Posted on

Owls to return to GB stamps in May 2018

It’s been some time since we last saw a set of stamps dedicated to Owls but this May will see that change. Royal Mail is releasing a set of ten first class stamps, five showing the adult Owls and five showing the juveniles.

For some of you with long memories, you might recall the 2003 issue which had a set of five stamps showing a Kestrel in flight and another five showing a Barn Owl in flight. If you missed this at the time of release we can add it to your order – just click here to see the cover. We even have some of the 1986 50th Anniversary of the Council for National Parks issue in stock  which featured the Barn Owl again and which you can also order here.

Here’s the detail on the new stamps;

Owls

Issue Date: 11th May 2018

1st Class: Barn Owl Tyto alba     Also known as the ‘white owl’ and the ‘screech owl’, the Barn Owl is perhaps the UK’s most familiar owl species – most often encountered as a ghostly shape caught in car headlights, or heard rather than seen with its unearthly screaming call. The Barn Owl hunts over all kinds of open country and tends to nest on ledges inside farm buildings. It is unmistakable with its white and gold plumage, heart-shaped face, long legs and small dark eyes. While it is mostly nocturnal, it can also be seen out hunting on summer evenings. It hunts in flight, flying into the breeze for uplift and often hovering before making its strike – its prey mainly located by sound. Barn Owls became very rare following widespread use of the insecticide DDT in the 20th century, but their numbers are now recovering.

1st Class: Little Owl Athene noctua     This small, long-legged owl with its bright yellow eyes, white-spotted brown plumage and fiercely frowning expression is common in continental Europe, but not native to the UK. It was deliberately introduced here by ornithologists in the 19th century and has spread widely across southern Britain. Little Owls inhabit woodland and parkland with open grassy areas nearby, and are often seen by day, perched in pairs close to their nest site (usually a hole or crack in a mature tree), or flying from tree to tree with a distinctive bounding flight action. They hunt mainly insects, dropping on them from a perch or chasing them on the ground. The Little Owl is the national bird of Greece and has long been recognised as the emblem of Athene, the Greek goddess of wisdom.

1st Class: Tawny Owl Strix aluco     The lovely quavering hoot of the Tawny Owl is a familiar night-time sound in woodland, parks and even gardens, but although this is the UK’s most common owl, it is rarely seen, being strictly nocturnal. Tawny Owl pairs stay in their territories year-round and over time build up a great familiarity with the terrain, with favourite hunting watchpoints, roosting sites and a nest site that will be used every year. The owlets leave the nest while still downy and flightless, and climb to safe spots among the branches where they wait for food from their parents. The largest of the UK’s owl species, the Tawny Owl is a powerful predator and other owls number among its prey. It is found throughout Great Britain but is absent from Ireland.

1st Class: Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus     A true nomad, the Short-eared Owl is one of the most widely distributed birds in the world, occurring on all continents except Antarctica. Individuals may travel great distances, stopping to breed where feeding conditions are good. In Britain, the species breeds mainly on upland moor in the north and west but becomes more widespread in winter (and more numerous, as birds arrive from mainland Europe, sometimes in large numbers). A diurnal owl of open moorland and rough grassland, it hunts on the wing, patrolling back and forth close to the ground, and dropping feet-first upon voles and other prey. In some winters, half a dozen or more may be seen ‘working’ the same field, with coastal areas particularly likely to attract large numbers. The Short-eared Owl is a long-winged owl with grey-brown and sandy, heavily streaked plumage, paler than the similar Long-eared Owl, and with yellow, staring eyes and tiny ear tufts.

1st Class: Long-eared Owl Asio otus     This beautiful, slim, orange-eyed owl is named after its large, cat-like ear tufts, which help to break up its outline as it roosts by day. In the UK it breeds mainly in upland pine forests, but in Ireland (where it does not face competition from Tawny Owls) it is more common and lives in a wider range of habitats. Though the Long-eared Owl nests in woodland, often in the old nest of another bird, it prefers to hunt on adjacent open countryside. Its prey mainly comprises small rodents, which it catches either by pouncing from a perch or by searching in flight. The waiting chicks beg with a distinctive ‘squeaky-gate’ call. Long-eared Owls disperse widely in winter, with residents joined by visitors from the Continent, and form winter roosts (which may hold ten or more birds) in thick scrubland.

GB Owls Stamps May 2018

The Barn Owl Trust

Founded in 1988, the Barn Owl Trust is a small national charity working very hard to conserve one of the most beautiful birds in the world.

The Trust was founded by a small group of volunteers who believed not only that they could reverse Barn Owl decline through practical conservation work, but also that they could use people’s interest in Barn Owls to increase environmental awareness.

Although compared with other charities, it is still very small, they have an impressive track record and an excellent reputation.

In the early days, they concentrated on habitat creation and boosting the number of wild Barn Owls by releasing birds from captivity. They then instigated highly detailed countrywide Barn Owl surveys that highlighted the ongoing loss of occupied nest and roost sites. This prompted a major research project looking at the effects of barn conversions on local Barn Owl populations which in turn led to positive changes in Local Authority planning policies.

Other projects and surveys have led to close working relationships with a wide range of conservation organisations.

Did you know?

  • The Barn Owls Trust officially ‘hatched’ on the 30th July 1988 with the arrival of its registered charity number and a donation of £25 from one of its founding Trustees. That’s all!
  • The co-founder of The Barn Owl Trust, David Ramsden, was presented with an MBE in 2007 in recognition of the charity’s achievements.