Little Owl by T. E. Gunn of Norwich


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Little Owl (Athene noctua) by Thomas Gunn of Norwich. This case was aquired through a small provincial auction house and so has not passed through the ‘trade’. Therefore we can be fairly confident that the T. E. Gunn label is original. This in turn suggests a date probably before 1924 (around this time the trade label switched to F. E. Gunn, as Thomas’s eldest son took over the family firm).

The Little Owl is not a native UK species, but the result of deliberate introduction. Hence this date is interesting because whilst records of migrants exist (the first recorded was in 1808 and the first recorded breeding 1879), the current UK population derives from deliberate introduction. It is commonly reported that it was not until the 1920s that three major releases of Dutch birds occurred in Northampton, Kent and Hampshire. So if this owl was mounted by Thomas Gunn it was very early in this bird’s colonisation of the UK and it is a credit to Gunn’s professionalism that the eye colour and pose are spot on. [That said it is worth noting that one of Gunn’s most significant customers F. M. Ogilvie described the Owl and its behaviour in his Field Observations on British Birds, postumously published in 1920, p.220-223]. 

In all, a very rare and pretty case. Size 12” x 12” x 5.5”. <click image to enlarge>