A potential cull of the largest owl in Europe has placed the government at the centre of an increasingly bitter row between conservation groups.
There are fears that the eagle owl, a non-native species seen in growing numbers in the British Isles, poses a serious threat to established wildlife. Some groups say the formidable predator must be protected. Others claim it could disturb the UK's existing wildlife balance and, as a non-native species, should not be afforded protection.
The owl, which has a wing span of up to 3ft, is found in much of northern Europe and Asia, but many experts question whether it was ever a native species in the UK. It will swoop on pheasant, young deer and rabbits, but there are concerns it poses a particular threat to other birds, particularly hen harriers.
Whatever you feel about keeping the numbers down it is a beautiful bird and, as I am useless at shooting them whilst in flight, I captured this one at the Rutland Falconry and Owl Centre in Exton, near Rutland Water which has a huge selection of hawks, falcons and owls.