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Branching Out At St James’s Park

Tawny Owl juvenile in St James's Park

Branching Out At St James’s Park

When tawny owlets are only about five weeks old they leave the nest. They’re not fledging yet, they’re branching! The staff at St James’s Park discovered that tawny’s had returned to the park after an absence of twelve years, when they discovered one of the branched owlets in the back of a tractor. It’s not unusual for branching owlets to fall off their perch. Most of the time they will be absolutely fine and the advice is to leave them where they are unless they are lying down, showing other signs of distress or are in immediate danger. They will sit still on the ground until nightfall when they are known to use their strong talons to climb back into the tree! Even if they don’t return quickly, the parents will carry on feeding the owlet on the ground. Gardeners at the park were actually able to return this little owlet to it’s mother in the tree!

It was quite incredible to be able to watch this owlet and one of its’ parents last Friday. They were high up in the trees and it had started raining. I was captivated though! Fortunately I had my raincoat so I was able to observe them for a while despite the weather. It did make it hard to photograph them though. I was using a Fujinon 100-400mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter to watch and photograph. You really do need a long lens or powerful binoculars to see them closely! The owlet has some good adult feathers coming through on the tail and wings but still plenty of downy fluff too. It was stretching the wings a lot and jumping between branches really well. The other wonderful behaviour I was able to watch was the circling off the head as the owlet builds up a full picture of it’s surroundings.

There are also Tawny Owls in Regents Park and these sighting are brilliant news for the species! It’s also a good sign that wildlife conservation and habitat management in The Royal Parks is working well. There must be a good amount of prey species available for these wonderful owls and this owlet certainly seems to be thriving! If you do go to St James’s or anywhere else to watch tawny owls and owlets, please keep a reasonable distance from their tree so you don’t disturb them. They are a protected species and these London owlets are very precious!

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Too Cute?

Too Cute?

Whatever kind of weekend you’re having it can only be improved with a bit of cuteness! After Xtreme Falconry‘s display at RHS Wisley Gardens today, Martin and Pete brought out their two Great Grey Owl chicks.

AWWWWWWWWWW! TOO CUTE!

The chicks are only four weeks old but are already really stretching their wings. Not actually flying but performing some wonderful practice hops as they investigated the horde of people gathered to photograph them, showing their admiration with a multitude of oooohs and ahhhhhs!

These two beauties will be moving on to new homes soon as part of international breeding and conservation programs. Their distinctive facial markings that make the adult birds so popular with photographers will be the last feathers to come in but you can already see much of their beautiful yet ghostly plumage beneath the downy fuzz.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Threshold: the starting point of an experience, event, or venture

Krista Stevens set the challenge this week and she shares her thoughts on the theme “A threshold is a point of entering; that point just before a new beginning — that split-second moment in time, full of anticipation. All the hard work is over; relief is palpable.”

Five month old Bert, the Bengal Eagle Owl, is on the threshold of his career with Xtreme Falconry as he performed his first public flight this weekend at RHS Wisley Gardens!

He was rather distracted by the sight and sounds of all the people and the garden birds. Not surprising for such a young owl! Bert certainly made us laugh with his antics of procrastination! He really took his time but with some persuasion from Martin, he finally spread those glorious wings. I’m so glad that we stayed to watch this magic moment despite the chill weather.

Seeing this Bengal (or Indian) Eagle Owl brought back some special childhood memories of my first close encounters with birds of prey. I’ve found some old slides, taken by my dad, of fellow artist, photographer and falconer, David, myself and a fluffy Bengal owlet called Sammy 🙂

Bert’s fabulous flight has also inspired a new poem. Watching or flying birds of prey is a truly wonderful experience! The supreme speed of the falcons, the soaring long-wings, hovering kestrels, pack-hunting hawks and the silence of the owls.

Hunter

Perfectly poised
On the very brink
The threshold of flight
Feathered sails soar
On unseen air currents
Slicing swift and silent
Ghosting a path
Through the fading light
The shadow of a scimitar
Haunting the skies
Searching, seeking out
Where your mark lies
Unaware, unable to detect
The soundless spectre
This noble hunter
Resolute in purpose
Your objective set
Great golden orbs
Aglow with intelligence
Tubular eyes fixed
Firmly upon the quarry
The very sustenance
Upon which your grace
And power depends
The target is locked
Armament deployed
Scything spurs extend
The axe falls