Posts Tagged ‘tawny owl’

I’ve been busy lately – working in the garden and down in Wiltshire for the solstice – so I haven’t had a chance to get out to the woods for a couple of weeks.  However, I’d like to get a few minor experiences on the record.  They aren’t really enough for a post on their own, hence I’ve brought them together into a collection of short tales.

A Very Regular Owl

Tawny Owl on the RoofEvery summer we get a visit from the local tawny owl.  We have a lot of tawny owls in the area.  For the last three years there has been a nest in a small copse about a quarter mile from our house.  You can year the young owls (owlets?) calling as they start to fly from the nest.

This is a picture of the owl that sat on our roof on June 12th.  Looking back through the archives, I note that I had taken similar pictures of the owl on June 12th 2008 and June 2nd 2009.  It isn’t a very frequent visitor, and it only seems to come in early June.  Clearly an owl of very regular habits!

So why does it only visit the house at this one time of year?  Is it something to do with having young in the nest?  Or is it that I only see it in the long evenings of June?

A Family of Wrens

I was walking through the wood the other day when I disturbed a family of wrens.  They were obviously nesting in an ivy-covered tree stump.  As I walked past, three of the tiny birds flitted out and perched on nearby trees, apart from one of them which perched on my arm.  It was only there for a few seconds (long enough to poo on my sleeve!) but it was fantastic to have one of these delightful little birds so close.  Thinking about it afterwards, I was in a fairly remote part of the woods and the wrens had quite possibly never seen a human before.  Truly a new experience for both of us.

The Bedfordshire Red Kites

Regular readers may remember my quest to see Red Kites in our village.  I haven’t seen them for a while.  I don’t know if this is because they haven’t been in the area or because I haven’t been out and about so much since Scarlett arrived.  Anyway, I was pleased when my wife came home last week to say that she’d watched one of the kites as it glided low over the end of our road.  I’ll have to make an effort to get out more and try and get a photograph, but at least I know they’re still in the area.

Graveyard Hedgehog

I have a soft spot for hedgehogs.  We still get one coming into the garden occasionally (I see the poo on the lawn) but I don’t see them very often out in the wild.

I was walking through the churchyard in the village the other evening.  It was about 7.30pm and still very light.  There, sitting on the path in front of me was a hedgehog, large as life.  Before I could take out my camera it had raised itself up on its little legs and trotted off to a gravestone by the path.

This gravestone dates from the mid 19th century.  It’s a large horizontal stone slab, raised up on blocks on each corner like a low stone table, about 4″ off the ground.  Without pausing, the hedgehog ran straight underneath it.

I lay down on the ground and peered in.  There was a clear run worn into the grass, and under the stone was a wide hollow space, clear and dry.  The hedgehog obviously has its home there, and a perfect home it is too.  I don’t know what the rightful owner of the grave (one Mr John Francis) would say about having a lodger, but the urchin isn’t doing any harm so I hope he wouldn’t mind sharing too much.

Incidentally, I was walking through the churchyard the day before and a kestrel flapped up from where it had been perched on the grave next to this one.  I assume that kestrels don’t hunt hedgehogs, so perhaps it was just a coincidence.  It seems that even in a pretty rural village like ours the old graveyard is still a haven for wildlife of different kinds.

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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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