Tues 24th April 2012

We’re still on the subject of birds as I promised I’d let you know how the baby owls are getting on. But first some other bird news. The swallows and martins started arriving a fortnight ago.  We’ve seen them when I’ve taken people out on my safaris. This year there are a lot of chiffchaff around but I’ve not heard the cuckoo yet. Maybe next week. I’ve also seen more ravens than in recent years and plenty of skylarks with their lovely call as they hover way above the ground.

So how are the owls doing? Well it’s all good news I’m please to be able to tell you. Things progress pretty quickly in the feathered world and on 20th April, the first of our chicks left the nest, still with all its white feathers on. Tawny owl chicks seem to grow a lot faster than barn owl chicks and fledge sooner. If you are walking through a wood you can often see young white tawny owls sitting on the branches of trees at this time of year. So have a look up when you are out in the woods and you may be lucky enough to see one.

I’ve been out filming as usual and have got some good footage of the owls flying backwards and forwards to and from the nest. It’s been very hard work though. The barn owl is a lot easier to film than the tawny because they come back to the nest with food quite frequently whereas the tawny owl sometimes returns only once in three hours. All you can do is sit and wait. It’s worth it in the end but it does take some patience.

So that’s the news for this week. I’m sure I’ll have more to tell you soon. Do get out and about if you can. There is so much going on in early Spring. It’s a wonderful time down here on Exmoor and I love to be out on the moor as much as I can. My dog Megan loves it too but of course I can’t usually take her when I’m filming or I’d never get close to anything. She did come with me the day this photo was taken. It is one of my favourites.

 
 

Thurs 12th April 2012

My story this week is all about birds again. It’s that busy time of year when they start to rear their young. As I mentioned last time, there are a few blackbird’s nests around, and now the chicks have hatched. But my best story this week is about something I’ve been trying to achieve on our land for the past four years and that’s to get an owl to nest in one of my nesting boxes. Well, it has happen at last.

I’ve seen both the barn owl and the tawny owl on our land and last year a tawny owl roosted one of my boxes. Imagine how pleased I was when I found out that this year it’s built a nest in there. And now, can you believe it, there are three chicks in the nest, all different sizes. I’m so happy about it.

I guess you might be asking why the chicks are different sizes. Let me tell you. The owl lays its eggs over a period of several days, missing a day or two between each egg. If the owls can’t find enough food for all their babies then, and I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but we have to say goodbye to the smallest one as it gets eaten by the others. It’s the way of nature to ensure that some survive.

I’m just hoping our owls can find plenty of food and that the three clicks all live. I think they will because our fields have got lots of old grass on them and there are plenty of mice there. I know this because my dog Megan is always digging for them.

Of course this is the sort of place the owl looks for when they pick there nesting site and why I put the nesting box up there. This particular owl box is about three foot up on an ash tree branch. It’s very important that the box is in a place where the owls can land alright and climb in and out of the box easily.

Over the past week I’ve spent a lot of time trying to film the owls going into the box with a mouse or rat. Then the other night, Easter Saturday it was, I finally got the shot I had been waiting for. It happened at 10 past 10 in the evening. I can’t tell you how pleased I was to get that shot. I was in my one man tent and it was so cold but I never gave up and it paid off in the end.

So now I shall pray for good weather so that these lovely birds can hunt successfully. I will be keeping a close eye on them and am hoping to film them right up until the young fly. I’ll let you lovely people know how they are getting on.