Owl

TAWNY OWL.

The Apache and other American Indian native tribes believed in the power of nature and the spirits of the natural world. They believed one could be blessed/cursed/visited by these powers, and could then use them and be bound by them.

I have ‘Owl power’… It was when I became part of a beech wood when badger watching in Hampshire. I had a seat on the top of a gale torn stump, a comfortable seat about twelve feet of the ground. As dusk fell the first passer-by was a roe deer headed out to graze the pasture, next a fox sauntered along the footpath; nicely smoothed by humans to allow a noiseless approach to the rabbit warren. Then came a snorting and a sound like kids in a leaf drift; a big old badger came trundling down the hanger. Soon him and others of the clan were snuffling around under my stump for the raisins I had thrown about. After they left on their nights outing silence fell, apart from the odd mouse rustle. It was time to head home but I was so much at peace and filled with the patience and silence of the wood that I stayed stump bound. Suddenly the top of my head was gently clasped, I turned my head to see what it was and a tawny owl lifted sideways to a branch and looked at me with disgust before sliding soundless off through the wood. His favourite perch had been usurped by a warm and slightly hairy addition! It was an incredibly magical event.

Tawny Owls are the origin of the ‘toowhit-towhoo’ idea of an owl call. But in fact this is two owls! The female owl has the screeching “too-whiiiit” call which she hopes is answered right away by the male, with his “twoooo-whoo”. The males call is quite easy to mimic and as the birds are terrotorial the male may well come to investigate the ‘intruder’.

They tend to mate for life which is generally around five years. If you have trees and are close to fields then an owl nest box could pay off as many older trees with holes in them get cut down as being dangerous. Don’t stick your head in it though as they will defend their nest ferociously and have been known to attack dogs and humans, the great bird photographer Eric Hosking lost an eye to one! The young leave the nest before they can fly so if you find a fluffy young owl only move it if it is on the gound or in danger. The parents will still be feeding them.

The adults do sometimes get hit by cars and if you live in Mid or South Wales and find an injured owl (or any other bird or hedgehog) contact the Gower Bird Hospital near Swansea – 01792 371630 http://www.gowerbirdhospital.org.uk. I was able to arrange for an injured owl to be picked up by the RSPCA from Ystwyth Vets and taken to them, and when it was recovered they brought it back to release.

© 2020 Duncan Gough

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