A neighbour passed the other day, having walked her dogs and mentioned she'd seen a young owl at the edge of a field nearby, the dogs saw it first, setting it with intense stare, a white fluffy owl shape, motionless in the grass.
It is quite common at this time of year that young owls are found on the ground, having plopped out of the nest, or attempted a first flight. It is always best, unless the bird is obviously injured, to leave it where it is. The parents are usually close-by and watching over it, and the baby owl has an amazing built-in ability to find its way back up into the branches to safety, using its talons and beak, and little wings for balance. I've seen them clamber in this way, inching their round fat bodies around obstacles and up vertical tree trunks.
Young owls are always a lovely sight, so I ventured to the spot where it had been seen. It reminded me that I have not walked locally for ages. Lastingham village is nestled in a pocket, with the rugged moors rising away on one side and woodland and open farmland at its other edge. There are a number of local walks, a circular one which takes in all the different habitats, lush grass and sparkling streams leading to cool, dark, thick woodland and then on to bleak, high moorland, and others which venture further afield including nearby villages and dales.
It was lovely to catch up with all the familiar places. I've explored the paths, woodland, stone walls and seen where burrows are, nests have been built, followed the runways of animals and tracks of deer - visited the oldest oak and the newest hazel - and know where the nut caches are and the latrines. It is an important part of living here for me, to have an insight into the natural world all busily going on around, to have a respect and care for it and know its cycles.
It cannot have been more than a few hundred yards that I walked, as I had to stop to take in the busy scene. Squirrels leapt, woodmice darted, stoats hunted, and the baby Tawny Owl perched - it had managed to get up about three feet into a young beech sapling and I heard adult owls calling.
What a beautifull time of year and what good a little walk in Lastingham does.