Living in a box (plus a few addenda!)

It’s the 11th May and things have moved on since I last wrote about the owls. Now, I know there is not one but two young tawny owls in the box half way up one of our ancient apple trees. I’ve been photographing them peeping out of the entrance and recording the odd, daytime, food parcel visit from the male adult. On Friday 8th, the older of the two climbed out of the box and sat for some time on a branch, above, enjoying the sunshine.

The weather has been amazing, dry and unseasonably warm. Now that they’re growing, I imagine it was a tad stuffy for the two of them in the box so for one of them to remove itself would be beneficial to both. Then the weather changed. It became much colder and for 48 hours, having previously seen so much of them, I neither saw nor heard anything. Last night, the adult picked up the day old chick I’d left and flew off with it. Unusually, he didn’t take it to the nest and I left my vigil a little concerned as to the welfare of both youngsters.

Tonight, the mystery was solved. I could hear one solitary chick in the box, summoning his parent with his immature squeaky call. The parent arrived in the garden, picked up the chick from the tree stump and took it away again. A few minutes later, I noticed movement right at the top of the apple tree. Sitting among the blossom about twenty feet above the nest box was the older sibling. Then I heard the adult calling just before he joined the youngster and handed him the chick.

So, I’m happy again that all is well. I only hope that during the daytime, he returns to the box or stays out of the sight of predators. He might be old enough to climb, but he’s certainly not old enough to defend himself.

The next day and the older sibling spent the whole day in the treetops until it was approaching dusk. I went outside to see where he was and he had descended to a much sturdier branch. Surprisingly, he was able to fly the short distances between branches. The parent collected one of the two chicks and handed it to the youngster who tried, unsuccessfully, to swallow it whole. With a little balancing difficulty, he managed to transfer the chick to his claws before dissecting it and finishing it off.

The adult then collected the other chick and took it to the box for the younger sibling.

Now, it’s the morning of Wednesday 13th May. The young one is still in the box but the older one is nowhere to be seen. With his new flying skills, it’s perfectly possible that he has moved to another tree. My first task today is to try and find him.

And, find him, I did. Following our daily walk, we arrived back on our drive and could hear the calls of both youngsters coming from a large hawthorn tree, way off from the nest at the opposite corner of the garden. After a search, we found both birds sitting in the hawthorn. And there they spent the day.

However, the plot now thickens and I find this blog getting a bit complicated. To make it easier on myself, and for reasons that will become clear, I’m going to call the oldest owlet No.1 and the other No.2.

At 7.15pm I spotted the male adult looking into the hole on the apple tree stump where I leave the day old chicks. Clearly, there was some urgency about feeding the young. The next thing I noticed was another, and smaller, face peering out of the nest box. Just to be sure, I checked the hawthorn and, sure enough, two owlets. So, the one in the box is now called – yes, you’ve guessed, No.3. No.1 then flew down the garden and eventually arrived in the apple tree where he was served a chick and, again, without success, tried to swallow it whole.

The last two or three weeks have been full of surprises. We honestly thought we only had one chick. Now we have three. The photo above of No’s 1 and 2 appeared on Yorkshire Television today and the weather man commented that Ray was lucky to have these tawny owls in his garden. He’s dead right there.

It’s 14th May and the three chicks remained in the garden all day, no.3 still in the nest box. At feeding time, he emerged and balanced on the edge of the box for some time while dad fed the other two. Suddenly, frustration got the better of him and he launched himself out of the box and came to earth in the field with a bit of a bump. I couldn’t see him but dad could. He came down, collected the last of my offerings and took it to him in the field. I’m hoping that the little one climbed back into the garden and got himself back up a tree.

Well, he did climb back into the garden, but I found him, today, sitting in the compost bin! Just before dark, he left the bin for the big compost heap and then disappeared from my sight.

It’s now 20th May and a few things have happened in the last few days. Sadly, we found No. 2 lying dead under a tree in the garden. There were no marks that I could see so I have no idea what happened. The others have now left the garden and the adult is taking the chicks into the oak woodland opposite. I don’t expect to see the youngsters again unless they pay us a visit one day. So, that’s it for this year. I’ll continue to supplement the adult’s feeding regime because I like to see him from time to time, and I hope he’s here with his mate next year.

P.S. It’s now the beginning of July and I’m often hearing two adults and at least one chick in the garden or in the wood opposite. It’s looking good.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. We’ve been totally drawn in to this amazing owl saga, so many surprises, especially that third owlet! What a sad discovery to find No 2 dead and no obvious cause. Sometimes we find just a “blue wing”, that’s all that is left of one of our western blue birds, lying there on the ground. Jays and hawks are the usual culprits. It’s a tough world out there, so be ever vigilant. Keep well, you two!!

  2. Ray Brown says:

    It’s sad to see them go but life must go on. It seems he is still feeding the youngsters in the wood but, at least, I get to see him every evening. Stay safe.

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