Sunday, 25 May 2014

Tawny Owls (Strix aluco) May 2014.

The highlight in the garden is without doubt a pair of Tawny Owls which are raising their young in the garden. I first heard them on the evening of Tuesday 14th, the adults were calling and I opened the window to listen as they seemed to be very close. I instantly heard the squeaking begging calls of young Tawny's and the parents calling to them, the fields adjacent to us had just been cut and the parents were obviously hunting them. The young called well in to the early hours.

The following morning I checked all the larger trees in the garden with no luck, I presumed that the adults had bought the young in to nearby trees at dusk whilst they fed them and then returned back to a nearby wood. In the early evening I checked all the nest boxes to see how the occupants were getting on and again checked the trees.

This time I struck gold when I found myself looking straight at a young Tawny sat on a branch in the sun. He peered through those big eyes at me and I then realised that I had to run and get my camera. By the time I had got my gear and returned it had gone but a little search higher up the tree found it sat alongside it's sibling. I continued to have a search through the canopy and then found an adult hunched up against the tree trunk and asleep. Trying to digiscope them isn't easy as they are so high in the trees I have to extend the height of the scope with the tripod centre post and then turn the scope till its almost vertical, it's a killer on the back I can tell you.

That evening the young were calling again, from dusk till the early hours their begging calls continued on a regular basis. On occasion a Little Owl can be heard calling whilst the male Tawny is calling, this has happened a few times during the week and they are definitely very close in the fields nearby and no doubt in competition for food.

The next morning I again went and had a quick search through the trees to see if I could find them, it didn't take long find one of the young taking a snooze against the trunk of the tree, it's sibling on a branch above.

In the evening I took a quick wander round the garden finding a ball of feathers hunched up over a branch in one of the tallest Beech trees. It was so high up it was difficult to see shrouded in leaves but every now and then it popped its head up to have a quick browse around. I decided to have a look round the other side of the tree and found an adult sat up against one of the many trunks spouting from this huge Beech. I then got sidetracked as a Great Tit flew over me and into a nearby nest box. During the time I had walked round the tree to view the Great Tit nest box the adult had regurgitated a pellet which was still wet and on the path in front if me.


Then all he'll broke loose as a pair of Jays flew into the Beech tree and began to frantically scold the Owls, they were soon joined by a number of Blackbirds a Mistle Thrush and a Magpie. The noise was deafing to the extent that a rather docile Wood Pigeon was shocked to the extent that it flew off at some pace, crashing through the canopy as it went. The mobbing continued until the adult called and the Owlet flew closer to it and out of sight. The Jays soon lost interest and flew off leaving a couple of Blackbirds and the Mistle Thrush to continue their alarm calls, once they had stopped tranquillity finally retuned. The light was just starting to fade and I left them to it and headed in to have dinner. Some thirty minutes later I took one last look out of the window before I sat down and could see 2 Owlets sat on a bare horizontal branch squeaking away, then suddenly one of the parents flew in and joined them on the branch. Shuffling up the branch to one of the young it then passed a Vole or Mouse over to it. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and as the sun started to set both I and Louise watched them until they became silhouettes in the night sky. Again they called repetitively throughout the night. 

By Friday morning I was surprised to still see them in the garden, they are obviously feeling safe and feeding well and to be honest they are on to a good thing, very little disturbance and a few hundred yards from a food rich habitat which is inhabited by plenty of Voles and Mice, I just didn't expect them to hang around for so long.  

They remained over the weekend with the normal routine of sleeping all day, getting mobbed in the early evening, begging calls all night from the young and the adults hunting all evening.

Amazingly almost two weeks later they are still here, and there's a possibility there are actually three rather than two youngsters. They have become much harder to see as the leaves on the trees open and the canopy gets denser, they also seem to be roosting much higher up and often in separate trees.

At night they are still calling long and hard in to the early hours and it seems that as they stop calling the dawn chorus begins.

Nesting Time

It's currently a productive time for our garden birds, Blackbird, Robin, Song and Mistle Thrushes have already raised a brood of young and currently we have 3 nest boxes that are occupied. Two pairs of Blue Tit both have young calling from inside boxes and a pair of Great Tits are also busy gathering food for their young. All seem to be visiting their respective boxes on a regular basis, and generally seem to have a good beak full of food, the majority of which seem to be small light green caterpillars.

A Wren has again built a nest in an artificial Swallow box, last year he used one side of the double Swallow box and this year he is using the other side. On all accounts he's a very clever little chap and obviously his mate agrees, I'm not sure he even bothers to tempt his mate by building other nests as he knows that he's on to a winner with the Swallow box. They now have young and are busy going in and out of the box with food, at roosting time one Wren goes in with the chicks and the other roosts in the other side of the box they nested in last year.


Friday, 16 May 2014