The owl files – Chapter 3: Figuring things out

03 January 2023

Figuring things out

I’ve been less than complimentary about the female’s strange behaviour when she started laying a second clutch just after her first brood had fledged, and also when she seemed to be taking more than her share of the food I was supplying to support the chick. Over the past few days, she has spent most of her time in the Tea Garden, while the chick has been on the roof under the box. When I’ve climbed over to feed, the female would take a mouse and fly down to the Tea Garden to eat it – instead of feeding it to the chick. I wasn’t sure just how much of the supplementary food the chick was getting so I decided to try something. After passing a mouse to the female, I put the remaining mice under the box with the chick. I then sat on the wall above the box to stop the female from returning and, when I checked a few minutes later, the chick had swallowed two mice. It was getting its share!

In my last post, the remaining fledgeling had returned to the Willow in front of the Centre. It remained for three days – taking a mouse each evening, before moving off again. I am trying not to let this youngster to become too dependent on my help – so it is a good sign when it disappears for several days, obviously finding enough food for itself. Good news!

More good news is that I saw the female preening the head and face of the chick on Sunday, and caught the chick enjoying the sun – lying spread-eagled on the roof with the female keeping watch next to it on Monday afternoon. It is still really small, but at least its behavioural development seems to be going OK.

There have also been a few scares though. On Sunday afternoon, I suddenly heard a loud “Kek . . . kek . . .kek” coming from the roof behind me and looking out the window, saw an adult male Black Sparrowhawk perched on the Function Room roof screaming up at the nest box. It flew off as soon as it saw me, but a minute later I heard more screams and, climbing out onto the roof, I flushed it from the wall above the box. The female was perched on the side of the nest box, defiantly holding her ground! Yesterday morning, a juvenile Female Black Sparrowhawk flew past the front of the Centre and swooped up into the River Bushwillow in the Tea Garden where the female owl was roosting. It was screaming loudly, but again the owl held her ground – fanning her wings out in an impressive threat display and, after a minute-long stand-off, the sparrowhawk flew off.

46 day old owl chick
46 day old owl chick

By Geoff Lockwood