As the nights get longer and the weather gets colder, numbers of mice and voles fall dramatically. This makes life much harder for the animals and birds which feed on them. They now need to spend longer hours hunting for a good meal.
At this time of year it's possible to catch sight of Barn owls even before darkness settles over the countryside. It's an owl lovers dream. Their ghostly white forms fly silently around the edges of fields on the lookout for unsuspecting small mammals.
Although the barn owls are very visible, what they're catching and eating can be a bit more tricky to identify. They tend to swallow the little furry critters in one gulp. The best way to discover what the owl is eating is by examining the pellets which they regurgitate at their favoured perching areas.
Barn owl pellets are usually dark grey and shiny - about 50mm long and about 25mm in diameter. They're full of all the bits of their dinner which the owl's digestive system couldn't cope with. Take a few pellets home with you and soak them in warm water. As they start to crumble in the water you'll find tiny skulls, teeth and bones from all the prey they've been feeding on.