Close encounters of the feathered kind

You’ll be pleased to know that my young tawny owl is still around the garden.  I’m fairly sure he roosts in a tree in next door’s garden but the tree is so dense, he’s practically impossible to find.  He still gets a day-old chick every night for his supper (when I’m here) and he now knows it is me who delivers it.  More often than not, as soon as it gets dark, he sits in the sycamore next to the apple tree stump and waits for my arrival.  I pop the chick in a hole at the top of the stump, stand well back, and down he comes.

A couple of nights ago, he was sitting right above me when I arrived.  I hesitated for a second or two before dropping the chick and, it seems, he couldn’t wait.  He was almost on me before I realised.  No noise, of course, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw the glide, tallons extended ready to take his prey.  I let go the chick just in time and it dropped into the hole.  I felt the draught of those big wings as he passed by my head and I wondered how close he would have been if not for the tree protecting me.  

He flew into the big apple tree and waited for me to retreat.  I sat on a bench and watched as he came down again and retrieved his prize.

In future, I’ll be more aware.  The last thing I want are those tallons anywhere near me but, I have to admit, it was an exhilarating experience.  But, there’s being close to wildlife and there’s being too close.

He is now around 12 months old and will almost certainly be looking for a mate for the next season.  Goodness knows where his parents are because the nest boxes don’t seem to be in use.  Maybe he’ll stay here and raise his family in the garden.  I hope so.

We occasionally have birds fly into our conservatory windows, despite the fact that we have tried to prevent strikes by attaching images of raptors to the glass.  Often, these bird strikes are the result of a chase by a sparrow hawk where the victim is in panic mode.  The other day, a female chaffinch hit the glass following such a chase and I found her lying still on the patio, not looking too good.  I picked her up and held her for a long time to keep her safe and warm.  I gave her a drink and, eventually she seemed to come round.  I had to leave so I passed on her after-care to my wife.  The bird seemed very happy to sit on her finger and stayed there for a good five minutes before checking herself out and leaving for the safety of the twisted willow.  I wondered what was going through her mind, sitting on the finger of a human with, apparently, little concern.  

I can’t be sure which one it is, but when I see a female chaffinch in the same tree, I wonder if it’s her and whether she recognises the special relationship we, briefly, shared.

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