You may have picked up that we are very,very lucky and have a pair of little owls living in the big ash tree on our plot. We see them often, one or the other or both most evenings when we are out there at dusk time. Last year they raised a brood too.
This evening I learnt loads more about these amazing birdies when Paul, Leicestershire owl man extraordinaire, came over to log the site as part of his exercise in cataloging local little owl nesting sites. He also bought his camera in case he was able to get some shots. I was pessimistically thinking they wouldn’t show and I’d look like a fibber, but luckily they did, although that was only really after Paul’s phone, with owl call ringtone, went off to be fair. So, anyway, I have learnt loads this evening, in summary, the following:
1. Little owls live for 3 to 4 years
2. They are very loyal to their nesting sites and generation after generation of families will use a site year after year
3. They usually sit on 4 eggs, with 2 or 3 hatching and 1 or 2 making it to fledge. The hen is likely to be laying at the moment and will start sitting very soon, at h point she is unmovable and you can ring her (more about that in a mo). The incubation period is 4 weeks and the young will make their first entrance out of the nest at around 3 weeks. For this whole time the male will be feeding the hen and then the hen and young.
4. They mainly eat beetles, worms, voles, mice and shrews and love our plot because there is short grass in which to find beetles and worms and an area of rough grass to find the rodents. We also have loads of fence posts that they will use to sit on. Their hunting territory is very small as they have everything they need locally.
5. We need to put up a perch about a foot under the nesting hole (which is halfway up the tree) to help fledgling birds find their wings. At the moment they just drop out the hole and fall to the floor, which is not ideal. We also need to move a pile of sticks and logs to under the hole to give them a hiding place if they do fall out.
So anyway, back to this evening, basically, while chatting about the nest site Paul’s phone went off and soon after the male owl flew across in front of us and into the other tree we often see him in. Paul said the chances were he had come out with a view to defending his territory and that she would still be in the tree. We saw where he landed in the tree and Paul managed to get a couple of shots. He got some more a bit later, when he managed to get much closer. He said that the owl was very comfortable and was obviously used to us being around a lot. I was amazed he spotted him again, they are so well camouflaged. I’m on to him now though, I know where he spies us from.
Paul wants to come back to get some better photos, hopefully with them exiting the nesting hole (ideally with vole in beak!) and also in flight if possible, which would be AWESOME. It would seem because the sun sets facing the hole, the light is quite good for photography. He is going to try to come back tomorrow afternoon to put up the perch for them and maybe set up a hide so they get used to it before he takes the photos. Also, the other very exciting thing is that he has a bit of kit that I want to call an endoscope but I know that can’t be right, but it’s basically a camera on a cable attached to a screen that you can put down the hole and see what’s going on, so he’s going to bring that too. He also thinks that we should be able to ring them, hopefully the mum and any owlets that they manage to hatch! Ace 🙂
So all in all, a pretty good evening for owl related activity! He has a blog (see the links page) and we’ll be an entry on that, we are number 163, with the amazing photo above. We are so lucky, we see something nearly everyday that most people are lucky to see in the wild once a lifetime. That’s me counting my blessings for the day…