Searching for Little Owls

Tarquinia - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


We are up at 6am, politely yawning. Today is our most recent attempt to see Little Owls. As a child I helped my friend Michael look after, rehabilitate and release a juvenile Little Owl. I’ve wanted to see another one for the last 40 years.

Little Owls were introduced into the UK from Italy. Here in Italy is their natural home. They particularly like nesting in piles of stones and there are plenty of those here in Tarquinia. Every field full of stones has been ploughed, the stones removed, and piled into a heap in the middle. Here’s one such field which we know has had Little Owls on it. Our hopes are high.

Tarquinia - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


There’s also a tall, sprawling Fig tree. As we get closer I can see masses of plump ripe purple figs:

Figs - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


I eat at least nine months’ worth. Here are just two:

Figs - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


They are utterly delicious. My favourite author is the Italian Italo Calvino. He rewrote many Italian folk tales including The King’s Daughter Who Could Never Get Enough Figs. I know how she feels.

We are surrounded by butterflies. There’s a Painted Lady in the shade with its wings spread on a Fig leaf:

Painted Lady Butterfly - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


I eat another fig.

There’s a Swallowtail meandering across the stubble and wild flowers:

Swallowtail Butterfly - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


I manage to get close:

Swallowtail Butterfly - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


Before having another fig.

There’s even a Wall Brown butterfly fluttering at our feet:

Wall Brown Butterfly - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


I’m pleased with these shots as I look at them on the back of the camera, holding it with one hand, as I eat another fig with the other:


A dragonfly rattles past and lands on the Fig:

Dragonfly - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)


It’s Orthetrum coerulescens, the Keeled Skimmer dragonfly.

What were we here for? Oh yes, Figs. No, it was Little Owls, wasn’t it?

We didn’t see one.

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