separate the sheep and the oats runs out after a few short metres. Thereafter, the border, unmarked by animal hooves for decades, consists only of the narrowest of footpaths, a dry ditch and a few irregular stunted trees, survivors braced against the north wind.

They offer some shelter and corn bunting perches, though they are continuously pruned back to stop them overshadowing the crops. Such taming gives these tree-bushes a two-dimensional, espaliered look, but without the support. Even the low crowns have more chinks than leaves, especially when late morning sunbeams pierce the gaps.

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