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Strix and Aluco meet on the balcony!

As it looks like our tawny pair are going to nest in one of the two Yew View boxes, as they have the last few years, I have decided to name them. When writing about wildlife individuals that you follow for long periods of time, you do feel like you get to 'know' them. When creating content and stories, it seems more engaging I feel, particularly for children, when individuals are named.

I have decided to called the Male, 'Strix' and the female, 'Aluco'. Many will wonder why I have chosen such strange names, but if you are an ornithologist, you may know exactly why!

This is the first clip I have captured, this season, with both individuals on the nest box platform.

'Strix aluco' is the latin name for the Tawny Owl and, as we follow the story of this pair, it will become one latin name that we will all remember! Strix has a much paler face than Aluco, who is larger and darker than the male. It is Aluco who spends time in the nest box.

There are about 250 species of owls in the world. They live on every continent except icy Antarctica. We have 5 species of owl seen here in the UK. (Not including occasional appearances of the Snowy Owl!)

Tawny owls are in the 'Strix' genus and are medium-sized to large owls with rounded heads and no ear-tufts.

Barn owls are in the genus 'Tyto'. These owls have rather long legs and long wings with a relatively short tail. The facial disc is generally heart-shaped and the eyes are relatively small and dark.

The long-eared and short-eared owls are in the genus 'Asio'. These are medium-sized owls with long wings, well developed facial discs and mostly prominent, erectile ear-tufts.

Our lovely Little owls are in the genus, 'Athene'. These are small owls with no ear-tufts, rounded wings and relatively short tails. Their eyes are yellow.

I have watched Aluco for the last three years, so I am getting familiar with her general behaviour, leading up to breeding. Every year, around the end of the year, through to when she breeds, she spends increasing amounts of time in the box during the day. She will often stash food in there in the early hours and then return for it later. The males in the past, have done this too.

This year, I am pretty sure this is a new male. He is much paler. The male for the last few years was not a particularly good hunter, sometimes only bringing one food item per night, even when there were 3 owlets to feed, forcing the female out to hunt too, even when the owlets were young. Apparently tawnies mate for life, so maybe something happened to last year's male.

This paddling behaviour is always a good sign as she tests the substrate of the box...

She will often pick bits off from inside the box, which I lined with wood. She will also break up bits of wood in the base of the box....

She regularly preens as well. Keeping feathers in good condition is essential for all birds. You can see how soft and fluffy her under-feathers are. These are excellent insulation ... definitely needed when sitting still in a nest box or roosting in a tree all day.

When she is not in the box, sometimes other visitors pop in. This Wren was on spider patrol! Spiders are a real pain as they build webs across the lens and hang in front of cameras, triggering the motion detection! I hope this wren keeps popping in!

I logged in , remotely to the box today, and she was back in there. At least it is a dry place to spend a cold, wet day!


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