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Strengthening Bonds - Strix & Aluco the tawny owls

For the last 5 years, I have filmed a pair of tawny owls at a site I work at in Worcestershire; Yew View. We have 2 tawny boxes on site. The male (with the pale facial disc on the left) is called Strix and the female (with the brown facial disc, on the right) is called Aluco .

The breeding box is up in the main garden, close to the house. This is where they breed each year. The other box is at the far end of the garden, about 200m from the breeding box. It overlooks the River Severn and catches the morning sun. It is a quiet location with a large 'balcony'. In January, we often see them using this box to have some time together. After breeding and raising their young, they spend time apart and get back together late in the year. During the early parts of the new year, they meet and re-establish their bonds through mutual preening, with a lot of face preening. They seem to like this box and balcony for this purpose!

I can remotely access these cameras from my home, in Wales. I check the cameras daily and was thrilled to see both Strix and Aluco there this morning. They spent all day there, today and, with the sun shining, they looked absolutely beautiful. It takes while lifting footage remotely, but it was worth the wait to share these beautiful scenes!

There was a lot of mutual preening going on...

They spent a lot of time just snoozing in the cold January sunshine, but something here spooked them a little. They watched it for a while. Watch how they changed shape, pulling themselves up to make themselves look taller (and thinner!) They watched it pass by before relaxing and fluffing out again, to insulate themselves against the cold air. I am not sure what they saw.

It is a quiet end of the garden, but if they see anyone or are spooked, they will often go inside the box until they feel safe to emerge again. This happened a few times today. I have a camera inside the box as well (although I need to clean the lens!)

This view inside the box, allows you to see the difference between these two. I always thought that all tawny owls looked the same. When you get to know individuals, it becomes clear that they all look different as the plumage can vary quite considerably. It is the facial discs that make them most easy to tell apart. You can see that Aluco's face is almost completely caramel brown. Strix, on the other hand has a very pale face; almost while. Aluco is also slightly larger, but this is difficult to appreciate.

As soon as they feel that the danger has passed, they will emerge again. Strix like to roost in the doorway during the day, but Aluco wanted to come out!

We have had a lot of problems with the cabling to the other owl box, where I have three cameras. Today, some new cabling and power was installed. When I return to the site next week, I hope to get these cameras up and running again and we will live stream the box if they decide to breed again.

What a complete privilege to be able to see these beauties up close and be able to film their lives in this way. I have become very fond of these two over the years and it is just wonderful to see them looking so fit and healthy. Keep your fingers crossed that they have a successful breeding season this year.


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