My favourite wildlife sighting from last week was this dear little owl (ickle wol) in Richmond Park last Thursday! This is the first time I’ve managed to see them in the wild since I was a kid. Thank you to various members of the Surrey Bird Club for posting about the general location near Pen Ponds. A blessed if brief sighting!
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!
It’s been really hard to pick an entry for the Fotospeed challenge this week! I keep being drawn back to this distant shot of the barn owl at Papercourt Meadows from late on Friday. Having got stuck in traffic I only arrived at the meadows at sunset. There was just enough light to still watch the barn owl hunting in the grasses. Too dark for flight images but he popped up onto the fence post close to the River Wey that runs through the meadow. There’s lots of context in this image though. Sometimes you can tell the story of your subject better by showing the environment in which it lives.
This land is managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust and is a local haven for barn, short-eared and tawny owls. It was great fun staying to watch beyond the sunset. Although the light was too low for any more photography, the wildlife really came alive! I stood with another lady watching the deer suddenly start bounding and bouncing around the next field with all the joys of Spring in them! We were laughing in delight at their antics. They reminded me of my two cats having a funny five minutes at 3am! So lovely listening to the tawnys calling to one another and seeing the silhouettes of birds in low flight. Pheasants can glide quite some distance!
After so many warm weeks in the UK, winter has returned it would seem! I have seen some great images of snow in Scotland today and we are expecting a frost tonight in the South. With the change in temperature this image of a snowy owl, from the Cotswold Wildlife Park, seemed appropriate for Wex Mondays! I visited the park on Saturday on my way up to Bourton-on-the-Water. Wonderful place even if I did get totally lost trying to navigate around the exhibits in the walled garden! I never did find the meerkats, which is a good excuse to go back again 😉
The saying goes, “It’s the early bird that catches the worm”. This week we were challenged to get up early and capture the morning light. My challenge while in Devon over Easter, was to get up much earlier than I usually do and catch the birds! Specifically, birds of prey. I’ve been sharing a few of these images with you over the past few weeks, but this montage took some time to compose and get the feel of motion and light that I wanted. The story that I hoped to tell with this image is of the special relationship between the owl and her owner.
This is Pepper, a pure-breed British Barn Owl (Tyto alba alba), flying to her handler, Steve Hopper from South Hams Hawks and Owls. Steve is a falconer who runs a raptor rescue centre and flies his birds of prey for educational displays and photography groups. Pepper was rescued at the age of sixteen when her owner passed away. She’s now twenty one, which is very elderly for a Barn Owl! She’s almost completely blind so can only manage short exercise flights, relying upon the sound of Steve’s voice and the taps he makes on the glove to guide her to him. Watching her short flights was a real privilege. She flies high and, as Steve put it, creates wonderful “angel” shapes with her wings.
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.