It has been a busy few weeks at Yew View. I was not on site last week, due to my commitments down in London at WWF and Bushnell. Whilst down in Chessington, for the Bushnell meet, I logged onto the cameras via my phone. Using iCatcher Console, I can access the cameras at Yew View and at home.
The owlets were growing fast and preening and dust bathing in the bark chippings in the box!
I had been keeping a close eye on my two tawny owlets. Their wing feathers were starting to form and I knew it would not be long before they were thinking about heading into the outside world.
Tawny owlets leave the nest site before they can fly properly and it is known as ‘branching’. They are often seen, sitting motionless, in trees during the day and parents will come and feed them at night. As this happens before they are really ready to fly, they often fall out of the tree and are found on the floor. If you find a tawny owlet on the floor, it is best to leave it, if it is safe to do so. They are capable of getting themselves back up in trees using their beak, talons and wings and parent swill feed them on the floor. Many end up unnecessarily in rescue centres as people, understandably, think they must be in trouble.
On logging onto the cams late on Thursday night, I could only see one owlet in the box. I checked in the morning and still just one! I texted DJ to let her know and she hurried outside early on Friday morning. There, on the floor, was owlet 1! The box is pretty high and he had fallen quite a way. His hissing and beak clicking indicated he was ok, but we could not leave him there with 6 dogs on site, badgers and foxes. Scooping him into a basket for safety, he pooed all over DJ, indignant that his new-found freedom had come to an end! We discussed what to do with him and decided the box was the safest place for him. Pete and Tom, the gardeners, popped the ladder up and returned him to the box. He did not looked overly impressed at being back in there!
We watched the cameras and he seemed fine. That evening, they were both very hungry. When the female came in, early evening with food, both owlets rushed to the entrance, climbing out onto the small platform. In the frantic battle for food, owlet 1 fell off the platform, managing to hang on with a few talons! The female turned and gave the vole in her beak to owlet 2 who was now back in the box. She then left, leaving owlet 1 hanging precariously underneath. He struggled heroically to get back on, but the single talon hooked on the platform was not enough and he fell……..
It was just getting dark when DJ found him, once again, on the floor. Sitting directly on the fox and badger trail to the feeding station, we decided it was best to move him. This time, he was placed in a small nearby tree. We hoped the parent birds would locate him, feed him overnight and that he would be ok.
The next morning, he was nowhere to be seen. Scouring the wild flower meadow and long grass, he could not be located and we feared the worst…. we have all become somewhat attached to these little fluff-balls as we have watched them so closely from the day they hatched. We resigned ourselves to the thought that maybe this one had returned to the floor and been taken by a hungry predator. We still had owlet 2 and he showed no signs of leaving as quickly as his sibling!
This little chap also started to sit out in the entrance…
Then, just a few days later, I received a VERY excited phone call from DJ; her and David had located the owlet, calling from high in a tree not far from the box. As it was getting dark, she heard both owlets calling- one from the box and one from the tree tops. With a torch, they found him! We were all SO relieved. This plucky youngster had somehow managed to get across the garden and up into the large mature trees… he was alive and well!
I drove down to the site a day early, as he was sitting out in the trees still and I was desperate to see him and maybe get some photos before he finally left the garden for good. The easiest way to find tawny owlets is to wait until dark. At that point, their calls are clearly heard as they call to the parents to tell them where they are for supper. He had not moved far and we soon spotted him and I was able to get some shots. High in the tree and somewhat obscured by the emergent foliage, it was not easy to get a clear shot but I was just thrilled to see him out in the wild, looking so well.
As it got dark, we headed back out, this time with the Bushnell Equinox Z; night vision! I soon located him and was able to film a few videos of him in the dark on his branch, waiting to be fed.
The other owlet was sitting outside the box just as the light was fading and I had sat myself down in the wild flower meadow, hoping he would do just that. Again, I managed to get some shots… this was hand-held so rather wobbly!!
I went to the office and started working my way through almost 2 weeks of camera footage and didn’t get to bed until nearly midnight! Owlet 2 was continuing to grow fast and getting more mischievous. Without his sibling to distract him, he decided to explore the camera and changed the focus…… he had had enough of me intruding on his life… he is now just a blur! Oh well, at least that has happened at the very end of this tawny saga. I probably have enough footage to keep me going!
I went to bed a happy girl! My owlets were thriving and soon to become part of the larger ecosystem here in Worcestershire.
Tonight, owlet 2 made a bid for freedom and was heard calling from the apple tree, with owlet 1 higher in a more mature tree.
I hope they hang around the garden for a while before heading off. They will not be independent of their parents for another 10-12 weeks. It would be great if they stay around so we can watch them grow and change. What an incredible privilege it has been to have been privy to this family story. I am already planning the camera set-ups for next year. We will be having HD cameras on the outside as well as inside. I am hoping that this successful raising of 2 owlets will mean that the pair will return to the box next year. I will have until January to get a new posh set-up ready for their return!!