Posts Tagged ‘owl’

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl

On Tuesday I went to the wood and, as recorded below, I didn’t see any badgers. In the absence of badgers, I spent the evening watching birds, and I want to make some notes on these – hence the separate post.

It always amazes me what you can see if you sit quietly and unobtrusively somewhere for an hour or so.  I had a pair of bullfinches working the tree in front of me.  These are far less common now than when I was a lad, so it was good to see them.  There was also a pair of robins with a nest about 50 feet away, and they spent the whole evening going backwards and forwards with food for the young – it was a proper Springwatch moment.  I always find it slightly strange to see robins in the wild.  I am so used to seeing them in the garden that I tend to forget that they exist outside.

One of the most interesting things for me personally was the effect of a tawny owl on the local birds.  As it was getting dark, a tawny owl called from the deep woods somewhere behind me – kee-wick, kee-wick.  Instantly, a blackbird nearby started up its chattering alarm call – chink-chink-chink-chink-chink. Then another blackbird did the same a little further away, and then a third.

The blackbirds had obviously heard and seen the owl and they were raising the alarm.  What made it so interesting was that although I could not see the owl myself, I could locate its position and track its progress by the alarm calls of the blackbirds.

Some trackers regard this as a higher form of tracking – following a predator through the reactions of other species.  Jon Young discusses it in detail in Animal Tracking Basics (probably the least basic book on tracking I’ve ever read, incidentally).  I’ve noticed blackbirds responding to foxes in this way, but this was the first time I’ve really been able to follow the progress of a predator through alarm calls.  I was quite pleased with myself.

So although there were no badgers that evening, I still had a great time.  All of this happened in a little patch of woodland that 99% of people would drive past without a second thought.

If you’re interested in nature and wildlife then I strongly recommend you find somewhere outside – a wood, a field, a park, anywhere – and just sit there quietly for at least an hour.  I think you’d be surprised at what you see and hear.

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For the last couple of nights we’ve had a visitor to the garden in the form of a tawny owl. My wife and I were sitting in the living room at dusk when we saw something big fly past the window. We’re used to bats but this was much bigger, so being curious people we went outside for a look.

It turned out to be a tawny owl. It was sitting on our telephone wire, and over the next 20 minutes or so we watched as it flitted around the nearby roofs and trees. It was calling and we could another owl answering in the distance, together with what sounded like a chick a little nearer – a much higher pitched call. We could only assume that it had a nest nearby and the chick had just fledged.

I’ve heard owls calling many times when I’ve been out and about, but this is the first time I’ve had one in the garden. I enjoy going out into the country to watch wildlife, but it makes things much easier when it comes to you!

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