Look at this. You wait ages for a post and then three come at once…
I’ve just driven home from the station after a particularly bad commute on the train from London. I’m driving Mrs BWM’s Ford Fiesta at the moment while she uses the executive motor (she has further to drive). How come a little car like this can cope with the snow perfectly well, yet the full engineering resources of First Capital Connect trains are utterly overwhelmed?
Now I’ve got that off my chest, what I wanted to say was that my journey home was brightened up when I arrived home. There, on the hedge by the driveway, sat a tawny owl. We have a lot of tawny owls around here but you hear them much more often than you see them. I drove my car right up to this one, so we sat looking at each other for a minute from a distance of no more than three feet until I pulled into the drive and it flew away. What a magnificent bird to see up close on a dark and snowy night.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be too pleased though. This was obviously not normal behaviour, otherwise I’d see owls on the hedge much more often. It got me thinking about how owls cope with the snow and the cold weather.
We feed the birds in the garden. Mrs BWM and I regularly sit on the sofa and look out at the bird table – it’s better than the TV a lot of the time. We have three robins (Mrs BWM knows each one by sight – they have some territorial issues but they seem to have come to a truce to share the bird table at the moment), blue tits, great tits, the odd greenfinch and chaffinch and a regular ‘charm’ of goldfinches. The bird table is popular at the moment, and so it should be – the birds seem to get more expensive food than I do! But we’re happy to feed them and happy to watch them, and they’re happy to eat the food we put out, so everyone benefits.
But what about owls? Tawny owls mainly eat small mammals. When there is four inches of snow on the ground these must be hard to find. They’ll either be keeping underground or, like voles, they may spend their time tunneling under the snow. Either way, with their main prey out of sight a prolonged period of snow must be a lean time for an owl.
If I put out food for the other birds, can I put out food for owls? And what would this be? Would I need to get hold of some mice and leave them on the bird table? Is this ethical? And where do you get mice from anyway?
It was good to see the owl this evening but it has got me thinking. If anyone knows anything about feeding wild owls, please do let me know.